What are Differentiated Visual Tools?

Differentiated Visual Tools

What is the Differentiated Visual Tools Model?

The Differentiated Visual Tools Model is a K-­12 discipline-­specific approach to systematically teaching content information while integrating instruction in key information processing strategies addressed by Common Core and Career Readiness Standards. The model has three primary components: (a) use of specialized graphic organizers, called Differentiated Visual Tools (DVTs); (b) a three-­stage paradigm for providing DVT-­based instruction and formative assessment; and (c) tools and strategies for supporting and assessing fidelity implementation of the model. The DVT Model is based on thoroughly researched principles of instruction and design, and is scientific research-­validated in classrooms. The DVT Model is based on the following principles and assumptions:

  • Skill and knowledge development can be enhanced without compromising the integrity of the curriculum by reducing the cognitive load of both teachers and students.
  • As curriculum becomes more complex, clarity of instruction becomes more critical.
  • The Core Language Arts / College and Career Readiness Standards are developmentally sequenced, so instructional resources for teaching them should be scaffolded accordingly.
  • Teachers’ opportunity and energy for planning is extremely limited, so instructional resources should expedite the planning process as much as possible.
  • Learning is maximized when students are engaged, and instruction is explicit, developmentally appropriate, and scaffolded.
  • Use of visual and semantic prompts are among most powerful tools teachers can employ to facilitate learning. Visual prompts can enable teachers and students to see how to-­‐be-­‐learned information is structured as well as see how to engage in complex information processing tasks. Semantic prompts can help teachers and students focus on critical information about a topic as well as cue learners to engage in specific information processing tasks.
  • There are generic information processing strategies that are required to understand and communicate about information in all disciplines, and there are specific information processing strategies and “ways of knowing” that are unique to specific disciplines. Both types of literacy strategies are important for students to master.
  • While it is imperative that teachers effectively employ scientific research proven instructional tactics for maximizing student engagement and learning, teachers need latitude on the selection of tactics that best align with the instructional styles and values of teachers, the learning preferences of students, and the contexts in which instruction is to be delivered.

Software Instructions


Procedure Essentials DVT Explanation
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Phenomenon Essentials DVT Explanation
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Event Inferences DVT Explanation
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Setting Tone DVT Explanation
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Handouts from recent DVT presentations

2016 Strategic Instruction Model (SIM) Conference:

2015 Strategic Instruction Model (SIM) Conference:

NCSS Annual Conference