Designing materials that address learner and teacher spiky profiles
– Julie Day
Differentiation – it’s time consuming and does it work anyway? We all pretty much agree that it is important and effective. “Plus-one learning” is owed to every student, ensuring that whatever their starting point, they advance (John Hattie).
As writers, we should be helping teachers do this. In the classroom, we have students with spiky classrooms i.e. stronger in some skills than others, more or less literate in first language, more or less opportunities to use English outside the classroom. Teachers may also have spiky profiles, in terms of experience, qualifications, language level. Writers need to support both learners and teachers in this respect. So all learners learn the most they can.
Differentiation can be by:
Outcome: learners can produce somehting different e.g. sentence vs paragraph
Process: how they do it can be different e.g. some put sentences in order, others circle the correct word to show they understood
Content: learners do different activities depending on their abilities, interests or needs.
E.g. For a controlled reading practice: “easy”: T works with group to read words and identify initial letter; “middle”: match words to images; “top”: write missing words in spaces in a sentence.
If you expect differentiation, provide support to teachers to help them do it. E.g. “English My Way”
Activity: we looked at some tasks and discussed issues around difficulty and whether it creates more work for the teachers.
Initially as a teacher, you need to gather information about the learners through observation, to know what they need and what they can do, then plan and use materials accordingly. Materials writers can help by giving suggestions about how to differentiate at different points in their materials.
Activity: we looked at different ways of differentiating and discussed issues around them.
I don’t seem to have written much done for this talk, but there was a lot of pair work activity and heated discussion around it during the feedback stages, so I must have been too busy participating, spectating and digesting!