19 kids. 1 me. No aide. No parent volunteer. Just me. So many levels, so little time. How in the world would I keep Jake engaged yet Johnny learning the foundational skills he needs? Let’s just call these: DAILY THOUGHTS of A TEACHER. At least these were my thoughts…until I discovered differentiation.


You might be thinking, 19 kids….that’s it? Try 29 honey. I know, the number of kids in our classes change every year. You might be a teacher who has 24 kids in their class this year and last year you had 18. Yet it still remains: everyone needs to be engaged, challenged, and most importantly, everyone needs to master important skills.

differentiated and tiered math for 2nd grade


Now, differentiation is a big, HUGE topic. You might have even taken an entire semester of class on differentiation. I could go on and on but today I’m only going to touch on 3 easy steps you can take NOW. 3 steps I have used in the past that work for me so maybe they’ll work for you.

Step 1: Preassess

This is the first step in differentiation. You need to see where they are at (with every skill). I know. It’s harder. But this extra step tells you SO much and it’s necessary. It drives your differentiation.

Step 2: Questioning in Whole Group

Start off with a project-based lesson, a book project, or some other way to really engage their learning. Not just grab their attention though. That’s not what this step is. This step is to actually have them up and moving and connecting with the content. You might ask: this is whole group, how is this differentiating? Well, here you will start differentiating with your questioning. We all know Blooms Taxonomy Questioning Stems. Prewrite what these questions will be for the skill you are teaching. This can be a list of simple notes you quickly write down in your lesson plans or even on index cards.

Step 3: Individualize

These activities are meant for personalization to the student: to bring depth, enrichment, and extension. By personalization I mean, yes, these activities will be just what Johnny might need, however, it might also be what Sam, Susie, Jenny, and Joe need. It doesn’t have to be as hard as you might think. If a student needs some serious personalization, then they are usually set up with an IEP. Create the activities/stations/centers/responses etc. on 3-4 levels—depending on the needs of your class. After looking at the pre-assessment and the performance in the project or whole group lesson, give them individual activities tailored to their needs.

Whether you use Daily 5, BUILD for Math, Math Stations, Reading Responses, Interactive Notebooks, all can be tailored according to the needs of your students.


I individualize usually within 3 levels:

Foundational: students needing more concrete foundations in the skill/concept

Still Developing: students needing just a bit more guidance on the concept but almost have mastery

Mastered: students exceeding learning outcomes

This drives my differentiation.


Here’s an example.

Let’s say we are studying money in 2nd grade.


At the foundational level, we are still trying to identify coins. We need to know them front and back and all around and be SO comfortable using the standard US coins.

An activity at this level will include lots of practice simply identifying the coin.

At the Still Developing level, the kids might identify most of the coins however, they might get some coins confused and they have trouble applying their knowledge of coins in a problem or situation.

An activity at this level will not only include lots of practice with identification but also apply their knowledge in a word problem. Lots of “If….then…” problems. “If she had these coins (say they add to 25¢) and the pencil cost 10¢, does she have enough?”

Not only is identification important but the application of their knowledge.

And then at the Mastery level, they can identify the coins, apply the knowledge in word problems, and solve 2-step problems, more informational problems (meaning more unnecessary information is given), and even use dollars and subtract money in greater amounts. They can just go to that next level.

Of course, we want to be teaching with high expectations so it’s important to quickly move the student who is Still Developing or Foundational to the next level. This can be done with lots of practice and questioning stems.

The question I have for you: Do you use differentiation? Do you use it in a similar way?


Click HERE to go to my shop for differentiated and tiered activities for Math for 2nd grade. I thought I would share what I’ve come up with in my shop.  This is a bundle and it includes stations/activities for money, geometry (shapes), measurement (length), time, 2-digit addition and subtraction, 3-digit place value, and foundational multiplication. Whew!  That’s a lot but all at your fingertips.  Just pretty much download and print.  Of course, at this level, you’ll probably want to bust out the manipulatives but that all depends on your class. 🙂

Let’s celebrate with a Pin It to Win It Contest! I’ll pick a winner to receive this latest resource.  All you have to do is pin one of these images in this blog post and then leave your pinterest user name in the comment section below (for example my username is “amodernteacher”.  If you were to put in: “http://instagram.com/amodernteacher” you would pull my account up and can see my latest pins.)  That’s it!  Easy peasy!  Good luck!!


Any questions, don’t hesitate to comment below or send me an email at helloamodernteacher@gmail.com

xo, April