All students in your classroom need to have their thinking stretched. For many students, that level of stretch and challenge comes from your normal lesson content and quality first teaching. But, there is a group of students in every school and classroom who need extra to achieve their potential. The stretch and challenge of the main lesson content may well not be enough for them.
Here I have presented 5 ways of providing stretch and challenge to those students which go above the normal lesson content. It is also important that we don’t make extra work for ourselves by making more resources. So all of them are easy to put in place in the classroom without any prior work by the teacher. They can all be done anecotally, in class and as the lesson progresses. All that you need to do is know which students are in this more able or high achieving group. Then identify times in your teaching when you can use these strategies.
1. Make it worse!
With able students there are times when the work they produce is a very high standard. As such, providing feedback can be hard. There may only be small improvements that the students can make to the work they have produced. Whilst this is a wonderful thing. It can be difficult to provide them with a meaningful task to do whilst others are working on improving their written or practical work. Especially since the main aim of feedback is to improve the student so that they don’t continue to make the same mistake each time.
Instead of asking the students to make their work better, ask them to make their work worse. Doing so may help them to understand the success criteria, their work and the link between the two better.
For example, ask them to identify three areas that, if removed from the work, would make the biggest difference in making the work worse.
2. Mapping Concepts
Concepts help us think and provide us with an understanding of the world around us. When we come across new information, they form new concepts in our Long Term Memory. We also naturally make connections between new concepts and prior learning.
By creating concept maps, we can help our more able students to make more connections between the new concepts we create and our prior learning. The concept maps will act as am information guide, taking the strain for the Long Term Memory and reducing Cognitive Overload as well.
Ask more able students to keep a mind map in the back of their book. As they come across new information, they enter that onto the mind map. From that they can then draw connections between the new and old information. Deliberately making connections where our Long Term Memory would not have made them. Connections such as similar contexts, social backgrounds, historical period or themes/genres.
From this, more able students will make able to reference these links in written work. They will also have a stronger understanding of their practical work.
A great opportunity that more able students have is the chance to do more and do it in greater depth. For that reason, I think it is important that we challenge more able students to do things quicker, so that they have time to do more and to do it in greater depth. This can range from simple things like answering a 6 mark question in 4 minutes instead of 5. To asking the students to create a performance in a shorter space of time. In each case the students will then have the remaining time to improve or add to their work.
4. Question the process
In many lessons students focus on achieving the end result, the piece of written work or the performance. We need to do this for several reasons, the chief one being that these are the things that are assessed. Sometimes the process of how we got there isn’t so important and doesn’t come under our focus. Yet, the method of rehearsal and the process of creation is very important for many of the Theatre Practitioners we teach.
Promoting this form of metacognition can be very useful. Especially to help them understand their work and the work of Theatre Practitioners more. Ask your more able students to take a step back from the work they are producing and to examine the way they are producing it. This can help them become more efficient at creating the work in the first place. It can also help the students make connections in their understanding between the theory and the performance to the process. To that end, students can also make this reflection in their written work which may support their practical work.
5. Interrogate their work
This can be pretty challenging to students and can be difficult for them to undertake. For this to work, as a teacher you really need to interrogate them on the work they have produced. What is important to begin with is to confirm that the work created so far is good. It is worth reiterating that this exercise is about improving the work and their understanding of the work. They next is to ask ‘why?’ to everything they have done. Why does that character stand there and enter the stage like that? Why does the character say those lines like this and not like that? Why have you written this? Why might this be true? Why does this happen here? Why are these two things connected?