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Adaptable Teaching



Formerly known as "differentiation"

Geoff Petty – “Differentiation is the process by which differences between learners are accommodated so that ALL students in the group have the best possible chance of learning.”


Basic principles (for Teaching and Learning)

It is not an ‘add on’ to teaching – it is required by OFSTED and Standards in Teaching

It cannot be ‘done’ effectively by one person in the department – it is most effective when the individual teacher identifies and plans lessons based on the individual students need(s)

Using the Pupil Profiles will help to get an understanding of what works best for the pupil in lessons


Ideas for differentiation

Teacher talk/questioning: can be improved by keeping it short and punctuating. Think about paraphrasing questions in alternative language. This is especially effective if high order questions are used with long wait times, and if the ‘assertive style’ answering approach is used.

Teacher questions, students answer: mix mastery and developmental questions; use substantial ‘wait time’ and have high expectations of the quality of the answers; use ‘assertive questioning’. Also, pupils may need a speaking frame. This is a selection of phrases or sentence starters that they can draw upon when verbally responding.


Teacher demonstrates: The teacher could use questions such as ‘why am I doing it like this?’ ‘What would happen if I did it like that instead?’ Etc. Also the teacher can ask students to ‘talk me though this one’: the students then give the teacher instructions with reasoning, and the teacher follows these instructions supporting the students’ points if necessary.


Students watching a video or film: Give students questions that the film will answer before showing it. Make some questions mastery and some developmental. Or you could use ‘What happens next?’ – Pupils can either have sentences to pick and choose from OR they can predict and explain why this is what they think will happen next. This ensures that all children are actively looking for something. With some pupils, it may just be observational points such as colours or frequency of events that occur in the film / clip.


Past Paper exam questions: If there are no easy questions, write some, and ask students to do these before the past paper question. Many exam questions differentiate well, it depends on the exam. It may be helpful to some pupils to have a selection of answers – an easy version would be to match questions to answers. Another variation would be to give them the answer and they think of a suitable question that would evoke the answer. This is especially suitable for pupils who have issues writing lengthy responses.


Experiment/practical ‘recipe style’: Use the ‘discovery style’ or set developmental ‘extension tasks’ for students who have competed the ‘recipe’ satisfactorily.


Reading: Have a range of differentiated materials including some at a level below the students and some that is almost the level above. Then let students choose, or alternatively prescribe some texts to some students. You can find pupils reading ages on the Learning Gateway. Text needs to be appropriate for students. You could use the same text for all pupils, but differentiate by asking pupils with weak reading skills to scan or count the frequency of pre-selected words.


The use of LSAs

The LSA (Learning Support Assistant) is usually attached to a particular student. However, the student may not need constant attention. There is a possibility that other students in the group will benefit from additional help. These maybe pupils who are SA+ and SA on the SEN register.

Differentiation is most effective when the teacher directs the LSA to the student(s) that you wish them to work with throughout the lesson. If you share the seating plan with the LSA, they can help you with ideas for re-arranging and also help with pairings and groups in shared activities.

Explaining the brief overview of what you want students to learn to the LSA will help them to be able to check the learning of particular students. Also, you will need to explain what particular role you would like the LSA to have in supporting the learning – this may be anything from re-focusing, scribing, reading, modelling or organising ideas.

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