Wairakei School teacher, Kate Friewald describes how she uses Google Docs to support differentiated learning in her classroom. She uses Google spreadsheets to create her weekly plan, maths plans, and literacy plans. She shares these with students based on a "must do/can do" process. Students are split into cooperative work groups, not necessarily structured on reading or maths ability. Each group member has a number of "must dos", to complete within the morning block, and some blank time to structure their own learning focused on their learning needs.
My planning now is all done via Google Docs. I create my learning plans, week plans, maths plans, literacy plans on Google Docs.
I share those with the students and they are based on a 'must do/can do' process.
So I have different groups, and they are cooperative groups not based on learning needs, and the different activities they have to do within certain time the students choose what activity they are going to do in what order. Some are group based, some are with a buddy, some are independent and some come to me.
So I use Google Docs Google spreadsheets here to create my weekly plan. The first block of the day, so from 9 through till 10:30 is "must do, can do" time, and that's when the students all do combined literacy and maths activities. What I use to structure that is another Google spreadsheet with their 'must dos' on it. So the students are split into groups, these are cooperative work groups, they are not necessarily structured on reading or maths ability. Each group has a number of 'must dos', so in this instance three 'must dos' they must do during that morning block, and then they have some blank time which is for them to use to structure how they want to learn something that's going to help focus on their learning needs.
So the groups are more based around the groups at this end have a reading and writing need, in the middle their biggest need is maths and at this end it's writing. So these people here are encouraged to write more in their time and these people here are encouraged to read and do more maths.
The times I have in 20 minute blocks are there to help those students that need a bit more help with organising their day. They know that they could do this one first, then this one, then this one. However, if a student wishes to change the order of them that is absolutely fine.
In some of the groups the members of that group are more than capable of working off what we call an all-week must do. So they just have to have this list of things done during the week at any stage they want. What they do when they are doing their 'must dos' is once they've done one they then pop the information into their 'must do' spreadsheet.
Each group has their own Google doc, Google spreadsheet, and it's again got the 'must dos' listed and 'other', which is their 'can do' time. So they need to pop into there and this is where they show accountability for if they’ve done their 'must dos'. They pop in what they did, maybe who they did it with, how they found it went, was it easy, was it hard, do they need a better challenge. That’s really helpful for me because I can go in and see exactly what work they did. I know if they finish the work or they need more work. I know if it was too challenging, I know if it was too easy, and even if I’m not out of the classroom or from home, I can look and see which work I need to set for the next day.
I can also see in the other time, what have they been doing to focus on their learning needs, and if it’s, for instance, a student who should be focussing on writing, and they've spent half an hour reading, I know to have a quick chat with that student and work out was there a reason they didn’t work towards their learning need more that day. Maybe they just needed a break, maybe they were catching up on a reading activity they missed. So the 'must do/can do' approach like that allows different students with different learning needs to choose what they want to do or not, if they wish to do what I have asked them to do.
I can choose to have freedom if I want but I don’t really choose it because I do all the stuff in the order that it has to be.
So it means that a student who prefers to learn through a structured method can follow that, but a student who is more than capable and wishes to spend an hour on maths today and no time tomorrow is able to do that. Some students I find like to get involved in a task and carry it right through, and others like to do a little bit each day.
I have this thing called 'must do/can dos' which is much easier. The teacher doesn’t tell me what to do in that particular order because on this you can just see what you need to do then do it in whatever order you want to.
It also allows those students that may have some higher learning needs to be able to follow exactly what I’ve asked. But then I can also structure in here workshops where I call different children from different groups into a workshop.
It allows me the freedom to run those workshops wherever because I’m not tied to seeing a particular group.
It also allows me to have a look at their 'must do' document and see 'Oh yes, that student, that student and that student may need some help and I can run that workshop'.
We've got any order they prefer to do these in. Some students prefer to get straight underway with their maths in the morning, and others prefer to quietly read to build themselves into the day more.
So along with the 'must dos' on our 'must do' document, at the bottom of it is the students' maths groups. Who's in each group, the strategy they are working on and their WALT (We are learning to).
There are also their reading groups and that's where they just look to see have they been changed groups? are they working with the right people? etc.
The maths groups here, their WALTs, they actually link through to the students' work. So if I pop into this one, it links through to our Google class, our e-learning site. On that site it will list the work the students can do. So I don't say do page 102 out of the book. They come in here, the first thing they do for maths is they learn it, they learn the strategy, they do that via teacher, tools, videos, and PowerPoints. They then practice it through the New Zealand Curriculum mathematics books and, depending on the strategy, there's some learning games.
So when the students are doing their maths they choose what they are going to do for Practice It, they choose between the page range where they are going to work, they choose how much of it they do, they choose to move on if they’ve got the strategy, or to keep working on it. They can decide to pop back a page and they can choose any of the appropriate strategies for them. And so the students who are working on another strategy at home, or students that have got a strategy before I next see their group, they can move on and work on the next one.
So once the students have completed the Learn It and some Practice It, if they really think they’ve mastered the strategy they move on to what we call Prove It. They use their iPads and they use the Explain Everything video, and they create a video that explains how they do this strategy. If that video is of good quality and will help other students, I then upload it to that strategy page so that it can help other students. The students will keep the video however themselves, so when it comes time to revise or if they’ve forgotten how to do a strategy, they’ve got the teacher tools but they’ve also more importantly got it in their own words and in their own speak to help them revise the strategy.