Students are not cut from the same cookie cutter. A classroom contains students of various levels of academic readiness, interests, learning styles and disabilities. Tiered learning refers to creating lessons that are modified in various ways to meet the individual needs of each child. Exceptional children, slow learners and children with kinetic learning styles all benefit from tailored lessons.

Tiered by Level

Asking different questions about the text is a way to engage each readiness level.
Asking different questions about the text is a way to engage each readiness level.

Reading abilities within a classroom may vary by several grade levels. In a tiered lesson, different books may be assigned to different level readers. Alternately, the teacher may use one assigned textbook reading and customize it for readers of varying abilities. Different vocabulary lists, different writing activities and assigning supplemental activities for gifted students will meet needs without creating undue frustration. Different questions can be asked after reading a selection — low students describe the character, middle students talk about the character's goals and high-level students identify clues the author gives.

Tiered by Interest

Tiered lessons take student interests into account.
Tiered lessons take student interests into account.

Some students enjoy creative writing. Others prefer non-fiction. Teaching a tiered lesson on a topic such as the rain forest, for instance, may mean one group writes a story about visiting the rain forest while another colors and labels pictures of rain forest plants and animals. Outgoing students might attempt a persuasive speech on preserving the rain forest.

Tiered by Learning Style

Howard Gardner's multiple intelligences call for individualized learning.
Howard Gardner's multiple intelligences call for individualized learning.

While creating eight different lesson plans based on Herbert Gardner's learning styles or "multiple intelligences" is not recommended, offering different activities to students is a good way to tier a lesson. For example, when learning about Native American culture, making a toy drum, participating in a game of physical skill or a writing book report on a Native American myth may be choices. Respectively, the spacial, kinesthetic and verbal learner are engaged.

Tiered Learning Tips

Tiered learning requires preparation.
Tiered learning requires preparation.

When creating a tiered lesson plan, Dr. Cheryl Adams of Ball State University suggests focusing on either the process, content or product rather than all three at once. Decide if your lesson will be tiered according to learning style, amount of content or the outcome — the product created. She reminds teachers that the lessons should be meaningful and respectful for at each level. Tiered lessons should benefit all types of students.