Differentiation: The Goliath Man

Here is an intermediate lesson I initially wrote for a summer school context and later adapted for year-round teaching.

The lesson focuses on Karl Bushby, a man who is ‘currently attempting to be the first person to completely walk an unbroken path around the world. Bushby’s trek is known as the Goliath Expedition’ (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karl_Bushby accessed 12/02/2019).

The main worksheet was specifically designed for a summer school context. Learners initially read a newspaper/magazine article about a man walking around the world, before being guided towards noticing certain text conventions which are typical of this written genre. The lesson was later added to in order to allow learners the chance to write their own human interest story.

To cater to varying language abilities, the main writing activity has been scaffolded to create a ‘many level’ approach (Prodromou, page 5, 1992, citing Rinvolucri, 1986). This fundamentally allows learners the independence to choose from tasks of varying levels of difficulty. As you will see, the ‘easier’ option states character information and gives help with the planning stage. The ‘medium’ also gives character information but significantly less help with the planning stage. The ‘more difficult’ option’ gives no character information or help with the writing plan.

The relative success of this approach to material writing was an exercise for me in adapting and differentiating tasks. The general malleability of the material funnelled through a graded approach has meant I’ve been able to use and reuse this lesson with other learner groups.


The main worksheet was written as a 45 minute lesson and has its own accompanying lesson notes. The additional writing lesson follows with learners looking at the model text again and then discussing the text conventions that can be identified. After this, learners are given an ‘easy’, ‘medium’ or ‘difficult’ challenge. It is explained that they have to write a human interest story, similar to the one they have just read and that there are degrees of help that can be given depending on which option they choose. For each option, there is a necessity to focus on the process of writing- drafting and organising ideas to help give their writing ‘a sense of direction (Hedge, page 9, 1988). Learners should be allowed time to discuss their ideas with a partner before going into the task. They are informed that although they are required to write a different text each, they are encouraged to work together and help each other through the process, ‘tak[ing] charge of their own learning (Smith, pages 395-397, 2008. Citing: Holec, 1979). Aside from teacher monitoring and judiciously giving support where it is needed, in encouraging students to discuss the task as they go on, it encourages collaborative learning.

At the end of the handout, where the learners write their text, there are some success criteria which students are asked to look at with their partner when reviewing their own text. These yes/no questions refer to the written conventions which were focused on earlier in the lesson. In getting a partner to read and review their text using success criteria, it not only reviews some of the key learning points from the lesson but more importantly allows learners ‘to give each other advice about their work… what has been done well… [and] what still needs to be done’ (Bullock, 2016). Although the teacher will and is expected to read and mark each piece of writing, by creating an audience other than the teacher, it gives purpose for writing, and is arguably ‘more motivating… if their writing can become genuine pieces of communication’ (Hedge, page 61, 1988).

The lesson and the accompanying presentation slides can be downloaded here:

Goliath Man & Goliath Man – lesson slides

This lesson is fun and I defy anyone who is not interest in the story of a man walking around the world! Now I’ve caught your interest, you might want to check him out yourself: @bushby3000. You never know, he might be walking through your town next week. Better make him some sandwiches- all that walking is bound to have made him a bit peckish.


  1. 2019, Karl Bushby. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karl_Bushby Wikimedia Foundation Inc. Retrieved: 12/02/2019.
  2. Podromou, L. 1992. Mixed ability classes. Citing: Rinvolucri, M. (1986). Strategies for a Mixed Ability Group. Practical English Teaching. Vol 7/1. London, Macmillan.
  3. Hedge, T. 1988. Writing. Oxford, Oxford University Press.
  4. Smith, R. 2008. Learner autonomy. ELT Journal, Volume 62, Issue 4, 1. https://academic.oup.com/eltj/article/62/4/395/408953 Retrieved: 12/02/2019.
  5. D. 2016. Assessment for Learning. https://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/article/assessment-learning Retrieved: 12/02/2019.

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