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Editor's pinboard: stretch and challenge

Given that this month's homepage theme is differentiation, it strikes me as a good time to devote some space to differentiating for AG&T students and the concept of 'stretch and challenge'.
Richard Durant writes of able and/or gifted students (in Teachit's 2012 Take Five pack) that they 'generally love exploring ideas and teasing out less-than-obvious connections. Unlike most students, they welcome uncertainty. Do you?'

If, like me, you're inclined to think 'No, not really', then read on for some suggestions on how to let go of the safety net and encourage a bit of healthy uncertainty in your classroom.

Lucy Hewitt
Teachit Editor

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Links within this email:
» 5 ways to introduce uncertainty
» Contributor of the month
» 20 ideas for stretch and challenge
» Free 'stretch and challenge' Word document

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5 ways to introduce uncertainty

Image © Myrmi 2007
1) Moral and ethical dilemmas. The internet has many a 'moral dilemma' website. Ask students to solve a couple of dilemmas (and let the chaos commence).

2) What on earth does that mean? Stick some snippets of poetry (or enigmatic prose quotations) to your walls and allow individuals the opportunity to mull over, question, ponder ... Anyone for a bit of Ulysses?

3) Devil's advocate. When a student has finished a piece of work, ask him/her to change perspective or develop an argument to challenge what they've just written.

4) The contradiction / paradox. Ask your gifted students to consider some paradoxes. These could be simple (A rich man is no richer than a poor man ...), or deeply philosophical, as with the short fiction of Jorge Luis Borges – Labyrinths is a good starting point. More visual students will enjoy puzzling over M.C. Escher's artistic paradoxes.

5) Spiritual sayings. For a bit of Friday afternoon head scratching, why not give out some cards with some spiritual sayings on them? (The more unravellable the better!) Allocate points for the most creative interpretation of, say, 'The blue mountains are of themselves blue mountains'.

Contributor of the month

Where we pay homage to our teacher contributors
Edna Hobbs. Beginning as an English second language teacher in Windhoek, Namibia, Ed's wanderlust took her to Finchley Catholic Boys High in London, a co-ed school in South Africa, and finally, to Lytchett Minster in Dorset. After 20 years of teaching, Edna is still passionate about the subject and you can find her wisdom at work in many of Teachit's books and packs.

Edna loves being part of the Teachit community because contributors are 'so inspiring and creative' ... 'To me contributing is more satisfying than the promotions I never got, because it is about educating, not statistics!'

» Click here for Edna's KS5 Literary Criticism viewpoint cards resource

» Click here to access our Hall of Fame and be inspired by Edna and our other teacher contributors

20 teaching ideas for stretch and challenge

  20 Teaching ideas collection  
Part of a growing collection, this resource will, we hope, refresh your approach to differentiating for your most able students, or at the very least, reassure you that you're on the right track and in good company. As with all of our resources, our '20 teaching ideas for ...' collection has been written by practising English teachers. If you have any ideas for this collection, or other resources in general, then do let us know: or share your resources with us.

» Click here to download the Word document of 20 ideas for stretch and challenge – free to all for one month