We've all been there: the post-observation conference. Much like a job interview, it can be nerve-wracking, especially for new teachers. Much like job interviews, there are a few questions that should be expected. One of those questions is:
How did you group the students?
This blog post will help you answer this question and look like a pro doing so.
Years ago, when I first learned about differentiation, I assumed it was about providing different kinds of activities to meet the needs of different learning styles. A valuable professional development session about differentiation corrected this assumption with a simple rule: An assignment or activity is differentiated when students are grouped based on assessment results.
This places a huge burden on teachers if they want to make all or most learning activities differentiated. Teachers need almost constant formative assessment to guide differentiation grouping.
That's where educational technology comes in. As Alice Keeler says, "If the computer can grade it, should."
The following tools are great for formative assessment that yields quick data to guide differentiation grouping.
EdPuzzle is a great tool to assess students as they watch a video. EdPuzzle gives the teachers the ability to add audio notes, a new soundtrack, and crop videos. It has a "Sign in with Google" so registering students and collecting their data is easy.
Formative allows for much more than multiple choice. Teachers can add digital files and videos to quizzes. Teachers can ask multiple choice and short answer questions and also ask students to draw their answers. Additionally, teachers have the ability to give individual students feedback for answers.
Kahoot is a great tool for end-of-unit reviews. Teachers can also use it to end a class with a few quick lesson review questions. As long as students use accurate names (or pseudonyms agreed to by the teacher ahead of time), teachers can use it to generate assessment data.
Bonus tips: Teachers can have a YouTube video playing in the waiting room as students join the game. Here is a really cool video for that purpose. They can also pair animated gifs and YouTube videos with questions. Teachers can crop YouTube videos. The Kahoot timer does not start until the video ends.
Socrative is like a toned-down Kahoot. Teachers can sign in with Google. Students simply need a code and to enter an accurate name. Teachers can direct or set it to students answering questions at their own pace. Teachers can set Socrative to give immediate answer feedback. Socrative's "space race" feature is a little like Kahoot: students are placed in teams and each team's rocket advances as members answer questions correctly.
TED-Ed is a great tool for assessing students after they watch a video. Teachers can add links to other resources and discussion prompts as well. Students need to register accounts for TED-Ed to collect assessment data.
Teachers use one of these tools to generate quick data. Then what?
In my practice, I proceeded to make three groups: students scoring 90% and above, students scoring 70 to 89%, and students scoring below 70%. The first group is proficient and needs enrichment. The middle group is doing well but not excelling: they should take the next logical step. The third group needs remediation.
Ideally, each group works on something at the correct level of difficulty. Activities should be divided into remediation, at-level, and enrichment levels.
Use Google Sheets to put students in groups. Put the file in Google Classroom or project it on the SMART Board. To help keep things organized, the enrichment group heading can be green, the middle group yellow, and the remediation group red. Here is what that Google Sheet would look like for day 2 of learning about the Cuban Missile Crisis:
The red groups are working together on a remediation reading. The yellow groups are learning more about the crisis. The enrichment groups are reading a deeper analysis of the crisis. All groups are working together on an activity at their level. In an expert's jigsaw, all three students on the same line in the spreadsheet form a new group to work on an activity where each member brings something to the table. Students at all levels contribute to the final product. Students are grouped homogeneously and heterogeneously in the same lesson.
What about absent students who miss an assessment for differentiation grouping? They automatically go in the remediation group.
FULL DISCLOSURE: I HAVE NOT RECEIVED COMPENSATION OF ANY KIND FOR MENTIONING THE PRODUCTS OR SERVICES IN THIS POST. I WAS NOT SOLICITED TO WRITE THIS POST AND I HAVE NO RELATIONSHIP WITH ANY OF THE COMPANIES MENTIONED.
Thank you for reading. If you would like to discuss further, please comment below or tweet me at @edtechtom.