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English Online. Every child literate - a shared responsibility.
Ministry of Education.

Laura's class - focusing inquiry

What was important, given where Laura’s students were at?
Students at Massey High School are grouped according to the results of their entrance testing, and placed in form classes based primarily on maths ability. Therefore there is a range of literacy ability in classes. Laura has a high ability Year 9 class. She deliberately chooses mixed ability groups - two high ability and two low ability - alongside a differentiated task to meet the learning needs of this class.

Video clip: Group work-Laura’s perspective


This class is my year 9 English class. They're a high-ability class. However, they're grouped by numeracy, so their literacy levels do vary. There are 18 boys and 12 girls in this class, which also makes for a challenge in terms of keeping everybody engaged and interested in the subject.

It's a mixed class of students from all over the place – we have New Zealand-European, Māori, and students from central and Southeast Asia. But we do have a number of students in the class who have English as their second language, and also who do not speak English at home. And also, it's really important that the lessons I provide for them are varied and do offer the potential for extension.

When I put the students into groups to complete tasks, I like to ensure that there are a range of students in each group. I try to look at their asTTle scores and ensure that there are two students working together who have similar ability, and two students working together who maybe need support or to bounce ideas off of those other students.

What evidence did Laura draw on?

The HoD has been a strong advocate for differentiation within her department. She has previously used support available from School Support Services (Team Solutions) and research acquired from The Best Evidence Synthesises (Quality Teaching of Diverse Learners as well as the Leadership BES) to build teacher capability in the area of differentiation.

What evidence did Laura draw on from her own practice or that of her colleagues?
The department has worked on having a solid understanding of the curriculum levels of students through the marking rubrics and e-asTTle reading tests. Laura has built a deep understanding of the strengths of her students within English and across the learning areas. She knows that students in her class have strengths in music, art and technology and so provides opportunities for her students to bring those interests into this task.

Video clip: Variety of interests


So when I work with differentiation within this English class, I want to make sure that there is a variety of choice for the students, that is linked to our content in terms of the curriculum, and that has the students challenged to work towards level five of the curriculum.

However, I do also think it's very important to recognise their other abilities and strengths that they have that aren't in English; for example, we have some students who are very artistic or very musical, who enjoy writing and enjoy reading. I think it's important that every student in the class can bring their own individual strengths to the tasks that I set for them, so that they have the potential to achieve to a high level in English even if that's not their strong point.

When we did our novel study, I tried to make sure that the learning tasks could be linked to art or music or technology, the things that the students are interested in and are capable of doing. But at the same time, they're still extending themselves with literacy and their reading and writing.

Laura's class - teaching inquiry

Published on: 25 Oct 2012

Examine your role as teacher in the differentiated classroom

  • Brainstorm ways to vary your instructional delivery methods. Target auditory, visual, and kinesthetic learners in your approaches.
  • Develop a general plan for facilitating time, space, and materials in your classroom. On any given day, not all students will be working on the same assignment at the same time. Plan for student access to necessary materials, where individuals or groups will work, and how much time can be allotted to specific tasks.
  • Identify alternative methods of assessing student performance and understanding. Assessment results should increase teacher understanding of students' abilities, interests, and needs, and should be incorporated into future planning.