Monday, February 3, 2014


"Three principles from brain research: emotional safety, appropriate challenges, and self constructed meaning suggest that a one-size-fits-all approach to classroom instruction teaching is ineffective for most students and harmful to some." - Teach Me Teach My Brian Carol Ann Tomlinson and M. Layne Kalbfleisch

What are ports?

Ports are places that learners can go to experience and learn information.  These ports can be set up within the classroom and can be accessed at any time. Ports can be based on interest or need.  Learners may complete the ports in any order, and may not need to complete all ports.

Let’s look at how some of our fantastic CISD educators have used ports in their classrooms. Our first guest blogger is Nick Coenraad from Wilson Elementary.

I decided to give math ports a try after I had heard about them at one of our Math Academy meetings.  After explaining the concept to my class, learners were eager to help other students by creating “peer” math lessons. In my classroom, I have a variety of math ports.  Ports range from links to video tutorials on websites such as and to learner created videos using the 30 Hands and Educreations apps.  I have also included learner created foldables that focus on math vocabulary specific to the content area we are focusing on.

The benefit of having math ports for an educator is that they help learners take charge of their learning, and frees up time for the educator to work, for example, with their small groups.  Math ports can also be used as a formative assessment to see if learners have mastered specific math content.

Math ports benefit learners in that they provide another classroom resource, and allows for students to learn from each other.  If a learner watches a video and still has questions, they may go visit with that person who created the video and ask questions.    

Check out this “port” on using strategies to solve word problems created by learners Rikhil and Zoey.

Our second guest blogger is Sunny Richardson from Coppell High School.

In my freshman Biology and junior/senior Anatomy classes, I use ports. I love using ports in class because it allows for differentiation and choice in the classroom. Learners can choose which port they would like to use based on need and learning style. I use a variety of media such as: video, hands-on games or activities, APPS, models, etc. Learners can choose work in which they need to develop their knowledge-base while using a style that fits their needs. During the time learners are using ports, I can then move around the room facilitating learning individually with learners assessing their needs and helping them navigate the material. The educator benefits due to the ability to formatively assess learners and individually talk with learners to build relationships. The learner benefits from a personalization of their learning, supportive environment and ownership of choice. I have really learned to love ports and use them often to review concepts, exam preparation and lab activities. A good way to try ports is for review to feel safe in the fact that you have covered the material and more free to try a new technique!

Want to see ports in action in Sunny’s class? Watch the trailer she made for ports in her classroom:

Reflect on the two examples above. How could you implement ports in your design experiences for your learners? If you’re already using ports, tell us about your experiences! What questions do you still have about this design structure?

Are you wanting to see some more examples of scaffolding activities? Visit our website full of examples!


  1. I love the idea of using a bulletin board with QR codes for PORTS. I could set that up at the beginning of each unit!

    1. The bulletin board QR idea is genius! I have also seen the same concept, with different QR codes on a ring so learners could work through different activities based on interest--kind of a scaffolding within a scaffolding! Would love to hear how your experience changes using this strategy :)