Skip to 0 minutes and 1 secondYEASMIN: Hello, colleagues. This is Yeasmin, and I'm here with my colleague, Jane. This is the first of our three video diaries that we record for this course, Differentiation for Learning. So this is where we highlight interesting comments that you've made so that we can have a little bit of a dialogue about it. So I'm going to hand over straightaway to Jane to talk about a comment by Sandy.

Skip to 0 minutes and 24 secondsJANE: Thank you very much for this lovely comment, Sandy. Absolutely loved it. Sandy points out that we're teaching primarily children, not subjects. And I think that is such an important point. We have a classroom full of people in front us, don't we? And so often we're just so caught up with the pressures of the quick and I've got to cover this and I've got to cover that, and you're not meeting the needs of the children in front of you. And it reminds me of that little sort of joke, I taught my dog to whistle. I didn't know your dog could whistle. Oh, I didn't say my dog learned. I just said I taught it.

Skip to 0 minutes and 57 secondsAnd aren't we like that sometimes with our classes? You know, look at the children in front of you. If you've got a dog, you're not going to teach it to whistle, are you? And if you've got children that aren't ready to learn about meiosis or whatever, they're not going to learn, are they? So look at the children in front of you. They're people first and foremost, and that's who you're teaching. So thank you so much for those wise words, Sandy. Really appreciate it. And this brings me onto another point that a lot of people have made, and I just think it's worth thinking about, the word ability that a lot of us use. Most teachers will use this phrase.

Skip to 1 minute and 36 secondsAnd it's so easy to use, and we know just what it means, so why wouldn't we use it? The trouble is it's a problematic phrase because it has a lot of loaded meaning with it. It sort of suggests-- it does sort of suggests that it's fixed and that there's nothing-- nothing's going to change.

Skip to 1 minute and 57 secondsAnd although you know and I know that ability isn't fixed and there could be all so many reasons why a child is in a low ability group, they might have problems processing language, they might have had a recent bereavement, which is affecting their learning, they might have social and emotional problems, they might just be developmentally delayed and at some point they will catch up with their peers. But by using that word ability, we're giving a message to the children. Even if you think they don't know it, they do. There is research that even when teachers group their children into ability groups, the children know exactly what group they're in, even when the teachers think that they don't.

Skip to 2 minutes and 44 secondsSomebody called Rachel Marks has done a research paper called The Blue Table Means You Haven't Got a Clue, and this was a direct quote from a child in a class where the teacher thought that the ability grouping was secret. So just think of other ways of using-- well, you know, the children that are less competent, more competent, higher achievers, lower achievers, it just, it accepts that ability isn't fixed. And it can vary from day to day and lesson to lesson, can't it? And there will be lots of ideas in this course for how you can respond to that. So that was just something I wanted to bring up. Now David made a great point.

Skip to 3 minutes and 27 secondsThis is something that I should have thought about more sometimes when I was teaching. He just mentioned the importance of planning what questions you're going to ask. 'Cause almost invariably, if you ask your questions on the hoof, the questions you ask tend to be lower order questions. And it is worth making a note on your lesson plan what questions you plan to ask. He also points out that even when you do that you sometimes forget to ask the questions. Oh, don't I know that. Having said that, sometimes when you go off plan, they're your best lessons, aren't they? So nothing wrong with going off plan, you know, if you're responding to the children in front of you and their needs.

Skip to 4 minutes and 5 secondsAnd that can be a great lesson too. So thank you very much for that point, David. I think you've got something to say now, haven't you Yeasmin?

Skip to 4 minutes and 13 secondsYEASMIN: Yeah. Warren. Lots of excellent comments from Warren, so thank you so much for engaging with the course. So this one we picked out is linked to classroom talk. And Warren describes a scenario in his classroom where students are supporting each other, so they're already having dialogue and there's learning taking place, it's a dynamic environment. And he describes a situation where the smart kid, smart kid pointed to another student who was struggling with their self-confidence, and said something like, I would agree with what they'd said. And then he goes on to say, that's exactly what I think is happening at a particle level, too. The other student beamed with pride having been compared by the smart kid as an equal.

Skip to 5 minutes and 1 secondOK? So the thing that's fleshed out there is that we're talking about confidence. And we're also talking about the conditions for learning. Differentiation, we can really take differentiation a lot further if the conditions for learning are reached to allow that differentiation to happen. And classroom talk is a really important way to do that. But classroom talk works on so many levels. It unlocks learning because a lot-- when the students are allowed to talk to each other, that we're not relying on the ping pong of dialogue that would otherwise happen if the teacher had to be involved in every dialogue. OK? So it's dynamic. OK? It does allow them to speak to each other using pupil speak.

Skip to 5 minutes and 54 secondsSo they don't need to use formal language every time, although obviously we want to move them towards that. However, we allow them to use less formal language just to get their heads around it. It allows them to use each other as a resource. And from what Warren says, it allows them to build up their confidence and resilience. And those are things that are needed to unlock learning.

