Friday, September 24, 2021

Proficiency Scales Simplify Differentiation for Diverse Elementary Classrooms By Melanie LiCausi of Mrs. L’s Leveled Learning


Proficiency Scales Simplify Differentiation for Diverse Elementary Classrooms

About Melanie LiCausi

Melanie LiCausi is the original creator of Leveled Assessments for Math and ELA, and founder of Mrs. L’s Leveled Learning. She is the mother of three, a lover of art, music, travel, and a teacher for life!

What are your beliefs about differentiation?

When you look at the diversity in your classroom, does it seem possible to reach every student? Maybe you haven't tried to differentiate your lessons for some of these reasons...

“I would have to plan several activities for every lesson instead of one or two.”

“I would have to have different assignments for everyone.”

“It's too difficult to keep track of multiple activities and how would I grade them if they're doing different things?”

“Differentiation sounds like the right thing to do, but I just don't have time to plan anything else.”

High and Low Performing Students

I had been working in a Title I public school teaching Gifted Resource .75 and Reading Intervention .25. My first job in a public school, I didn't even know a position could be divided this way. This opportunity to work with the lowest and highest performing students in our building, positioned me to see the needs of both ends of the spectrum. I had been applying different teaching strategies for both groups of students, and I was starting to recognize what worked and what didn't.

After two years of this split position, I was assigned to teach only Gifted Resource in two different Title I schools. My role was to teach Math and ELA for 90- minute periods, four days a week. My multi-age group consisted of 4th and 5th graders. Our Title I schools had very low numbers of qualified “gifted” students, meaning they had to scored a 97 percentile or higher on the Cognitive Abilities Test. My class was also open to high achieving students who showed a lot of academic potential. 

Planning for Three Leveled Groups to Standards

When planning my lessons for these classes I essentially had three leveled groups of students working on different things.  My 4th graders who were high achieving, my 4th graders who were “gifted” combine with my 5th graders who were high achieving, and then my fifth graders who were qualified as gifted. 

I gave myself grace the first year to figure out how to align both 4th, 5th and sometimes middle school standards to the needs of three different groups. By necessity, I developed a simplified method for differentiation. My approach was to pair 4th and 5th grade standards that had a common instructional idea, breakdown the core elements, and level them from easiest to hardest. Sounds familiar, right? The following images demonstrate the way I differentiated instruction for Math. Simple modifications, like the levels in a scale, made this manageable for me. 

What if differentiation was just based on a naturally logical path of learning?

In other words, starting with background knowledge and ending with opportunities for in depth application.

Horizontal Differentiation

There have been many approaches to differentiation for learning and thinking modalities, multiple intelligences, choice menus, genius hours, intervention and extension approaches. All of these approaches involve planning different lessons or activities for different groups. I like to call this horizontal differentiation. You have students doing different activities at a similar level of cognitive difficulty, and YES, this is time consuming!

Vertical Differentiation

Vertical differentiation means that students are working on the same topic or standard, at different levels of cognitive difficulty. 

If you are familiar with Blooms or Marzano Taxonomy of Higher Order Thinking skills, then you already have an idea of vertical differentiation. The examples below will show you how the vertical levels of cognitive difficulty (from easiest to hardest) in a proficiency scale, can simplify your differentiation planning and instruction.

What are Proficiency Scales?

Proficiency Scales were popularized in Robert Marzano's book, The Art and Science of Teaching: A Comprehensive Framework for Effective Instruction. His research cited that using “Learning Goals” with a “Scale” (i.e. proficiency scales), was one of the most effective strategies for increasing student performance. 

The structure of a scale consists of some kind of learning standard or objective, then breaking the standard down into related but simpler steps toward mastery. You probably already do this when you see a student struggling with content. You instantly think of how to draw a picture, create a simpler model, or review something from a previous lesson that they might connect to. 

Pre-Planning Modifications

The idea of a written scale is that you anticipate these modifications ahead of time. They are designed with a logical progression of learning for that content standard, which means it can be predictable. You are just writing it down in a sequence. This pre-planning allows you the flexibility to think on your toes as well as prepare effective modifications for the students. Your higher achieving students can also benefit from a scale. After breaking down your grade level goal into easier steps, you can plan an opportunity for enrichment or extension of the same standard. You’ll see this in Level 4 of my scale below. 

An Outline of Differentiation

This proficiency scale becomes a quick outline of differentiation that informs your planning, instruction, and assessment goals. Small but related adjustments to your activity or instruction become easier. 

We've all had those students who sit in class keeping themselves busy with anything except the lesson. Scales offer you a way to engage all of them in your standard at some level. Understanding how to level your content from easy to challenging, is the next step. 

Scaffolding Content

The two methods I use scaffold the steps in a scale is by aligning the content of standards from adjacent grade levels, and aligning a sequence of steps in terms of their cognitive difficulty. The following example combines both approaches.


