Differentiation for All

This term’s whole-Academy development theme is Differentiation for All, and last week’s twilight INSET was a great opportunity to discuss the findings of our focus week team and share in the good practice of a wide variety of colleagues. 11 of our staff led short workshops on different aspects of differentiation and introduced strategies that other colleagues could take away and apply in their own lessons. The (rather complex) session plan looked something like this:

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The introductory slot took a look at the ‘why’ of differentiation rather than the ‘how’, and tried to unpick the problem of “All.. Most.. Some…” differentiation by outcome. This is discussed much more eloquently in blogs by @daviddidau and @tomsherrington, to both of whom I’m very grateful for inspiration. The full presentation is available on Slideshare, but I think the following image sums up in a nutshell what we all should be doing: Differentiation for all What follows is a round-up of each individual workshop, complete with links to the resources that were used on the day. Apologies in advance if they don’t make as much sense to someone who wasn’t there, but feel free to contact the colleague directly for further information!

Using SOLO to differentiate

Our PE RQT Aaron’s workshop was a case-study of how using the SOLO taxonomy has increased his Y11 students’ understanding of how to develop answers towards longer GCSE questions. Aaron described using this approach to create a self-differentiating revision guide where students first assess their own starting point against the SOLO symbols, then choose appropriately matched revision activities to push them to the next level. Although the revision guide itself is a bit too big to link to, Aaron’s slides are here (Slideshare).

Why should I do all the work?

Assistant Principal Stacey led this workshop on using heterogeneous groupings and Lead Learners (a.k.a ‘mini-mes’) to differentiate. Resources coming soon!

“But I don’t do writing”

PE teacher Greg shared the findings of an action research project he’s been working on with one of our PGCE trainees, focusing on approaches to differentiation in the practical subjects. His handouts are here: Differentiation Lesson One – Differentiation Lesson Two – Differentiation Lesson Three – Differentiation

Pimp my seating plan

Tom (NQT in Geography) and Caroline (leader of English) jointly led this workshop on the practicalities of differentiated groupings in the classroom, what data might inform your seating choices and how to deliver differently to the different groups. Resources coming soon!

Can we differentiate too far?

Our Assistant Principal for T&L, (that’s me!) went all confessional for this one, and talked through a series of four Y10 physics lessons where ‘cramming in’ LOTS of differentiation techniques had not necessarily led to the desired outcomes of all students making the best progress possible. I can’t upload the SMART Notebook file that I used to illustrate my approach, but the discussion around this one was probably more useful than the slides. We talked about the problems of differentiating by assessment, and how it might make us feel better to scaffold so much that we end up ‘inflating’ the progress of our weaker students, but how it does them no good long term.

Quick tips and easy wins

English teacher Leor presented some strategies for everyday differentiation without lots of extra work – including same source/different questions, differentiation by chunking texts, using carefully chosen sentence starters and Andy Griffith and Mark Burns’ Learning Grids.

Differentiating homework

Science NQT Iqra had previously led one of our 15-Minute Forums on using Take-Away Homework. Here she expanded the concept into a simple yet powerful strategy for providing appropriately stretching homework to students of all abilities. Her slides are available here (slideshare) and the version that she shared from her own science classes is here: Takeaway_Homework SCIENCE (adapted from a template by @ashley_loynton)

Collaborative differentiation

This was my take on using heterogeneous groupings – this time in Science – as a structure to make differentiation feel less like hard work in a large, broad-ability class. Again, I can’t upload the SMART Notebook file but some of the strategies discussed were:

  • Each student knows their ‘colour’ (red, yellow, green, blue) and is a member of two different groups within the class: single colour (homogeneous) and four-colour (heterogeneous). This is flexible during the lesson.
  • Each student in a group contributing a different part of a larger task, then re-teaching their section to the rest of the group before creating a ‘perfect’ combined response.
  • Using differentiated scaffolds / key word banks / prompts for R/Y/G/B students to answer the same GCSE question.
  • One key ‘enquiry question’ with four tasks aimed at different SOLO levels.
  • Quick & easy ways of encouraging independence with ‘four hands up’ (group questions only).

Scaffolding higher-order skills

Our Humanities faculty have been working on strategies to stretch and scaffold higher-attaining students to improve and develop their written answers. Head of faculty Michelle used her session to share ‘work in progress’ on the Humanities Taxonomy and led discussion on how similar strategies could be easily implemented in other subjects. I know there’s a more in-depth blog post in the pipeline, but for now here are Michelle’s slides (slideshare) and an example essay planning sheet: Who killed JFK planning sheet

What’s a WAGOLL?

Our fantastic RE team Heather and Sinead discussed a range of ways in which they use WAGOLLs, WABOLLs and ‘cheat sheets’ to scaffold students’ writing and provide differentiated success criteria. During the workshop colleagues also looked at work in students’ books to explore how these work in practice (and when they might not have worked so well). Full slides are here (slideshare).

Asking better questions

This was the last of the three workshops that I led myself, focusing on two quick and easy strategies to differentiate the questions we ask. I referenced John Sayers’ questioning grids and Ross McGill’s Pose, Pause, Pounce, Bounce – their blogs are well worth a read. In summary:

  • Teasing out students’ thinking skills and understanding, is far more important than ‘moving on’ to the next stage of the lesson.
  • For our students to demonstrate (or aim for) higher-order thinking skills, we need to ask higher-order questions!
  • The most reliable way to do this is to plan them in advance.

Full slides available here (Slideshare) – with credit to @TeacherToolkit

Making it Stick

This workshop – on using reading skills and working memory to support student learning – didn’t run on the day due to staff illness. However there will be another opportunity for colleagues to attend in the near future. Watch this space!


About Stacey Partridge

Assistant Principal responsible for Teaching & Learning and CPD, Stem, Transition & primary liaison. Applied Learning Quality Nominee, CEIAG, Prince's Trust and SMSC. Wellacre Academy Flixton, Greater Manchester
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One Response to Differentiation for All

  1. Pingback: If you only do one thing this month… | Making Our Best Better

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