Formative: How to make instruction individualized without making yourself crazy


Thank you David Kwan for the opportunity to share this in the community and be a part of the Dream Team.

How to make instruction individualized without making yourself crazy

Rachelle Dene Poth


Having students complete different assessments or take the same assessment and trying to come to an understanding of the needs of the class as a whole as well as the individual student needs, is a very intricate part of what we as educators must do. As an educator, it is very important to be able to monitor the progress of and provide meaningful feedback for each of our students.The students rely on us for this feedback and guidance in order to help them learn the material, improve their skills and grow as a learner.This feedback is critical for their success and should be provided as frequently and timely as possible. Depending on the subject matter and the grade level that you teach, individualized instruction can prove to be quite time consuming and requires a lot of multitasking.  For teachers, time management and keen observational skills are key.  


It is so important that we provide learning experiences which are personalized to meet their needs and lead to mastery of the content material. So how do we do this? And how do we do this without driving ourselves crazy in the process and spending so much time on it that it takes away from our time to work with and support all of our students?  Without the use of ed tech tools to help us create these assessments and provide learning opportunities and support for our students, we would end up only meeting the needs of a few students.  So what can we do?


Edtech: Resource for tools to provide individualized instruction quickly

The answer quite simply is to turn to any of the wide variety of digital assessment tools that are now available. Through the numerous digital tools readily accessible to educators and learners, it is so much easier to provide individualized instruction and assess student needs. We can give students options in how they are assessed and learn from their responses, exactly what their needs are, instantly. Through these tools, we can analyze student data and provide feedback quickly, without the loss of valuable instructional time and lesson preparation time. And because these digital tools enable every action to be expedited, we used less time and keep ourselves sane in the process.  Students need this feedback so it can help them develop their skills.

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Edtech: Promotes student driven learning


Using some of the tools available also provides tremendous options for student assessment and also for student driven learning. Students can be assigned to create something to use as part of their learning process. The students have the opportunity to lead by designing practice assessments and sharing them with their class. They can then use the data from prior assessments to reflect and come up with a plan for their own learning goals, creating their personalized learning path through  collaboration with the teacher.  Working in this way helps students to become more empowered and have choices in their learning experiences;allows the teacher to facilitate the learning in the process. This is also great for working on those important relationships that help to build a solid foundation in the classroom environment.


SO what are the tools available to help us keep sane in this individualization process?


One example is using Go Formative.  Students can engage in activities which enable teachers to see the live responses appear instantly and provide immediate written feedback to each student, when it is needed the most. Teachers see the responses as they are being entered and for some assessments in which students are “showing their work”, this is very valuable.  For students, the ability to receive this immediate feedback leads to more engagement, increases instructional time and allows both the teacher and students to really focus on the needs and to plan next steps or provide extra practice as needed.


With Go Formative, teachers can set up class accounts, which will enable the teacher to fully monitor the work and provide ongoing feedback for the students with accounts.   Activities can also be shared with students who do not have accounts yet by simply sharing the URL.


Other tools for individualization

Some other tools that I have found useful for some quick assessments and for having students complete activities are Kahoot, Quizizz, Riddle, Responster and Socrative.  The type of information I want to get from my students, drives the decision for which of these I ultimately decide to use with my classes.


Possible uses for these tools: For student reflection


If you are looking for ways to find out if students have needs or concerns, or to have students reflect after an assessment or other activity,these tools provide options for question formats and do not require students to have an account.  For example, for a general reflection, perhaps after midterm exams,  I tend to create something using tools such as Responster or Socrative because of the data that is compiled and quickly available, and students can easily access the survey.  The results from their responses can be accessed and analyzed live and saved for future reference.  Being able to look at the student responses enables the teacher to really focus on their needs and also better understand the students, their backgrounds and make important connections.
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For entrance and exit slips

If I want to assess my students on content or design something for use as a quick entrance or exit slip, I will use Kahoot, Quizizz or Riddle which provide engaging themes and lots of options for question choices and including images and other add-ins. Each of these also provide the ability for the teacher to see individual student responses and to save the results in various formats to use for providing feedback and also for helping students to see the areas they need to work on.


Overall benefits of  edtech tools and how they improve individualized instruction

By using edtech tools, students can create their own assessments and activities, which can be used for their practice, geared toward their individual needs for the material.  An additional benefit of this is that these student created assessments can be shared with the class, therefore providing more resources for everyone to use, enjoy and learn from. Another added benefit is that the teacher has the ability to see the needs of each individual student and also in the process of having students create these assessments and games, continues to provide the individualized instruction and practice they need and stays sane in the process.


So it really comes down to finding a resource that will help to provide enhanced learning opportunities for the students, better and faster ways to assess students and have that immediate feedback, and staying sane through it all.  Digital tools like Go Formative are of tremendous benefit to teachers and students and facilitate the delivery of individualized instruction in many ways. And they help to make differentiation possible without going crazy while doing so.



Recent Blog posted on VISME: Visual Storytelling in the Classroom

Thanks again to Payman Taei and Nayomi for publishing my recent post.


Posted on January 29, 2016 by Rachelle Poth

How to Use Visual Storytelling in the Classroom


Everybody loves a good story. Whether it is a story you are reading in print, hearing firsthand or retold by another, each unfolds in creative and engaging ways. What all of these have in common is that they are created and presented in a way that is unique and meant to engage the audience.

