What are your students ready to learn?

What will you teach them?

State education standards give us guidelines as to what skills should be taught in each grade level. As teachers, though, we know that the students we work with every day don’t all come into our class ready for “grade level” work. Some students have already mastered these skills and are ready for something more. Other students need more basic, foundational skills to help get them closer to the standards.



 is a tool from NWEA that lists skills from simple to more complex/difficult. If your school uses NWEA MAP assessments, you can easily use students’ RIT scores to match them to the skills that the assessment shows that they are ready to be working on right now in class. More generally, DesCartes can be a great tool for seeing the continuum of skills, understanding what skills come before and after those you think of as on “grade level” so that you can more easily plan lessons for students who need more basic skills and so that you have direction for the students who are ready for a challenge.

Every child should have a chance to learn something new every day!

These planning pages are designed to help you think about the skills that are most important for each student, as they relate to the standards we are required to teach.

To Use the Planning Pages:

1) Choose a standard or concept on which the instruction will focus.

2) Highlight the DesCartes skills that relate to that standard/concept.
Consider: What skills to students need to get to the standard? What comes next for students who have already mastered the standard?

3) Enter students’ names in the boxes based on the MAP RIT scores. If your students have not taken the MAP test, use a pretest or previous classroom assessment data to determine what skills students are ready to learn.

4) Plan instruction for the largest group of students, including:

  • the lesson/actvity (what students will do),
  • the resources (the books, websites, manipulatives or other tools students will use), and
  • the means of assessment (the way you will determine what students have learned).

If your student groups are similar in size, plan for the highest group first.

5) Adjust lesson plans for students who need more support or those ready for more of a challenge. (You may not always have both.) Ensure that all students have opportunities to work with quality materials, to practice, analyze and apply the skills and concepts, and to make connections to other subjects and/or the “real world.”

Not all parts of the lesson have to be changed. For example, you may choose to use the same activity and resources, but adapt the assessment.

Differentiation can happen in many ways.

Choose the strategies that work best for you and your students.




Material from DesCartes: A Continuum of Learning is provided by courtesy of Northwest Evaluation Association and may not be republished, rewritten, or redistributed. All rights reserved.


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