Teaching & Learning: What’s fair is not EQuaL

An equitable learning environment is not an “equal” experience. If student data is used closely, some experiences and resources will vary so that all students can achieve the same learning outcomes. Available materials may be the same, and ready to be provided, but not all students need the same materials.

Differentiation is partly about Content, Process, and Product. The other components that are perhaps even more critical are student Readiness, Interests, and Learning Preferences. A hands-on experience may only differentiate at a “basic” or “surface” level. For example, a hands-on activity around math concepts might be more effective in groups of students based on similar readiness levels. The task, if not the tools, would be different based on the students’ current skill level.

What value is there for a student to do the same activity as everyone else, if they already have mastered the skill? The same can also be said of the students doing the activity who lack understanding of the basic concepts for completing the task.

Readiness, Interests, and Learning Preferences can increase the depth and effectiveness of differentiation for a truly equitable learning environment.


John McCarthy, EdS, authored So All Can Learn: A Practical Guide to Differentiation
See what readers are saying (Quotes gathered from Amazon)

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Reached #1 on Amazon’s HOT NEW Releases: So All Can Learn

It’s great to see how a need is being filled by the book, So All Can Learn: A Practical Guide to Differentiation. Early results are good as the book has reached #1 in Amazon categories several times. Currently, 1st (paperback) and 5th place (kindle).

It’s a humbling experience to see that the book ideas are compelling enough for others find value. I will continue to strive towards maintaining that faith.

To this end, here are two articles I’ve recently written to support student learning and agency:


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The Differentiation Doctors R In Detroit at #MACUL17

The Book Tour Begin!

Join me at MACUL conference in Detroit, Michigan during March 16-17. My friend and collegue, Beth Rayl, co-presents on Friday with a lively discussion at our poster session:

Differentiation and 21st Century Skills That Work So All Can Learn

Location: Cobo Center Atrium @ 10-10:45am

During this time, we will provide personalized consultations to anyone regarding Differentiation. We provide such guidance and support to schools across the nation, and will draw upon those experiences to support your classroom, school-wide , district-wide, or statewide needs.

Free Drawing for a copy of my new book, just released:
So All Can Learn: A Practical Guide to Differentiation

You can get registration access by one of the following approaches:

  • Sign-up during our session on Friday between 10-10:45am (or however long as we keep up our poster)
  • Find John McCarthy or Beth Rayl at the conference and say “So All Can Learn” and show the book on your phone. Here’s some link options of the book image 😉

Rowman & Littlefield | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | Amazon UK | Barnes & Noble


  • Where is the session at MACUL?
    Cobo Center Atrium – Friday @ 10-10:45am

  • If I already have a copy of the book, can I still participate? Can I get it signed?
    Yes, you are still eligible. Please bring your copy and I’ll sign it.

  • Wait! How do I find John in the massive crowd that attends MACUL?
    • On Twitter, follow @jmccarthyeds as he tweets MACUL locations, resources, & learning reflections from the conference.
    • OR, send Tweets to @jmccarthyeds using the #SoAllCanLearn & #MACUL17 with a resource, session reflection or ask a question. Each time he sees both hashtags in a message, he’ll share out his destination.



  • How do I find Beth?
    If you see Beth, she will share the important information for registering for the book drawing. Beth is on Twitter, @bethrayl. She might not be posting her location as much but if you follow or Tweet to her, she might respond. Hey, she’s attending the conference 😉

  • What else has John written on Differentiation or other instructional practices?
    Here is the article he wrote just for this conference: The 4th Way to Plan for Diverse Learners. Or read from his many publications.

  • I prefer ebooks. Can I get the book that way?
    Yes. You can get an e-copy now at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
  • When will the drawing take place and do I have to be present to win?
    • The drawing will happen somewhere between 11am and 12pm.
    • If present, you may get a signed copy from the author* (*assuming he gets the shipment in time 😉 Otherwise, your shipping address will be collected and a copy of the book will be mailed.**
    • If not present, you will be emailed for a shipping address. The book will then be shipped to you. **

**All books that are shipped, will be sent only to a destination within the contiguous United States. Shipped copies of the book will not be signed.

