Differentiation in the History Classroom
Differentiation in History lessons is vital if all learners are to achieve to their potential. Yet differentiating is something that is regularly picked up on in lesson observations as being lacking, or in need of improvement. Common ‘errors’ include the age old argument on ‘differentiation by outcome’ or over misguided use of classroom support assistants.
Clearly one blog post can’t offer a ‘fix all’ solution to the issue of differentiation in the classroom – but it hopefully can offer a handful of relatively simple, tried and tested methods that can be deployed to enhance learning.
1) Self help kits. You know you’re students and their needs. What are the things they ask for the most, the areas that they need guidance and structuring with? Create a resource area that they can access themselves that has equipment, reference materials and ‘how to’ guides. The guides may take a while to develop but if they’re based on the different question types and aimed at the full ability range you’ll have a one stop shop for self help.
2) Mix it up. Based on the simple basis that different pupils prefer to learn in different ways its important to cover a concept or content area in a number of ways. Tell them, show them, manipulate them via Active Learning, get them making or doing something. Not only does use of lots of short activities add pace, it also ensures that pupils will have more of an opportunity to get to grips with the issue at hand.
3) Provide choices. Not always possible due to assessment requirements but in ‘normal’ lessons it is often appropriate to provide pupils with a choice of task. If pupils are working on Interpretations, for example, they could have a choice between creating an annotated visual Interpretation of their own, writing a script for a speech / play or answering a series of questions. The outcome would be essentially the same: they’d have demonstrated an awareness of a particular Interpretation and possibly moved on to suggest how and why that Interpretations has come about.
4) Use Audio. There are loads of places online where interesting audio can be accessed relating to the content of your lessons. Pupils may prefer to listen to these guides rather than reading a textbook or listening to a teachers description. Likewise its relatively easy to compile your own audio files, or to get pupils to do this. Is there any real reason, at Key Stage 3 at least, why pupils can’t or shouldn’t be able to submit their answers as an audio file?
5) Use your assessments. One of the main benefits of my assessment package was that it provided, on a very regular basis, a set of individualised targets. As the assessment pack is incredibly simple to use both I and the pupils can amend the structure of an activity very subtly to address the key areas that have been identified.
What simple but effective methods of Differentiation are there?