How Differentiated Instruction and Formative Assessment Work at Forest Lake Elementary

Educators use frequent formative assessments to determine the needs of each student at Forest Lake Elementary School, and then leverage technology to tap into their learning styles.

Educators use frequent formative assessments to determine the needs of each student at Forest Lake Elementary School, and then leverage technology to tap into their learning styles.

Release Date: 5/3/10

More Info

Click on any of the titles below to download a PDF of one of Forest Lake Elementary School's many resources.

Lesson plans and rubrics

Collaborative unit plan - Blank form (PDF 448K)

Forest Lake writing rubric (PDF 560K)

Forest Lake group PowerPoint presentation rubric (PDF 440K)

Example lesson - Grade 2 fantasy writing (PDF 1.7MB)

Example weekly plan for differentiated lessons - Grade 2 language arts (PDF 960K)

More at Downloads and Resources from Forest Lake Elementary

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How Differentiated Instruction and Formative Assessment Work at Forest Lake Elementary (Transcript)

Teacher 1: A fraction with the same number on the top and bottom is a unit fraction.

Narrator: At Forest Lake Elementary, students are assessed early and often.

Teacher 1: Two nights plus three nights plus one night.

Narrator: Some of the tests are fun, and most of them employ the latest technology.

Teacher 1: Would someone like to share what they put?

Student 1: I put A because I added one plus two plus three.

Narrator: The goal is to find out where each student is and then devise an individual learning strategy that will help them get to the next level.

Teacher 2: Good. Get that in there.

Kappy Cannon: I don’t think there's a school in the world where you have a regular classroom where everyone is exactly the same. I think many, many years ago, students who were in teacher education programs learned how to kinda teach down the middle and do a little here and a little there. Well, we know that that's not right for children, and there's no such thing as a regular classroom. Our school is a microcosm of the world, so we work very hard to make sure that we know where children are. We don't take time to teach things that they already know. We try to go where they are and take them as far as we can.

Student 2: And measure the different level?

Teacher 3: Oh, we learned something a little bit different. The wor--

Tamika Lowe: At the beginning of the year, we do a variety of assessments. We have our MAT testing, which is a computerized assessment, and it gives us feedback as far as different literary strengths and mathematical strengths. And it breaks it down for each child to let us know what range they're in and how we can better group them, or how we could better teach them within those groups.

Student 3: I decide I want to be a police officer the two officers came to our school. They brought a police dog that--

Tamika Rowe: We also have Palm Pilots where we sit one on one with the child and we assess their reading abilities. And so you really get a very good educational profile of that student based on all of this data.

Student 3: They go whenever there is a problem, and they try to help--

Tamika Rowe: A lot of times, I'll just pull out my information that I have on each student and I'll say, "Okay, how can I group them to better serve them for this particular skill?" So the groups are fluid and it's all based on how we can meet educational needs.

Student 4: A person who's advanced to detect a crime. Detective.

Everybody: Detective.

Tamika Rowe: We have a group at the smart board. What they're doing now is, they're working on their vocabulary. There's also spelling practice on there, and I also include skills practice.

Student 5: Who's on this computer?

Tamika Rowe: Here at the tech zone, they're having a blackboard discussion. We've been studying the genre of fantasy and I was able to look at those that were stronger in literary text and have them actually convert a non fiction text into a fantasy text, by changing the different elements. Those that were a little weaker, I actually had them come in and comment on the edits.

Kevin Durden: Then that's when you're ready to actually start filming, okay?

Narrator: In his fourth grade classroom, a one to one computer student ratio helps Kevin Durden individualize the study of math, science, language arts and social studies.

Student 6: Martha Washington. There she is.

Kevin Durden: We use a model for teaching called IPAC, which is individualized, personalized, authentic and collaborative learning. It's personalized, in that everybody's showing their learning in a way that is comfortable to them. They're learning the subject matter that we assign, but they're expressing it in different ways.

