Differentiation in the 1:1 Classroom


Through the use of technology, we can now differentiate the learning for our students more so than ever before.  We have the tools to design a learning environment that is filled with the resources and tasks needed for each level of learner.  We know one size fits all education does not work, but many people have trouble making their classroom into a differentiated learning environment.


Before the Unit – Pre-assess using Formative Assessment Tools

  • Using tools like Google Forms, Socrative or InfuseLearning you can give a formative assessment to your students before the unit begins to gauge their level of understanding.  Using this information you can direct them to different activities to further their learning.

  • Remember: Formative assessments are not for grades, they are to INFORM instruction.


Beginning of Unit

  • Design a different set of learning activities for each level of learner.  Ideally you would want to start with at least 3 levels.

  • Give your students options on what they can do to learn the content.  Not everyone has to do the same thing at the same time, and not everyone will want to do the same thing.  People tend to learn better if they have a choice and can choose something they like versus something forced upon them.

    • Using Moodle, a Google Site or even a Google Doc you can divide up the activities according to the level that they start with.  Design tasks that go beyond simple memorization and try to include tasks that allow them to create and not just consume.

  • Include other formative assessments along the way so that students can check their progress.  Again, these are not for grading.

  • Instead of lectures you can record videos of the notes, hand the notes out as a file or find another way to replace that part of class.  In many lectures the students are not engaged, if they are not engaged they are not learning.  We can find better uses of that time.

  • Include a variety of different activities that the students can use to deepen their understanding.  Make sure there is some way they can get feedback after each activity or have them discuss their learning with you.  A simple Google Form with questions related to the activity and what they learned could be very useful in order to track their learning.

  • Have those students that have a higher level of understanding, create materials to help the rest of the students.  We often learn best when we are trying to help others understand the content.  Allow students to work together but remind them they are assessed by themselves so they can not just sit back and watch others do the work.

  • Allow students to fail.  I do not mean give them an F for the unit but allow them to make mistakes and then learn from those mistakes.  The summative assessment does not mean that they take the test and that is it.  Allow the students to retake assessments and retry activities.  Do not just let them retake the test without doing the work necessary to correct their understanding.

  • One big suggestion is to focus the grade on their level of learning and not on other things like behavior or ability to fill out a worksheet.  We can show our students that the learning is the most important thing if that is what we are assessing.  What does the grade actually mean?  Is it just a battle for points or is learning actually taking place and being measured.


After the student has mastered the unit

  • If a student has mastered the content for the unit, allow them to either go deeper in that content or something connected, or even allow them to move on to the next unit.  These students would also be great resources for the other students, collaborative learning should have a place in our classrooms.

  • Remember that some students may easily understand some content but then struggle with the next unit.  Allow the student who is proficient to move forward and use their time best.  This can also allow you to help those struggling learners.



  • Too many of our students only know how to consume, help them learn how they can create.  When we create we often have to make sure we have a deep understanding otherwise what we create will suffer.

  • Collaboration is a good thing.  Allow students to work together and learn from each other.  Even allowing students to work together to take notes can be really influential in their learning.

  • If our content is really that important, why would we ever allow someone to “get by” with a D.  Focus on mastery of the content so that they really understand it before trying to learn something else.

  • Engagement is key.  If a student is not engaged, they are probably not learning.  If you see a student who is not engaged, talk to them and find out why.  You might have to design a new activity for them but if they become engaged there is a greater chance they will learn and be successful.

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