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Skip to 0 minutes and 13 seconds I would advise them to definitely not be scared to try something new in their teaching. And it will go horribly wrong the first time, and you do you have to train the children. But it’s that where you learn. You learn about your children more. You learn who not to pair who with, and learn who’s a really good mix together. And yeah, I guess my top tip as well would be to praise the process of the learning rather than the outcome of that, because if you say you two have done 10 of 10, they might be scared to get things wrong in the future, and they might be reluctant you try. You have to know your children.

Skip to 1 minute and 2 seconds You have to spend time getting to know your children and know exactly where they are. Are they developing a skill? Do they need extending? Are they constantly being challenged? And are they meeting the learning objective? You have to know your children. It’s the most important thing. Knowing relationships between peers– which children work well together, which children may have the ability but lack the confidence to speak out. The main thing is to get to know your children. Build those relationships. And it’s that understanding as well within those relationships that children are confident to ask for help when they need it. They’ve got the confidence to challenge themselves when they can.

Skip to 1 minute and 46 seconds So it’s about building the relationship between teacher and adults and children and also children working with each other. I think top tips for differentiation is to give the children ownership over their own learning, and get them to choose their own challenges. So you might have it scaffolded, with your challenge one, two, three, and an extension. But you assess them through the input– how confident are you? Do lots of show me. So in my class, we do confident triangle fingers. This is yeah, I’m great. I really understand this. This is I’m in the middle. And this is I really need some support. So getting them used to that and thinking about their own assessments throughout the lesson.

Skip to 2 minutes and 28 seconds And then I just put all three challenges on the carpet and say, come on up. Take a challenge. Off you go. And I think that’s probably one of the best things I’ve done in my classroom to create independence. And also not putting children into different categories and labels. Because I’m obviously very new to teaching, so the thing that’s really struck me is how massively vital it was to really get to know them individually so that I could then not just plan like the middle availability task or whatever, but to really think, actually, this lesson– this isn’t their strongest subject.

Skip to 3 minutes and 14 seconds So even though they are technically sort of labeled higher ability, they need to be over here because they haven’t got this concept yet. And that sort of feedback between assessment and then learning, and sort of really thinking about that a lot and trying to feed that in so that by the end of the week or the end of the module, whenever you’re doing, that you’re confident that they’ve actually had it pitched at the right level for them. The first thing that comes to mind is really working with Bloom’s. I think that’s been one of my key support techniques, in terms of trying to make sure that you are challenging your children.

Skip to 3 minutes and 52 seconds And I really do fundamentally believe that questioning is the basis, and some quality talk in lessons is what can make children accelerate their learning. To really understand their children, to really get to know their children, understand, and really to raise expectations there shouldn’t be any excuses. But mainly just that every child can achieve and that we need to give each child the tools to be able to do. The first, the most important, is not about worksheets. It’s about learning and the task that you consider for that learning. You then scaffold for those students so every single student can reach the top task. Plan from the top downwards, not the other way around.

Skip to 4 minutes and 32 seconds So for example, if you have an EAL learner that they’ve got appropriate literary support to enable them to achieve the benchmarks that other people are achieving in class. And finally, be questioning, both in whole class discussions but in smaller groups. So give them different amount of hints. Give them a direct question that you start off with setting students and you build up, and so the direct the question around the room and bounce it around the room, so you challenge every student to really deepen their knowledge and give them the ideas to succeed. The first piece of advice I would give about differentiating for learning would be to know your students. Get to know your classes.

Skip to 5 minutes and 7 seconds Get to know their level of understanding and what you need to do to support them. The second piece of advice I’d give would be to focus on the learning. What goes on in the classroom should not be about tasks or activities, but what the students are learning. So I think, what am I using this piece of tool for? What am I using this worksheet for, and is it about the learning? The third piece of advice would be to let go. It’s OK to let them do different things at different times and to have them all doing different activities and be at different stages of their learning. Let them be independent.

Skip to 5 minutes and 35 seconds You learn far more about what they do and don’t understand if you do let them go. I would say the most important thing would be the environment you create for your students. There has to be an open exchange of ideas, and everyone has to have the opportunity to experience success at some point. And try and encourage questions, active inquiry, conjecture.

Our teachers' reflections on their practice

In this video we meet our heroic team of teachers from Filton Avenue Primary School and Orchard School Bristol for the final time in the course.

You have already met many of the teachers when they have been seen using the Differentiating for Learning approaches we have been discussing.

In this video you will also hear from other staff who have responsibilities for developing teaching and learning either at a department or whole school level.

Our teachers reflect and discuss their “top tips” for someone wishing to develop their Differentiating for Learning practice. In order of appearance they are:

Teacher Role Time
Micaela Year 1 (5 year olds) 0:12
Sara Year 1 (5 and 6 year olds) 1:01
Jane B Year 2 (6 and 7 year olds) 1:20
Gemma Year 5 (9 and 10 year olds) 1:53
Tom Year 5 (9 and 10 year olds) 1:53
Komilla Assistant Headteacher 3:40
Kate R Science Lead Practitioner 4:17
Kate F Assistant Headteacher 5:01
Jane G Mathematics Subject Lead 5:37

Compare and contrast

How does what our teachers have said compare with your own thoughts and experiences? Are there any tips that you feel are particularly helpful?

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This video is from the free online course:

Differentiation for Learning

National STEM Learning Centre