Differentiated Environment - 4th Grade Classrooms

This is a site organized to discover how technology can help differentiate learning in later elementary-aged classrooms and, in turn, make learning more effective for every student. In order to reach this end, the creators have chosen specific, grade-level expectations and applied technological tools to address student mastery. For the purposes of this site, we are assuming equal access to technology in the learning environment.

Resources to Self-assess Learning

1. Basic Multiplication and Division Facts

The Problem:

According to experts in the field of math education students need more time devoted to the mastery of basic math facts before moving onto the higher levels of mathematic-based problem solving.
In fourth grade, under the current state of Alaska math GLE requirement, Estimation and Computation - 2, (M 3.2.2), students must accurately solve problems by recalling basic multiplication facts with products to 100, and corresponding division facts efficiently. Often this practice time is not built into the daily schedule, but can be incorporated with effective use of technology.

The Plan:

There are many technology-based tools that allow students to work on multiplication/division facts and track their progress.
On a weekly basis,in fourth grade, students are given a written timed assessment to show mastery of these facts. They are required to complete 75 correct multiplication facts in five minutes. The same is true for division facts.
If students do not pass the written assessment, they are required to spend 10 minutes of the school day practicing these memorized facts on a given site. The students must generate reports to show their follow-through with the plan and how their proficiency is increasing, sharing with the teacher on a weekly basis. The ultimate goal is successful completion of the written timed test.
Students who have mastered their multiplication tables can go on to practice division facts, using the same resources. This will further strengthen skills for students at all skill levels.

Math Resources:

Khan Academy

2. Writing

The Problem:

Students can have a difficult time visualizing and/or understanding the standards teachers place on their assignments. Writing can be especially difficult.
The Plan:
Visual examples such as exemplars (anchor papers) can be a useful self-assessment tool. Peer assessment can have positive effects on a student's ability to compare their work with others and formulate solutions on how to better improve their own writing.


www.exemplars.com - Exemplars performance material provides teachers and administrators a way of teaching and assessing writing and communication skills.

The Problem:

Self-assessments can also take up valuable instructional time.
The Plan:
Use social media websites like Edmodo that offers teachers surveys and quizzes students can take on any subject and acquire immediate results. For example, some teachers take the Common Core Standards related to an assignment, place "I can" in front of the standard, and then give the "I can" statements in a survey format using the "poll" function. This offers immediate feedback and takes less time for a teacher to prep.

Other Writing Resources:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1looAjz59IJdAW7lt92Uw4SH5Cbkqf5e-3Z5U1XGOhT4/edit?pli=1 A Google document with great reflection questions to pose at the end of student's Google document.

3. Reading

The Problem:

Students are required to read with sufficient accuracy and fluency to support comprehension.
The Plan:
external image Audacity%20logo.jpg
Software such as GarageBand and Audacity
records the reader's voice so they can hear for themselves. As they progress they compare recordings and apply their own grade.
note: The link to "Audacity" also has a useful lesson plan which includes printable resources.

Accessible technology for students to Set and Track Goals

The Problem:

​The majority of young students come to school each day wondering what the teacher will tell them to do today. Or each day may be consistent enough that students have a pretty good idea what they will do in each subject for that day. The only goals they are thinking about are how to make it until lunch, recess, and the final bell.
But almost any successful athlete, inventor, or entrepreneur will say that goal setting was a major part of their success. Click here for a great article on the importance of setting goals for students and teachers. Without definite goals, students and teachers will flounder. Click here for more on the theories behind goal setting in education.
One Alaska State GLE for 4th Grade Writing (W2.2) states: Use a variety of fiction and non-fiction forms when writing for different audiences. The student writes for a variety of purposes and audiences by:

[4] 2.2.1 Writing an understandable story that incorporates setting, character, problem and solution
[4] 2.2.2 Writing in a variety of nonfiction forms using appropriate information and structure (i.e., personal letters, recounts, descriptions or observations)
[4] 2.2.3 Using expressive language when responding to literature or producing text (e.g., writer’s notebook, memoirs, poetry, plays or lyrics) (L)

Typically in my experience, a student has no idea about these goals when they have an assignment. Teachers also tend to keep students on the same pace with the various steps of the process.

The Plan:

With a goal setting and tracking program, students could set up their own learning plan to meet these goals. This would allow them to take more time on the steps they need to, and spend less time in areas that are already strong. The teacher could assist students in setting up the plan, and monitor progress with the students. Learners at every level could benefit from this type of technology. The programs could be used for short-term and long-term learning goals. Larger projects can be broken down into the simplest steps needed. More independent students can self-monitor while the teacher can be assured that they are actively learning.
One simple tool that young students will enjoy using is goalforit.com. This is free and would be very parent-friendly too, so parents could be involved in their children's education. The Goal Tracker feature allows you to set a goal and create an action plan with the steps you need. You can easily review and measure progress so you can stay focused and motivated. The Daily Goals chart is an even more fun way to track and reward progress. Users create a calendar chart with their own daily goals, and check off their progress with fun icons. The teacher could create a group within the program so only the students and teacher could see their goals and charts. This tool could be incorporated with 30 minutes in a computer lab to get everyone started, and 5-10 minutes a day to update progress independently. If daily updates aren't possible, a 10-15 minute block at the beginning and end of each week could also be enough to review and revise goals.

Goal Setting Resources:

There are some general web tools that offer data organization of student progress. Then there are subject-specific sites that allow students to work through content at their own pace and see their progress.





