Practical differentiation ideas for teachers


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Practical differentiation ideas with extension from teachers for teachers.

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Practical differentiation ideas for teachers

  1. 1. Practical differentiation ideas for the busy teacher
  2. 2. ‘Menu’ Worksheets • Design worksheets with a variety of tasks of different complexity • Students start where they feel appropriate • Going further: Use +, -, = to grade work according to student’s previous performance
  3. 3. Retelling • Retell/Summarise lesson instructions or answer to a question in the style of i) a famous person ii) an adverb • Going further: Adjust the conditions of the question the students are answering e.g.: If a literacy based subject use conditionals to make the students change style of answer
  4. 4. Differentiation by pace • Instead of a teacher presentation use pictures to get task instructions across, this is excellent for EAL. • Going further: The pictures can be chosen to be very open to interpretation, so students have to discuss, develop the task, and meet the success criteria while including the picture prompts in a way of their choosing.
  5. 5. Musically more able • When confronted with those infamous words “I’ve finished my composition” • Ask students to add an intro & a coda • Ask students to add a contrasting middle section • Try using extended chords • Going further: Ask the students to combine their composition with another medium e.g.: what scene from a famous movie, or their lives would it be the soundtrack to?
  6. 6. The power of peer assessment in ICT • Peer assessment is powerful, but only if the students know both criteria and terms • Use the online ICT A-Z dictionary at to teach terms • Explicitly teach peer assessment skills • Use them to peer assess tests • Going further: Use Google Drive for collaborative group presentations
  7. 7. Differentiation by support • If you want to learn something, teach it! • Pair more able students with weaker students • Students are better able to explain to other students than you are (as you won’t remember the mistakes a beginner learner makes), but ensure that only your stronger students get to do this to ensure they are teaching the correct information • Going further: Encourage independence by having G and T students prepare lesson starters, initially from templates your provide and later independently
  8. 8. Different strokes • Be flexible with outcomes: Students can present their task outcomes by drawing, writing, or verbalising • Going further: Ask students to present findings from one discipline in the form of another eg: an answer to a geographical problem as a mathematical equation (or vice versa).
  9. 9. Group roles • Allocate different roles to different students in mixed ability groups • This might be ‘Leader’ or ‘Reporter’ • Allow students to choose their role • Include success criteria for successful group work • Going further: You can have real fun with this, if you include ‘secret’ roles like ‘saboteur' or ‘spy’
  10. 10. Random chance • Use a die (you can normally steal some of these from the Maths department) • Give each number a different task all of which match the lesson outcome • Going further: Have different coloured dice with harder tasks for G and T students or ask them to roll twice, and figure out a way of combining two (or more) tasks to reach the outcome
  11. 11. Post-it questions • Create a ‘question space’ • Ask each student to create a question based around the lesson (or series of lessons) i) easy ii) hard • Support weaker students with question stems and examples • Students pin questions on the question space then select which ones to answer • Going further: Use Blooms question categories eg: Remembering; Understanding; Applying; Analysing; Evaluating; Creating
  12. 12. Scaffolding • Writing scaffolds can be used to extend as well as support knowledge and grammar in English and history • This makes them a superb tool for G and T and EAL • Going further: Have students design the scaffold templates and success criteria
  13. 13. No fixed outcomes • Give students success criteria and learning intentions only • Ensure the success criteria enshrines high expectations • How students achieve the success criteria is up to them • Going further: Use student peer assessment to assess outcomes
  14. 14. Tiered learning intentions • High expectations are one of the most powerful predictors of positive learning outcomes there is • Set these by ‘tiering’ your learning intentions for lessons • Start with ‘must’ for outcomes, then ‘could’, and then ‘challenge’ criteria • Going further: Consider celebrating those who achieve ‘challenge’ criteria’, and/or keeping copies of successful ‘challenge’ outcomes as exemplars
  15. 15. Case studies • Made famous as a pedagogical tool by Harvard Business school • Still underused in secondary education • Particularly good for Geography, and Design and Technology • Consider providing different real world case studies to different ability groupings all of which achieve the learning intentions • Going further: Link this to research skills with students having to find other i) supporting ii) contradictory case study examples, students then have to find solutions to the real world issue which resolve the conflict
  16. 16. Crosswords • Crosswords are incredibly versatile tools for differentiation • Can be adapted to any subject • Stretch the more able students by providing them with answers only and they have to develop the questions • Going further: Provide pair work crosswords with each partner only having half the answers (or half the questions), Use an online ESL crossword generator to make these.
