Technology for Differentiated Instruction

Posted by Brainspring on 8th Apr 2015

Hi everyone,

The research I’ve been doing lately to share ways to support writing and students with LD has been eye-opening and inspiring.  I cannot believe the wonderful resources that are available to make the entire writing process more interactive, engaging and targeted to students’ differing skill levels!  (I’ll be sharing another fantastic free resource for writing in this post.)   Long gone are the days I remember of filling in black and white worksheet outlines with boxes labeled “First…”, “Then…”, and “Next…” or copying a writing piece from one sheet of lined paper to another to another until the final copy.  Good riddance to those days!  Teaching writing in that way is onerous for on-level students; it can be torture for students with LD.

Writing is about communication, how to express ideas.  With the technology available to almost all students, we can make the entire writing process more expressive, helping students exercise their creative and critical thinking in novel ways, making writing more accessible and gratifying for students with LD.

Has anyone had time to try Kidspiration Maps yet?  When you do, please share how it worked for your students and post pictures of their maps!

SAS Writing Navigator

I came across this resource while reading an excellent Edutopia article about differentiated instruction: Enhancing Learning Through Differentiated Technology.

SAS Writing Navigator is part of a larger resource, SAS Curriculum Pathways.  I couldn’t believe it was free when I read the description in the article: “SAS Curriculum Pathways is a free online resource that provides interactive lessons, videos, audio tutorials, and apps for English language arts, mathematics, science, social studies, and Spanish. Teachers browse through the resources using state standards, a keyword, a subject category, or a level. The various interactive resources let students learn, practice skills, and have formative assessments to email, print, or save. This information helps teachers continue to group students based on their needs.”

The features of the SAS Writing Navigator blew me away!

If you have students in grades 6 and up, you must go check it out now!  Seriously, don’t wait.  Click the link and go now.

Why am I so excited?  To begin, you can get the program for iPads, Chromebooks or simply through the web.  Almost every teacher has access to one of these resources for their students at some point in the school day or week.

The Writing Navigator consists of 4 tools that guide and support students through the writing process: planning, drafting, revising and publishing.  For free!

That alone makes it worth checking out, but the programs offer even more.  The teacher can differentiate instruction by allowing students different choices at the various stages of the writing process.  As explained in the Edutopia article, “SAS Curriculum Pathways’ WritingNavigator series allows students to focus on their specific needs. Students have choices throughout the writing process, and teachers can differentiate by giving students a list of basic or higher-level revision elements from which they can select. There is a wide array of choices that focus students on clarity, power, variety, and economy, including wordiness, passive voice, fragments, prepositional phrases, verbs, pronouns, and modifiers. The resource highlights where each chosen element is found within the essay for analysis. If a student needs more assistance, there are examples and descriptions for each element.”

Applying Differentiation to Writing

Choices that allow the teacher and student to focus on specific skills make this kind of resource ideal for supporting students with LD.  This is how technology is supposed to be used to support students and differentiate instruction.  Even if using the Writing Navigator is not something you feel would work for your students, I encourage you to look through the programs and apply some of the ideas to your teaching.

For example, instead of giving every student the same rubric or revision checklist, have a few versions created for your writers at different levels.  Or, instead of insisting that everyone create an outline before writing their paper, offer several planning options.

What ways do you differentiate writing for your students?


 Clarifying Differentiation

Writing this post I found myself coming back to the idea of differentiation.  In fact, that’s what the Edutopia article was mainly about.  What I find puzzling about differentiation is that it’s something most teachers know they should be doing, but at the same time, it’s something many teachers aren’t sure they are doing well.  As I looked more into differentiation, I realized there were things I had misunderstood, simple things I should be doing that I overlooked, and time-consuming things I was doing that I didn’t need to be.

Next week, I’d like to share some basics of differentiation and make the concept a little clearer.  Please share your questions, thoughts or challenges about differentiation in the comments and I’ll do my best to respond next week!


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