What is differentiation?

Parents often wonder how their child who has been learning French for the last two or three years can be in the same class as a complete beginner, and still continue to learn! The educational term that addresses this is differentiation. It refers to the idea that the discerning teacher will tailor his or her instruction to meet the diverse needs of every individual child.

My goal is to craft lessons that will reach every audience in my class; I may achieve this by varying the content, the process or the product. In addition to this, I adapt my instruction and assessment to recognise that every child has different learning styles, interests, abilities and level of readiness.

Here is a image that shows how inequitable and cruel our classrooms would be if we didn’t differentiate:


In French class, we brainstormed some ideas using some visible thinking routines, and discussed how we may best achieve our goals in French language learning, given that there is such a wide range of abilities in the class.

We used the analogy of a ski slope, that if we went skiing with a group of people of varying ability levels, would we expect them all to go down the same slope? The objective of skiing is to get down the mountain safely while having fun. But in order to do that, every individual must go down their own path according to their ability level.

Using this analogy, I explained to the students that they could pick their own routes, whether it is ‘le cercle vert’ for a complete beginner or le diamant noir’ for the more advanced learners, but each will achieve their goal of successfully accessing the curriculum. So the next time your child comes home talking about how they stepped out of their comfort zone and challenged themselves with a ‘diamant noir’ activity, you’ll know why!


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