Minecraft? Batman? Mortal Kombat? In Lessons? Why Not!

So much of differentiation isn’t about creating a resource, or planning a different lesson. I mean, sure you can do those things, and sometimes doing those things is a great thing to do. Realistically though you can differentiate for many students without doing those things every single lesson.

All you need to do is remember that students are people just like you; they have likes, they have dislikes, they get scared, they get sad and they get excited. You need to learn what makes them tick. Do they love dolls? Are they a Batman fanatic? Is minecraft their one and only true love? ¬†Whatever their thing is, it pays to educate yourself. You don’t have to become a world-leading expert, just arm yourself with a little bit of knowledge, believe me it will pay off.

A quick chat on the way out of your room or in a corridor about a topic that interests a student, goes wonders towards making you interesting, and if you’re interesting you are worth working for. And well, if you’re going to make yourself interesting you may as well use it to your advantage! Do you want a story written by a Minecraft fan? Try suggesting they incorporate a character called Steve, or an Angry Wolf in there. Do you want a Science experiment carried out by a Mortal Kombat fan? How about, figuring out a way of making clean drinking water for Scorpian. It doesn’t matter what the interest is, with a little bit of creativity you can incorporate it into virtually any task. You get the lesson objective met, the student thinks they’ve spent the whole lesson doing something they want to do and therefore learns enthusiastically, it’s a win win situation – and best of all not an extra worksheet in sight.

After all, we all work better for someone we like, someone we respect, and someone who cares enough to find out a little about what makes us tick. Why should our students be any different?

Stationery Addict

As anyone who knows me well is aware, I have a bit of a thing about stationery. Put me in a shop with coloured highlighters and post it notes, and well there you have it, I might just as well be in heaven! Luckily under the guise of essential differentiation materials, I have the perfect self given excuse to buy as many post it notes, index cards, coloured pens, stickers and highlighters as I need… mmmm ok need might not necessarily be strictly the truest word to use, but hey that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.

Post it notes are my wouldn’t be without item, when it comes to differentiation you simply can’t beat them. They are quick, easy, cheap to buy and come in a variety of shapes, sizes, colours and designs. You can – if you know your students well – personalise your post it to your students. Even if you don’t now them well enough, or have an extensive enough collection to quite manage personalisation, novelty post it notes are a great way to get their attention.

There are I warn you about a hundred uses for the humble post it when it comes to differentiation, but for now I’m going to give you just three:

1) Adding targets to pieces of work; it means if you’re nagging them for the 50th time that term to use full stops and capital letters, the post it can be moved right to the top of the page they’re going to write on next – let’s face it any way of getting them to read and take notice of our marking has to be a good thing! It immediately shows an observer that you know what that student needs to work on next in order to make progress, and shows you immediately what you were looking for as your objective for that particular student when you next take their book in for marking.

2) My favourite use for them: checklists. Many of my students struggle to remember sequences and a simple post it note checklist can really help them. If it’s something I notice mid lesson, I jot it down quickly on a post it and stick it on their desk, but if it’s something I know is going to be a problem I prepare them in advance; if you stick six standard sized post its on a piece of A4 paper, they’ll even go through your printer, making them look really professional but taking hardly any time to produce. Here is an example that you’re welcome to use as a template:¬†Drawing Angles Post It

3) A planning tool. A lot of my students panic at the idea of an extended piece of written work. Writing down a couple of sentences on a post it note however, no problem at all. And when we’ve done one, well it’s easy to do another; until before you know it you have a whole structure all planned out, without a whiff of anxiety in sight. Even better, each sentence has been carefully crafted because we’re only writing one at a time.

So Mr Post it note, in me you have one VERY dedicated fan, I guess that might just give me an excuse to buy some more….