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How do you seat your mixed ability classes?

Discussion in 'Modern foreign languages' started by musiclover1, Jul 19, 2012.

  1. musiclover1

    musiclover1 New commenter

    I've just spent all year seating my mixed ability classes in 'high-low' ability pairs, so that the able ones can help the weaker ones. I can't say it's really worked: it separates the problematic pupils, but they generally don't want to be helped and the good pupils have less fun trying to encourage the less keen ones to get on with the work.
    Now I've heard that some teachers seat their classes in ability groups (like at my son's primary school) - can I hear a bit more about how that works, please?
    And can I have some more tips on mixed ability teaching, please?
    Thanks
     
  2. musiclover1

    musiclover1 New commenter

    I've just spent all year seating my mixed ability classes in 'high-low' ability pairs, so that the able ones can help the weaker ones. I can't say it's really worked: it separates the problematic pupils, but they generally don't want to be helped and the good pupils have less fun trying to encourage the less keen ones to get on with the work.
    Now I've heard that some teachers seat their classes in ability groups (like at my son's primary school) - can I hear a bit more about how that works, please?
    And can I have some more tips on mixed ability teaching, please?
    Thanks
     
  3. noemie

    noemie Occasional commenter

    I seat mine in ability groups. It's not massively scientific, just based on their end of term results from the previous year, but it's fairly successful. I have rows of 4 or 6 so it's quite easy to do, and I can even decide on boy/boy or boy/girl combinations if I want to. It works well as I can hand out worksheets that I've differentiated without pupils even realising - pass this down your row, etc. The low abilities are at the front so I can help out more easily and they are closer to the board so less likely to have their minds wander off as well (also closer to dictionaries).
    I like that system. I can quite easily mix up the groups by asking one row to turn around and work with the person behind them, but generally I like them to work in ability groups.
     
  4. I do boy/girl wherever possible and only seat boys or girls together who I think I can trust to work well together. Mine are in tables of two and so far it's worked well. However I do change my seating plans quite a bit - usually once a term, but I have had a couple of top sets where the seating plan has worked from the off and been fine.
     
  5. musiclover1

    musiclover1 New commenter

    Noemie, don't the kids notice that they're sat by ability? What else do you do apart from handing out differentiated worksheets? How 'mixed ability' are they?
    My husband, by the way, went to a French (private) primary school for a couple of years, and he told me that all the kids were sat in the order of their last test result, with the top achievers at the back, and the bottom achievers at the front, so he arrived and was sat at the front, and then gradually moved further and further towards the back. I couldn't believe it when I heard that! In my German school we were always allowed to sit wherever we wanted, and test results were meant to be nobody else's business - you'd certainly not sit someone by their last test result or discuss their grades publicly (not that I'm suggesting you do - just musing....)
     
  6. veverett

    veverett Occasional commenter

    Has anyone ever asked the parents of the clever hardworking girls what they think of the "idea" of putting the naughty boys next to them. Outrageous idea.
     
  7. noemie

    noemie Occasional commenter

    Of course they know they are sat by ability (they're not daft!), and as for test results they're the first ones to discuss them with each other ("hey, what did you get?" etc). I'm sure they'd work out just as easily if I sat them low/high ability - I remember at school my new teacher sat me next to the weakest girl in the class, and I worked it out immediately.
    We are a grammar school but actually our range of ability varies quite a lot, and we teach in mixed ability until the end of Y9 so by that point the range varies extraordinarily. As I said, differentiating the tasks (or at least the pace of activities) by row helps relieve that tension and lets the top achievers be challenged without leaving the weak ones behind. But that doesn't have to be the case all the time and sometimes I like to let them choose their partner for an activity, or mix up the pairs completely.
    I think this seating arrangement also reduces the risk of pupils cheating during tests - I can't see how it's possible to avoid cheating if one really weak pupil sits next to a really bright one.
     
  8. sam enerve

    sam enerve New commenter

    My school rule is that boys sit next to girls alphabetically as far as possible. I don't tend to follow this except perhaps in yr7 and then only as a way of learning names. I have students sitting in groups of 4 to 6, usually in mixed ability groups. The nice classes help each other out. Most students know their target and are given success criteria based on their targets. Most of my students achieve their targets (or better) by the end of the year.
     
  9. runaway

    runaway New commenter

    I'm pretty sure the whole point of mixed ability is that the different abilities are....mixed. You might want to read John Hatties work that is based on extensive educational research and is surprisingly readible. Not exactly 60 shades of grey stuff for reading on holiday but if you get the chance you won't regret it.
     
  10. musiclover1

    musiclover1 New commenter

    Thank you for that suggestion, runaway. I've now finished my year as maternity cover teacher and haven't got a job to go to in September anyway, but I still can't get away from the idea that I could have done better with my two difficult year 8, and they were so mixed ability. If I had my time again I'd try seating them by ability, although they were the kind of classes where whatever you did things managed to go wrong somehow.
    I never sat them strictly by 'mixed' ability - I just tried to find a seating plan that 'worked', starting with alphabetical order, and then making adjustments. It's not just mixed academic ability anyway, it's mixed ability (or willingness) to be quiet and listen and concentrate, and having a lively one next to a quiet one did work on the whole, helping the lively one to focus, and the 'good' boys didn't always mind. Yes, by the end of the year, I'd cottoned on to the fact that the really weak ones needed to be in the front so that I could keep an eye on them more - it's just such a shame that it took me half the year to work that one out. Not that I got any help from the school, or any help from the previous teacher, who left without any indication of the difficulties that I might face or the help some of these pupils might need.
     
  11. kittylion

    kittylion Established commenter

    Mine are usually seated for behaviour reasons - not so much good ones next to bad ones, but say, show-offs at the back where they are less noticeable and perhaps needier ones at the front.
    Alternatively I just do it alphabetically but I mix and match whether it is up and down the rows or across. If numbers allow then I do alternate boys and girls. Really it is so that I can learn their names - I seem to get worse at doing this every year.
     
  12. With poorly behaved classes (and I've worked in some challenging schools!) I use a buddy system and the kids respond well. Basically they choose whoever they want to sit beside but they must support each other. Forgot your pen? Ask your buddy for a spare. Absent? Copy up from your buddy. Your friend gets into trouble and stays behind into break to catch up on work? Guess what? You do too.....Your buddy is wonderful and gets a reward? So do you! It's always worked so far :D
     
  13. Keeping a good child back because they're paired with a specific poorly behaved student is a ridiculous suggestion. Whole class sanctions cause enough problems!

    I'd like to know what to do with a mixed ability class with some fairly bright yet poorly behaved pupils mixed in with some weak, disengaged pupils.
     

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