Differentiation – Some classroom strategies

During an INSET day last week, teachers from different subject areas met in a ‘Learning Development Group’ to discuss and share successful classroom strategies for differentiation.  The group was led by Steph Holt (Science) and Emma Foster (PE).  The following is a summary of the strategies that were shared.


•             Set investigations across a sequence of lessons.

•             Select pupils to introduce the starter activity.

•             Address the same objective through texts and tasks at varying levels.

•             Use pair or small group work with ability pairings or groupings at times.

•             Expect pupils to articulate rules or patterns to clarify understanding.

•             Have tasks or examples that require higher-order thinking skills.

•             Use differentiated or open-ended questioning.

•             Make a statement and ask for it to be justified.

•             Exploit the power of the follow-up question: ‘What makes you think that?’

•             Have a range of tasks based on the same text or focus.

•             Ask more able pupils to articulate the skills involved in completing particular tasks.

Whole class

•             Use differentiated questions.

•             Prepare questions targeted on particular pupils that reflect their needs and personalities.

•             Prime able pupils for contributions that extend the experience of all.

•             Pitch texts just above the independent reading level of the class.

•             Direct questions to individuals to involve able pupils in interactive discussion.

•             Expect able pupils to articulate what has been learned.

•             Give an oral commentary with the more able in mind.

•             Involve pupils in modelling if appropriate.

•             Ask able pupils to articulate explanations and principles.

•             Make it possible for able pupils to enter tasks at a higher point.-Maths do this well

•             Seat students by ability – but br prepared to change it from time to time e.g. same ability, mixed ability etc, depending on the nature of the task.

•             Model problem-solving at different levels, to build confidence.


Group work

•             Recognise that able pupils are entitled to teacher time.

•             Identify able pupils’ shared needs and group accordingly.

•             Use additional adults as mentors.- Use TAs appropriately.

•             Create task-specific groups.

•             Vary group membership.

•             Ensure that there are times when the ablest pupils work together.

•             Ensure that able pupils have the opportunity to follow and to lead.

•             Give able pupils roles in group work that reflect their abilities.

•             Have group/pupil targets, not just class targets.

•             Promote self-evaluation.

•             Recognise and use the linguistic expertise of multilingual pupils.

•             Encourage pupils to set questions, not just to provide answers.

•             Negotiate over objectives, styles of response and criteria for evaluation.

•             Be open to suggestions that build on the pupils’ cultural backgrounds.

•             Decide together on the objectives to be addressed by able pupils.

•             Discuss possibilities over presentation.

•             Allocate challenging roles in group work, for example, chairing the group, taking responsibility for moving discussion forward.

•             Use peer editing or marking.

•             Require the articulation of principles and development points.

•             Expect ‘different’ rather than just ‘more’.

•             Help able pupils to contribute to the success of others.

•             Focus on qualitative outcomes.

•             Explore possibilities for acceleration.

•             Give all learning a time frame, but match timing to potential.

•             Compact the task and give a limited focus to promote depth.

Independent work

•             Marking should be formative, not just celebratory, and should be focused on specific criteria.

•             Vary styles of response and avoid excessive pressure.

•             Offer the inspiration that can come from meeting older pupils who are gifted or talented.

•             Encourage self-checking based on prompt sheets for self-analysis.

•             Monitor independent reading round the subject.

•             Extend and exploit the conventions of different text types.

•             Establish extracurricular groups.

•             Foster originality, independence and initiative.

•             Set investigative, research-based tasks.

•             Make time for individual feedback.

•             Promote extended reading and writing.

•             Expect the use of ICT and encourage (monitored) e-mail link-ups with able pupils in other schools.

•             Consider having students in training as e-mentors for able pupils.

•             Ensure appropriate access to ICT.


•             Expect pupils to offer explanation, not just presentation.

•             Exploit the possibilities of presenting in role and reporting back.

•             Encourage able pupils to take notes for feedback.

•             Allow able pupils a different timescale for feedback, for example via ICT at the end of the week.

•             Focus on the articulation of what has been learnt, using appropriate terminology.

•             Tackle demanding objectives.

•             Instil the habit of reflection on learning. – Triangle of learning.

•             Build understanding of the big ideas- Solo Taxonomy

•             Enable able pupils to work with others of similar ability.

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6 Responses to Differentiation – Some classroom strategies

  1. Pingback: Differentiation strategies « rmaxwellblake's Blog

  2. Pingback: try » Blog Archive » Differentiation – Plenaries

  3. Pingback: try » Blog Archive » Differentiation strategies – starters

  4. Pingback: try » Blog Archive » Differentiation – Groupwork

  5. Pingback: try » Blog Archive » Differentiation – an alternative view

  6. Pingback: Differentation | Teaching Experience

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