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Mixed ability groups

(8 Posts)
locomotor Thu 08-Jan-15 10:02:05

This year my son's class (Y4) has gone from being in sets, to doing everything in mixed ability groups where they are meant to choose the level they're capable of for each task. From being top set in maths & literacy, he's now choosing the easiest level, and I'm concerned it's holding him back. He was being encouraged & stretched before, now he isn't. I understand that he needs to develop his own motivation in order for this new system to work - any tips for how I can help? (Class being taught by supply at the moment so I can't get help from the teacher)

redskybynight Thu 08-Jan-15 12:10:47

DC's school also does this and my DD is also in Y4. TBH, I think the issue may be the supply teacher who obviously doesn't really know your child. Although in theory, the DC pick their own level it tends to be caveated with teacher "guidance" so there's no way the very able children would get away with only just doing the lowest level - or if they did because they didn't feel confident they'd then be asked to do a higher level as well.

PastSellByDate Thu 08-Jan-15 12:17:02

Locomotor -

first off you shouldn't blame the teacher or supply teacher for the structure of the class - this will have been a decision made by Senior Management.

second - you can ask the supply teacher how they distinguish easier tasks from more challenging tasks - for instance DD2's (Y5) school labels work as hard/ tricky/ will melt your brain! - all three types of work on placed on all tables and children are encouraged to have a go. A huge fuss is made of you if you tackle a 'will melt your brain' problem and get it right.

If you can understand that the more challenging problems are on green paper (for example) or have a special name - you can suggest to your DC or just regularly ask if he tried any of the really tricky problems.

At first I was a little concerned by mixed-ability classes but in all sincerity if done well - mixed ability teaching (so everyone taught the overall concept) and then mixed ability work - so pupils encouraged to try the next sheet with harder problems or indeed seated in such a way that the teacher has organised them into ability groups - it can rub along nicely.

The good side of this is that no child is made to feel they're 'bottom table' and 'no good at maths' and there's an open invitation to try more challenging work (i.e. no child is excluded from the full range of work that is available on that topic). DD1 languished in bottom tables in maths for close to 4 school years - she was constantly saying her table wasn't allowed to work with actual numbers in Year R and Year 1 and in Year 2/3 her table wasn't allowed to try multiplication or simple whole number division. So trust me - sets aren't the be all and end all of teaching methods either.

It also avoids that age old problem of 'pigeon holing' pupils and thinking you're bottom table and don't know your times tables so therefore won't get perimeter/ area problems - which is an assumption and isn't always true.

Now - if you feel the pace is too slow for your DC - which is an entirely separate issue - there are solutions.

Does your school belong to an on-line maths programme - like My Maths or mathletics? If so - then your DC can simply do more at home - extending his knowledge by learning new things or reinforcing ability/ improving speed of recall by practising things through playing maths games.

alternatively - you can investigate the huge range of on-line maths tutorials (mathletics/ maths whizz/ komodo maths/ mathsfactor/ Khan Academy). There's a lot out there - so if you aren't happy with what is happening at school this year (and a teacher off ill long-term and supply teachers not particularly moving things forward - which is a failure of school senior management not them by the way) - you can simply do more at home.

HTH

locomotor Thu 08-Jan-15 14:49:17

Thank you. Yes, senior management is iffy. He is v reluctant to do it at home, so not quite that simple, but possible with bribery, though it's hard to figure out the right level (school doesn't do mathletics etc) They are clearly told (colours) which are the hard problems - he avoids them because if they get the work done quicker they can get up and read. So maybe it is really a teacher problem and I'll just have to get on the case at home. I do see how this system can work with appropriate teacherly prodding!

TeenAndTween Thu 08-Jan-15 15:38:38

if they get the work done quicker they can get up and read

There you go then.

It should say if they get the work done quicker they have to take the next hardest sheet

imo They should all have a base starting difficulty too and earn extra raffle tickets (or whatever reward system is used) for doing that level or higher.

locomotor Thu 08-Jan-15 16:33:34

Yes, that would be good. But it's not up to me, is it? I can make plenty of suggestions about what the school does, but am trying not to!

nicknamerunout Thu 08-Jan-15 18:01:23

I think Teen s right if a child s got through the tasks too quickly then s\he should be given the next level up extention paper todo regardless whether in a mixed ability end class or ability set. So s/he will be stretched. In the old school my dd2 was in bottom set the works were constantly too easy and she couldnt be bothered to listen to her teacher to the point she developed serious attention and concentration problem.

MidniteScribbler Thu 08-Jan-15 22:12:35

My classroom runs similar to the one PastSellByDate. Students aren't allowed to do other activities if they finish, they have to try the next sheet up. It's about creating an environment where students actually strive to get to the next level. I'd have a chat with the teacher, and ask them how they are encouraging your child to extend themselves, not just doing the easiest work.

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