Skip to 6 minutes and 21 secondsSo just to bring out or flesh out a good range of ideas, which we sort of borrowed from things that people have said online, how can we foster resilience? Well, we can start off by modelling it ourselves. Model being a good learner. So that can involve modelling making a mistake. What do you do if you make a mistake? Making mistakes is OK. It's part of learning. It's not about chasing the correct answer. It's about the process of learning, and that involves making mistakes. If we model how to handle a mistake ourselves, then that will certainly improve their level of resilience. Doing things that supports them in making those steps.

Skip to 7 minutes and 3 secondsBreaking the tasks down to manageable steps so that it builds up their confidence in being able to approach it. And also, just putting ourselves in the position of the learner, remembering what it feels like to be overwhelmed by a task, and just having that empathy to support the learner in becoming a stronger learner. All of these things build up their conditions for learning, and hopefully, will work some good way towards moving your class towards a better differentiated one. And these are things that Jane and I talk about all the time, don't we, Jane? I'm going to hand over to you for Stevie-Leigh's comment.

Skip to 7 minutes and 41 secondsJANE: Yes, thank you so much for this, Stevie-Leigh. And this is another way to help children build that resilience, isn't it? And older learners, too. She commented about some techniques. For example, getting to work in pairs. So that's shared ownership. But not only is it shared ownership, it's two minds is certainly better than one, isn't it? So you're going to get a lot better ideas if you actually allow children to discuss their ideas together and bounce ideas off each other. And it's a safer space for them to do that than share it in front of the whole class. So that's a lovely idea.

Skip to 8 minutes and 16 secondsShe also talks about throwing the books out the window because there's something about writing it down in a book that's so permanent. You don't want to put your tentative little ideas down on that paper, do you? And especially, I mean, I'm thinking of girls in particular who want to keep their books absolutely beautiful and pristine, and the thought of having a mistake written in there that's going to have to have a cross next to it or whatever is just too much to bear. But whiteboards are great that you can hold up, will wipe clean, get down those ideas and share them with each other. And that's where the real learning is taking place, isn't it?

Skip to 8 minutes and 52 secondsAnd OK, you might not have so much evidence written down on paper, but it's up here in the children's minds, isn't it? And that's where you want it. So lovely ideas there, Stevie-Leigh. Thank you very much. And then going on to Elizabeth, she talks about giving her students choice about what tasks they do. Now a lot of teachers shy away from this because they think that their children will make bad choices. They're either going to aim too high because for their self-esteem they want to think that they're doing the hardest task, or they're going to be a bit lazy and choose the easiest task.

Skip to 9 minutes and 28 secondsI promise you 99 times out of 100 children really, really will take the task that's right for them on that day. And it's not always the same task on the same day. I worked with four- and five-year-olds and I can remember one of my four-year-olds who'd gotten-- it's something actually organically wrong with his brain, so he did have trouble with learning. And I can remember one day. He generally chose the easiest task. But he actually chose the hardest task. And I tried to dissuade him. He actually spent all morning-- he started on this task, we went out to play, came back, and he chose to carry on with that task.

Skip to 10 minutes and 9 secondsAnd he worked on it all morning very, very laboriously, and he achieved it. I don't know what was going on with him that day. Obviously, he couldn't do it in the 20 minutes it took his classmates. But he knew on that day he had got what it took, and he went on and did it. And I've also similarly seen very confident children who's on one day chosen the easiest task. And I, again, I tried to dissuade them. And then [INAUDIBLE] the next day they're off with flu or something and I realise actually, they really weren't-- they didn't have what it took that day, and they knew and I didn't. They know better than you do, even the youngest children.

Skip to 10 minutes and 47 secondsAnd Elizabeth works with older children, and she said trust the children and they will respond to that trust. And to make it even easier for us, Elizabeth's actually given us some examples of the sorts of choices that she gives children. So I suggest you actually stop the tape and read her suggestions there because you can read as well as I can. But thank you very much for those suggestions, Elizabeth. And can I just urge all of you, give it a go. Give your students some choice and let them surprise you with what they can do and how sensible they are. And I think you're just going to wrap up now, aren't you, Yeasmin?

Skip to 11 minutes and 25 secondsYEASMIN: Indeed. So just to say that our next video is coming up later in the month and then we'll have a third one after that. There is an opportunity for you to post your questions online. And we hope to have our question and answer video recorded for you by our lead educators, who will answer as many questions as possible. So look out for that information online. Otherwise, keep the comments coming. And when we ask you for permissions, please give us it so that we can use it for the next video diary. So see you online. Bye bye.

Reflect on your learning with Jane & Yeasmin

Having worked through a number of steps in Week 2 of the course we would like to encourage you to take some time to:

  • Reflect on your learning so far
  • Celebrate any Eureka moments you may have had
  • Consider any implications for you in your classroom

Reflection grid

Take a look at your reflection grid for this week. Add to your reflection grid based upon your understanding of the course, discussions and classroom practice this week.

Make a note of any outstanding questions, as you can take these to the Q&A session.

  • Step 5.2 - post questions before 22 March 2019.

Having thought about these points we would like to encourage you to share your reflections in the discussion below.

Mentors video diary

Your mentors will reflect back on the first two week’s key themes and your comments. You can use this to catch up on the course discussions and see if you missed any of the highlights so far. The first video diary will be available after 8 March.

A transcript will be available on 13 March.

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This video is from the free online course:

Teaching STEM Subjects: Differentiation for Learning

National STEM Learning Centre