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This content is taken from the National STEM Learning Centre's online course, Differentiation for Learning. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 9 secondsIn order to set up a sequence of activities in which you can differentiate, you need to be clear of your starting point. Soliciting ideas early on will help you understand where individuals and groups of students are in their learning. We introduced several tools to help you with this in our Assessment for Learning online course, and these will be useful here.

Skip to 0 minutes and 41 secondsSo using concept cartoons, or questions that prompt intentional dialogue, or KWL grids will be useful tools at the start of the topic.

Identifying starting points

In the week ahead, you will explore how you could elicit evidence about where your students are in their learning. What do they understand, partly understand, or what are they confused by? By diagnosing at this stage, you can begin to think about how differentiation might work for your class over the next few lessons.

We will be exploring how formative assessment approaches link to effective differentiating for learning with a range of ideas exemplified by our teachers in their classrooms.

In the video, Chris mentions specifically Concept Cartoons, questions that stimulate intentional dialogue and KWL grids as useful strategies to identify students’ starting points. Ideas like this and others are explored in more detail in our companion courses Introducing Assessment for Learning and Planning for Learning: Formative Assessment.


Think of a topic you have taught recently. What activity did you use that helped you identify students’ starting points at the beginning of the topic.

  1. What was the topic and activity?
  2. What did it tell you about where students were in their learning?

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This video is from the free online course:

Differentiation for Learning

National STEM Learning Centre