Tools that analyze Student Differences

The Problem:

Students learn in many different ways. These can be called learning styles, multiple intelligences, learning modalities, preferences or other terms. Without identifying the learning style of your students, it is difficult to teach them very efficiently. Most people will naturally teach out of their own learning style and preferences, hoping that others will catch their excitement. The informed teacher may use a variety of teaching styles or address multiple intelligences, but does not know their students' learning styles well enough to tailor instruction to individuals. A wise teacher will use various tools to gain an understanding of each students' learning styles, interests, strengths and weaknesses.

The Plan

At the beginning of the school year, the teacher needs to assess students' learning styles and interests. It should never be assumed that just being a good teacher will be the ticket to everyone learning to their full potential. There are many simple online quizzes that can be given to students to help with understanding the students' learning styles (see Resources below).
One of the quickest and simplest quizzes to use is found at SchoolFamily. This has only 12 questions and is easy enough for 3rd graders and older to understand. For the purposes of this page, the focus needed to be on a simple, quick tool. This quizz focuses on the three widely recognized learning styles- visual, auditory and kinesthetic. Other more involved quizzes may give more details about student learning and interests (i.e. multiple intelligences or personality tests), but require more time and more explanation/help from the teacher. The Resources list below is roughly organized from simplest to more complex/in depth tests.

When the SchoolFamily quiz was given to a group of upper primary students, the results showed how important it is to be aware of the students' learning styles and address them. The quiz identified that 43% of the students were primarily Visual learners, 29% were primarily Auditory, 14% were primarily Kinesthetic, and 14% learned equally with all 3 styles. Even more importantly, after their first preference, most students used the other 2 styles roughly equally. No one had only 1 learning style. At different times and for different purposes, students learn in different ways.

To teach a class with these students, the teacher would need to make sure all teaching spoke to all 3 learning styles. By being aware of which students were Auditory learners, the teacher could be sure they had a chance to hear instructions given out loud. For the Visual learners, the teacher could make sure the directions are printed and leave sufficient time to read them. Kinesthetic learners need to have more freedom to move and be given hands-on "learning by doing". Cooperative learning groups should be formed with learning styles in mind. In a mixed group, a visual learner could gather and record written information, an auditory learner could listen to group members or recorded information, interview people and keep a journal or minutes, and the kinesthetic learner could create materials or props, and give a presentation. In homogeneous groups, a visual group could give a powerpoint presentation, an auditory group could stage a panel discussion, and the kinesthetic group could do a role-play or demonstration. By using these techniques, students can focus on their learning strengths, while also improving other areas.

Resources for analyzing student differences

Multiple intelligences, learning modalities
SchoolFamily- Learning Styles Quiz
What's Your Learning Style

Surveys- Use these to create any type of survey or test you need

Tools to manage formative assessments

The Problem:

According to Alaska content standards students need to use technology to some degree throughout their education. The extent of its use is unspecified, but they need to create information, locate information, manage information and exchange information with others using technology. All of these requirements are touched upon when considering ways to manage formative assessments as part of the writing process.
In the fourth grade, students are required, as part of the writing GLEs , to revise their writing. They are also required to provide and receive feedback based on specified criteria.

The Plan:

Based on this expectation, technology can be utilized in creating rubrics that give students guidelines for their writing. There are many resources for creating rubrics on-line:
Just to name a few.

Once students have their rubric, they can then create their writing piece in a word processing program such as Microsoft Word. The whole writing process is made so much easier through technology as work can be edited through several drafts with ease. Oftentimes students submit a writing assignment and feel that the process ends at that point, with a grade and comments from the teacher. However, as part of the grade-level expectations, students would be required to give feedback and revise their writing at least a few times, more depending on the amount that needs changing. To work through this, students would be assigned folders to a Dropbox account where they place drafts of their writing. At that point, the writing would be reviewed by classmates or myself and comments posted within the document with suggestions for revision.

This process would meet the writing requirements to create and revise work as well as the technology standards of using technology for a variety of purposes in learning. (AK Technology Standards: A: A student should be able to operate technology-based tools. B: A student should be able to use technology to locate, select, and manage information. C: A student should be able to use technology to explore ideas, solve problems, and derive meaning. D: A student should be able to use technology to express ideas and exchange information.)

Tools to manage summative assessments

Online portfolios

A portfolio is a great way to show students how they have progressed from the beginning of the school year to the end, or from the beginning of a unit of study to the end. There are different on-line portfolio tools that serve this purpose such as:
Edmodo(Video Intro) A favorite for schools!
Google Docs (Apps or Drive)
iweb--creating a web portfolio (What is iweb?)
A big advantage of any of these "cloud" tools is that work can be accessed from anywhere. Instead of leaving information on a school computer or home computer, or having to save onto a flash drive (another cost and big risk of loss), everything is saved online. Whenever a computer or handheld device is used to log in (to the cloud), it can be synched with the material that has been added or changed.
Using these tools with students also fulfills the technology content standard that has students using technology to utilize and manage information.

Other technology tools we like

This site is included in the analyzing student differences section because of a neat quiz assessing 8 different thinking skills. We also include it here because it has many useful articles and helpful tools for helping your particular child with a variety of learning needs. It also rates and recommends different games (online, game consoles, iphone) and apps to help with the skills a child needs.

A simple explanation of multiple intelligences.