Checks for Understanding
My key to success is frequent checks for understanding that can move students seamlessly from one group to another. I’ve had students move from the remediation group to the enrichment group after having an ah-ha moment where everything clicked. There are a variety of tools I use for pre-tests and formative assessments during a unit. My requirement is that student answers can be turned into a spreadsheet to be analyzed and potentially select data can be shared with the learning support teachers.
- Google Forms: I do not know what I would do without Google Forms. I use the Add-On Flubaroo to grade and share results with students. I can also set conditions to answers to guide students or direct them to different pages of the form based on their response. That is really useful if I want to give them different instructions based on their answer to a specific question.
- Quizizz: Multiple choice game for students to respond to questions. It can include images. The questions are displayed on the student device, so they are self-paced. It does include a time limit per question, but that can be set by the teacher creating the Quizizz set.
- Socrative: I have used Socrative for years. It does not have the visual pizazz of some sights, but it does meet my requirements.
- Formative: There are so many options of what you can do with Formative. A student favorite is the draw feature. I can harness that interest into annotating on top of an image of text. Teachers can watch students respond in real time, so you don’t have to wait to see a spreadsheet to know which students need additional practice.
- Nearpod: If I am already using Nearpods for the lessons, it is easy to incorporate a couple questions using the Quiz feature of Nearpod.
Kahoot is a student favorite, but it is not on my list as a formative assessment tool that drives instruction/groups. I find that the student desire to answer quickly ruins the honest snapshot of what they actually know. I do use it as a fun review game after we have done the hard part of actually learning.
Student Paced is how I describe the group with general knowledge who can move at a faster pace for the lesson. They will have additional choices with practice options and application of the knowledge. I utilize a lot of resources that give the teacher the option to duplicate, so I can have two or more similar resources, customized for a portion of my class. In a given unit the digital resources will change, but there are some that are consistent for my student paced group. My requirement is that students will demonstrate their thinking in a way that is visible to the teacher through saved work/responses.
- Nearpod: Lessons can be duplicated. With a code, students can go through the lesson at their own pace. Other websites can be included in the Nearpod presentation.
- Google Docs / Google Classroom: Google Classroom automatically creates, names, shares, and organizes Google Docs through the assignment feature. I can have each student open the assignment. I can then customize the task, but adding some extra challenging prompts to select students. For the Map Challenges, I keep track of the different versions of the document by labeling them Challenge 3A, Challenge 3, and Challenge 3.0. To the causal observer, they look identical. For many activities the change to the assignment is just the expected outcome. Higher level students need to provide more than a single word answer; I prompt them through comments to add specific supporting details for their answer.
- Quizlet: This study app and website has been in digital toolkit from the beginning. With my teacher account, I can see statistics for the students: what they did, how much they completed, which ones they most frequently missed.
- EDpuzzle: Just because I have students working at their own pace does not mean they are not hearing the information from me. I use some flipped videos to explain key topics. With EDpuzzle I can embed questions to check for understanding. It also displays view statistics, so I can tell if someone skips part or if they go back to watch a part four times.
- Flocabulary: Flocabulary is more than just videos. They have some new features that will allow students to enrich their learning and boost their creativity. I can’t wait to have students try the Lyric Lab. Writing lyrics is more challenging than it originally appears since they have to master the content and the beat. The Pause & Play feature asks probing questions to prompt discussion. Even working at a self-pace, the students could have a discussion through Google Classroom or respond in writing on a Google Doc.
- Newsela: An easy way to extend the learning is to ask students to find real life examples to apply the knowledge. I have them use Newsela to find articles that demonstrate their knowledge.
Teacher guided are the students who will thrive with personal teacher attention. I am able to use duplicated and modified resources similar to the student paced group. With teacher guided there is an emphasis on images relating to the content as well as having students explain their thinking verbally. 360º images are great conversation inspirations. With only 5 or 6 students in the group, I am able to listen to everyone and no one can silently hide.
- Nearpod: Lessons can be duplicated. With a code, students go through the lesson at the pace set by the teacher. They can not skip ahead. 360º images are easy to incorporate with Nearpod Virtual Field Trips. The draw feature is also a student favorite. It is a good way to see student thinking and I can ask probing questions to get more information. The features do not have to be complex to be effective.
- Google Docs / Google Classroom: Google Classroom helps with organization; there are no more excuses when the assignment is lost. Just like I can customize specific students’ documents with more challenges, I can also provide tips and hints for students who might struggle. I want them to try to solve the problems on their own, but I can anticipate the misconceptions.
- Flocabulary: While I mentioned before that Flocabulary is more than just videos, the videos are what grab the attention of some struggling students. They like the mix of lyrics, beat, and images and they are willing to watch the videos over and over again. This helps them remember the content in the long run.
- Tiny Cards: Study app that is similar to Quizlet, but this builds in what it expects in students. It also allows for slight misspellings of words, which is significant when working with struggling learners.
Breaking into Groups without Heartbreak
Grouping is about the perception. For the small group that is going to work with me, they sit in the back around a low coffee table while sitting on comfortable pillows. Students are often more excited about picking out the perfect pillows than being worried about being in the small group. My personal ah-ha moment came with review games last year. Why would I only have one version of the review game if the lesson was differentiated? It had to be disheartening for the students who were always on the bottom of the leaderboard. Now I use an old Windows Surface to run a second version of the Kahoot (or other review game) for the small group in the back. With only 5 or 6 people playing, they are frequently on the leaderboard. They are proud of themselves and smile a lot more.
A tool that can visually connect the entire differentiated path is Symbaloo Lesson Plans. I just started playing with it this summer and like the potential, especially if a single question can function as a deciding point for what a student should learn next. Digital differentiation is not for the lecture lover or the lazy planner. This requires lots of work ahead of time to work smoothly in the classroom. I consider it a labor of love. I am willing to do it so more students love the content and are confident in their ability to learn.