By infusing one’s personality, individuality and creativity into the story being told, the story takes on a new life. Everyone can have similar experiences; our interpretations of them, however, are unique. Through digital tools, we have numerous possibilities for bringing these interpretations to life.

In the classroom, storytelling occurs on a daily basis. The content delivered to and interpreted by the students is a story. How teachers choose to deliver the content, their presentation style and tools used, can make all the difference in the learning that occurs in the classroom.

The way that students interpret the instruction and show their understanding can be accomplished in so many unique ways. It can come in the form of assessments, the sharing of experiences that spontaneously arise during the lesson or through interpretation of a class discussion or sharing of projects.

These are the same possibilities that can occur in any area of life, stemming from our interactions with one another and our efforts to express a thought, feeling or experience.


Designing your story


1In years past, these stories, essays, reflections and authentic creations were shared using paper and other supplies to create a visual representation.

Today, these options still exist and lead to enhanced student engagement and encourage their creativity. But we now have an abundance of digital tools that can provide these same benefits and also help develop vital technology skills required in today’s world.

Having been on both sides, a teacher and a student, I find that I like working with new presentation creation tools. They give me a greater variety of options and, more importantly, the choice of how to best express my thoughts. I appreciate the variety of choices these tools afford to individuals like me, who are not very artistic, and how they enable us to breathe life into our stories.


Project possibilities


3I have always liked having possibilities and the freedom to search for tools that meet my needs and interests. I value this freedom of choice greatly for my students as well. Deciding to move toward more personalized instructional opportunities was one of the greatest changes in my classroom that has led to truly amazing benefits for my students as well as for my own professional growth.


2One of the reasons I look forward to students’ projects is that by giving them a choice in the type of tool to use, I learn a lot about their interests. They have the freedom to find something that engages them and lets them be creative in their own way. They can express their individuality and in the process of learning and showing what they know and can do, they have fun.


Great examples for storytelling

There are so many choices available for students to create a digital story. For example, as a foreign language teacher, we cover a lot of themes in our courses. I enjoy having my students complete projects to show what they have learned, but I prefer they select their own method of presentation.

A few great ways to incorporate visuals through web tools are to have students design a brochure advertising a store or another similar concept covered in class. With so many add-ons available in the template choices, students can create almost anything. I have had students describe their daily routine using visuals, ranging from infographics with a timeline to comics, animated cartoons and much more.

How can students tell their story?



In my classroom, students often complete a variety of themed projects. Some examples include creating a restaurant scene, a menu, a self-description, a narrative about one’s daily routine and preparing for a special event.

There are so many possibilities for students to create a visual representation of these topics. In addition to working individually, students can work collaboratively on things like the creation of a travel agency or on a food and recipe project; or they can create websites, videos, animated presentations and more.

While the instructions and the rubric for each of these projects are always the same and have the same requirements, it does not make a difference to me how the students choose to convey their information. There are times when I may give them a choice between four or five specific tools for creating an infographic because that is the format that I prefer and a skill I would like them to be able to have.

However, there are also many times when I will give them 20 or more choices–ranging from infographics to cartoons, comics, videos and more–because I want them to feel free to express themselves in a way that meets their needs and interests.


Examples from my classroom

To give a few examples, in Spanish I, students created infographics to talk about their school schedule and were able to use the various icons, font styles and templates to bring their schedule presentation to life. They also created their own menu for a restaurant and had the same capabilities, regardless of which tool they chose to use.

In Spanish II, where the presentations take on more of a narrative and a lengthier description, some of their work includes describing a daily routine or shopping excursion, and with the newer digital tools available, they can add audio, video and choose from a range of icons and other art that is included; they do not have to worry as much about citing their images because it is an all-inclusive tool.


visme interface screenshotStudents have also described their city or a city they would like to live in using a cartoon character or an animated comic strip. They have also created videos using their camera and a tool that helps them edit and combine it into a finished product.

In the upper level Spanish courses, where we focus more on communication and collaboration, students have worked together on telling a story using Wikispaces and Kidblog and shared accounts with something like GoAnimate to create videos. It really does help to engage them, and it definitely makes the learning experience more meaningful because they can recall how they chose to portray the information in their own personalized way.


How can this benefit your classroom?

So, if you have a project in mind, think about what the requirements are and how have you assigned the project in the past. What really matters is, “what do you want the students to show you that they know and can do with material that has been covered.” Then think about what has been your traditional way of having the students create something. Do you feel, when you look at their final product, that they are mostly all the same? If so, then using one of the digital tools available is your answer.


5Try this: Keep the same requirements but give the students some choices by offering a variety a presentation tools and let them teach you some new things about technology. Also, let them drive their learning, become more engaged and as a result inspire others to do the same.

One thing I have noticed when projects are shared is that in each of the classes, students enjoy seeing each other’s work and having a choice. Another benefit is the relationships that form. Of course, they can go to their teacher, but they can also go to their peers and receive guidance when trying some new presentation tool.

Sometimes students fear new things and are afraid of taking a risk, but experiences that are diverse like this truly help to support students. Digital storytelling encourages creativity; having that choice inspires curiosity and will help to diminish the fear of trying something new.

And finally, it brings a lot of extra diversity and excitement into the classroom. As teachers, we benefit from the extra learning opportunities provided by these tools as well.