18/100: Reflecting on Penny Ur’s Teaching Tips – 8. Options

Together but different Naomi's Photos
Together but different
Naomi’s Photos

This is part eight of my blogging challenge.

As a veteran teacher it is easy to fall into the trap of doing things a certain way just because I’ve done them that way for years, without remembering the reason why. 

I’ve decided to set myself a blogging challenge – reflect on one tip from each of the 18 sections that compose Penny Ur’s latest book: “100 Teaching Tips”, so as to dust off old practices that may have remained unexamined for too long.

Tip Number 42: Give basic task plus options

This is a tip from the section on teaching heterogeneous classes. I decided to pick the one tip that doesn’t quite work for me. At least not in the way described in the book – give everyone a task that is considered doable for everyone , and then have extra options for those who find it easy and complete it quickly.

Let’s take my video lessons as an example. As anyone who uses my video lessons knows, I have all the students watch the exact same video, but I prepare several versions of worksheets / activities tailored to different levels. That works really well. The video is the part that students comment on (or notice when they are curious about what their peer is doing at the computer station) and it isn’t an issue that the related worksheets / questions are different. Which is important when working with a class of special needs students at wildly different levels.  Generally speaking, they tend to be very sensitive. The rule of thumb is not to make it easy for students to compare.

That being said, students usually like getting options. It gives them a satisfying feeling that the worksheet / activity is shorter if there is something to skip over. In such a set up, all students do the same amount of items, but they are not of equal complexity.

Why “usually“?

Choosing an option requires the student to read more…

What happens in your classroom?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *