In the tenth article in this series, Kay Bentley explores the many forms of differentiation and their effect on the CLIL classroom.

Differentiation has many meanings. In the context of CLIL, a differentiated classroom is one where learners experience a range of different ways to process and acquire new information about curricular content and concepts in addition to a range of different ways to help them communicate what they learn. When there are learners with a range of learning abilities, styles and social needs, teacher input and learner output should be modified. This is so that each learner can understand what and how to learn about content in a non-native language. Differentiation therefore involves providing several strategies for learning and sometimes strategies to help learners’ social skills as well.

In CLIL contexts, differentiation can focus on content, language or both. This is because learners’ language skills might be at a different stage of development compared with their content skills. For example, some learners could be confident doing practical science work but could find writing up reports a challenge. Differentiated language support would therefore be needed. Another learner might be confident using the language of art but have weak observational skills and spatial awareness. Either a differentiated task or additional support and time could help this learner develop those skills.

The most common forms of differentiation are:

of outcome 
learning outcome Most learners should be able to analyze a town’s location, classify its features and describe the advantages and disadvantages of the location, give examples and make comparisons.
less able learners Give one advantage, one disadvantage and make one comparison.
more able learners In addition to the above tasks, additional challenges could be provided by comparing and contrasting the town with another.


of task 
tasks 1) Learners look at a map of their town, analyze its features, list and then colour code them.
2) Learners describe the school’s location and the advantages and disadvantages of it.
less able learners Look at a map of part of the town around the school. Describe the location using prepositional phrases only.
more able learners In addition, analyze the advantages and disadvantages of the location and compare it with the location of another school.


of support 
support Provide T-charts to take notes.
less able learners Provide:
1) a headed table to transfer information;
2) a word bank with town features; and
3) sentence starters to complete the description.
more able learners no support needed

In addition, differentiation of classroom organization can be effective, especially for younger learners. Teachers can organize rooms, for example by seating learners who have difficulty concentrating near the front of the class and seating those who respond to calm, away from visually stimulating displays.          

It has been discovered that providing differentiated support is the most effective strategy for many less able learners while, in my experience, differentiation of task motivates more able learners.

Knowledge of differentiation is tested in Part 2 of TKT: CLIL and a form of differentiation is also tested in the section on assessment (see future article 12 on ‘accommodation strategies’).