Differentiating: presumptive and reactive

One way of doing differentiation is before a lesson; it’s presumptive.  Here’s an example: you have an observed lesson coming up.  You have a seating plan with all of your students’ target grades next to their names.  You differentiate every task in advance: three different worksheets, three different difficulties of questions, three different learning objectives.  I think this is bad because you’re assuming some of your students will fail to reach a certain standard.  Some of you will be able to do the pink worksheet, but some of you will only be able to do the blue one.  A couple of you should not even bother with the blue worksheet, and just do the green one (a wordsearch).  This is even worse if you actually dictate which task each student should do, instead of letting the students choose for themselves: ‘Tarquin, Gemima and Winston, you guys can do questions 1, 2 and 3.  Butch, Cassidy and Sundance, you guys can do 4, 5 and 6’.  

So much for presumptive differentiation.  I would argue a much better form of differentiation is reactive.  You set everyone the same task, and you and the TA then just circulate, giving help as needed.  Have scaffolding printouts printed in advance, but only give them to the students who you think need them.  This way there’s no self-fulfilling prophecy problem with the students predicted Ds.  Furthermore, you’re no longer staying at school until 7pm planning three different activities for every moment of a lesson.  The time you save can be spent marking books, and giving more feedback to the students who you notice have struggled on something.

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