50 Strategies for Differentiation

How can we put policy into practice?

50 Strategies for Differentiation
from the amazing teachers at Greenford High School

shared at Teaching and Learning Takeover
at Southampton University 19th November 2013

Get the basics right: CONSISTENCY
1. Exercise Books – organisation
2. Exercise Books – meaningful marking, with DIRT – Dedicated Improvement and Response Time
3. Seating plans with info relevant to students’ needs
4. Get to know your students as well as possible
5. Show them you care, ask about their lives, remember their replies
6. Use the behaviour management systems of the school

Obvious, but often ignored
7. Grouping
8. Re-arranging tables in a room
9. Teacher position in classroom
10. Schemes of work with challenge at different levels
11. Homework booklets adapted for a range of abilities
12. Clear coherent planning to teach what is really important, not a moment wasted
13. Listen to your students during the lesson and change your plans accordingly

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Teacher Interview Questions and tips

Donnelly’s Interview hints and tips

I thought I would write down some hints and tips about going for job interviews at schools after someone on my Facebook group ‘Design and Technology teachers’ asked for advice about a job they were going for – sure it will be useful to students that I have at my school as well.

If you read this blog, and find it useful….and get the job, please comment for others to see.

  • Research the school thoroughly. Check their inspection(s) and from this, figure out what their strengths are, and what you can add to the school to build on this.
  • Keep bright and enthusiastic – it is stressful and gruelling, and you may think you have ruined your chances throughout the day, but if you keep focused and remember what you do, every day, as a great teacher – then you will be fine.
  • Do not be put off by the really chatty outgoing one who is also there to be interviewed, I know I have seen many candidates try to pretty much say all they know about education during the day and then are in a bit of a mess at the interview.  Please also read my blog post about Assistant Head Teacher interviews, I have included a few of the tasks that are generally used in schools.
  • Do not feel the need to ask questions in a tour or group interview – this was one thing I really panicked about before the interview – I felt I knew the school really well, well enough not to ask any questions, while the other candidates did – and when it came to my turn (all the staff looked expectedly at me when the other candidates had finished) all I said was;

“I feel that, at this moment in time, I do not have any questions” and when it came to my interview with the Headteacher, I made sure I demonstrated my knowledge of the school by building it into my answers.

Finally, I always made sure that my answers followed a specific pattern. I was once advised by a wise Deputy Head to respond to extended answer questions with ‘there are 3 points that I would like to make’…..then start to answer the question.

This technique stops you rambling, encourages you to answer fully and makes sure you cover all parts of the question.  If you feel that you need to add another point, just end with, ‘and one final point I would like to add is……………’

Do not answer every question like this, but some do require an extended answer and this is just one way to do it:

Most NQTs or new teachers will be asked something about Behaviour Management, or “what makes you a good teacher” I would answer in the following way, giving a comment about each heading;

Me  – The pupils – The school

So for example:   “What makes you a good teacher?”

Me– planning, preparation, assessment, delivery (etc. there is loads more but it’s all about you!)

The pupils– mixture of formative and summative assessment, clear expectations, positive atmosphere and feedback, etc.

The school– professional development (if you participated or delivered some yourself) sharing resources, observing others, self-evaluation of teaching, not afraid to ask experienced teachers advice, working with other departments, etc.

I find this technique really helped me when answering questions, as I visualised where I wanted to go with my answers, and always had examples from my classroom.

Typical Questions

Why did you apply for this particular role?

What are your core strengths/weaknesses?

What can you bring to the role that other candidates may not bring?

What makes a successful school?

How would you work with a teaching assistant in your classroom?

Do you find it difficult working alongside older, more experienced staff?
How would you react if a senior member of staff queried or criticised some aspect of your teaching?

What is your understanding of high-quality teaching and learning?
Describe a good lesson
Describe a lesson that did not go well. What were the reasons for this?
If I came into your classroom, what would I see?
Describe the teaching method you find most effective
Do you differentiate between outcome or task?
Tell me a bit about the lesson you taught this morning, were you happy with it?

When marking a piece of work that has been done by a pupil, how do you ensure your comments encourage the pupil to make progress?
How do you ensure all children are involved?
How would you motivate a reluctant child?
How would you meet the needs of gifted and talented children in the class?
Have you had experience of a very high attaining and very low attaining child in your class?
Tell us about your experience of assessment for learning and assessment of learning
If a child doesn’t show signs of improvement after all your planning, monitoring, assessing etc, what do you do next?
What strategies do you use to manage children with special educational needs?

What behaviour management policies have you experienced, and what do you consider as having been effective?
How would you deal with a pupil who is not co-operating?
How would you deal with a disruptive child?
What do you think is the best way to motivate pupils?
Some people say you should demand respect from children. Do you agree or disagree, and why?
What do you understand by the term ‘providing support’ for the pupil?
Bullying is often a serious issue that has to be dealt with in all areas of work with children. In your experience, what is the best way to deal with it?

Ensure that you know about the ‘Big Picture’ – there are lots going on in education at the moment, be clear of any changes that effect your subject, what do you think of the new National Curriculum?  Do you see these changes as an opportunity?  How do you use technology in your lessons?  What do you think of pupils bringing their own technology into your classroom? etc etc etc.


Good luck with your interview and share any tips via the comments on this blog.



‘Should I be marking every piece of work?’