Simple modifications, like the levels in a scale, made this manageable for me.

My lesson planning template provides space for objectives, introductions, leveled practice, homework, and enrichment activities.

Example Template of Tuesday's Work

This lesson slide helped me introduce the two different tasks for my groups. (I combined levels 1&2, 3&4).

Example Template of  Thursday's Work

My two practice groups are asked to recognize the patterns in the Base 10 Place Value system. Notice the task for Levels 3&4 is just an extension of the Level 1&2 task. This means that if my high group struggles, they will be doing the easier task first to help them SEE the pattern. If students from my lower group get it quickly, they can instantly level up to the more difficult task.


Example of Monday & Friday's Classwork

The Base “X” Project is explained and assigned to my fast-finishers to work on throughout the week. Notice that it is directly connected to finding and creating patterns in number systems. Fun!

 Marzano Proficiency Scales &  Common Core Progression of Standards

When my district adopted Marzano proficiency scales, we had two professional development meetings and then we were on our own. I decided to go back to the essential standards that I had been using to plan for my multiage classes. I started to research the Common Core committee’s Progression of Standards document. It explains how different grade-level standards align in the clusters of mathematics. This may sound backwards, but I started creating assessment tasks along with my learning goals before I created individual scales. 

Leveled Assessments and Scales

I really struggled with the ambiguity of scales. I wanted to see how my students would work with the structure. Creating small assessments gave me immediate feedback. I could see if the logic in my sequence was effective or faulty. After a year and a half, I had three grade levels of Leveled Assessments and Scales.  My students were able to witness their own progress like never before. We were all excited! Since then I have completed scales and assessments for Math and ELA, grades 1 through 8. You could say I’ve had a lot of practice!

We all want to reach every student!

I don't believe any teacher goes into this profession intending to leave students behind; but if our approach stretches us so thin that we cannot practically accomplish it, then what is the benefit? How we teach largely depends on who we are teaching.

Until Proficiency Scales, I haven’t come across a simpler way to differentiate with so much potential impact! The fact is, no matter who you are teaching; no matter what their processing modality, learning style, language, culture, cognitive capacity, socio-economic status, personal circumstances, or developmental needs, every student in your grade is expected to master the same curriculum standard in the same amount of time. Is it just me, or does this sound like a recipe for frustration? 

How often do we give ourselves credit for the enormity of the job that we take on? We deserve a way to make this process manageable. In the end, this will help us to deliver more consistent modifications to every child we teach.

Find out more about Proficiency Scales at, or

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Free Back to School Vocabulary Word Search Puzzle


                               This Week's Puzzle 

                          Free Back to School Word Search 

These word search puzzles are 100% free, just print and go or display on your online classroom (see below for the link to this freebie).

                         Back to School

                      Word Search for Vocabulary

How can a back to school word search be used as a classroom or distance learning environment activity?


Teachers can present the word search puzzle in either a face to face or online format.

🙅   Instructors can discuss academic terms most often used in multiple disciplines in this Back to School Vocabulary Word Search 

🙋 Students participate by finding the words in the search 

💪  Learners can be timed on how long it takes to find a word in the search 

😍 Students can use each of the words in a sentence and compare notes

Sunday, August 1, 2021

Donald's English Classroom and US Maps and Puzzles

                                      About Donald Kinney

I am a retired teacher/publisher with 25 years experience teaching English language courses in Japan and have been a TpT author for eight years. Now living in Austin, TX, I create fun and flexible resources with a focus on student engagement and interactivity. Since 2000, my two brothers and I have been selling a line of English language textbooks on the Japanese market that focus on younger English language learners.

              Map Puzzles & Learning

Oh, the locations, locations, locations. How can learners easily memorize geography? Try using these fun and amazing digital mapping tools. Your class will learn 
  • names
  • abbreviations
  • shapes
  • regions
  • capitals
of the United States with these easy to use products. Paperless maps are differentiated to reach a wide range of student abilities. Digital maps can be used for beginners who are just learning about the US, to middle school students learning about state capitals and history. 

Visual aids, such as maps, help to support learning by enabling the student to associate pictures with the ideas and concepts at hand.

Try a free sampling of the 150 slides of this resource by  downloading a full USA Map Puzzle on Powerpoint. This file is also compatible to Regional Maps worksheets and is included in the Regional Maps Worksheets Bundle

Let me know how well these digital resources work in your classroom!


Donald's English Classroom

Donald’s English Classroom on TpT

Kinney Brothers Publishing Blog

Kinney Brothers Publishing

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Free Arthropod Phylum Science Academic Vocabulary Word Search for Teachers

              Happy Summer, Teachers!

Classes will be returning soon for a new school year. In the weeks to come, I'll be presenting you with some free word search puzzles. Word search puzzles are fun to solve, and can also be educational. 

