How do you plan for differentiation in lessons? And how can you cater for every student?
You should not be expected to differentiate for every child in every lesson. Let me write that again for you. You should not be expected to differentiate for every child in every lesson.
Top 10 Differentiation Strategies:
It is an impossible task for teachers to offer a range of resources for every child every single lesson, and if someone is asking you do to this, then they have probably forgotten what it’s like to teach a full-time timetable. However, despite the apparent expectation that teachers can do this day-in, day-out, there are several strategies that you can embed into your practice so that a) you can alleviate teacher workload and b) naturally embed differentiation over time so that it does become more regular. This can only be a good thing for your students and for your marking, planning and teaching.
10. Seating Plans
As daft and simple as it sounds, the seating plan works wonders. Put every child in a specific location in the room that works best for their learning and for you! Don’t be fooled by the child that says, ‘I work best next to my friends.’ They don’t!
9. Marking books with love and attention
Following a seating plan, this is the most sophisticated form of differentiation that you can offer your children.
8. Using data
Keep a close and careful eye on student data and communicate the information via formative feedback to your students is the best differentiation strategy – after marking – that you can use.
7. Verbal feedback
Your feedback must be meaningful, sophisticated and tailored to the individual child. A ‘well done’ or a ‘that’s very good’, is enough to feed their ego, but it’s an utter waste of breath on your part and will not help students make any progress whatsoever. Extend the praise comments with pinpointed formative assessment.
6. Classroom displays
Build up a bank of resources by placing student’s completed work immediately on display in your classroom. But, be mindful that too much
clutter display goes against what research says.
5. Scaffolding writing frame
Provide students with a scaffolding writing frame. This is probably worth the most investment on the teacher’s part, but offers some long-term impact.
4. Choice of task
Offer at least two different resources, choices and tasks in everything that you do. Offer a choice of resources that vary in difficulty. Encourage students to select at least two choices they must complete. TakeAway Homework is the perfect example.
3. Forming and framing questioning
Forming and framing questions is probably my favourite strategy of all! How you ask a question can make all the difference in the classroom. Take a look on my blog for a resource called Pose, Pause, Pounce, Bounce or try the Questioning Matrix. It will transform your teaching and how you ask questions of students.
2. Students taking the lead
Nominate students to lead a starter or plenary activity. It’s a high-risk strategy for some teachers to allow students to
apparently take over their classrooms, but it something best-served in great lessons where teachers are always in control.
1. Students teaching their peers
Finally, challenge students to teach others what they have learnt and assess this by observing the outcome. This will need planning and can form some part of assessment criteria, but the rewards are great when students can begin to self-regulate one another.
Taken from one of the most popular pages from Te@cher Toolkit: Survive and thrive your first 5 years in the classroom.
Mark, Plan, Teach (repeat) Differentiation …
Here are a few differentiation suggestions that you can use to help you develop a higher level of intelligence and cognitive thought in your teaching. From just reading and putting into practice some of the ideas below, you will be differentiating by input rather than waiting to respond to an output from the student.
*Just by marking, you will be differentiating your feedback to each and every child. Try verbal feedback and reduce your workload?
*Mark your books, but not every page. Just mark all of the books by targeting specific work. The Yellow Box is the perfect strategy for this …
*Try ‘Not Yet‘. That’s all I’m going to say here!
This aspect of teaching is probably the most difficult and the most time-consuming for every teacher. You never have enough time as it is, and then when you have to start thinking about creating alternative versions of resources for different student abilities and different student needs, minutes and hours can start to ebb away. My advice? Ask for help.
Look for alternative resources online, talk to colleagues to see what resources they use, or work with a specialist, for example an English as an Additional Language teacher or SENCo, to help translate or adapt your resources to suit particular groups of students. I have often been surprised by the wealth of information and expertise that lurks in the different pockets around schools, so get out of your classroom and go and see what other departments can offer you.
*Plan at least two lesson objectives so that you can pitch work at the correct level for students.
*Use scaffolding resources, templates and handouts – some with, and some without a framework.
*Encourage students to work within different expectations, for example, group A is working on X, group B is working on Y.
The laziest form of differentiation that exists is going into every lesson, setting a whole-class task, waiting for students to produce an outcome, and then simply differentiating a follow-up task or feedback. Avoid this at all costs… Although in all honesty, occasionally we have to resort to this because we are pulled left, right and centre in a very demanding job with an incredibly high workload. Instead, aim to move away from this model as you develop your repertoire; as you develop your skills, differentiation planning will become more natural for you and it will take up less time when you intelligently plan your provision ahead of each lesson.
To put it simply, offer a choice! You will be surprised how much happier you feel and how much more harmony you sense in the classroom when there is a choice of task. We all like choice and we all have choices to make. Always offer different options in every lesson. Allow students to work in different areas of the classroom or on different tasks that suit their preferences. This will help focus your students and will most often lead to better outcomes.
Whatever approach you take, it makes no difference if you are still providing students with one simple worksheet. Have at least two versions of the resource or task for various abilities to make expected progress; plus some other options for vulnerable students, such as pupil premium and various groups of students who may be identified as under-performing in your school. This can be as simple as referencing levels on the worksheet, providing a choice or adjusting certain elements of work for specific students. No matter what, always keep the same level of expectation for every child and teach to the top!
Consistently great teaching requires a deep level of planned pitch. This isn’t difficult to achieve and something subtle such as a directed choice, can ensure students can access classwork and be challenged at the right level.
This is a chapter from the book, Te@cher Toolkit: Helping You Survive Your First Five Years.