La Rivista per l'insegnamento e l'apprendimento delle lingue

Stay cool - Move on - Go for it

A stategy for differentiation

Corina Volontè

L’autrice, docente di scuola media in Ticino, muove dalla constatazione di una forte eterogeneità che caratterizza ormai anche le classi d’inglese, benché si tratti per intanto ancora di una materia opzionale offerta al quarto anno a conclusione della scuola dell’obbligo. Una volta accettata questa eterogeneità come un dato di fatto, anche perché attinente al diritto degli allievi di essere diversi l’uno dall’altro, il docente deve chiedersi quali risposte dare in termini di differenziazione. La proposta dell’autrice verte anzitutto sull’opportunità di discutere con gli allievi stessi il problema per renderli consapevoli e coinvolgerli attivamente nella ricerca delle soluzioni. Queste devono poi costituire una sfida sia linguisticamente che intellettualmente. Concretamente si punterà ad obiettivi generali simili per tutti e ad un punto di partenza delle attività didattiche pure comune. Per contro differiscono gli obiettivi di apprendimento specifici, che vengono differenziati a tre livelli: Stay cool (facile), Move on (medio) e Go for it (difficile). Ogni allievo potrà scegliere di volta in volta il livello che ritiene più opportuno. L’autrice illustra la proposta attraverso un esempio concreto: la stesura di una lettera ad un amico e sottolinea in conclusione l’entusiasmo e la disponibilità manifestati dagli allievi. (Red.)

Heterogeneity in English classes

English, unlike German and French, is an optional subject in the school system of Ticino, the Italian speaking canton of Switzerland. Fourteen year olds, in their last year of secondary school, may choose to learn English as a third foreign language: it takes on an important role in their education, enriching both linguistic and cultural sensitivity.
Today many English classes are multi-level. Because of English being the language of music, computer games, travelling and sports, some pupils of the group will be false beginners; whereas others will be true beginners. Classes are habitually also mixed ability: as a matter of fact, within a group there will be members who acquire the foreign language quite quickly and others who need much more time to achieve the same level.
A heterogeneous group of teenagers fills English classes: no pupil is equal to another one. It is therefore never to be forgotten that differences exist and must be accepted. Social and school reality is unquestionably heterogeneous and for this reason it is indispensable to have a school that differentiates in order to offer each pupil the opportunity to be successful and to stimulate various potentialities, holding in respect different types of intelligence and promoting equal dignity.
Hence, it is the teacher’s duty to embark on the enterprise of concretising in their classes the human project that a differentiated pedagogy proposes; that is, the right to be similar and the right to be different. Without difference similarity would appear a formless whole; on the other hand, without similarity difference could not be experienced as a resource.

Why differentiate

Heterogeneity is a social phenomenon that is inevitably invading our schools. It has been manifesting itself increasingly during the last few years. It is, therefore, impossible to dodge the differences that our society implies, searching for homogeneity at all costs as the only possible teaching approach. For this reason, our duty consists in giving all pupils an adequate education that reflects our time, exploiting differences in positive terms.
Teachers cannot pass over this melting pot but must realise that the surrounding reality needs to integrate differences and have the duty to make communication and living together within a heterogeneous class possible.
Teenagers expect the material they use in class to reflect their world. Most of them have untold energy and enthusiasm for topics in which they are interested. They are well able to absorb fact and detail. Consequently, if they feel that a task is beneath or above their intellectual level, they show a marked lack of interest and quickly switch off. In heterogeneous classes, materials should make it possible for every member to achieve success at his or her own level of ability. [...]

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