Views on ability groups

(187 Posts)
averywoomummy Thu 21-Nov-13 12:37:11

Having just read the thread about summer borns and having done a bit of reasearch on the internet about ability groups I was just wondering what people's views were on them.

Personally I am quite worried about how they are used at DCs school and wonder if I am right to be so. The thing is I could understand if they sat at mixed tables and then went into separate groups for maths etc but in DCs class they sit in their ability group for the majority of the time - even doing crafts within their group. This seems to very much fix them in their ability band and they don't get the chance to work with children of different abilities and share knowledge.

This also means the groups are very obvious and as they use the same names year in year out parents instantly know what group their child and others are in.

It also concerns me that it is a small classroom with a fixed number on each table and so for a child to move up - another has to move down (and vice versa) this doesn't seem right as surely children's development is very fluid and just because one is ready to move up doesn't mean that at the same time another child is ready to move down. It also seems quite divisive as children could perceive their place has been "taken".

As DC is in a lower group I also worry about her learning being capped and I think that even if she is capable of a bit more she may not be encouraged to do it. I worry that the lower group will start to see themselves as not so capable and that it will become a self fulfilling prophesy.

I can understand differentiation of work but does it have to be so obvious?!

Really interested to hear others opinions of how this has worked for their DCs - also how does a class with no grouping work?

columngollum Wed 27-Nov-13 11:45:54

What does a scolding for teaching children to divide sound like? (I've got a funny feeling that I'd be reminding said staff about business, minding and their own.)

LaQueenOfTheTimeLords Wed 27-Nov-13 13:42:16

"the effort of clearly explaining it to others focuses effort on logical thoughts and how to effectively communicating and one of the best ways to show that you truely understand something."

But, surely if she can do the maths very easily, and demonstrates that over and over, she is showing that she truly understands it?

Just because, when she's verbally explaining the method to another child it may come out disjointed and skipping bits, it doesn't mean to say that it doesn't make perfect, beautifully streamlined sense inside her head?

I suspect it must do, else she wouldn't excel at it? However, she thinks about maths, or fathoms it, or works it out, clearly works brilliantly for her.

And, even if there are deeper, more hidden levels to the theoretical concept they're studying...I doubt it's necessary for her to understand them as yet (she's only 9)...and I would think it even less necessary for her to understand them and attempt explaining them to her companion, when they're struggling with just the initial basic concept.

LaQueenOfTheTimeLords Wed 27-Nov-13 13:46:54

Just wanted to add I am all for flexibility between ability groups, and movement when it's deserved.

There are quite a few reasons why not much movement might happen, I know.

But, I do think that one of the major reasons is that teachers are actually rather good at knowing their children, and recognising what their abilities are, and that these abilities very often only progress at the predicted rate.

mrz Wed 27-Nov-13 19:04:15

no she is demonstrating she has mastered the mechanics which is great but not the whole picture

teacherwith2kids Wed 27-Nov-13 19:34:15

LaQ,

It's probably easily illustrated by a child in my class - she can perform the 'mechanical' process of short division flawlessly, again and again.

She has absolutely no understanding of how and why it works , so or her it is a 'black box'. That means that when she moves on to long division, she will have to learn a 'new process'. She can give 'step by step instructions', but cannot explain anything any deeper about the true maths that is going on.

On the other hand, I have a pupil who makes occasional mistakes BUT has a really secure understanding of what is really happening, of the place value of each digit, of how the process is a much longer one condensed. as a result, she has a knack for explaining exactly what to do in a way that conveys understanding, not a mechanical process, to others.

lougle Wed 27-Nov-13 19:57:26

It's a bit like me with direction: I am useless at direction. Genuinely. I think that if the medical world knew exactly what part of the brain was responsible for each function in our lives, then MRI'd me, that 'bit' would be missing.

I can do left and right. I can do North, South, East and West as long as the map is lined up neatly with North at the top. Beyond that, no.

I have to learn routes by rote. Even if several routes share the same stretch of road, I have to learn the routes individually.

I used to travel from beyond Fareham to Chichester. I learned the route. Then I needed to go to Brighton. I had to actually say to myself "Go to Chichester but don't turn off - carry on going."

That's because no matter how much I learn routes, I don't have that basic knowledge of direction. I have to pause every time I approach a motorway to assess whether I need 'East or West'. To work out where abouts I am in relation to where I want to go.

It's the same with mathematics. You can know the methods. You can know that they work every time. But to really understand you have to know why it works, and what other ways you can work out the same problem, and why they give the same answer, etc.

Huitre Wed 27-Nov-13 20:47:28

I am totally with you on the direction thing. I am awful. I am so bad that if I am walking down an unfamiliar street and stop to go into a shop, I can come out again ten minutes later and be completely unable to work out which way I was walking down the street and how to carry on.

Huitre Wed 27-Nov-13 20:47:48

Strangely, I score well on the spatial component of IQ tests.

LaQueenOfTheTimeLords Wed 27-Nov-13 21:58:20

teacher I think with DD2 she does actually understand perfectly, on all the necessary levels, the why and not just the how ...and it's not the 'black box' example you use.

But, that doesn't necessarily follow that she can explain it very well, and thoroughly in a way another child will easily understand.

To be honest, I have known professional teachers who actually aren't that great at explaining things.

simpson Wed 27-Nov-13 23:53:01

DS's problem is that he finds it hard to write down how he understands a (numeracy) concept...he just does.

I know he does understand it as he can explain it well to me (tip his yr3 teacher told me to get him to do) he just finds it a waste of time to show his workings out on an assessment when he already knows the answer.

lougle Thu 28-Nov-13 07:01:34

I used to be like that, Simpson, but it really is essential to get in to the habit, because when you are doing A-level maths, for example, the workings are the most important part of the exams. You can get every single answer wrong and still get quite a good grade if your method was sound and workings shown.

anitasmall Thu 28-Nov-13 09:45:33

In addition at exams some tasks can be only proving theories, like drawing squares around a triangle and explain the theory behind Pythagoras' theorem. Another example is to choose from possible answers the valid one (like x=8 and x=-8 but the labor can't be negative, so the only valid answer is x=8).

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