My Year 2 placement school were the first in the area to implement a new strategy for differentiation. In addition to differentiating the main activity, the starter/input is also differentiated for all maths lessons and some literacy (as of yet). This allows for more targeted input for groups of learners. The usual method for inputs comes with the issue of knowing where to pitch the level of challenge. I usually pitch at the middle/average ability work for the lesson however this may not provide the input and support needed for the other differentiated groups.
“Fixed ability groups” are not evident in this school, and for every maths objective, the children are re-grouped following a “prior learning assessment” which pupils complete completely independently at the start of each week/topic. This allows the children to be given work which meets the level of challenge appropriate to their needs.
With the differentiated input approach, one extra stage of work is required in order to provide an independent activity to be completed while the teacher gives input to other groups.
- Independent ‘holding’ activity (not necessarily related to the LO- could recap prior learning?)
- Input (provided by class teacher)
- Main activity
- Plenary (not always planned in this particular school but I personally value plenaries as opportunities for Assessment for Learning.)
This has proven to be effective in providing more specific input to all groups of learners. With some topics, the differentiation for the activities can be so wide ranging that it is incredibly difficult to pitch the input given at the start of the lesson so as to effectively support each and every child. It has occurred to me, however, that in order to make effective use of the lesson, time management is crucial with this strategy. If I were to make use of this lesson format in the future, I would consider making use of any additional adult support and planning for them to provide the input to one group. This would reduce the number of children completing the ‘holding activity’ and maximise lesson time.
I also really value the prior learning assessments to re-group the class for each topic. It challenges the assumption of fixed ability groups that just because child A may find column addition difficult, that they will also struggle with co-ordinates. There are many topics within the maths curriculum and to assume that a child requires the same support/level of challenge for every single one is highly presumptuous.
- to consider using differentiated input in future practice (either as procedure or when deemed appropriate)
- to explore ways to use differentiated input in other subject areas