Google Classroom: How to differentiate like a ninja

Guest Blog

Guest Blog | Monday, October 1, 2018

Google Classroom: How to differentiate like a ninja

Google Classroom has lots of features that let you assign to small groups or even individual students. See how you can use them along with other ideas to start differentiating like a ninja in your class. 

This post is written by Jacqueline Pora, a middle school Spanish teacher for Portage Public Schools in southwest Michigan. The past four years, she has focused on blended learning and technology integration in the world language classroom. You can find her on twitter: @lasenorapora 

Teacher confession: I have bored kids to tears in my class because they were not challenged. In fact, who needs Ambien when you have drill and kill homework assignments on material you have already mastered?! I felt my hands were tied with a textbook, overhead projector, and traditional worksheets.  

Fast forward eleven years to a classroom where we have regular access to technology and so many amazing online platforms.

I started the 2018-19 school year by telling my students “I want to meet you where you are and push you to the next level.  I am challenging each and every one of you to grow, without feeling overwhelmed or underwhelmed.”

But how can I do that with such a variety of levels within the same class? (I previously felt overloaded with the variety until I helped out with the reading program in my son’s Kindergarten class. They should pay those teachers extra by the way…)

It really doesn’t take as much planning and prep as you may think.

Here are some quick ways to differentiate in your own classroom to help students achieve and surpass their learning targets:

Model 1:

  • Give a Formative Assessment:  You can use almost anything from a scrap piece of paper exit slip with answers to essential questions to one of the online options (GoFormative and Socrative are GREAT!!). Check out your grade book system. We use Skyward and the online assignments option is my best friend!
  • Come Up With Three Groups:
      1. Group C: I am bored and ready to take a long needed siesta during your class because I scored an A on the formative. I get this already!
      2. Group B: I am almost there, I just need more practice.
      3. Group A: They need intensive help. This is a struggle. They are sinking and FAST. I need to catch them before all love of learning a new language is extinguished before Winter Break!
  • Use Google Classroom:  The assign specific students option is amazing!! I just took a regular lesson and modified it for my A group and C group.  The B group was right where they should be with the practice. My A group needed more guidance and attention.  My C group was ready to fly to the next level.
  • Use Your B Group As Peer-Mentors: They know the struggle at times. They are wonderful to help others (along with some help with strategic pairing by YOU!)

I do not do this on a daily basis. I set a goal. Start with once a month.  

Model 2:

Set up an extension Google Classroom!  Let the first assignment be: what would you like to learn more about in regard to (the subject you teach). Students can answer right on Google Classroom. So when you are feeling drained on ideas, go there. My students are far more creative than I am!

Put the things on the Extension Class that first inspired you to pursue teaching in your field.  For me, it is food, music, culture, and travel. I passionately teach these things and the kids begin to get excited and request more on the same topic.

Model 3:

What about the kids that are still bored?: I have them.  The group who will go on and travel the world and rule it.  The kids who already speak fluent Spanish. What do I do with them?!

  • They have their own Google Classroom!  They are the ones I NEVER speak English to. We do novel studies, Skype with native speakers in other countries, Duolingo, etc.  I constantly ask them how I can challenge them more. And guess what…they tell me 🙂

How about you?  In what way can you challenge your kids to grow from where they are to the next level tomorrow in class?

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