Doha British School
Teaching & Learning Journal
Differentiation gets a bad reputation: interpreted by many as 'making work easier'. Differentiation at its best does not make work 'easier' - instead it provides stepping stones to ensure that all learners can access the same learning.
There is also a common misconception that differentiation is about planning 25 different tasks for each lesson; read the Inspection Guidance below to see that this is not the case!
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This idea could also be used for in-class activities to ensure that every learner has an appropriate task to access the learning objective!
Teaching gifted kids in the regular classroom
Preassessment; Who Already Knows the Information and/or Can Do It?
Once those objectives are created, the teacher must then ascertain who already knows the information or can already perform the skill. There are myriad ways to preassess. Teachers match the preassessment with their content, their students, and their own teaching styles. Some will use the final assessment as the preassessment. If a child already knows 80% of the material, then there is no need for him to "learn" it all over. He's already mastered it.
Another strategy that works particularly well with skills is "the five hardest questions" (Winebrenner 1992). In math, for example, ask the five hardest questions in the unit. If a child gets four out of five correct, then she doesn't need to study that material.
Not all preassessments must be pen and paper. (Although written preassessments provide important documentation.) Teachers can determine what kids already know by a class discussion, a KWL chart (What do you already KNOW? What do you WANT to know? How do you want to LEARN?), or even an oral question/answer session.
If something written is a better match, it still does not have to be the printed preassessment in the teacher's manual (although those are handy to use and important to document the starting point). It could be that before you begin a new unit on photosynthesis, for instance, you instruct students to jot down what they know about the topic. A quick skim over the papers helps the teacher put them into three piles; those who write a page with diagrams go in one while those saying "photo-what?" go in another.
The form of the preassessment isn't nearly as important as its utilization. Not only do educators need to preassess, but they must also use those results in teaching the unit. That's where differentiation comes in.
Differentiation: What Can I Do for Them So They Can Make Continuous Progress and Extend Their Learning?
Now that a teacher has a strong understanding of who knows or can do what, she plans. He will differentiate the content, process, or product to better meet the needs, abilities, and interests of all kids.
Winebrenner, S. (1992). Teaching gifted kids in the regular classroom. Minneapolis, MM: Free Spirit Publishing.
- Use your seating plan to support learning. Buddy up learners to help each other (remember we learn 80% of what we teach - so it's valuable for both learners).
- Assign a Captain at the start of each lesson. It is there job to help you check understanding and support those who need additional help. At the end of the lesson, they can feedback to you and help you plan the Connect Activity / Starter for the next lesson.
- Use Phrase Banks / Sentence Stems to support learners complete writing tasks.
- Save time explaining by making Learning Mats of key concepts - this also promotes independent learning!
- Ask students to make a display which they believe will support their learning of a topic.
- Make a Learning Toolkit and fill it with colorful resources / objects / props, that students can dip into when they are stuck or need inspiration.
- Keep dictionaries on all tables - all the time.