Languages aren't an easy subject to study and sometimes it can be difficult to make them accessible for a whole range of different learners in your class. In this post, I hope to show you how you can differentiate effectively for a range of abilities supporting those who need it while pushing those most able.
I recently used this in an observation for my NQT year and this style of activity was praised by the observer as being a really simple but effective way of differentiating as well as inspiring competition among pupils. As you can see, each sentence was awarded a points score based on the difficulty. I then linked numbers to a grade and told students that based on their target grade, they should aim for a certain amount of points. This encouraged all pupils to aim for the more difficult sentences in order to score extra points early on in the activity.
I'll be completely honest, I have quite a disdain for Green/Amber/Red unless it is used effectively. I feel it can really put some pupils off trying to push themselves and encourage some of the more able to actually just settle for something less than they are capable of. However, this plenary you can see above does not differentiate in terms of quantity, more in the complexity of the vocab required. All pupils were still demonstrating what they learned in the lesson just with varying degrees of linguistic complexity.
Checklists - Good/Better/Best
Checklists can be a really useful way of getting pupils to include what you want them to include in their work while providing them with a visual representation of what they have achieved so far or are still lacking. I devised this 'Good/Better/Best' (always keeping it positive!) structure and linked it to points. I said that all pupils needed to hit at least 40 points but gave them the free reign to choose where the 40 points came from. Higher ability were encouraged to aim for 60 points with middle ability aiming for 50.
This example isn't quite as structured but the lighter blue box still encourages pupils to further extend or include elements that they may have neglected previously which would allow them to boost their marks.
SPT - Solo/Pair/Table
I got this idea from one of the teachers on my second placement. The idea behind this is that the first sentence should be easy enough for all learners to complete by themselves with very little support, only their book if necessary. P sentences become slightly more difficult and are to be completed with a partner. The third sentence T, is to be completed by a table or as a group effort as it is the hardest. This can be done across all key stages and is an easy activity to set up.
I've already written at length about the benefits of the Writing Mats in my post here. These provide pupils with key structures and content that you want to see them including in their work.
To support weaker pupils in your groups, give them the option of answering listening questions in a multiple choice style rather than asking them to write answers down. This can take away the overwhelming feeling pupils can feel when they don't understand anything. You can make two/three variations of the same sheet to stretch or support as needed in your class.
Purple Post-Its of Progress
Placing a purple post-it in a pupil's book with a question or pointer for improvement can really help to stretch and challenge your higher ability pupils. Challenge them to help/teach another, add additional vocab/structures to a piece or simply complete an additional task.
Challenge Pots are easy to set up and can be used with absolutely any year group. Keep the challenges quite general and none language specific and you can hand them out with whichever class you are teaching!
Make sure that your extension activities actually stretch your pupils and further their knowledge rather than 'Write 2 additional sentences'. Make pupils go through old work and find old vocabulary or apply old grammar in the new context. Present them with new, challenging vocab that will extend their work and push them up to the next level in terms of progress. You could also challenge them to improve a past piece with their new knowledge.