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The 4th Way to Plan for Diverse Learners: What Teachers Can Do More of

Rowman & Littlefield | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | Amazon UK | Barnes & Noble

Differentiation is…

more than a passion or calling in working with students of all ages. For me, it’s simply a necessity, like breathing. If life-long learning is to be what everyone does with care and thoughtful reflection, then differentiation experiences should happen early and frequent throughout one’s education.

I wrote an article for Edutopia, “3 Ways to Plan for Diverse Learners: What Teachers Do”, with a desire to show teachers that they do “do” differentiation. Meeting learner needs happens. I presented a structure based on language introduced by Carol Tomlinson and Susan Allan (ASCD) around the turn of this century.

The language, as I call it–the 6 Elements of Differentiation, is important for having dialog on how best to plan instruction that meets students’ needs (Content, Process, & Products), and includes student voice in the process (Readiness, Interests, & Learning Preferences). The article is one of many that I wrote, which seem to inspire much dialog and sharing of ideas through social media. It’s great to engage in dialog about Differentiation as something we just do, need to do. Instruction in this form is no longer a dream, but reality.

As teachers and other educators deepen their understanding of Differentiation, there are levels of implementation that go beyond the basics of knowing the six elements. Like a gamer, a martial artists, or someone earning multiple university degrees, there is complexity with where we can aspire to differentiate for learners (Chapter 5 of So All Can Learn).   The 1st three ways provide the foundation for stronger instructional practices and learning engagement.

There is a 4th Way…

Learner Agency, based on developing and encouraging student voice. In So All Can Learn: A Practical Guide to Differentiation, four chapters—almost half the book—are dedicated to understanding and coaching agency through student voice. Readiness, Interests, and Learning Preferences are how students determine if the instructional experience is inviting. Including students in learning construction based on these three elements sends a message that their thoughts and ideas matter.

It’s easy to get started in this process. Here are a few starting places:

  • Interest Surveys
  • Learning Profile Cards
  • Student interviews and focus groups
  • Journal entries like #IWishMyTeacherKnew on Twitter and Facebook

Based on the learning outcome that students must gain from the lesson, make instructional planning decisions using the information learned about students based on their Readiness, Interests, and Learning Preferences. The information should influence the Content delivered, Processing experiences (how students check for understanding and make sense of the content), and the product options that students choose or design themselves to demonstrate the learning outcomes.

Differentiation happens in the ways that teachers adjust based on how students “react” to the lesson that’s in progress—Intuitive Differentiation. More effective Differentiation happen when teachers anticipate student needs during the lesson planning prior to implementation—Intentional Differentiation. Higher levels of Differentiation occur when students become active co-planners with teachers during planning and implementation—Collaborative Differentiation.

Learn more from the chapters and reflection questions found in the book, So All Can Learn: A Practical Guide to Differentiation.

Rowman & Littlefield | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | Amazon UK | Barnes & Noble

Or post your thoughts and questions in the comment section below. Register for updates regarding Differentiation and other practices that support Learner Agency and Student Voice.



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Early Reviews of So All Can Learn, part 1

Here’s what readers are already saying about:
So All Can Learn: A Practical Guide to Differentiation

Order at R&LAmazon (Kindle) – BN (Nook)

Eric White, Educator & National Faculty, Buck Institute for Education

In So All Can Learn, John McCarthy provides an essential resource for educators in one of the areas they crave the most: differentiation. This work stands out above others, because it seamlessly weaves actionable strategies with powerful stories to stretch the reader’s thinking. Differentiation can feel overwhelming, but McCarthy provides a framework to make it possible for any teacher at any grade level. More than merely informational, So All Can Learn feels like a dialogue with a trusted colleague. McCarthy is masterful at questioning and promoting reflection, which makes it a must-read for any educator.

