Effective differentiation makes a huge difference to students’ performance and sense of achievement.
But it takes time and energy. That’s why it only tends to happen when we’ve got a break from marking and extra planning time up our sleeve.
The rest of the time? We’re teaching to the middle.
Fortunately, good use of technology can allow us to effectively differentiate our teaching every day. Take advantage of it and differentiation becomes faster to plan and easier to deliver.
We’ve compiled a list of ways to use technology so you can deliver learning for all ability levels, every day of the week.
Let technology take care of the pre-testing
Before you can even start differentiating, you need to know what ability levels you’re dealing with. And that means a pre-test or formative assessment that needs to be prepared, delivered, and marked ASAP.
If you don’t have the time for all that (who does?) let technology lighten the load for you.
Swap the paper-based formative assessments for an online tool that takes care of the marking. It makes it easier to check in on student progress, so you can keep providing thoughtful differentiation on a regular basis.
Here are five examples:
Kahoot allows you to create a quiz where students compete against each other via a shared screen. The competitive features are great for engagement, but just ensure the speed of the quiz doesn’t leave lower-ability students behind.
Quizalize is another handy quiz tool if you’ve got your own questions, and it gives you student results in real time.
Naiku lets students complete teacher-created quizzes on a mobile device, so you can quickly get a sense of what has and hasn’t been understood.
Reading Eggs is a literacy program that has a built-in placement test, so you don’t need to create questions and answers from scratch. Students are automatically placed on the appropriate level after sitting the test at home or in class.
Mathseeds also has an automatic placement test for mathematics. Like Reading Eggs, it’s designed with fun and engagement in mind, so students don’t feel the test-anxiety that can sometimes skew results.
If you’d prefer a more reflective formative assessment, try creating a survey using Google Forms. Ask questions such as:
- What area do you feel most confident in?
- What area do you find the most challenging?
- What activities can we do in class that will help you do your best?
- What activities would you like to see more/less of?
These methods give you the data you need to inform differentiation without copious marking or stress-inducing tests.
Get differentiated resources from the internet instead of creating your own
Differentiated activities mean multiple sets of resources, and those don’t create themselves.
But you don’t need to create anything from scratch when you’ve got an endless supply of online resources you can match to every ability level. Try the following:
For struggling students: link them to YouTube tutorials so they can pause and rewind as many times as they need to understand the content. They can’t do that in class!
For students needing extension: point them to Khan Academy where they can continue learning even after they’ve devoured another class activity in record time.
For reluctant writers: use a visual tool like Animoto, which allows students to produce videos with ease. They’ll feel so much more confident when they’re working in a medium that feels natural.
For spelling support: Readiwriter Spelling jazzes up word list practice with a variety of fun, student-friendly games, so you can re-engage students who’ve checked out of plain rote learning.
For reading support: try Reading Eggs, a gamified program that motivates students to develop their comprehension and spelling skills in order to gain points.
For maths-phobic a gamified learning program like Mathletics and Mathseeds can make the world of numbers so much more accessible. With colourful avatars, fantasy worlds, and the constant drive to earn more points, they’ll quickly forget the anxiety that once had them stuck.
When the marking’s piled up and reports need doing, you might not have the time to trawl the internet, but you can still make differentiated resources a daily feature of your lessons. Try using a learning program that has a heap of differentiated and curriculum-aligned resources in the one place. For example, Reading Eggs has a library of over 2500 ebooks for different abilities, and Mathletics has over 700 problem-solving and reasoning activities sorted by grade level and depth of knowledge.
Skip the logistical hassles and deliver differentiation on-screen
Differentiation looks great on a lesson plan but in the classroom it can quickly turn to chaos. You’ve got five sets of instruction to give, your ability groups are spread all over the room, and the clock won’t stop for anybody.
Deliver differentiated activities on-screen and you’ll have more time, less fuss.
Your LMS is your best friend when it comes to coordinating differentiated activities. It can host multiple worksheets, activities, or resources to be accessed by students of different abilities. Just make sure it’s clearly organised so students know where to go and what to do when they log in.
The best LMSs for this purpose allow you to assign work directly to students so there’s no confusion as to who’s doing what.
If you don’t have this function, consider setting up a class Microsoft OneNote. Each student gets a personal workspace where you can check in on their activity and assign work just for them.
Check out the guides at onenoteforteachers.com.
Our own programs also let you assign differentiated activities to groups and individuals without the need for a lengthy set-up. In Mathletics, for example, students will see any work that has been set by the teacher as soon as they access their student console. What’s more, they won’t be able to use other parts of the program until it’s been attempted.
Want to try it for yourself? Get a free trial of any one of our programs by clicking the link below and start delivering learning experiences that cater to every student’s level of ability, day after day.