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Ministry of Education.

Laura's class - teaching inquiry

What strategies were most likely to help Laura’s students learn what they needed to learn?

Through diagnostic and formative assessment, students are grouped deliberately to offer extension for all students. The tasks are scaffolded through an adaptation of the three level reading guide, based on Bloom’s taxonomy of thinking. The three level writing guide supports students through forming simple ideas with detail - Curriculum Levels 1 & 2 - to adding detail in an organised way. This process scaffolds them towards the final paragraph task which requires them to demonstrate “develops and communicates increasingly comprehensive ideas, information and understandings” NZC English Level 5 - Ideas.
The video clip shows the benefits of mixed ability grouping alongside the differentiated task :

  • activation of student’s prior knowledge
  • three levels of questions that increase in depth of thinking and writing
  • oral discussion and visual tasks that links to student’s artistic skills
  • students working at their own pace yet contributing to group discussions. All of these strategies scaffold students to develop increasingly comprehensive ideas.

Video clip: differentiation of ideas


Remember, we're working on creative writing. So we're building up to a bigger piece of writing. So in the middle of your tables, you have a sheet that looks like this. Okay, this sheet is for you and the people that you're working with to share.

You're going to do three main steps. The three main steps are three different sets of questions which you're going to answer. At the end of each set of questions, there is a short writing activity for you to do. In between doing those questions, there are a couple of different tasks for you to do to help you develop your superhero character more.

On your table there are level one questions. On one side of the page, you're going to have blank superheroes. Okay? On the other side of the page, you have blank superhero logos.

Well, if you have this template and you want your superhero to not necessarily be human, that's fine. You can change this a little bit and make it whatever you'd like it to be. When you finish question... level one questions and you're ready, you think you have some good answers, you can come up and get your level two questions. Again, the same with the level three questions.

Student 1:
So how would we describe the superhero's body structure?

Student 2:
Maybe just focus on like the basics type of stuff, like whether they're going to be tall or short?

Student 3:
And so my character is going to have long hair, good tan, broad chin, really square chiselled face.

Student 4:
So, I've already finished my level one and my drawing. I'll get my level two.

Student 5:
So what are you guys' superhero's names going to be?

Student 6:
I'm going to go with Whirlwinds.

Student 7:
I'm probably going to go with ExtremeForce.

Student 4:
What about you?

Student 5:
I think I'm going to call my superhero Red Falcon. Because he's like strong, he's like ... red just means like "strong". You know, all that stuff. And falcon because I'm going to give him the power to, like, fly and stuff.

Student 2:
You guys, I've finished the first couple of questions. You know, I've got my superhero's name. I know what they look like. I'm pretty sure I know what they wear. I know what city they live in, I think. And I've got their superpower and stuff. So I'm going to do the extension activity, where I list three things that they've done to help people in their city.

Student 1:
Are you stuck on that? Do you want some help? You could've, like, maybe wrote down that, I don't know, maybe your superhero could have saved someone from a burning building. Maybe.

Student 8:
Why did you call your superhero The FoxMouse?

Student 2:
Actually I got it ... I thought back to my childhood and my dad used to call me "Fox". And he also used to call me "Squeaker-mouse". So I put those two together and I got, The FoxMouse.

Student 9:
May I just ask why they both look the same?

Student 10:
I'm giving her an outline of a monster so we can have opposite, like, enemies of monsters. That's the good guy, who makes everyone all happy. And then this person here is going to be the bad guy, who makes everyone sad.

Where do you want the hands?

Student 11:
Just put it where that one is so it looks like twins.

Student 12:
I'm on level three, which has got... you need to put more detail into the question, which makes it harder.

What evidence did Laura draw on?

As a Te Kotahitanga trained teacher, in a school where this is the primary professional development programme, the pedagogy of that programme informs all classroom practice.

What evidence did Laura draw on from her own practice or that of her colleagues?

Writing mileage and accuracy issues are barriers to writing for many Massey High School students. Therefore beginning with drawing and talking allows students to generate ideas before facing the writing barrier. The gradual build-up of depth and detail through differentiated tasks allows students to begin with a clearly achievable task, then move into the level of writing required at curriculum level 5 (which is the aim for the whole class in the end of year assessment). This level of the curriculum requires deliberate choice of content, language and text form and this task scaffolds students into reaching that level of writing.

Laura's class - learning inquiry

Published on: 25 Oct 2012

What differentiated instruction means for teachers

Teachers do:

  • provide several learning options, or different paths to learning, which help students take in information and make sense of concepts and skills
  • provide appropriate levels of challenge for all students, including those who lag behind, those who are advanced, and those right in the middle.

Teachers don't:

  • develop a separate lesson plan for each student in a classroom
  • "water down" the curriculum for some students.

From Teaching Today