"Why are our questions easier?"

(15 Posts)
SawdustInMyHair Mon 30-May-16 16:44:05

In the school I'm at at the moment, they are very big on differentiation in questions in maths ie the kids have different levels of worksheets depending which table they're on (I know this is easier, but I'm a bit hmm as the lows are basically kept low. ANYWAY.) Last week in my lesson one of the kids went to another table to get something, and shouted "Hey, they've got different questions to us! Why are ours easier?" which started a bit of a rumble. I'm suspicious that this can't be the first time they've noticed!

I wasn't sure how to respond so I just said there was no need to shout. I'm still not sure how I should have responded, or how I'd respond in the future. I can't very well say "Well, you're a bit crap at maths, so you have easier questions"! How would you explain differentiation to a child, especially when it's so un-subtle as in this school?

Minispringroll Mon 30-May-16 17:23:58

I have to admit, I don't give certain children/tables specific questions - never have done. (The only exception is my child with GDD, who doesn't actually care or notice...)
For Maths, mine choose their own level of difficulty. So, there are different questions, but they are all fully aware of that. They pick the one they feel most comfortable with. If it's too hard, they move down, if it's too easy, they move up.
My current school is really keen on differentiation and it's very difficult for me to suddenly make differentiation "obvious". In English, they will get the same task, but have different resources for support. Having come from Year 6, I differentiate, but not in a way that shows as soon as you open the book (after all, my previous pupils always had to reach a certain standard by the end of the year...kicking and screaming, if needed)...but my current LKS2 class are really rubbish at sticking in the different support sheets they have used, so I find them somewhere on a table at the end of the day.

I've only just taken on my class and they are really behind. I have a habit of pitching at "age-related" and then to support those, who can't do it. It means that I have to try and pull up a lot of them and they've got a worryingly long way to go in one term. shock

CandOdad Mon 30-May-16 17:34:35

I have a child at the moment that throws a hissy since he's sick of being the one in the class that an adult helps. Problem is that without it he does the wrong work. I have tried pointing out its only going to get worse next year in year seven but he has just shut down. Doesn't help when he says I don't underhand because I'm "only the student teacher"

Minispringroll Mon 30-May-16 17:54:33

If he's had seven years of being "the one", I don't think it's much of a surprise. Provide him with work he can do independently and then slowly increase the difficulty?
I used to have a child in Y5, who had transferred to us from another school. Previous school had removed him from every single lesson (except for PE and French) and taught him 1-2-1...since Reception. shock He had no social skills within a classroom environment and ended up refusing to work with the TA/LSA. I spoke to our SEN department and we decided to leave him to it. I supported when I was able to (he was happy enough to work with me), but generally, we just expected him to get on with it. If he didn't want to use the adult support provided (TA/LSA), then that was his choice. Funnily enough, he moved from a 1c across the board to a 2a within a year. Still not quite sure what the heck his previous school had been thinking. He was high needs, but he was easily enough taught within a small group.

Mine are Y4 and I'm trying very hard to "wean" my weaker ones off adult support and get them to be more independent. It's incredibly hard work, because they've constantly had a grown-up glued to them and are seemingly incapable of concentrating by themselves for more than 5 seconds. hmm They simply aren't used to being left to get on with a task without having an adult to chivvy them along. Adult support is great, but it shouldn't lead to the children being dependent upon it. The prime aim at the end of primary school should be to send children up to secondary school, who are capable of learning independently and to persevere when they encounter a problem.

JellyBeanJumper Mon 30-May-16 18:12:22

Our new school strategy is to put the three levels onto one sheet and code it eg traffic lights or number of chillis. The kids then choose which level they feel confident with and are trained to move up/down a level for more challenge or if it's too tricky for now.
Working well and has got rid of the horrible atmosphere when kids realise they have the easy sheet.
I do quietly point some children in the right direction at times.
Means less faff with sheets too!

MsColouring Mon 30-May-16 18:43:05

I like that strategy jellybean.

Differentiation is hardly a new thing -i'm surprised that anyone would object to it.

SawdustInMyHair Mon 30-May-16 19:09:29

I like the idea of getting them to choose, I think I could do that pretty easily, too. Most of them would be perfectly capable of choosing the level they want.

In an ideal world I'd not have 'ability tables' at all, but we literally have to report which children are on which table. Only till the end of the year, though, then I'm off!

noblegiraffe Mon 30-May-16 19:37:29

What you have to be aware of with allowing children to choose the level of questions is that some pupils (especially girls) lack confidence and don't think that going straight to the hard questions is for them (even if they would have been given the hard sheet straight away if you were doing it that way). Then once they start the easier questions, they want to complete the lot before moving on, meaning they miss out on the challenge.

Some lazy pupils will also select the easier questions because they can't be arsed with the harder ones.

A bit of prompting to make sure that the right students are on the right questions and it can work very well.

TheTroubleWithAngels Mon 30-May-16 19:42:07

I have tried out the choosing approach this year and it's been really difficult. Difficult bunch across the board though.

- the lazy ones choose the 'easy' one (because you can't disguise it with mild, bronze or whatever you want to call it)
- the anxious ones go down
- the overconfident ones choose work that's too hard

I've found myself prompting and pulling in all directions, which of course leads to 'Why aren't you telling Sam to change his?'

Balletgirlmum Mon 30-May-16 19:43:23

I agree with noble.

Ds is bright but a bit lazy & with low confidence. He never ever does extension tasks in maths despite being around a Level 6B (year 7)

Dd would go straight to the hardest questions & perhaps miss out some of the basics.

MooPointCowsOpinion Mon 30-May-16 19:47:08

I have a rule that you choose the level of work in my class, but be prepared to mark it and be answerable to me if you got it all wrong or all right. Both indicate you picked the wrong level. All students have to write what they learnt at the end of every lesson and we also talk about it, with a simple 1-5 rating of their progress.

In September, I have to watch what they pick very carefully, but by May I'm laughing.

TheTroubleWithAngels Tue 31-May-16 17:49:51

There's a lot of talk about grouping being discouraging, but I really feel that a system like MooPoint's can be equally hard going... are you primary or secondary?

At the end of the day, it probably results in (most of) the kids all being on the sheet you would have given them anyway!

momtothree Tue 31-May-16 18:44:18

We have very mixed sessions - for example

Group A on times tables
B on measurements
C teacher lead

Etc

So day 2 the change round but the work is different

So B on times tables lower level
C on measurements - higher level

So they don't notice

lellio Thu 02-Jun-16 13:45:37

When I do mixed tasks they have to either do the one for their target or try a higher one. No picking easy ones.

To answer their question - I'd say because that's what you need to practice/show me you can do but I do think they were testing you.

SawdustInMyHair Sun 05-Jun-16 14:19:53

Thanks for all the responses!

I hate having ability groups, and the evidence backs it up - ALL children (including the 'highers') do worse, and have lower self esteem when they're in ability groups. And we all know they're not fooled by being on the 'circles' or 'pentagons' table.

I think I'm going to keep plugging at my choosing-your-level questions. I just had some really good training on it, and obviously it requires more input than just handing over the worksheet. I know my kids, though. I know who I'd have to tell to do the next level up etc.

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