These word search puzzles are 100% free, just print and go or display on your online classroom (see below for the link to this freebie).

              This Week's Puzzle for Science

Free Arthropod Phylum Science Vocabulary Word Search 

How can science word searches be used as a classroom or distance learning environment activity?


😀 Teachers can present the words search puzzle in either a face to face or online format

😀   Instructors can discuss each term of the Arthropod Phylum Science Vocabulary Word Search 

✋  Students participate by finding the words in the search 

👍  Learners can also create a science journal with the science terms and meaning of the academic words 

😎  Students can get creative by drawing pictures or finding photos to cut and paste into a journal


Arthropod Phylum Science Vocabulary Word Search and Key Activity can be used with academic standards for student grade range of upper elementary through middle school.

                                  Next Week 

💗 another freebie for teachers!

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Valentine's Day Math Freebie

Free? Valentine's Day? Movable hearts for subtracting? Yes. In Boom Cards™ Subtract Movable Heart with Tens Frames, learners answer 15 basic subtraction math questions using movable hearts

After setting up the problem to solve, students select their answer from multiple choice. Boom Cards™ Add with Hearts and Tens Frames can be used as a math center station and for your students to practice their basic math skills.

Boom Cards™ are compatible with Google Classroom™ .

Assign Boom Cards with Google Classroom™.

Boom Learning is an Academics' Choice Awards™ Smart Media award winner.

To use Boom Cards, you must be connected to the Internet. Boom Cards play on modern browsers (Chrome, Safari, Firefox, and Edge). Apps are available for Android, iPads, iPhones, and Kindle Fires.

For security and privacy, adults must have a Boom Learning account to use and assign Boom Cards. You will be able to assign the Boom Cards you are buying with "Fast Pins," (play provides instant feedback for self-grading Boom Cards).

Fast Play is always a free way for students to engage with Boom Cards decks. For additional assignment options you'll need a premium account. If you are new to Boom Learning, you will be offered a free trial of our premium account. Read here for details:

Friday, January 15, 2021

Math in Our Lives by Vijay Babu



                                               About  Vijay Babu

   I am a math teacher and an entrepreneur who is very much interested in delivering highly informative and interactive educational resources for fellow teachers which helps them to deliver lectures to their students in the best possible way. I am very much interested in making education affordable for the children. I would probably start my educational technology company soon to give students the best educational content at a very affordable cost. I wish all teachers the best of luck in their journey of life as a person and also as an instructor.

                                           Math in Our Lives

I want to discuss the importance of maths in our daily life. Math is very important in any person's life. Everywhere around you is math, from your childhood primary school where you sit in a class solving different problems from adding, subtracting, multiplying or dividing numbers, to solving complex problems in calculus as a graduate student.

Without knowing math you can't live your life in a financially organized manner. It is important for any person to organize a household budget in order to increase financial strength. If you don't know the four fundamental operations in math, controlling expenses and increasing a savings would be a hardship. So, it is very important for all to apply math in some form or fashion.

These higher math applications of math are important as well. If you see a popular sport such as cricket, then the trajectory of the shot a batsmen plays is determined by a parabolic, which is a quadratic equation. The shape of Earth, which is spherical, can be detemined by the radius of curvature. There are numerous applications of math.

Even though math is an important skill, many people are afraid to learn it thinking that it is too difficult for them. This attitude towards math is absolutely wrong and students shouldn't have to struggle. Learning math can be simple when students are taught concepts in a very easy, understandable manner. So, math is very easy when the teacher teaches you in the best possible way.

In my math class, my students feel the that math lessons are understandable, and not so difficult after all. So I have thought, why shouldn't I give the same content to students all over the world? I am now sharing my own resources which I use in my class to help other teachers. So, I have started my own Teachers Pay Teachers Store.

One can find all different educational resources related to Math for grades 6-12. I always try my best to give the best possible content.

Try these math products. Please let me know how you like them.

Vijay Babu
Vijay's Maths Academy

Wednesday, December 2, 2020


FREE Christmas multiplication practice! Boom Cards Free Multiplication Practice are a Christmas themed math skills product with stockings, wrapped presents and wreaths. This free resource can be used as a math center station and for your students to practice their basic multiplication math skills for numerals zero and one in a distance learning environment.

Boom Cards™ are compatible with Google Classroom™ .

Assign Boom Cards with Google Classroom™.

Boom Learning is an Academics' Choice Awards™ Smart Media award winner.

To use Boom Cards, you must be connected to the Internet. Boom Cards play on modern browsers (Chrome, Safari, Firefox, and Edge). Apps are available for Android, iPads, iPhones, and Kindle Fires.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020


November 30th to December 1st, 2020 

Cyber Sale! 

Save up to 25%