Differentiated Textbook Instruction


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Due to poor reading and study skills, many students who have learning disabilities (or who are otherwise low-achieving academically) are unable to read their assigned textbooks with the proficiency required to abstract and assimilate new information. The problem is exacerbated by a host of "inconsiderate" features of many textbooks, including:

  • Complex syntactical structures
  • Esoteric vocabularies
  • Heavy information loads
  • Dense concentrations of novel concepts

Unlike facile readers, who may be able to comprehend a variety of textual material through independent reading and study, less skilled readers require adaptive techniques to manage the large number of ideas and facts presented in many textbooks.

The Adaptation

You can apply the diagnostic-prescriptive approach to individualizing textbook instruction by doing the following:

  1. Select various passages from the textbook, construct study guides and tests for those passages, then have students read the selected passages and complete the study guides independently prior to formally beginning instruction.

  2. Use the diagnostic information to place students into one of three instructional groups: teacher-directed, dyadic (paired), or independent.

  3. Implement subsequent textbook instruction differently for each group.

Diagnostic Procedure

Follow these steps to diagnose students' highest level of independent activity with their assigned textbook:

  1. Choose two passages from the textbook, approximately 1,200 words each, that contain information to be covered in class. These passages should contain the core of information you are teaching that is difficult for students.

  2. Create study guide that draws information from the beginning, middle, and end of each passage. The study guide, or worksheet, will present questions that isolate important facts and concepts from the two critical passages in the text.

  3. For each study guide, also create a 15-item multiple-choice test, each question having four choices. The test should have 12 questions written at the factual level and directly corresponding to 12 items covered in the study guide, and 3 questions written at the interpretive level (i.e. students must combine information from more than one part of the passage or infer beyond the passage to determine the answer).

  4. Before formally beginning instruction, in two separate class sessions, give students 12 minutes to read the passages, 20 minutes to complete the study guide independently, and up to 20 minutes to complete the multiple-choice test.


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Council for Exceptional Children

Provided in partnership with The Council for Exceptional Children.


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