Snail's pace yourself

29th February 2008 at 00:00
Some pupils may take longer than others to get there, but you can adapt your style to meet everyone's needs, says Sue Cowley

Size matters, they say. Class sizes certainly matter. In a perfect world, we would match learning to each child's individual needs and pace. In the real world, however, this is difficult if you teach more than a handful of children.

Differentiation - setting different tasks for different ability levels - is important, but has to be planned carefully. Some believe in "differentiation by outcome" - that every child will produce a different piece of work and so will be learning at his or her own pace anyway - but in my view, that is a bit of a cop-out.

So how best to differentiate in a class? Be realistic. You can plan different tasks for the low, middle and high-ability pupils, but you cannot plan something for every individual. Good differentiating is basically about knowing the pupils that you teach and building a two-way relationship.

Often, it is a natural response - adapting the way you talk with children or the questions that you ask them, or noticing that someone is struggling and sitting beside them to help

Sue Cowley is an author, trainer and presenter. For more information visit

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