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Give examples of how you have incorporated differentiated instruction when teaching a group of learners (i.e. in a mixed level group)

Diary submitted by Pariise D., Valencia, 2020

There is no doubt that the Coronavirus pandemic has caused great distress worldwide. It has affected the way we teach in many ways. Gone are the days of face to face class interaction. Instead, we are limited to a video conferencing website called Zoom. While there are most certainly some challenges, as is expected with technology, the situation has allowed me to further develop my teaching skills and forced me to adapt my teaching style to better suit the needs of my students.

Due to significant changes in teaching, many classes were merged. I was responsible for creating engaging classes for a mixture of 1/2 ESO and 3/4 ESO. I had 4 students who were  1/2 ESO and a further 5 who worked at a high 3/4 ESO level. In order to ensure that all students gained something beneficial from the class, I had to make some changes to better suit the class as a whole.

The first change I made was carefully merging the two level’s curriculums. Basic games targeted at helping the lower levels were used as warmers and also allowed higher learners to recap on topics they hadn’t studied in a while. It was interesting to note that although some were more advanced than their peers, there were moments where it was evident that they had forgotten the very basics. It was a significant reminder of the need to go over even the simplest of things routinely to ensure that learners do not forget what they have previously learnt.

Fortunately, Zoom allows me to share multiple screens simultaneously. As such, I would have two different worksheets for each level. “Differentiation plays a big part in solving how to motivate the students.” (Svärd, n.d.).  Both worksheets targeted the same topic but with varying degrees of difficulty. This allowed the 1/2 learners to understand the topic at a simpler pace, whilst challenging the 3/4 students to improve their skills. The higher learner students were also able to provide support and explain things when their peers didn’t understand. The result of this was a strong sense of community within our classes. Students were able to ask each other for help. This unintentionally allowed the higher students to further practice their skills by repeating them to others – this has been proven as a fantastic way to learn/study. The screenshot below displays the two different exercises for the students. 

Through teaching mixed levels, I have learnt the importance of clear instructions to ensure everyone knows what they are doing. With multiple levels and varying tasks for each student, it can easily become disorganised and chaotic. In order to maintain control one must explain what is needed of the students and make sure everyone understands to avoid further confusion.

Cited:

kristimarie. (2017, February 8). Make It Happen: 5 Strong Strategies to Teach Different Levels of ESL Students at Once. FluentU English Educator Blog. https://www.fluentu.com/blog/educator-english/different-levels-of-esl-students/

Svärd, A.-C. (n.d.). The challenge of mixed-ability classes. 26.

M.Ed, P. L. (2017). Ch. 12 Differentiated Instruction. In Instructional Methods, Strategies and Technologies to Meet the Needs of All Learners. https://granite.pressbooks.pub/teachingdiverselearners/chapter/differentiated-instruction-2/

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