Ways to differentiate by…….


1. Give certain pupils/groups of pupils a different learning objective (use Bloom’s taxonomy). Then support pupils or give them tools/resources to meet the objective independently.

2. Give more able pupils a different set of questions that involve; problem solving, functional skills, other subject based knowledge. They are working towards the learning objective but within a more difficult setting.

3. Whilst the whole class works independently or in groups, the teacher works with a pupil or a group of pupils. This can be used to support SEN, LA, EAL; used to extend MA or used to address misconceptions that you have uncovered during an assessment.

4. Group pupils and set groups different tasks to complete. You may group less able, medium ability, high ability and give tasks depending on their difficulty. You may group mixed ability and ask MA to lead group.

5. Tiered tasks – red, amber green tasks and pupils choose which to work on.

6. Give certain pupils a different assessment criteria to work towards (make sure you discuss with pupils).

7. Give out different homework.

8. Use an able pupil to quickly recap on the previous lesson’s learning for the other pupils.

9. Many starter activities require pupils to find a number of examples. An able pupil can be set a higher target, eg Level 4 pupils find five synonyms for the word ‘pleased’, Level 7 pupils find 10.

10. Ask able pupils to model their writing or thinking, by explaining their answer/solution to a task to a neighbour.

11. The best way to prove understanding of a topic is to teach it. Get able pupils to teach the less able a key learning point.

12. Use more able pupils to provide the plenary. Alert them at the start of the lesson to be ready to present their findings to the class at the end of the lesson.

13. Ask able pupils to come up with questions to ask during the plenary to test other pupils’ understanding of the lesson.

14. Use higher-level questioning and direct questions at particular pupils rather than waiting for the hands up approach. Be ready to probe beyond the first answer in order to make them really think: ‘Why do you think that?’ ‘How did you come to that conclusion?’

15. Extension tasks – quality not quantity. Extend pupils through investigations/open ended tasks; these need to be interesting so that an extension is not seen as ‘just more work’

16.   Thinking skills techniques also facilitate differentiation – for example:

  1. a.      Maps from memory
  2. b.      Mysteries’
  3. c.       Odd one out
  4. d.      Community of Enquiry
  5. e.      Mind mapping
  6. f.        Image enquiry

17.Buddy Studies – A buddy-study permits two or three students to work together on a project. The expectation is that all may share the research and analysis/organization of information but each student must complete an individual product to demonstrate learning that has taken place and be accountable for their own planning, time management and individual accomplishment.

18. Anchoring Activities – This may be a list of activities that a student can do to at any time when they have completed present assignments or it can be assigned for a short period at the beginning of each class as students organize themselves and prepare for work. These activities may relate to specific needs or enrichment opportunities, including problems to solve or journals to write. They could also be part of a long-term project that a student is working on. These activities may provide the teacher with time to provide specific help and small group instruction to students requiring additional help to get started.  Students can work at different paces but always have productive work they can do. These activities must be worthy of a student’s time and appropriate to their learning needs.


  1. Allow higher ability students to select their own resources for research and give a list of resources to other pupils.
  2. Give writing frames for lower ability/EAL.
  3. Dictionaries, key word lists, picture prompt cards for lower ability, SEN, EAL.
  4. Step-by-step instruction sheets.
  5. Pictures/objects may be more useful when explaining ideas to the less able, rather than text.
  6. Mini whiteboards for pupils who do not like to write (confidence issues). Whiteboards are nicer as they can rub out mistakes.
  7. Provide dictionaries and ask more able pupils to look up and explain definitions of key words or technical vocabulary used throughout the lesson.
  8. Produce laminated pupil-speak grade or level descriptors at the start of the year for generic assignments and reuse them for target setting and review.  This will allow you and students to ensure that they are working at the correct level.
  9. Provide unedited or full-length versions of abridged texts you are using with the rest of the class for your most able.
  10. Produce a reading list of texts and electronic resources (including websites)  to encourage wider reading or research around a class topic.
  11. Have exemplar levelled/graded pieces of work to help students to know what they should be working towards.


1. Use the now familiar ‘Must do’, ‘Could do’, ‘Should do’ ascribed to classroom tasks or homework to direct the type and length of activities pupils might complete.

2. Mark work in lesson so that you can start a dialogue with pupils about their work and they  have time to correct mistakes, ask for help.

3.  Set expectations. Some pupils might be asked to write 5 sentences, others a paragraph.

4.  Always give pupils feedback on what level they are working and what they need to do to improve.

5.  Give open-ended tasks and investigations; ask pupils what level they have achieved within their own work.

6.  Provide opportunities for pupils to respond in ways other than writing: display work, role play, short video films etc.
7. Remember that ‘less is more’ in some cases. Prescribe the number of words to be used to make more able pupils think hard about what they write, and make every word count. 
8. If you have a PC or laptop connected to an interactive whiteboard or data projector and a digital camera, take a snapshot of a pupil’s work and during the lesson, project it onto your board to use for modelling purposes. If your board is interactive you can ask students to pick out key features of successful examples and provide opportunities for self- and peer-assessment.

9. Stepped activities – Questions get harder and pupils work through at their own pace. Pupils should hit problems at different stages; you need to plan how to will support this.

10. Card sorting exercises need to be planned – but they facilitate higher order thinking mentioned above and in mixed ability groups allows the more and the least able to benefit from one another. They also help pupils with poor literacy skills to engage in higher order thinking.

1. While other pupils are working on a simple starter use the time to explain to able pupils how they can excel in the lesson, which lower-level tasks they can bypass and which tasks they should tackle to stretch them.

2.  Teacher – Target individuals/groups. Check understanding, assess as you move around the class. Uses red/amber/green in planners to see which pupils need help.

3.  Other adults – Always plan for other adults and make them aware or your plan; with written instructions or through discussions. Ask them to work with specific pupil/pupils on a specific topic. 4.  Peer support – Allow all pupils to discuss concepts. Ask middle/high ability students to teach/coach /mentor (you need to model before you ask them to). Try to have a mix of individual, paired and group work in your classroom.

5. Parental – Is there a support system at home? Can it be used to help pupils? If not what can you do to support the pupil (homework club etc.)
6. Ascribe the roles of chairperson or lead learner to able pupils who will then take on the mantle of responsibility and help maintain momentum and focus during tasks.
7. Plan your groups carefully. Sometimes able pupils will learn most productively together, sharing and extending their more developed thinking; sometimes it is helpful for them to advise a less-able pupil and have to work harder to successfully articulate their ideas.
8. Rather than repeating or summarising instructions yourself in front of the whole class, get a range of different ability students to – this will check their understanding of the learning objectives at all levels.  Similarly to recap the previous lesson.

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