Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Hints, tips & things I have picked up - differentiation

Over this last year I have looked to develop my classroom style to suit the individual needs of my students for example I am completely different when with my year 7 low ability history class than I am with my Y10 top set GCSE PE class.  This may sound the basic of things but when I first started teaching I genuinely thought I could stand at the front of the lesson and act in the same way.

This year I have made a conscious effort to improve student independence in lessons and to differentiate each students learning to allow for good and outstanding progress in each lesson.  I used a Y7 History class to act a guinea pigs for these trials as I felt I had built up a good enough relationship with them to try different things and they would be on board with it rather than it going completely wrong mid lesson.

The first thing I looked to do was to group my learners this is something which i have always done in PE and i thought it would work really well in a classroom based lesson also.  I put the students into groups based on progress targets and gave them all names, as we were doing 1066 at the time, I gave them names such as William, Harold, Alfred.  This allowed me to set objectives for each student within the group and also a bonus objective so everyone has the opportunity to make outstanding progress.

I had to think long and hard about this I wasn't trying to kid myself that by putting names of the groups the students wouldn't realise which group they were, but I reasoned that it was in the students best interests to allow them to make the progress needed.  I wasn't capping the students learning because I at no point said you can only achieve this.  The beginning of every lesson involved the students discussing their target of good progress and then stetting themselves a target to make outstanding progress.  For example if a student was in the 'WIlliam' group good progress would be Level 4 and their outstanding target would be to achieve the 'Harold' but I was in no way saying they couldn't achieve 'Alfred'.

Within the lesson I pointed out which section of learning allowed for good and outstanding progress. especially with extended pieces of writing.
This system allowed me to structure my lessons in a clearer way which allowed for me to never stop the whole class which would result in lost learning time and some students would find the questioning pointless as it does not relate to their learning.  I was also able to improve my questioning as I could tailor it to each group.

The next step I took in this method was to select group leaders on each table they would facilitate the learning of the group and would allow for me to set each task off again without stopping the whole group. It also allowed for a better quality of break-out time to use embed deeper learning and understanding.

The next issue  wanted to answer was the classes ability to work independently.  I began by putting in different techniques to alter their mindset, now none of these I claim to have 'invented' I have picked them up from teach meets, Twitter etc.... I first of all used a traffic light system when doing independent work.  As i set a task I turned my background red, this signalled that it was their time to work alone, they could not ask me or their peers questions and if they were 'stuck' they would have to work it out for themselves.  I altered the way in which I this, sometimes I looked simple at a time period and displayed the time remaining sometimes I changed as I felt it warranted.  The first time I did this is really panicked, as I walked around the classroom seeing some students busy working away I was really pleased, however the students who did not pick up a pen for the first 5 minutes really got me worrying, you know they ones - OFSTED or some member of SLT always seam to be drawn to those students during observations.  I wanted to go straight to them and help them and had to stop myself.  I was asking several questions at this point - can I handle it? have my students previously learnt nothing as I have spoon fed them? what do I do if the headteacher walks in and that student, who they WOULD be drawn to, is still doing nothing?  I then moved my students into the amber section, where I allowed them to ask peers on their table.  I was amazed at how more structured the questions were, these students had worked on a subject for 10 minutes and were still as engaged without me doing anything really! Once in the green section the floodgates opened and I was back to the students asking me every question possible and expecting me to spoon feed it to them again.

This needed a little work so I began to put in the following ideas - again I don't claim any of them to be my own.  When in the green section I used things such as 'ask 3 before me' to ensure the students were asking me higher order questions and then the discussion within the group was more focused and allowed me to bounce ideas from one student to another.  I only allowed the students to ask me one questions per table, which enabled the students to review the questions and they could act as moderators.  If a students asked me a question I would write it on the board and then but their initials on it so if someone asked me the same question I directed them to the student who asked it first.  This developed into students who read the question on the board and then wrote an answer. The final piece I looked to implement was getting students who had finished their work to help others instead of completing an extension task.

I feel that all of these things have really helped progress my learners not only in History but in all lessons as they will hopefully use these simple techniques in other lessons.

I shared these ideas wit another member of the school who taught many of the same children and she was able to put in several of the techniques discussed with greater ease as the students already knew what to expect.

As i keep saying none of these are groundbreaking ideas and I do not claim any of them to be my own, but they have worked for me, so hopefully someone will find them useful!!!

Cheers Ben

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for letting me come into this lesson Ben! I was amazed at the higher levels of thinking that pupils were engaged in! Your higher ability students gave me an answer about the causes of war that was easily better than some produced by my yr 10 & 11 RE students in the past. They were all engaged and there was a lovely atmosphere..I will be back! Loved it Jane