Differentiation is key to developing the abilities of ALL of our learners. Often you hear about “differentiation by outcome”. This is the idea that wherever the learners end up is differentiated, as some will inevitably produce more or better quality work than others. I’ll summarise the types of differentiation I use below and then give you some ideas you can try tomorrow for each. The graphic above explains what differentiation is. The picture below explains why we need it.
Differentiation by resource
Resource is often a euphemism for worksheet at this point. It can be effective if you are somebody who rarely uses worksheets. Students like to have things they can go through at their own pace and given that other subjects use them, why not MFL? However, resource does not have to mean worksheet.
- Give more able students some authentic materials to work with on a topic – you may have to go to the country to get these!
- Listening – give weaker students multiple choice answers and ask them to highlight
- Reading – give weaker students a post-it note and encourage them to tackle the text line by line (covering the rest). It reduces the amount of visual stimulus.
Differentiation by task/choice
This can take various forms. I think it is best employed in the production stage of a lesson or equally the practice stage if you are covering a grammar point.
- Students could develop their own response to a task eg: podcast, presentation, speech, voki avatar on “things to do in my town”
- Students could pick from a selection of tasks that all achieve the same aim. With lower ability sets I like to do this when we teach the clothes topic. The boys can design sports wear (the new United shirt) and the girls respond really well to designing their prom dress. Some boys also like the opportunity to “suit up” so give them the prom option too; in the same way some girls have a staunch allegiance to a football club so don’t be too restrictive. It is a great way of teaching clothes, colours and dictionary use (corsage, bow tie, cufflinks, high heels – all words I learnt from this lesson).
- In revision lessons, if you have access to a revision guide with graded activities. Give students a series of activites you want them to work through but with different starting points. Students who are more confident could start on more advanced activities but make sure wherever they start that the activities gradually increase in difficulty so as to ensure they are pushing themselves.
Differentiation by support (TA)
Whilst I realise that differentiation by support could mean significantly more, I wanted to devote a section of this to the use and direction of TAs. Here is what the best TAs I have worked with have done:
- Focus on the weaker students – get to know them. They may not all be immediately apparent.
- Differentiate tasks for the students they are attached to.
- Giving students encouragement but praising their effort never their intelligence.
- One TA went and produced clocks with moveable hands to help teach students the time.
- Another took a group of students and taught them how to tell the time in English so that they could do it in Spanish.
Check out my post on TAs, unsung heroes of the classroom
Differentiation by interest
Sometimes students want to write or speak about things unique to them. It may be that comparing modes of transport or the environment hold little interst for them. Sometimes differentiation is not about ability but about interest. I find I can get a lot of kids engaged if I can make links to things they are interested in (football is very useful). The pets topic works for a lot, as do clothes, food and holidays However, we must be careful to engage all kids, what about the one who reads? Could he/she do their coursework on a book rather than a film?
- Quiz your students at the start of the year – ask them about their strengths and weaknesses within MFL, their hopes for the year and their interests. This will allow you to plan lessons that get them onside immediately.
- Make links to real-life situations – if a student has been on holiday recently to a French/Spanish/German speaking country use that in your lesson.
- If teaching school subjects to year 9s (mira 3 does this) then rather than just teaching them school subjects, get them to debate their options in Spanish. What are you going to study? Why?