Cecile Charpentier explore strategies for successful differentiation
We all teach students with a range of abilities, interests and learning styles. Our students do not learn the same way and do not retain knowledge at the same speed. Some will grasp a concept quickly and some will need several explanations practice before understanding that concept. On the other hand, we need to ensure that they all achieve their full potential and make progress over time. We all use differentiation in different ways in our lessons
There are different ways to differentiate to cater for all of our students’ needs and below are some of the ones I find most effective in my classroom
I use timers for every task in my lessons. These can range from 2 minutes to 20 minutes for GCSE exam questions. The able linguists will often finish way before the rest of the class, so I always include a Challenge and even a Super Challenge to complete before the time is up. Students must attempt the challenge if they have completed the task, whatever their abilities. These tasks range from finding all the expressions of times in a reading task, to making sure they have not repeated the same words twice in the paragraph they have just written. These type of activities are great as they force the students to think further about the task and consolidate key skills needed for the GCSE exam.
2) Differentiated activities
In MFL, the GCSE papers are still tiered, so we use two sets of books, one higher and one foundation. Tasks are often similar – although not always – but they are usually shorter and tend to use more simple vocabulary and structures. It’s an easy of differentiating for higher and foundation. However, grades 4 or 5, who are at the top of one tier and at the bottom of the other, still need to either be given a challenge of working on the foundation tier, or some extra help if completing the higher work.
- Differentiation by instruction
One task, three ways of completing it… Students make their own choice. Great way to encourage independent learning.
3) Differentiation by grades
Another way to differentiate and push students to attempt tasks that are more complex is to differentiate by brackets of grades. For a writing task for example, I would put a list of “compulsory ingredients” that students need to use in order to achieve 3 or 4 at GCSE, the next brackets would probably include three tenses and the last one would include varied vocabulary and detailed descriptions. This form of differentiation is great to prepare the students for their exam questions and the different brackets and ingredients can be taken straight from the spec!
4) Differentiation by outcomes
Some students might be trying hard in class, but simply struggle understanding or remembering key ideas and concept. Using techniques like “good, better, best” or referring to the KPI colour-code sometimes helps students to focus on achieving a simple task well. Once this task is completed. I then tend to encourage them to have a go at the second challenge and see if they can better what they have just achieved.