Everyday Differentiation

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.

  1. Give more able students some authentic materials to work with on a topic – you may have to go to the country to get these!
  2. Listening – give weaker students multiple choice answers and ask them to highlight
  3. 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.

  1. Students could develop their own response to a task eg: podcast, presentation, speech, voki avatar on “things to do in my town”
  2. 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).
  3. 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:

  1. Focus on the weaker students – get to know them.  They may not all be immediately apparent.
  2. Differentiate tasks for the students they are attached to.
  3. Giving students encouragement but praising their effort never their intelligence.
  4. One TA went and produced clocks with moveable hands to help teach students the time.
  5. 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?

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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?

 

Listening Activities

Hit a milestone with visitors on this blog today.  thank you to those of you who read it.  I hope you find something useful that helps your teaching, or at the very least it triggers an idea.  Drop a comment if you want a particular topic or skill exploring .  You could also be the first comment (another milestone).

GCSE Languages places a heavier emphasis on writing and speaking, which can lead to listening being neglected.  Listening activities can be time consuming but they are vital in being able to understand a language.  They allow students to experience a range of accents, ages and speeds of talking without leaving the classroom.  Some are contrived and others are effective but how can you exploit a listening text for all it is worth?  There seems to be a school of thought emerging that if teachers teach using maximum TL then that counts as listening.  I think there is still a place for the recorded material.

Listening can be differentiated for pupils of various abilities.  Below are some of the ways I have used in a classroom that work.  I wish I did them all more often.  The majority will work at Key Stage 3 and Key Stage 4.

This takes some planning but consider how you could stretch your more able and support your less able.

More able

  • Ask them to look for particular things.
  • Have a column of extra details if completing a table and get them to fill it in as they go.
  • Could they do a dictée on a particular line?  You could suggest to a class that all those with a target grade of … could do this?
  • Can you do a higher level listening with your more able while the foundation students do a reading activity and then swap.  This works for mixed ability groups.
  • Could they write their own extract afterwards based on the recordings they have heard?

Less able

  • Multiple choice – you can give them this on a handout or on a slide.
  • Write down the words that they hear that they definitely know.  Essentially give them a chance to understand bits before asking them to find answers.
  • Give them the script for the first recording so they can read along
  • Give their TA the script – TAs appreciate this as the teacher’s guides generally have the answers afterwards.
  • Give them the answers and have them highlight the ones they can hear this should help you see how much they comprehend,
  • Teach them skills to help them – key words, cognates, sound patterns, discerning plurals etc
  • VLC is an excellent media programme and has a facility to slow down recordings, I would not go much below 0.90 but it can help.

Conducting a listening effectively

  1. Try not to talk too much
  2. Consider the following order
    1. Play recording all the way through without stopping, students do nothing.
    2. Play through and students try to get answers.
    3. Play through and have breaks in between for students to either write answers or check their answers.
  3. Make sure students are clear on what they are listening for.
  4. Don’t tolerate chat in between.  It needs to be their own work
  5. Try to do them regularly.

Make it lead to something.

Could your students do a similar thing later in the lesson?  Perhaps they could record it and you could use that instead (providing you have permission).   Could they do a speeddating style activity and use some of the phrases from the listening recording, or any other activity for that matter?

Lessons learnt teaching MFL to KS3 bottom sets

I’ve not quite cracked it with KS4 yet but i’ll have a go at ideas for key stage 3.

Having taught a number of bottom sets in the past 3 years I’ve learnt the following:

1) The next level is quite a big jump in their minds

2) Memorisation, literacy, behaviour and confidence are your main battlegrounds

3) Positive reinforcement has to be relentless – yep even for that kid you just thought of. 🙂

4) Relationships and rules are of equal importance.

5) They are reluctant to use the TL.

Some teaching ideas that regularly work:

1) Writing challenge (adapted from Rachel Hawkes)

Rachel Hawkes’ idea is to give an answer to a question that is exactly … words long 9/11/13.  The idea was to get students extending sentences with ,weil.   I’ve changed it a little.  Get a student to pick a number between 35 and 55 (whatever range you choose).  Then tell them that whoever can write a piece using everything they’ve learnt, the textbook and their exercise book gets a merit or whatever reward system you run with.  80-90% of kids will give it a good shot and be surprised that they can be quite successful.

2) Running dictations

Really good way of practising speaking, listening and writing.  Just make sure the runner does not have a pen or they will write the difficult words on their hand.  Caught a budding tattoo artist the other day.  Another thought: don’t make them too long.  Or if they must be longer put part II on another piece of paper somewhere else in the room and that way it doesn’t look like so much!

3) Bingo/Last man standing bingo

Bingo is exactly what it says.  Last man standing bingo is similar.  Write down four items of vocabulary on topic then stand up.  One student is a caller and goes through words.  If you have all four crossed out then you are out and sit down.  Winners are the last few left standing.  Good mini-test of listening skills and injects some fun into the lesson.  Think it might work well with Queen’s “another one bites the dust” music as they start to be “out”

4) Speaking bingo grid. 

You make a 4×4 grid of phrases you want them to use.  Students then have a time limit to use as many as possible making sure they make sense.  Their partner notes the ones that they use.  The person who uses the most  in the time wins.

5) Points for speaking/writing. 

You make another grid but the top row has various point allocations for what they say.  So depending on what you want them to use then give them various points (keep scores in 2 or 5 times table for easy adding).  Again give a time limit and set them off.  Award winners appropriately.

6) Teams idea (massive thanks to Bill Rogers “tackling the tough class). 

Get the students to write down someone they respect and someone they like.  Put your class into teams and give them points for everything: uniform, presentation, work rate, use of TL in lessons, helping others, helping put out equipment, being kind, answering questions, winning team games etc.  Take off points if they talk when you are or break other rules.  Keep this going over a term with a prize for winners at the end of the term.  Seems laborious at first but can engender really good habits and cooperative/collaborative learning.  Allow students to submit transfer requests at end of term that you will “consider”. Have done this 3 years in a row with tough groups and find I have far less bad behaviour and far less detentions.  Kids, particularly boys are used to team sports and it plays to their sense of competitiveness.

7) Reading reduction paper (thanks to my HoD although he swears he can’t remember having this idea). 

If students with weak literacy are tackling a tough reading text then give them a post-it note or an opaque ruler and encourage them to tackle it line by line.  I have found that the reduction of information bombardment helps and they can then work at their own pace.  It is a simple way of catering to students who find reading difficult.  It is also successful with dyslexics.

I think this post requires a part II sometime.  I’ve enjoyed writing it, hope you’ve enjoyed reading it and have something you can use.