Mrs Humanities

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Mrs Humanities shares… 5 Differentiation Strategies for SpLD

mrs humanities shares

Now I’m no expert in SEN or SpLD for that matter, but these are 5 strategies that I have found that work for my students over the past 5 years. These strategies have come from research or CPD I have undertaken.

1 // Pastel Colours for Powerpoints
Since I can remember I’ve been using pastel colours for PowerPoints and other digital documents. I read somewhere during my NQT year that pastel colours are preferable for students with dyslexia but are also beneficial for all students as white backgrounds can cause eye strain. Ever since then I’ve been using pastel colours for displaying information on the whiteboard. Yellow for task instructions, blue for information and green for assessment for learning. In addition the background is a light grey to reduce glare and sensitivity to bright lights.

Further reading on role and value of colour

2 // Structure Scaffolds
To support students to develop their extended writing I’ve used a variety of scaffolding strategies over the years in order to enable students to break down the task and focus on demonstrating their knowledge as opposed to structure (initially). Some approaches include sentence_starters_mat, structure sheets/strips and tasks broken down into sections which come together as one piece in the end.


structure stips differentiated

task break down

3 // Note Taking Supports
Students with dyslexia regularly struggle to take notes, the challenge of listening and writing at the same time is clear. In order to develop note taking skills, I’ve provided what many people these days call ‘Knowledge Organisers’ as a reference point and note taking supports to support laying out and recording information.

independent learners topic placemats

independent learners note taking

4 // Differentiated feedback
This really applies to all students, however there are things I focus more or less on with students with SpLD than others. For instance focusing on subject knowledge as opposed to spelling, punctuation and grammar, making students respond to questions as opposed to making improvements to a previous piece of work and editing as opposed to full re-writes.

5 // Words to use in a lesson
Really simple but effective way to develop subject specific terminology in SpLD students and their practice of spelling such terms has been the list of key terms to use during lessons. These appear as a list at the bottom of PowerPoint slides and students are given the key word list at the start of the topic. They’ve then been able to highlight the words for the lesson that they need to focus on using. These are the only spellings I have focused my attention on in the marking of their work and these are the only spellings I have had them correct. I found this worked particularly well with boys, particularly one higher ability boy in year 8 that particularly worried about the structure of his written work and SpAG, he’d focus too much on these rather than showing his understanding in written work. When we started to focus on the spelling of key terminology instead he wrote more about what he knew and understood.

independent learners key word lists

I hope this post is of some use to you.

Share your approaches in the comments.

This post is featured by Twinkl
in their ‘Teaching Writing Blog’

Mrs Humanities



Developing Independent Learners – The ‘Help Yourself’ Resource Station  

help yourself resource stationThrough the course of the last academic year one of my aims was to develop more independence in my learners.

I tried several approaches which I’ve documented in other posts, including seating plans, GCSE help yourself display and attempts at flipped learning.

I’ve learnt so much from the process as have my students, particularly those in year 7 and 8.

The ‘Help Yourself’ Resource Station was probably the most successful approach.

What is it?

Quite simply the ‘Help Yourself’ Resource Station is a table and display board with resources that will support my students in their learning.

It includes a wide range of resources and templates that students can access freely to support their learning.


What’s included?

The display board contained resources for each year group on the topic they were currently studying. These could have been in the form of information sheets, activities or worksheets.

In addition students had access to DIRT sheets and a support sheet for using historical sources and later the 5 Minute Help Yourself sheet.

At times, other useful information got added to the space on the board such as project sign up sheets and reminders.

The table contained a wide variety of relevant resources that students can help themselves to in order to scaffold and support their learning.

Resources included

-Literacy mats

literacy mat
– Timelines support sheets

-Note taking laminatenote taking laminate
-Key word lists

key word lists
-Topic support mats (placemats)

topic placemats

-Humanities Skills Mats such as the Using Sources Support Mat

skills mats.png

-Self and peer assessment sheets

self and peer assessment

-Templates and blank maps for classwork


Along side the resources there were whiteboard pens and equipment available for students to access when required.

How is it used?

Once set up the resource station runs itself, you will need to monitor and replenish now and then but on the whole it’s pretty simple.

Students  collect the resources they need based on their own decisions or your guidance. At first it took some training but by the end of the year students were happily helping themselves to the required resources.

For example I had some students that needed spelling support, they’d help themselves at the start of the lesson to the key word list and their literacy marking would focus on the correct spelling of those key words. If they spelt the word incorrectly, they would use the key word list to find the correct spelling and write it out 3 times and within a sentence. at first it took some reminding but eventually they become independent in the approach (with fewer spelling mistakes).

Often main activities in my lesson have an opportunity for choice in presentation and format, the templates and blank maps work effectively for this allowing students to make their own decisions in how they present their work.


Personally I feel it’s enabled many of my students to become more independent in their learning, in particular the high and middle ability. I felt low ability students needed more encouragement to use the resources available to them but eventually some of them were accessing them without prompt.

If I were to change anything I’d add a challenge section with generic activities that could be applied to any topic.

The Resources

I’ve uploaded a load of the resources I’ve used here. Many of them I have not made from scratch and instead have used or amended resources I’ve collected over the years. If one of them is your, please let me know and I will add credit where credit it due.

If you have any questions about the ‘Help Yourself’ Resource Station, just ask.

Hope you’ve been inspired.

Mrs Humanities





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Pass the Buck – Group Reading Technique

Pass the BuckSince Christmas one of the things I’ve been focusing on along side independent learning is encouraging more reading aloud in lessons. It’s something I’ve done every now and then in the past and has included reading textbooks, resources and student’s work.

However I find that many students in Humanities lack enthusiasm when it comes to reading aloud in class. Pass the Buck is one method I’ve introduced to work on this.

pass the buck reading

Forfeits should never be a sanction, at first my students wanted to set detentions but later realised they could have some fun with it. They’ve got students to teach what has already been read, make them read a full paragraph in a silly voice, questioned them on the prior paragraphs and so on. It’s become a challenge for them to catch people out.

One class has even started playing games within the activity to keep everyone on their toes by yo-yoing back and forth and when they think someone may have lost track passing to them unexpectedly.

It’s certainly improved student engagement in whole class or group reading.

Hope it’s a useful idea.

Mrs Humanities




Developing Literacy – Key Word Keyrings

developing literacy key word keyrings

At the end of the last academic year I asked my students for feedback. They were honest and constructive.


Pupils in a number of groups mentioned that they liked having the key word lists but they’d always forget about them because they were stored in their books or folders.

I was so impressed that they’ve started to recognise the importance of literacy and in particular subject specific terminology, that we discussed for some time how I could help them next year and we came up with a number of ideas.

I particularly liked the one idea of velcroing specific key words on the ceiling above individual students, these would be the words that the individual often struggles to spell correctly. I said I might use that idea once we are in the new build but for now it’s on the back burner.

The other big idea we discussed was the use of key word keyrings. Once mentioned, they loved this idea. Lots of ideas emerged from them such as a list of geography key words, history key words, names of all the continents and oceans and then a list of topic specific key words that would change each term. I also suggested they could make some for homework with definitions of new key words, they were on board.

As soon as the Summer holidays arrived I ordered some snap rings from Amazon, made key word lists for the topics that didn’t already have them and made the generic key word lists the students suggested.

keyword keyrings keyword keyrings
These will be stored in the baskets on each desk. The orange and yellow key word lists will change with the topics studied by year 7 and 8, whilst the white ones will remain on the key ring all year.

Since it was their idea, I really hope they engage with and make excellent use of them.

How do you develop literacy in your classroom?

Mrs Humanities