Challenge for all’. From an outsider’s perspective, this might sound simple. But imagine being a teacher, preparing and teaching lessons to classes of up to 30 children. How can you be sure that each and every individual, unique child is being sufficiently challenged? We all know that everybody is different; we have different interests, likes, dislikes, abilities, personalities and ways we prefer to learn. So thinking back to the term, ‘challenge for all’… it’s actually not that simple.
However, as a transition team, we wanted to find ways to ensure that each child did feel challenged in our lessons. After all, the only way for somebody to make progress is if they learn something new. You will never learn something new by repeating things that you find easy all the time. On the other hand, we can’t lose children’s positive attitude to learning by giving them tasks that are beyond their reach. That’s where scaffolding and differentiation comes into play.
In education, scaffolding is a wide range of strategies which are used to help students make progress so that they have a stronger understanding and greater independence in the learning process.
Differentiation is the process of tailoring lessons to meet individual needs. It is important to note that teachers should not only differentiate activities but that they also differentiate content, process, products, assessments, groupings and the learning environment.
In our transition classes, we encourage children to take ownership of their own learning by reviewing their progress and deciding what they need to do to improve. Therefore, in lessons we create three different challenges for the children to choose from; Challenge One, Challenge Two and Challenge Three. Challenge One will be the ‘easiest’ activity whereas Challenge Three will be the ‘hardest’.
But how do we create these challenges?
First of all, we must decide what the learning objectives and outcomes are for the lesson. We then categorise our learning outcomes into three sections; developing, securing and mastering. These will ultimately help us differentiate activities within the lesson. For example, Challenge One will link to the ‘developing’ learning outcome.
From experience, this works really well in our classrooms for the following reasons:
- Students really enjoy choosing their own challenge and are more motivated to complete tasks that they have chosen.
- It encourages friendly competition in the classroom which engages the children in their learning.
- The differentiated activities give all the students the opportunity to feel challenged within the lesson, no matter what their ability is.
- The difficulty and understanding of the challenges will always link back to the learning objective and learning outcomes so children know exactly what it is they are learning and how they are going to get there.
Scaffolding learning is vital in our transition classrooms. Children are very capable in our forms but many have barriers to learning. Scaffolding is vital to ensure that children make enough progress within lessons.
We use the following scaffolding strategies:
- Simplifying language and breaking instructions into small steps.
- Modelling how to complete an activity.
- Thinking out loud helps to teach the children how to manage their own thought processes during challenges.
- Discovering children’s pre-learning and building lessons from there.
- Give children time to talk before writing.
- Pre-teach key vocabulary. This can be done using a variety of games or spelling assessments.
- Visual aids.
Just remember that just like the children in our classes, every teacher likes to work in different ways too. We can all agree that differentiation and scaffolding is vital for student success. We just need to continue sharing ideas and find the right strategies that will work effectively with our teaching styles and with the children in our classes.
Thank you for Jodie and Bijou for a wonderful blog.