Tuesday, 24 June 2014


I've just come back from a great training session led by one of the teachers at my school on differentiation. I've been teaching for four years now and I would like to think that I try on a daily basis to provide for all of my students as best I can but it was great to have a refresher on such an important aspect of learning and teaching.

We began by discussing what good differentiation looks like (making it meaningful for every child, giving equal opportunities for progress for all students, having a 'growth mindset' and high expectations for the whole class, differentiating by support, outcome or task) and what some of the barriers might be (time, how far to differentiate - over what range, setting and whether our students are independent enough or confident enough to make choices and see these through). We then considered one of our own classes and what the needs of students in this class were and the strategies that we are already using with them.

I loved the next part of the training - watching examples of best practice in the form of video footage of some of the fantastic teachers at our own school. We had already been discussing strategies in our groups and now we were given chance to see some ideas in action. I've put some of the ideas I think I'd like to try (or continue using in some cases!) under the heading of the four key strategies that were suggested. It's always good to keep it simple to avoid teachers feeling overwhelmed by the demands of training and these strategies do that perfectly.

Key Strategy 1: Getting into the HINT and CHALLENGE mindset
  • Using concept maps but leaving some blank (challenge) and having a hint card with extra explanations for those that want it
  • Hint and challenge cards/questions/tasks
Key Strategy 2: Developing your students' vocabulary at every opportunity
  • 10 word challenge with a twist - have ten words numbered 1-10 and ten definitions lettered a-i. Students have to write down the matching key word and definition by pairing the correct number and letter. The differentiation is that five are starred and these are the ones you have to pair first (so that some students will complete more than others)
  • Text highlighting - highlight key words in green and difficult words in red
  • Popcorn reading - the teacher starts to read the text and then calls on individuals at random to read a sentence
Key Strategy 3: Finding TIME SAVING ways to differentiate by task
  • Using red, amber and green cards in students planners so they can show you how they are coping with the work. Red students can be paired with green for peer support or be put in a group briefly for extra teacher assistance
  • Sentence/quote/text annotation with students being given a different example based on their ability
  • Pathways - have two options on the board, pathway A with a task described for if you found the last task tricky and pathway B for if you felt confident doing the last task
Key Strategy 4: Personalised feedback
  • Technically this isn't really feedback but having an annotated seating plan is incredibly useful. As is having a 'shape' group (mixed ability) and a 'colour' group (grouped by ability) for each student to mix up the groupings depending on the task
  • As you mark work sort the books into three piles (red, amber and green) for how well students have understood - these groups could then inform the first task of the next lesson 

Our world cup concept map! There may or may not have been a theme to the training session...