My focus is on challenging students appropriately, and this requires differentiation. I am currently working on building a “Teachers Toolkit” of tasks with suggestions for how to differentiate. I am trying out various different activities in lessons, and will be posting here on how it goes, with videos and photos where appropriate.
First method, Discussion Carousel. The focus here was on challenging all students to use keywords. Students in two concentric circles, discussing a topic, moving on round the circle every minute or so. Decided to use in middle ability Year 11 class nearing the end of a topic (Enzymes). The topic includes lots of new words and concepts, which the students have to describe and explain in detail. They have understood the general principles well, but are not explaining using the correct terminology. So the challenge will be for the students to use keywords correctly in their discussion. In order to support the students, I will run the activity following the speed questions format, so the inner ring of students will have cards with open ended questions, with keyword prompts on. In order to assesss progress, I will set some exam style questions that require detailed explanation as homework to assess if keyword use has improved. I will also give the students a mini questionaire to see if they felt challenged, and whether they think they have made progress. In order to differentiate the activity, I gave the most challenging questions to the four most able students, so that they could support the other students appropriately. I also designated one of the students as”Official Observer”. Her task was to walk around and look for signs of challenge with me.
My student observer and I agreed on the following points:
Students appeared to find the task quite challenging. They were taking time to formulate answers, and using “ummm” fairly often. Lots of hand signals/gestures were spotted to reinforce explanations. We decided looking down to the ground or upwards (searching for answers) was a common sign of students trying to answer the questions. This was reflected in the students own reposnses to the questionaire. The average level of challenge given for the task was 4 on a scale of 1-5.
What did the students learn? What is the evidence for this?
1) Students increased their use of keywords. I could hear this as I walked around listening to conversations. Furthermore, in response to the question “How would you rate your ability (1-5) to use keywords before and after the activity?” only three students did not give themselves a higher score for after the activity.
2) Students became more confident in using the keywords. The questions contained some overlap, allowing students to improve their explanations. They were clearly becoming more familiar with the keywords as they progressed around the circle. In addition, 90% of students reported they felt more confident in using the keywords after the activity.
(Homework not collected yet).
1) All students engaged in the activity
2) Pace (as defined by learning/thinking events per unit time) high
3) Peer support
4) Students learn by verbalising answers as well as listening and correcting misconceptions
5) Good for kinaesthetic and auditory learners.
6) Encourages independent learning.
1) Quite difficult to differentiate
2) Took 5 minutes to set up the activity, and 1 or two minutes swap over time in the middle.