This was a question put to me as I worked with a group of teachers this week. My answer was ‘No’. ‘But we are expected to mark everything in our school, so can you point me to the evidence that says that not every piece of work needs to be marked?’ So, another blog, a contribution to http://blogsync.edutronic.net/

Some background to this. Schools have picked up on the fact that Ofsted inspections are making judgements about the quality of teaching over time. This is a good thing and takes away the notion that a 25 minute observation is the only evidence which is considered to judge the quality of a school’s teaching. But where it has gone wrong is that some schools are saying that every piece of work needs to be commented on by the teacher. This is not feasible and it doesn’t support learning.

What inspections are looking…

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#Outstanding Hints and Tips

From Good to Outstanding

When it comes to planning for and delivering outstanding lessons we all try our hardest to keep up with the latest ‘buzz’ ideas in order to please the powers that be, whoever they may be.

As a frustrated teacher I found that sometimes, to use an analogy, I was a performing monkey in the classroom aiming to please all.

I have decided to put a few ideas on the page that might help other teachers in my position. My aim is to strip back and offer some simple advice on what I feel works well in the classroom.

Create thought provoking starter activities – have the starter ready on the whiteboard/desk for when students arrive– get class to start as latecomers arrive.

I often use ‘Thunks’ to get the lesson started, google it of you don’t know what I mean.

Use tiered learning objectives: These can be colour coded to help students realise progression from green to orange to red means difficulty increases.

Use learning objectives not task based objectives.

I often use in degree of order:

define/recall/describe/summarise (green L/O)
explain/compare/discuss/compose (orange L/O)
anaylse/evaluate/investigate (red L/O)

Refer to learning objectives consistently throughout the lesson – not just the beginning and the end.

If someone walks in to your lesson half way through, always stop the class and ask questions to show the observer where the class is up to, stop them and ask more questions after 10 mins so that you can show that progress has been made.

Use hinge point questions (questions to test understanding before allowing students to move on to the next learning objective)

I always try and plan some questions before the lesson and target pupils of different abilities, or use the Pose, Pause, Pounce method….again, google the if you are unsure or look on twitter @teachertoolkit for more examples.

Have mini-whiteboards on the desk most lessons-even if you hadn’t planned to use them, you might find them invaluable when you have to re-model a task and think on your feet.

Make sure your resources are creative and have learning objectives on worksheets so students know where they are in the lesson.

Avoid getting students to copy out definitions/key information- get them to work for this information themselves – this will improve skills rather than just improving knowledge.

Step back from being the expert in the class from time to time and let students show their ability to learn independently using the following: thunks/odd one out/choose the correct definition/here’s the answer- what was the question?

Use different types of activities from lesson to lesson – aim to keep students on their toes each lesson so they do not know what to expect.

Re-model tasks verbally to help differentiate – you can verbally scaffold tasks for individual students without having to have 8 zillion different worksheets.

Ensure that you speak to every student in the room at least once during a lesson(say hello, ask them a question, praise them, comment on their work).

If students simply aren’t getting the content of your lesson, don’t soldier on in fear of deviating from your lesson plan; instead, re-model and re-shape your learning objectives and lesson.

Ask probing, open-ended questions; ask them to the students without their hands up; even better, apply a ‘no-hands’ up policy from time to time.

Be consistent with behaviour rules/discipline with every student in the class.

Ensure you know where the learners are with their progression by using AFL. Possible suggestions: mini-whiteboards/post it notes/summative and formative assessment etc.)

Always have an extension task or two ready – students should never run out of work to complete.

Ensure that you complete a plenary to find out which students have reached which learning objective –Most importantly, use this information to plan for the next lesson.

Most of all – have fun and enjoy having the chance to show how good/outstanding you are! I always use lesson observations as a method of testing something new out so that I can get feedback on the new method I might be trying. Do not be shy to try something, take a risk and see what happens.

I hope this helps 🙂


Teach ‘Good’ lessons 100% of the time – Every time :-)

Lesson obs 2013

Click on the link above.

Whilst it is not always possible to deliver an ‘outstanding lesson’, – I do think it is possible to deliver ‘good’ lessons as part of your day to day routine.

I also think that to be consistently ‘good’, is pretty ‘outstanding’! – Said to me by a wise Ofsted inspector.

I think that if you can deliver ‘good’ lessons most of the time, with practice, more ‘outstanding’ lesson observations will follow.

I shall update my blog with guidance on ‘outstanding’ lessons soon.

My first attemp at using the #7ePlan #soloarmy @teachertoolkit @Hthompson1982


The lesson plan can be downloaded from the link above – please give feedback if you use it, let me know how you get on.  Thank you.

I am loving the new book #100ideas from @teachertoolkit.  This is idea 16 from the book and is using an idea from @Hthompson1982.

I have used the 7ePlan to build upon the knowledge that the pupils have already, in a hope that every one of them can make some measured progress during the lesson.

I have combined the ideas of the 7ePlan with SOLO Taxonomy, I have explained what I am doing and why on slide two of the attached powerpoint.

I shall add my observation feedback below for you to see.

Wish me luck 🙂

This part of the post has been written after I did the lesson described above.

I am delighted to say that the lesson was graded as Outstanding.  Whilst I was pleased with the way that I delivered the lesson, the structure was pretty much down to the use of the #7eplan and the use of Solo Taxonomy.  I think that these two concepts can be used by pretty much anyone who wants to ensure that all pupils make progress in a lesson.

Please comment on how you have used the 7eplan please.


Thank you