The idea for this post came to me as I was interviewing a potential candidate to join our grade 2 team for the 2016/2017 school year.  The question asked was something along the lines of “talk about differentiation” in your classroom.  Her response was around creating dynamic groupings, and meeting students at their zone of proximal development.

This got me thinking … differentiation is all fine and well in theory but much harder to accomplish successfully in the reality of a typical teaching day.  So I thought a little more … and came to the conclusion that the Google Drive search feature is a great way of using the power of technology to crunch data to create dynamic groupings.

Using math as an example, I keep a digital “math” google docs files on each of my students where I note down their areas of growth.  So a typical file will include key words like ballpark estimates, place value, double digit addition, etc.

Generally, my math lessons are based  around 3 groups rotating every 15-20 minutes.  I teach the main lesson and my lovely assistant Ms. Martha then works on individual skills the students still need to develop.  Hence, the need for being able to group students based on their needs.  Previously Ms. Martha and I would talk about these groupings in advance and set them up for the week, however this would involve either remembering or looking over our anecdotal notes – which takes time, and time is something teachers never seem to have.  However, with the power of Google search I can just type in the keyword of what I am looking for, in the example below “double digit addition” and Drive will pull up the Doc files that have this keyword, which basically equates to those students that I need to create a group for.

Screenshot 2016-04-24 16.10.09

In theory I can create groups instantaneously!  The advantage of grouping using the power of Google Drive is that instruction is targeted to students’ areas of need (think individualized differentiation) and based on data.  Groupings can change as often as I can type a search query, which means once students “get it” we can immediately create a new group and move on.

However, there is some prerequisite work that needs to happen in order for the search feature to be successful.  First of all, each student needs to have an individually named folder (so you can tell a student’s name from the file name), and then you need to have a set of keywords you will use and be consistent with: so write double digit addition instead of sometimes 2 digit addition and other times multi digit addition etc.

As long as the keywords used for the search are specific enough to be useful I can easily see how this concept can be transferred over into dynamic groupings for reading and writing as well (thinking keywords (or phrases) like track with finger for fluency or back up and re-read for comprehension, or capitalization for writing.  You are only limited by your ingenuity in using keywords effectively!  Happy Google Drive searching!