  17. 17. Analogies • Ask students to explain a complex idea through a story or analogy • Going further: Put restrictions on the analogy or story by setting some elements to include e.g.: Your task is to explain elements of ‘19th century imperialism’, in the context of a school house competition
  18. 18. Mind mapping ideas • Use big whiteboards or large sheets of paper • Divide students into mixed ability groups • Have students create mind maps for the lesson material with leadership, success criteria and assessment provided by more able students • Going further: Develop the mind maps by having the students i) make connections/branches across units ii) make connections/branches with other subject disciplines
  19. 19. Paragraph prompts • Create mixed ability groups • Give each group large sheets of paper • Ask them to i) concept map ii) analyse iii) develop a story from the prompt you are about to give them • Give a writing prompt e.g.: “At first glance..” to each group • Groups write paragraphs, then share/edit paragraphs with other groups, then combine paragraphs into a coherent story • Going further: Use random writing prompts, or picture prompts, or student created prompts
  20. 20. Background music • Background music is a simple but powerful way of differentiating text, picture analysis or creative writing • The background music can be used as a support to give clues for creative writing tone or to extend the writing by asking students to incorporate themes from the music in their work • Going further: Use this with writing chains when students swap their writing from partner to partner each adding to what the previous student wrote
  21. 21. Building on the baseline • Baseline student data is an effective tool only when it is used to inform conversations with the students • Use baseline data as a guide when designing tasks • One example would be EAL students with high non-verbal scores but low overall scores due to literacy level. • For these students tasks with low literacy requirements, but high cognitive challenge would be appropriate • Going further: Use baseline data to help guide student seating arrangements
  22. 22. Listening tasks MFL style • Put students in different ability groups. • Each group has to listed for specific information from a spoken text and record them e.g.: Group 1: Adjectives; Group 2: Verbs; Group 3: Any other part of speech. • The stronger the group, the harder the listening requirement. • Going further: Adapt this to other subjects e.g.: In history, have one group listen for causes; another for overall thesis; another for main decision makers etc etc
  23. 23. Support and Challenge stations • Create two sections in the class, one with support materials, the other with challenge materials • Students begin the task, and move to the relevant station as appropriate • Going further: Have students design and create the material for the support and challenge stations (based around the learning intentions)
  24. 24. By pace • Create extra questions/resources to analyse • Use a timer to push the students through the tasks • Some extremely strong students find it difficult to work under time pressure so this is a good way of stretching them • Going further: Record accuracy rates and finish times on a leader board, so students have to beat their personal records next time you do this style of lesson
  25. 25. Question time • Differentiate the level of questions you ask individual students • If a student is unable to answer, move on to another student, but always come back to the first student to summarise the various answers • Model different types of questions with the class • Both the SOLO and Blooms taxonomies are excellent for grading questions • Going further: Give students taxonomy grids and have them construct questions and quiz each other about the topic you are studying
  26. 26. Student voice • Students are excellent at self-reporting grades and identifying needs • Use student self-reports to inform your planning • Google forms and Socrative are excellent tools for eliciting student voice • Going further: Use upwards assessment, have your students assess your class on a termly or semesterly basis. Use the feedback to inform your planning. Google forms is excellent for this
  27. 27. Choreography cards • Use action/clue cards to support and/or challenge students during choreographic tasks • Consider one word prompts for broad categories such as: ‘Relationship’; ’Dynamic’; ‘Action’; ‘Space’; • Easily adaptable to a wide variety of subject disciplines • Going further: The prompts can also be used to restrict student movements and options, making the task more challenging
  28. 28. Support cards • Cards are an excellent tool for on the spot differentiation • These can be help cards with clues; assists; useful vocabulary; • These can also be ‘skip’ cards reducing the tasks expected of students who are struggling with a particular task • The power of the cards lies in the fact that you don’t have to interrupt the rest of the class in anyway to adjust the requirements. • Going further: Create a teaching station in your class with materials covering the learning intention. Students struggling with the task can be given the ‘teaching station’ card and go there to review the material
  29. 29. The power of peers • ‘Think’; ‘Pair’; ‘Share’; is a staple of formative assessment • After asking students a suitable question (analytical questions work best), insist they think of their answer before discussing their answer with a partner and then with the whole class. • A good variation is ‘consensus’; once the pairs have agreed on the best answer they then have to make a ‘four’ with another pair and then arrive at a consensus as to the best answer, and then the fours do the same with another four to make an eight and so on. • Going further: Eric Mazur’s Peer Instruction is a more sophisticated version of this. Use concepTests, class response systems such as Socrative, and ‘Turn to your neighbour’ to provide every student with support and challenge.
