Differentiation is a hot topic in most primary schools. It will appear in most school development plans in some shape or form and will always be a school focus and rightly so. After all, tailoring learning for each individual in your classroom is both necessary and the right thing to do for the future contributors to our societies! However, how this tailoring is done and achieved is up for debate!
Many modern classrooms have moved away from the three way lesson split of 'tops, middles, bottoms' but it can be tricky to completely eradicate the concept from an entire school. The idea of mastery is handing the learning and differentiation over to the children and allow them to make learning choices in order to 'master' the learning intention in their own individualized way! As teachers, this is a daunting prospect, when children making choices could either lead to complete independence, chaos or somewhere in between. However, if done correctly and well, children can become 'masters' of their own learning and access the vast school curriculum, using individualized learning tools.
Below is a list of a few practical ideas suggesting ways you can move towards a classroom full of children mastering their own learning!
1) A Visual Learning Journey - The working wall is not a new concept but tracking each lesson during a literacy unit can allow all children to see their learning journey in the lead up to a writing phase. When children need to recap on a piece of learning, they can do so by independently accessing items on the working wall. The working wall can include gathered vocabulary, new sentence structures, opener and connective ideas, examples of punctuation use, images to prompt ideas and even ICT resources. QR codes can be pinned to the wall for children to scan using an IPad. The code will take them to an online resource such as a video to prompt further learning.
2) Key Learning Vocabulary and Processes - Each learning objective must include a piece of 'Learning Vocabulary'. For example, we are learning to 'gather, explain, evaluate, compare or apply.' These pieces of vocabulary are collected over time and linked to different activities. Over the year, children will become familiar with the learning skills and the activities that come with them. This will lead them to designing their own learning and making independent choices about how they want to achieve the objective and which activity they will choose.
3) Blank Success Criteria - Instead of teachers providing the success criteria, get the children to create their own. Pupils can first discuss in groups how they want to achieve the objective and then children can set their own expectations for the lesson. These can vary from child to child.
4) Work Stations - Set groups are a common site in all classrooms but rather than having 'top, middle, bottom' tables, treat your classroom like work benches. Include some areas for independent work, collaboration tables, and paired areas. Give the children a choice of where they want to work, on their own, in pairs or as a team.
5) Activity Menus - Instead of prescribing activities to different children, create a menu of activities that allow all children to achieve the learning in that lesson. A 'Nandos' inspired mild, medium, hot, extra hot, can also show children which are the most challenging activities to choose.
If you have any other ideas for independent differentiation where children become masters of their own learning then please share by commenting below!