Differentiation by M Wilson

“Tell me the answer, Sir!”

Imagine this. One evening you are eating your Supper, after a long day at work and school, and Sonny Jim suddenly complains that his teacher refused to help him  in such-and-such a lesson.

“I’m sure that can’t be right, Sonny. Your teacher wouldn’t deliberately not help you. You must have got it wrong”, you reply.

But, no. Sonny Jim is adamant that his teacher did not help him. When Sonny asked his teacher something, they refused to give him the answer. Shock! Horror! What a terrible teacher. You promise to phone school the following day to find out exactly what happened.

Well, in the coming weeks and months I hope that this might be a familiar conversation around the dinner table. As part of our latest INSET teachers and Learning Support Assistants have been looking at questioning skills, and how we support students to become more independent thinkers. Part of this is not providing answers, but to encourage students to think for themselves and work it out independently. We have looked at the oddly named “Blooms Taxonomy”. In 1956 Benjamin Bloom developed a way of ordering questions of increasing difficulty. At the start you have questions relating to Knowledge (“ Tell me three things you know about…”) and at the end you have questions that ask for viewpoints ( “Can you give me reasons for saying that…”). As teachers we sometimes miss the opportunity to develop these vital thinking skills in our efforts to complete a task, or get something finished. Questioning is also a way of checking understanding, of course, and of challenging students of different abilities.

So, the next time you are sitting around the dinner table, and Sonny Jim pipes up that his teacher has refused to help him, just reply, “ Well Sonny, can you give me three reasons why that might be the case?”!

A copy of the recent INSET presentation on differentiation:

Differentiation INSET Dec 2012

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