Claire Murray, M.A., L.P.C., N.C.C. (Counselor) on Good Reads

This exciting new book is just what is needed today! It will help new teachers, as well as those with many years’ experience, reach students in a time-efficient manner. New ideas are fine. But if one doesn’t have the time to implement them, they are not going to happen.

What makes So All Can Learn so relevant is that it gives the information, as well as the encouragement and resources, to create differentiated lessons today! It also shows why student ownership is essential as well as giving ideas on how to gain it. When students are involved in lesson planning and assessment, they’re self-motivated to do a good job.

I remember one fourth grade reading class. My students were of average intelligence or better but you’d never know it looking at their scores. I could see them struggling every day. This book would have been a big help! Its resources, strategies, and guidance would have given me so many great ideas and saved me so much time! Instead I had to invent the wheel by myself.

I also remember one of my favorite third grade math classes. The students came in every day smiling, happy and enthusiastic—until we got to word problems. Then I watched their moods sink. Why? Many of them were reading below grade level. They could do the math, but they couldn’t read the problems. So they didn’t know what they were being asked to do.

When I read about Assessment Fog in Chapter 3, it really resonated with me. That was the problem I had faced. Yes, I solved it, but again, it took a lot of time. If I had had So All Can Learn, with all its resources, I could have created fog free assessments much faster.

This is why So All Can Learn is so valuable. It has, all in one place, the ideas, suggestions and resources that teachers need to help create successful differentiated lessons quickly.

More reviews of So All Can Learn: A Practical Guide to Differentiation coming soon as teachers and administrators talk about ways to make a real difference with learners.

Order at R&LAmazon (Kindle) – BN (Nook)

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3 Differentiation Articles – Appetizers for So All Can Learn

With the launch of So All Can Learn on February 28, here are three articles that create background to my writing of this book. When writing them, they were elements of my thinking and shaping So All Can Learn. Reading them will take the edge off the hunger for the practical guide to Differentiation.

It’s not too late to preorder your copy of the book so as to have it shipped on the launch date: AmazonBarnes & NobleRowman & Littlefield

1. 3 Guidelines to Eliminating Assessment Fog

Differentiation done well begins with assessments that give clean and clear data on what students know and do not know. Sadly, it’s likely that many assessments contain non-academic elements that get factored into the calculations. The result may likely be a skewed understanding of the learner. Explore this article to consider how you might identify the fog to clear it away. Here’s a bonus article that takes these ideas further: Eliminate Assessment Fog.

2. Students Matter: 3 Steps for Effective Differentiated Instruction

Differentiation does not have to be difficult to start. There are common sense steps that can be taken. This article shows a way to meet needs of all learners without the stress of worrying if you got it right.

3. Establishing a Culture of Student Voice

Student Voice matters. It’s an important part of deeper Differentiation for all learners. For those who immerse themselves into the practices for Personalization, student voice plays a critical role for success.

Please enjoy these articles, including the bonus article under Assessment Fog (Section 1). Consider registering with this blog to receive news on future posts. Follow me on twitter (@JMcCarthyEdS) to receive updates on many, many resources that I come across: https://twitter.com/JMcCarthyEdS

Bon Appetite!

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So All Can Learn: A Practical Guide to Differentiation

Trying to meet the needs of “ALL” learners is a career long challenge for teachers, administrators, professors, and district curriculum educators.

So All Can Learn: A Practical Guide to Differentiation by John McCarthy, EdS will help educators by:

  • providing a practical structure for effective teaching and learning
  • affirming what they already know is good for students
  • empowering them to innovate and adapt their current tools to meet needs of the advanced to the struggling learner.
  • growing their toolbox with new strategies and resources

Preorder now to get your copy:
R&LAmazon – Barnes & Noble

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