I recently wrote an article for Edutopia, 50+ Tools for Differentiating Instruction Through Social Media. I asked readers to share more online tools that could support learners through differentiation. I would add these to the 50+ list. Kimberly Hurd offered three tools that address the most important needs: Assessment and Readiness. These 3 did make the list, but the description used there could not match the enthusiasm and insight Kimberly expressed. She graciously agreed to have her perspective posted here in its completeness.


 3 Tools to Help Learners at THEIR Pace (Guest Post) by Kimberly A. Hurd

Here are three sites that we love in #LS222 that help us with our learning. I wanted to take a moment to share them with you. I  LOVE to help out other teachers learn to use online tools and apps to help students own their own learning and see the power of how digital tools can help out with differentiated learning and hybrid learning. These can be done almost anywhere…at anytime.

Front Row

At Front Row, students are able to do hybrid differentiated instruction using common core math. It is free. It tells the students what grade level they are working in. I also send the information to my administrator as well as to the parents weekly for a “math report card.” I am able to isolate which math skills I would like students to focus on. I am also able to take our testing data and apply it directly to FR by looking at the strands and having the student work in specific strands. I enjoy it because it is not sit and click, it is brain based learning where on the computer or device of choice the students can draw out the problems to help solve the answer. There are also videos to help students (and teachers..because some of those questions are hard!) when they get stuck. There is gamification that ties in with this. Students can see how their peers are doing, but not know what grade level they are preforming at…just seeing them earn points. I get information back from Front Row.

Straight Ace

I chose Straight Ace to help with writing and English skills that we cover. I pre-select the “assignments” that each have 10 questions. I assign about 5-7 assignments a week depending on our skills we need to cover that week as well as where the testing data shows me that the students need to focus. Based on the data, I created 3 sub-groups for the strands and put students in those strands that they need help on. I also created a group for the high fliers who needed something more than fifth grade content to practice to help them show growth on the data we receive. I get information back from straightace weekly to tell me how the students are doing and I use the classroom time to help them through the assignments.

Straight Ace also helps with differentiated math. I have not tempted myself to look at that this year. I am eager to see how that works for next year. Right now the Front Row meets the needs of my learners and I want to stick to that.

Read Theory

At Read Theory, I created a class and I conferenced with each student regarding the reading level that they will be reading in to start off on. The students receive both non-fiction and fiction text with a small handful of questions to go with it. When students are successful in that level, they will move forward in the grade level. When students are not successful, they will be pulled back a level or more to figure out where they are really reading at.

Currently, I have a fifth grader who is reading at second grade level and a fifth grader who is reading at 8th grade level.

That is why this is an excellent differentiated tool.

I much prefer this to RAZ for several reasons. 1) It is free 2) The feedback I get as a teacher is powerful to me. It does not READ ALOUD to the student so that means, that the student must be past an emergent reader.

I am willing to share my passwords with any of you if  you would like to take an inside peek to see the interface for these learning zones. Only Front Row is an app as well.

I hope this is helpful!