Differentiation and Intervention are two very different things, yet I often see them used almost synonymously.  Funny story—Our school was audited by an outside company several years ago.  During their debriefing, they expressed that they weren’t seeing much differentiation happening in grade level classrooms.  I heard one teacher say, “Well we send our kids to Title?!”  Although this is seriously a laughable story, when you understand the difference, it was sad that the two words were being confused.

What is differentiation?

Differentiation is part of the planning process where classroom teachers tailor instruction to meet the needs of all learners.  Teachers can differentiate in many ways, such as differentiating the content, the process, products that students create, or the environment of the classroom.  If you have been around education for a while, you likely know that the RTI process is often described using three (or four) tiers of instruction.  Differentiation occurs during Tier One, general education instruction.
The purpose of differentiation is to allow all students to be successful in grade level curriculum and to allow all students to progress at their own level.  I love differentiation and do my best to differentiate whenever possible.  You can differentiate by using Exit Tickets, Guided Reading or Math Groups, and choice boards.  I have a blog post (and a freebie) HERE full of ideas to help begin implementing differentiated strategies.

What are interventions?

Interventions are designed for students who fall into the bottom 25% of your classroom in a particular subject area.  Many times interventions are delivered by Title One or Special Education, however, there are many cases when intervention takes place in the classroom by a general education teacher.  Students should receive grade level content during the Tier One phase, but also receive instruction for an additional block of time, sometimes known as Tier Two instruction.  Typically, this intervention is a small group of 3-5 students for 30-45 minutes per day.  Often times, these interventions are based on a program that accompanies your reading series or a benchmark assessment used by your school district.

The primary purpose of an intervention is to allow a student or students to receive instruction in areas that are troubling them or preventing them from meeting grade level standards.  These interventions are also necessary if you are looking to identify a student for special education.

Why do we need to know the difference?

I believe that we need to know the difference to ensure that we are giving our lower performing students BOTH!  Both of these practices require time, planning, and knowledge to implement successfully.  Take a moment to think about the students in your class who fall below grade level or are on your radar for one reason or another.  How are you differentiating in your classroom?  For those same students, what interventions are they receiving to target their specific needs?

I love assessing and writing measurable goals that target the specific needs of lower performing students.  I created a video to share my steps for drafting the perfect goal!  Click the image above to check it out.