How to provide differentiation when teaching online

If you feel like you have started to get the hang of online teaching and you are ready for a new challenge, it is worth considering how you might be able to provide scaffolding and support to lower ability students so that they don’t become lost or defeated as they try to learn by themselves at home, and also how you could extend and challenge higher ability students so that they don’t get bored. Here are some ideas for how you could do this:     
  • Make the task open-ended: the advantage of open-ended tasks is they might not have just one right answer, and kids can take it as far as they like. 
  • Project work: by their nature, projects are also open-ended and they have scope to provide some student choice which helps with differentiation, as students can choose to work on something that aligns with their interests and abilities. Higher ability/ gifted and talented students can use their project work to stretch and challenge themselves. Support and scaffolding would still be required, especially for lower-ability students. 
  • Provide choice in the content, process or product - not necessarily all 3 at once - although you can if you like! Students could choose the content that they want to focus on (for eg, if they were learning about water scarcity around the world they could choose the country they want to focus on), they could choose the process - that is,  how they will learn about the content (eg. video, podcast, reading, surveys, internet research). How will they take notes and organise their information (linear, tables, mind maps etc)? And they can also choose the product, meaning the way in which they will demonstrate their learning, and this can cater to any individual talents that they may have - for eg, making a website, writing a short story, creating an infographic, etc. 
  • Give options for extended reading or providing a more in-depth video to watch for gifted and talented students.
  • Provide different modes of content distribution - video, audio, diagrams, illustrations, photos, written etc. Some students are more visual learners, some are more aural, some like a combination. 
  • Provide activities that require students to move around or get away from the computer for a little while to cater for more kinaesthetic learners. Think about how you could implement ‘field work’, or practical hands on activities like cooking or creating into their learning. 
  • Clear success criteria - you could use a  ‘must, should, could’ model (can colour code too if you like). ‘Must’ is what they would have to achieve (in line with the achievement standards) to get a C grade, ’should’ for a B grade and ‘could’ for an A grade. You could direct your lower ability students to focus on the ‘must’ as a baseline, and your higher ability students to focus on the ‘could’. 
  • Interactive quizzes - programs like Memrise, Quizlet or Quizziz let students go at their own pace and provide instant feedback, as well as the opportunity to re-do it so that they can improve. 
  • Use Google Docs to provide extra assistance and support to students that need it, or provide extra challenges to students who need it. You can see students work in their Google Doc live, and make comments on it as they go or open up a chatroom there. 
  • If you are using Microsoft Teams, it has a function where you can easily assign different tasks or resources to individual students.
Hope this helps! Any questions please feel free to email me at [email protected] or message me @futurefocusedteaching on Instagram. 
Kelly :) 
PS. If you would like to access a range of free tools and resources that I have created to help teachers save time and increase their impact, check out the Freebies Vault
For more ideas regarding online teaching and remote learning, you may be interested in these articles: 

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