After a recent OFSTED, there’s been a whole-school focus on directed differentiation. Many of us use differentiation activities where students get a choice of tasks or where there is an optional extension task or supportive resource to help students who are struggling. Much to our horror, the inspectors seemed to be looking for heaps of evidence in their observations of teachers naming students specifically and asking them to do particular tasks during the lesson.

This makes me a little uncomfortable.

I believe there is definitely an argument for challenging our students to do work which we know is within their capability through directed differentiation, however I cringe inwardly at the idea of students who are already in ability sets being labelled as being at the top, or bottom of the class. I’m leading a research and development group at my school which aims to look into this issue. For now, here are some tips on thing you can do to differentiate, although for my part, I may sick to the more subtle options until my mind is changed!

Here are some things you are probably already doing in your classroom, which can be highlighted on the lesson plan as differentiation:

Thoughtful groupings
Seating plan – placing students where they can focus best
Setting flexible tasks that allow for creativity
Providing examples / modelling
Teacher circulation
Thoughtful questioning
Follow-up questions
Including examples in your explanations that are relevant and interesting to your students
Paired work for peer support
Choosing students to answer specific questions
Differentiated learning objectives and success criteria
Use of challenging word banks
Whole-class feedback and consolidation of learning
Carousel activities
Use of a range of learning styles
Personalised target-setting
Self and peer assessment
Personalised formative feedback
Recap previous learning