Saturday, September 15, 2012

Reflections on Differentiation

Students with the masks they created for a Romeo and Juliet activity.

Many of my ideas for differentiation parallel or stem from Teacher Tools
In particular, I have utilised ideas in:
* Differentiating the plenary upwards
* Differentiation
* Whole class teaching and learning strategies

ENGLISH - In 9A English - Tomorrow When the War Began - introductory discussions involved the following levelling of questions.
1. Discuss first impressions of TWWB
2. Discuss first impressions of character, setting and purpose.
3. Discuss any other impressions that you feel are notable.
4. Small groups select a character. No more than 3 small groups may select a character.
5. Introduction to characterisation + find page numbers of characterisation quotes + opinions about group's selected character
6. Each group records in a 2 columned chart the good and bad qualities of the character.
7. Groups share findings with class.
8. Based on these findings, class decides strong and weak characters, likeable and not so nice characters in the novel.

The students have been processed from random ideas to ideas with a specific purpose to analytical comparison of ideas. This enables both able and less able students to progress comfortably to a higher order of thinking.

HISTORY + GEOGRAPHY - It is paramount to understand terminology in both subjects. Often the less able English students struggle with both these subjects if they don't manage to progress steadily from a base, descriptive level to a higher order of thinking. They need to know definitions of terms.

When introducing a novel, I often use this order of staged thinking. It helps to measure whether the students have read the novel; have understood the novel; can draw ideas from the novel. Quickly I can learn what students can only process "black and white" thinking and those who can develop quality ideas plus explain them well. But I also realise that especially in Year 9, (NAPLAN + City Experience break up a term) it is important to select the time for doing this. This is a very time consuming process if all the sub-topics in this unit of work intend to reflect this process.  Hopefully, each stage of the unit can begin at a higher level of thinking. For those who cannot manage the pace of this progression, I have found that slowing down is not the only option. Group work can be very effective if the teacher ensures that each group has students of varying abilities. Each member offers the group different kinds of skills. One can help the other to offer a rounded product.

In English, History and Geography differentiation means constant tweaking and adjustment of:
topic resources - mixed stimuli - visual + speaking + reading resources cater for individual learning styles
topic depth
topic pace
topic assessment - allowing for modified version of criteria or a choice between different topics.

Bloom's Taxonomy is invaluable for developing and measuring the quality of the student's learning
Knowledge - describe and identify
Comprehension - translate and predict and perhaps estimate
Application - demonstrate in a new context
Analysis - explain and infer detail
Synthesis - design and compose
Evaluation - assess by comparison and contrast

Often the personality connections between student and teacher are variables that may impact on the level of differentiation success.
I have learnt to recognise that differentiation is difficult. So much relies on what the teacher understands about the thought processes of the student.
To enhance the differentiation processes, more and more I am finding web tools are an invaluable means of offering a variety of stimuli to the students.

To teach is to keep learning

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