5 ideas for using Google Classroom’s new differentiation and grouping feature

Ed Tech

Ed Tech | Thursday, January 12, 2017

5 ideas for using Google Classroom’s new differentiation and grouping feature


Google Classroom lets you assign to small groups or individual students. See how it works and how you can use this feature in your class. (Public domain image via Pixabay.com)

One huge drawback of using Google Classroom has been the inflexibility of creating assignments. Everything you assigned had to go to every student.

Deliver assignments to small groups? Ha! Differentiate to subsets of students? Nah.

Until now.

Google announced a few changes to Google Classroom, and this one was the bombshell: assign activities to small groups of students (or even individual students).


Let’s dig into this important new feature. You’ll see three sections: what is it, how does it work, and what can I do with it …

What is it?

This feature allows you to assign work to individual students and small groups. You can check off which students need to get the assignment — any number of students, from one to all but one in the class and anywhere in between.

After it’s assigned, when you click to grade the assignment, only those students assigned to that assignment will show up. The assignment will only be displayed to students to whom it is assigned.

How does it work?

It’s a very simple feature. Below is a screencast tutorial that walks you through the whole process start to finish …

Here’s what it looks like (described with words and images):

1 create assignment

1. Open Google Classroom and go to a class. Click the “+” button in the bottom right corner and click, “Create assignment.

2 all students

2. You’ll notice a drop-down menu that says “All students” next to the name of the class you’re assigning to. That’s where this feature comes in … click it!

3 select students

3. If you want to assign to all students, just leave it as is. All students are selected by default. But if you want to select a smaller group of students to assign to, uncheck “All students”. Then select the students you want using the check boxes next to their names.

4 assign

4. Complete your assignment. (Don’t forget to do the instructions part. When students are absent or return back to an assignment later, they’ll be lost without them!) Then click “Assign.” (You can also schedule it or save it as a draft with the drop-down triangle button next to “Assign”.)

5 grading area

5. Your assignment is assigned to that group! When you go to grade the assignment (click on the “Done” or “Not done” area), you’ll see that only the students you assigned it to are displayed.

(Note: Any students you did not assign this assignment to will not see this assignment in Google Classroom.)

What can I do with it

A lot! This new feature unlocks several options in the classroom …

1. Group activities — Assign an activity to an individual group. Then, all the group members are all together in one place. You won’t have to check and double check who is in which group.

2. Providing extra practice — If some students are struggling and could use some extra work — or some suggested sites for practice — assign it just to those students.

3. Leveling activities — Differentiate an activity by creating two, three or four versions of it. A more basic version of the activity has less steps, less detail or less rigor. A more advanced version has more steps, detail or rigor. Add one or two versions in the middle and you have several levels to challenge a variety of students. Assign as needed.

4. Interest-based activities — Have some Harry Potter fans in class? Or a group that loves motocross or sports? If you can identify groups of students that have the same interest, how fun would it be to include those interests in the work they do in class?

5. Rotating activities — If you have stations or a set of activities students will do over a period of days or weeks, keep assignments simple by assigning just the one that group is working on. If students will rotate through four different activities, assign one group just activity #2 until they’re done with it. Then assign them the next one. The “reuse post” feature will make this quick and easy once you’ve assigned all of the activities once.

[reminder]How else could you use this new grouping/differentiation feature in your class? How have you used it, or how do you hope to use it?[/reminder]

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  • Stephanie says:

    I’ve typically created a “class” for each section of a common course. There are pros and cons to this. What do you think about putting all sections of General Science and using this method to separate “sections/1st Hr, 3rd Hr” when necessary? I find I redo a lot to post the same thing in each class when they typically have the same assignments… Thoughts?

  • Kathi says:

    Would love to have a group “address” to assign work. Example: one click for Team A , Team B, etc

  • […] 5 ideas for using Google Classroom’s new differentiation and grouping feature | Ditch That Textboo… […]

  • Gillian Fuqua says:

    Oh my good golly, I can’t wait to try this out! It’ll make my life so, so, so much easier. I already create multiple versions of each assignment and I’ve been having to post them all to all kids.
    Life is good.

  • Sherry Hall says:

    I have been waiting on this!!!

  • Sharon VanKley says:

    This is fantastic news! I’ve had several times where this would have been handy. Can’t wait to use it for group work and for alternative assignments. 🙂

  • Tobi Guthrie says:

    I used this today!!!! I have an eighth grade class of 20 and 7 of them have an IEP. This addition allowed me to tell all students to take their quiz without identifying the group that has the test with one answer choice eliminated. It is a wonder way to protect their privacy and self-esteem!

  • Suzanne Blackstock says:

    I am so excited about this latest addition to Google Classroom! One of the hardest parts of my job is differentiating assignments, and all my classes are very heterogeneous. I hadn’t quite figured out the differentiation piece through Classroom, but this will make it very easy!!!

  • Kyle Prince says:

    when will these new features be available?

  • chris says:

    Hey Matt, will the group assignment only show up in the stream of the students that were assigned or will everyone see it?

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