Average rating
Main Image.

New Zealand Centre for Gifted Education's Blog

What's the Story? 

Making the world a better place for gifted kids, one yarn at a time.


Same Score, Different Stave

Conducting a symphony with differentiation in the classroom




“My class are an orchestra; each child a different instrument. They are unique in so many ways, with their own tone and timbre.

My job as the conductor is to make sure that while they each play their own music, that they are all playing the same song”.


Conducting a classroom

I sat enthralled listening to Jenny as she shared her thoughts. It made me really excited to hear such a wonderful metaphor for the classroom and to see how she saw her role as the teacher, much like that of a conductor. It was such an eloquent means of acknowledging the uniqueness of students’ strengths and qualities and how these add to the richness of the class as a whole. Further to that, she saw her role being to craft the opportunities for each child to shine within the class through the design of relevant learning for every individual, through honouring each child's identity, just as a composer does in writing the scores for each instrument in an orchestra. Jenny's metaphor was perfect for summarising differentiated practice: varying content, process, product, assessment and environment to meet the diverse needs of learners. Furthermore, it provided the means for appreciating how different instruments can be grouped to achieve a diverse range of unique and wonderful outcomes, whether a full orchestra, a drumming group, quartet, solo or any other combination ... in other words, flexible grouping.

From her description an image popped into my head, that of a poster I recently saw shared among a group of teachers via Facebook. The poster was full of all sorts of instruments ... drums, trombone, violin and so on. It was an extensive number of instruments all crammed onto the large page. But what struck me at this point was the realisation that while there were lots of instruments, the range was still very limited. How so, you might ask? Well, by the fact that it was purely Eurocentric. I hadn't really noticed it when I saw the poster, but now that I thought about it ... where were the taonga puoro (Māori instruments) such as the poi, pūkāea, tumutumu or porotiti, or the instruments of the Pacific such as log drums and the range of beautiful ukulele? Any posters such as this to be put up in a class should surely represent a wide array of instruments.

For me, this again brought to the fore the very important point that in every aspect of our practice within the classroom, we need to to ensure that a) we recognise the full range of instruments (learners) in our midst, and b) that the options we provide are culturally relevant and responsive for our kids so that they can explore all the different ways they might make music. Tāreikura in Rotorua provides a great example of this, demonstrating how we might weave a range of values and approaches into our practice to meet the varying needs of our learners, both within our classrooms and more broadly in terms of the options we provide for our students beyond the regular classroom. What? You haven't heard of the kids from Tāreikura? You so have to see them in action. They are awesome!!


Click the image below to see the tamariki and rangatahi of Tāreikura in action.



These are some of the questions I mused over while watching and reflecting on this video ... What are your thoughts?

  • What aspects of cultural identity were explored through this? For example, traditional and contemporary Māori culture, hip hop culture, gifted identity, youth culture etc.
  • How has Tāreikura approached the content, process and product in ways which honoured the cultures of those involved?
  • What was the impact on the kids and their learning?
  • Who was involved in the various aspects of content, process and product entailed in the development and actualisation of this performance by the kids?
  • What can we add to our classroom practices, or further develop, which we are able to infuse into our classrooms on a daily basis?
  • How does the use of flexible grouping increase opportunities for the learners in this two-day-a-week programme and what can we take away from this to help utilise flexible grouping more effectively?
  • What do we need to do in order to ensure access to specialist programmes which help to meet the diverse needs of learners?


Our kids are like instruments; with the right care, guidance, and opportunities, they create the most incredible music that makes us all want to move to their beat. Pick up your baton, dare to be different and weave the magic of music that is our kids’ expression of learning in action.


Jenny is a specialist teacher with the New Zealand Centre for Gifted Education. She teaches children aged 6-12 in the MindPlus programme which utilises a specially designed curriculum to cater for intellectually and/or creatively gifted learners in a culturally responsive environment. Read more about Jenny and the NZCGE team here.




'What's the Story?' is a new blog section which is being written for the New Zealand Centre for Gifted Education, with posts being added regularly. The purpose of this space is to share musings and anecdotes relating to giftedness and gifted education to provide a form of information and support for those living with and/or teaching gifted learners. Please do share them along.


We would love to hear from you.  Grab a virtual cuppa and share your story in the comments.

What's the Story? Making the world a better place for gifted kids, one yarn at a time.


Like our Facebook page to read and share 'What's the Story?' or to get in touch.


Please note that the views expressed in these blogs are those of the author and not necessarily representative of the views of the New Zealand Centre for Gifted Education.


Same Score, Different Stave

+ Text Size -
Original generation time 0.1972 seconds.