Differentiating Explanations

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Hanna Beech

Hanna Beech has been teaching for ten years and has a range of experience across Key Stages 1 and 2 in a large Primary School in Kent. She is a phase leader for Years 3 and 4, and also leads on teaching and learning for...
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Do your class pick things up at different rates?

With around 30 pupils in a class, mastery and differentiation are always going to be a priority for teachers. There are many strategies to differentiate across the classroom, but here is one that is simple, achievable and effective.

Layers of Explanation

  • Explain to the class that they will receive 3 explanations from you. Tell them that the first is the most basic, the second will build upon that and the third broadens the explanation further. For example:

    1. The Basic
    : In Ancient Egypt, when people died, their bodies would be mummified to be preserved for the afterlife.
    2. The Built Upon: This process would involve…
    3. The Broad: We know this because…
  • After the basic explanation, ask pupils to review their understanding of the concept on a basic level. If most of the class have grasped the basic, move to the built upon.
  • Repeat until you get to the broad.
  • For your more able achievers, add a fourth layer: ‘The Beyond’. The beyond pupils will be really firing and need further challenge.

Why is it a good strategy?

Beginning with the basics allows for all pupils to begin at the same starting point, drawing learners together. No one is left behind and you have an idea of how much each pupils has understood.


If there are individuals stuck at the basic after all three layers of explanation, forget the built upon and go back to basics. This will stop them feeling overwhelmed and take them back to the foundations.

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