Now where was I?

It’s funny how life has a habit of getting in the way of doing things. The past few months seem like a blur. Things were going to plan and then someone asked me to help out with the middle school play and then… well, I’ll talk about our film adaptation of Treasure Island in another post, suffice to say it highlights what can be done with a little bit of innovation and elbow grease.

Today, I’m discussing differentiation. A lot of teachers talk about it. I couldn’t say how many actually do it. It’s important, but it isn’t simple, it takes many forms and it happens from moment to moment. It can be as overt as a separate course, or as subtle as word choice.

So what is it?

Simply put, differentiation means tailoring instruction and delivery of information to meet individual needs. It encompasses content, processes, the learning environment, assessment and student groupings. The trick with it is to ensure that the work remains relevant and it progresses the learning. It can be time-consuming, not to mention the obvious fact that no one student is exactly like another – at what point does one stop?

Fortunately, holidays not only allow teachers to take a breath, but to attend to projects that they have been considering for some time. Here is one such project.

At my school, I wrote a book called Sycorax to introduce students to the world of William Shakespeare by providing a text that challenged them, following the story of a bardolator who accidentally kills his headmaster. The book is a bit of a puzzle, requiring students to infer, to join the dots, to make meaning. Most of the students like it, so much so that they requested a sequel (which I dutifully wrote). However, despite the creation of a guidebook to complement the novel, Sycorax is beyond the reach of some of our struggling students. This week, I took steps to remedy that.

Sycorax is 301 pages long, with 79, 301 words, 2,174 paragraphs and 360,447 characters. By contrast, Sycorax Speedrun is 226 pages long, with 59, 320 words, 1,685 paragraphs and 268,102 characters.

Although, the word ‘speedrun’ is probably the worst word to attach to a novel as it implies a chaotic race through a text, abandoning comprehension just so the final page can be reached in the fastest time possible, the title is deliberate. For those students familiar with gaming, speedruns are synonymous with being in control and having mastery over the content. That’s what I wanted with this. It has been written to ensure that all readers have agency when discussing the text in class. I would like every student to keep pace with classroom discourse pertaining to the novel’s plot and themes.

It is my hope that once a reader devours this version, the full text becomes a viable option. I have stripped out some of the original’s complexity and softened the language a little. A number of Shakespearean allusions have been exorcised, and one or two minor plot points dropped.

In making these editorial decisions, I have endeavoured to create a text that has numerous points of entry. Whilst the spotlight has shifted a little, the works of William Shakespeare still occupy a role on this stage.

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