Student 7: I'm creating a battle on the game called Medieval Two and we have to research what kind of people they had there and like the terrain of the land and stuff. Like when I--

Kevin Durden: It's authentic in that at the end of the projects, they'll be sharing them with their classmates. And it's collaborative in that the students that are working on similar projects will help each other when they learn how to use new technology tools or new software. Or alternatively, for example, for the students that are doing the skits, they're actually working collaboratively right now in order to create scripts.

Student 8: Yes, please. What a lovely home. I hope you don't mind, but I brought my daughter, Abigail. I brought my daughter--

Kevin Durden: We're able to use a variety of different software in order for students to present their learning. For example, this young gentleman here used software called Comic Life. And so he's got his picture of Australia there and he's got a bearded dragon emerging from an egg, so that he can talk about that part of the reptile life cycle. And he says that the bearded dragon is an herbivore, and that is something that I would not have gotten out of him if I'd asked him to do three paragraph essay. He'd have sat there, and he'd have spun around in the chair and he'd have tapped his pencil and he'd have balled up several pieces of paper before I got anything out of him. But as it is, with Comic Life, he's dragging and dropping the photos in there and then he's only gonna write his little thought bubbles. And so the graphic scaffold his ability to use the language.

Sandra Weston: Gavin and Andy, I'm gonna let you start at the little tech zone right over here, okay?

Narrator: During the research phase of a project, students are placed at various stations in the media center to best accommodate their individual learning styles.

Sandra Weston: Don't forget to look in the reference books, along with the--

We have three stations set up, because this will hit a variety of learning styles for all the students that we teach.

Teacher 4: Do you wanna use the pointer and make it go up a little bit more?

Sandra Weston: I'm constantly observing the students. And of course, we do occasionally give paper and pencil test as well, but so much of our assessment is done through observation or through checklist, anecdotal records, journaling in the computer, keeping records on each student. And we know which learning style that each student has and we know how they would learn best.

Q: Isn't it a lot of work on your part?

Sandra Weston: Oh, of course, it's a lot of work, but that's what we're here for. We want to help each and every student that we teach and we feel like we're just making a huge difference in each child's life.

Student 9: -- there shouldn't be a comma right there, but there should be a comma.

Teacher 5: Riley, air high five. Awesome. Let's keep going, friends.


Video Credits

Produced, Written and Directed by

  • Ken Ellis


  • Karen Sutherland

Associate Producer

  • Doug Keely

Camera Crew

  • Michael Epstein
  • Perry Goodfriend

Video Programming Producer

  • Amy Erin Borovoy


  • Michael Pritchard

Original Music

  • Ed Bogas

Support for Edutopia's Schools That Work series is provided, in part, by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation.

© 2010 | The George Lucas Educational Foundation | All Rights Reserved

Comments (7)

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Student teacher - Single Subject Math

Excellent approach!

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It seems like all the students are very engaged. Would you say that it is because they have access to so much technology all day long? I wish I had been in this classroom when I was growing up and learning science? It would have made it so much more appealing. ;)


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College Professor in Teacher Education from Doane College, Crete Nebraska

Techological dream school

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How did this school get so much technology for the 1 to 1 ratio. I enjoyed seeing the engaged learning and positive attitudes.

High School and Community College math teacher

What's with the lab coats?

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What's with the lab coats?

Thoughts and Tips on Differentiated Instruction

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Great article and wonderful program. We are working hard on this is as well. Blog article:

Senior Manager of Video Programming, Production, & Curation at Edutopia

Hi Debra - Sorry to hear

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Hi Debra -

Sorry to hear this video is causing problems for you... sometimes a new version of Flash is needed, or a slow connection can also cause hiccups.

We've just posted this video on YouTube, as well, so you can try viewing it there.

Thanks for the feedback, and glad you enjoyed it!

Tech problem

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This concept is amazing! The video gets stuck each time, however at 2:26. Is this an internal error to the video,or do you have another suggeston for viewing the entire video? Amazing, amazing program!!

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