Tiered Activites for Upper Elementary Students

Tiering activities is an effective way to differentiate instruction for all of our learners
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Tiered Activities.mp4
2:17

About This Strategy

In this strategy, teachers develop a plan that tiers activities and resources, and assessments for students in an elementary classroom that can be easily adjusted for students with diverse needs.  It allows for students to take ownership of how they can demonstrate their learning. This strategy provides flexibility within a structure so teachers are able to modify as necessary for the varying needs of all learners.

Implementation Steps

1. Clearly define the purpose or intention of learning that you want students to be working towards. This involves a deep look at the standard and the resources the students will utilize to demonstrate evidence of learning.  

  • For example:  If students are practicing summarizing and are learning about the Branches of Government, the teacher can determine that the evidence of learning will be that the students will be able to create a summary about the three branches of government using texts provided.  

2. Next determine the resources or texts students will need in order to be successful with the learning.  Once the resources or texts are determined, consider ways to modify and adjust the resources or texts for different tiered learners. See example in the resources section of a modified text.  Modifications may include:

  • Using different leveled texts of the same topic. Websites where you can find texts include Newsela, Commonlit, and Readworks that are linked in resources. 
  • Utilize information in resources about Tiering a Text. 
  • Taking a text and using a tool such as Rewordify to make it more accessible.  Achieve the Core Word Finder also highlights academic words that might need modifying. See resources for links. 
  • Using screencast tools or audio recording tools to record audio versions of the text.  
  • Chunking out the text into smaller sections 
  • Providing additional images or videos to assist with tasks. 
  • Including additional vocabulary resources
  • Providing graphic organizers for students

3. The resources can be curated into 3-4 different tiers based on student needs.  See the resources for ways to group students. Consider using tools such as Google slides or Nearpod to create the presentations based on the different tiers.  When creating assignment sheets and directions the tiers can be all described on the same chart.  See example of a tiered assignment chart in resources. 

  • In this example, students all will work towards the same learning target but the task will be tiered based on students' needs. Depending on a student's tier, he/she will receive fewer or more scaffolds.  
  • In each tier of the example the student is given a common video to watch, an article which is different for each tier, and a presentation that utilizes the same article however there are modifications to the text and structure to differentiate for the different tiers.   The Tier 1 presentation also has audio integrated for the modifications.
  • The evidence of learning is also different in each tier of the example.  Tier 1 students will have more scaffolds with sentence stems and a structured outline.  Tier 2 students are given a checklist to help guide their final summary.  Tier 3 is given the directions and no other scaffolds other than the ability to conference with peers. 

4. After modifying and creating resources based on different tiers consider how the students are going to demonstrate evidence of learning.  In the example above the expectation was for students to summarize the Three Branches of Government in order to Tier the activity using the resources consider:

  • Providing sentence stems for the summarization
  • Tools that allow students to present with video their summaries - flipgrid or padlet
  • Checklist or reminders of essential parts of a summary
  • Providing graphic organizers 
  • Providing examples of a successful summary

5. To determine which tier a student is working towards consider:

  • Pre-determining the tier the student is assigned based on prior assessment or knowledge of the student. 
  • Select two tiers that a student would be successful working in and have a conversation with the student to determine which tier the student will be completing a task

6. When assigning a student a tier, consider having a 1:1 conference with the student to discuss background knowledge, strengths and/or weaknesses and the level at which they have been successful at this year. See resources for information about conferencing. There may be some stigma for students working at different levels and this is abated by having relationships with students and assisting students with a growth mindset mentality (see resources). 

  • Consider asking questions to determine tiers such as:
  • How comfortable are you with the material?
  • Do you feel that you are successful with (the evidence of learning might be)?     For example:  Do you feel you are successful with writing summaries independently?
  • Are you more successful when you are given more guidance when trying to complete a task?
  • Do you feel comfortable with a lot of reading or do you prefer your reading broken into smaller chunks?
  • Why do you think this particular tier is the correct tier for you to work at?
  • As a reflection on tiered work at the end of a task consider asking:
  • What helped you to be successful on this assignment?
  • Do you feel the work was too easy or too difficult?
  • Were you able to work successfully independently or did you need help from classmates or teacher?
  • Do you feel confident in the quality of work you submitted?
  • Would you be willing to try the next level tier when we have another tiered assignment?

 

EL Modification

English Language Learners have additional needs that need to be considered when determining tiered assignments.  In place of tier based on level a tiered assignment could be made with the needs of EL students in mind.   The opportunities to adjust and modify assignments becomes a natural part of the classroom activities with all students working towards a tier that is appropriate for that student.

Implementation steps:

  1. Consider including vocabulary lists and examples when making modifications to a resource. 

  2. Provide visuals with  pictures, diagrams, or  videos whenever possible.

  3. Allow for knowledge to be demonstrated through drawings and/or dialogue

  4. Determine if there is any background knowledge the student may need to assist in learning and provide short opportunities to introduce background knowledge through conferencing or short videos. 

  5. Consider creating audio versions for students to listen to along with viewing the text using Loom or Screencastify.

Special Education Modification

Students with disabilities have additional needs that need to be considered when determining tiered assignments.  In place of tier based on level a tiered assignment could be made with the needs of students with disabilities in mind. The opportunities to adjust and modify assignments becomes a natural part of the classroom activities with all students working towards a tier that is appropriate for that student.

Implementation steps:

  1. Consider creating graphic organizers to help students organize thinking.

  2. Consider chunking resources into smaller pieces and providing a little each day for students to respond to. 

  3. Determine if there is any background knowledge the student may need to assist in learning and provide short opportunities to introduce background knowledge through conferencing or short videos. 

  4. Make an audio version of any reading passage using Screencastify or other audio recording tool. You can assist students with tech tools that provide text to speech with chromebooks or Google Read & Write. 

  5. Allow students to use speech to text tools to complete any writing task. See resources below for speech to text on chromebooks.

Tiering Activities for Distance Learning

During Distance Learning students are encountering a multitude of experiences that are not typical of school. Tiering Activities with consideration as to the student's experiences and the best ways for them to be demonstrating their learning is essential. By taking the time to consider different ways of presenting the same information or different ways of proving evidence of learning we are creating more opportunities for our Distance Learning students to succeed. 

Implementation steps:

  1. Ensure students are able to access the resources wherever they are learning.  This can be done with Google slides, Nearpod and/or Peardeck.  Nearpod and Peardeck provide opportunities to make a slide presentation interactive. Both Nearpod and Peardeck can be part of a class presentation that is synchronous or asynchronous. 

  2. For synchronous distance learning, consider placing students who are in the same tier in a breakout room together to discuss progress on assignments or address questions or concerns with a topic. 

  3. For asynchronous distance learning, consider using a Padlet or Flipgrid for students to share out.

Related Lessons

  • This strategy can be used with my Three Branches of Government lesson plan because in the application phase of the lesson students are working on their Tiered Assignment with small groups meeting to receive feedback. 

  • This strategy can be used with my Indigenous American Homes Peer Feedback lesson because the students are placed in groups based on Tiers to give feedback on the work that they are completing based off a Tiered Assignment Chart.