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Streaming based on ability at primary level

(13 Posts)
UnstoppableMoron Sat 02-Jun-18 15:30:49

What do you think about teaching based on ability groups? This report got me thinking...

www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-44289172

I don't like differentiated tasks for many of the reasons given in the report but mostly because of the fact it places a ceiling on what children can achieve or, more importantly, believe they can achieve.

Are we setting our children up to fail by placing them in ability groups, or do you find that it encourages them to work at a suitable level?

OP’s posts: |
catherinedevalois Sat 02-Jun-18 16:42:49

Bad headline there. 'Streaming' is not what this article is about. It's not even 'setting' for a subject. It's 'ability' tables within a class and the success or failure of them is down to how they are managed. Some teachers like mixed, some like lowers/higher/middle separation and some decide on the day how the lesson will best serve the children. Not fixed, and definitely no ceiling to learning in any classroom I've worked in.

catherinedevalois Sat 02-Jun-18 16:43:36

By bad headline I meant the article itself.

UnstoppableMoron Sat 02-Jun-18 17:10:21

I see your point about the headline catherine. Shame I decided to use it too blush. What do you find is the best way to ensure that there is no ceiling to learning in a classroom where children are grouped by ability? I'm relatively new to teaching and don't want children to feel like I'm 'labelling' them by placing them in ability groups.

OP’s posts: |
catherinedevalois Sat 02-Jun-18 21:12:19

We group by ability in Maths, English, phonics and reading because if a concept needs more explanation or more prompting it's less intrusive to the whole class if these children are on one or two tables.
E.g. maths. After whole class input the children go to their tables for independent work. The adults will make a sweep of the highers to make sure they can access the work then sit with the lowers to make sure they have understood the concept and what they are expected to do. This may take all lesson or may only take a few seconds. The work the whole class are expected to do will be graded as easy, expected and extension, and the whole class have access to the three levels of work. We will expect everyone to start with the easy but e.g. if there are 5 questions on each level, the highers need only do one easy then move onto the expected level stuff and when confident move onto the difficult ones. The lowers will be expected to show they can do the easy level and then move on to the middle level when they are ready. We will be hovering to prompt and explain further if necessary but they won't be held back once they 'get it'.
In English again the whole class work to the same learning objective. But with the lowers we will make sure they understand what's expected and possibly do sentence construction and scribe ideas depending on the child (this is KS1), and keep on task. Again, this is easier if the children are together and allows the other children to work independently and undisturbed.
Hope this makes sense, am on my phone and can't check back!

SureIusedtobetaller Sat 02-Jun-18 21:24:39

I have mixed ability tables. I tend to sit people together to help each other or be role models (ie sit someone with good handwriting next to someone who struggles with it). I have a table where I work with some children but this changes. It works well IMO. I usually give a choice of tasks and they are good at challenging themselves.
I used to use ability tables- everyone did. Don’t think I’d go back to it. Surely it’s better to see the work of the able children to give something to aspire to?
Also tried setting for maths in ks1 on advice. Never again! The tops did great but the bottom set had no one to get them started with stuff and just looked confused plus they just didn’t try as hard.

ScaredPAD Sat 02-Jun-18 21:28:29

My eldest is high ability and well behaved and hates always being sat next to the "naughty " kid or expected to explain every single thing every lesson.

Working with her peers and facing something challenging together should be something she at least dies sometimes. Currently that's the case in maths.... It's currently her favourite subject and I'm sure it's because its the only one she enjoys and is challenged in.

SureIusedtobetaller Sat 02-Jun-18 21:56:29

I don’t sit them with the “naughty “ kid. I said I might team them up so they can work on a particular focus. The child with poor handwriting might be hugely imaginative- so they see the good handwriting and the other child can feed off the good ideas.
I move them round frequently so they work with different people. But if you put all the low attainers on one table how do they know what they should be aiming at?
There’s loads of research to support mixing abilities. It’s a bit of a balancing act but if you know your class well it works.
Explaining something is part of mastery in maths too. I’m not advocating using children as TAs but as part of a varied range of strategies it’s useful.

rabbitmat Sun 03-Jun-18 06:34:08

We use mixed ability tables too and I like it. I will sometimes pull out a focus group to work with me or the TA or I will ask anyone who is not feeling confident after the input to work with me on the carpet while the TA circulates. I think it has helped improve the self esteem of children who are struggling for whatever reason. The children choose their own level of challenge - some need more help with that others.

UnstoppableMoron Sun 03-Jun-18 10:09:34

I like the idea of moving groups around frequently and combining mixed ability with a focus group. Thanks for all the comments. Really interesting to hear how other people manage this.

OP’s posts: |
OpiningGambit Sun 03-Jun-18 14:50:45

I never sit by ability. I couldn't the first couple of years because my classes meant I had to sit by behaviour anyway! If I'd sat by ability it would have been chaos. We had rows for 6 months! I colour-code my books to help me manage my marking, but the kids see the list at the beginning of the year when we sort the books, so they know it's just alphabetical.

I explain things to everyone, get them to tell me (on thumbs or whatever) how confident they feel, then pull any that need it to the carpet for extra modelling or practice before they try it independently. Sometimes I'll pull kids even if they said they were confident because I know they'll need help, and sometimes I'll send the ones who want help all the time to their table so they can challenge themselves without hand-holding.

Everyone does the same work. Very needy children will still have the same thing, for the most part, but might break it into stages and only do one. Eg. column addition broken into parts.

We do go into sets for maths (mixing our three classes), but I still have to do this in my group as there's a lot of difference even when you set. There's a lot of variation in my group depending on the topic, so I have some who are amazing at arithmetic but can't do reasoning etc. I then have a focus-table for them where I or a TA sit and support, but this changes all the time depending on the topic. There is challenge built into all the work, and sometimes this is helping or explaining to others - it's actually a useful skill and shows depth of understanding!

When I got my first class they had been on ability tables the previous year, and they were really nasty about it - some of them caused a proper fuss about not wanting to sit with particular children because they didn't want to be on 'that' table. I squashed that very fast, but it had had a horrible effect on the class. They didn't want to be friends with people from 'the red table', because that was the 'stupid' table.

OpiningGambit Sun 03-Jun-18 14:53:27

Oh, I forgot to say also there's support like writing frames or vocab sheets or sentence-starter ideas for those who need them. They don't need to be on a whole table themselves, and often other children used the spelling sheets etc too.

AnduinsGirl Sun 03-Jun-18 14:59:43

We are 95% EAL. Our International New Arrivals are taught three mornings a week by a specialist teacher - with a nurture focus as much as anything else, as many of them have never been in any form of education in their home countries.
All the other children are taught together but our teachers have to put a lot of effort in to differentiate appropriately. Children select their own level of challenge, obviously under the eye of the teacher. No child is limited and there's always some form of open ended investigatory type of challenge. We've found this approach has had an excellent impact on standards; much better than when we streamed by what we perceived as ability.

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