  30. 30. C3B4ME • Build student independence and self-reliance by insisting they talk about any task difficulties with at least 3 other students before asking teacher for help. • Going further: There are many variations of this e.g.: EAL version Check dictionary/thesaurus before asking teacher for help with words etc
  31. 31. Route to Six • Create a task sheet with different values (1-6) for different tasks • The higher the number the more demanding the task • Use BLOOMS or SOLO to grade level of task difficulty • Students have to choose from the tasks to get to 6 eg: 2+2+2 or 5+1 • Going further: Create a ‘Choose your own assessment task/lesson grid for students to work on.
  32. 32. Low threshold, high ceiling • Rather than have to prepare different reading texts, use the same text for the whole class • Adjust reading tasks and time allocated according to ability level • This gamifies the activity by adding different performance levels • Students can start at any level they wish and move up or down according to need • Students are thus incentivised to progress through the levels • Going further: Create all your tasks (not just readings) with this principle in mind.
  33. 33. What was the question? • Give students an answer (answers) • They have to work out the question • This can be adapted to all subjects • Going further: Use metaphor or symbol in the answers to add another layer of complexity (a bit like ‘guess the icon’ apps
  34. 34. Skills under pressure • This is a powerful method of differentiation from P.E. • Teach a skill in the usual way through drills etc • Build a ‘mini game’ style for stronger students to put their skills under pressure while less able students stay on the drills • Keep pushing the game parameters to ‘pressure test’ the skills eg: add time limitations as a component, • Going further: Use video with the mini game segment to identify exactly at which point and why the skill breaks down under pressure and focus on developing this weak spot
  35. 35. Biological stories • Students have to replace core biological concepts with story metaphors • Other groups have to identify the underlying concept and turn the metaphors back into biological concepts • Can be applied to any scientific discipline • Going further: Have students create a metaphor bank for revision and reteaching purposes
  36. 36. More fun with post-its • Create a ‘confidence wall’ for post-its divided into 3 sections: ‘High’; ‘Medium’; ‘Low’; • Students are given a concept to draw or explain and then add their explanation to whichever of the three sections of the wall they feel is appropriate • Other students then assess if this choice is accurate by examining the accuracy of the underlying concepts • Going further: After the feedback phase students redevelop their concept drawings until they all reach the ‘high’ part of the confidence wall
  37. 37. Mystery tasks • Excellent for developing thinking skills and the ability to manipulate subject specific skills and concepts • Give students a question to solve: “Why was Thomas Becket murdered?”, “Why is the water cycle important?” etc etc • Give students a series of statements to sort through to come to a justifiable conclusion that answers the question • Going further: Stretch more able students with extra questions, alternative explanations, and/or some deliberately misleading statements mixed in with the accurate ones. Support less able students by reducing the number of statements, complexity of language used in the statements, and the level of sophistication of answer required
  38. 38. Hot spotting • Have stronger students “Hot spot” tasks to identify important information and/or key passages in texts. • These can be ranked in order of importance • Once the rest of the class have mastered the most important information they can engage with the rest of the text • Going further: Differentiate the nature of the learning day-consider declaring one lesson a week or so, peer to peer day, where students have to prepare, deliver and check understanding of material to each other
  39. 39. Student response systems • Use student response systems such as Google Forms or Socrative to establish discussion in class • Each student writes an answer and teacher boards up 4/5 of the best answers • Students then discuss the pros and cons of each answer in groups before making their final decision • Going further: Explore Mazur’s peer instruction which is similar to this, or use a blended learning approach by linking the questions and question reposes to homework
  40. 40. Table top teams • Divide students into mixed ability groups. Baseline data is a useful tool to create the groups • Remove all chairs and cover tables with large sheets of paper. Agree and set success criteria • Each bit of paper has a title eg: Angles • Students fill each bit of paper with what they know. • Students are not allowed to repeat what a previous group has added but can make links to their points • Going further: Use strict timings for each station before students have to rotate stations.
  41. 41. Creative composition • Create a composition task which requires a combination of different musical skills to complete e.g.: Melody; Chords; Rhythms • Students then access the task at a suitable level for their skill base and move forward once they’ve satisfied the requirements of the easier skill level • Going further: Easily adaptable to a variety of subjects were there are a range of skills needed
  42. 42. Targeted instruction • If a student is having difficulty with a particular creative skill eg: creating mirror images, give targeted support to ease them past the troublesome aspect of the skill. • For example: Use the light box (window) to draw basic shapes as a support, and then students fill in the rest of the details. • Gradually reduce the number of support shapes until they are no longer needed. • Going further: This technique is similar to the use of writing frames in other disciplines, but superior as the frame in this case diminishes gradually as student skills improve.