1. This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Learn More.
  2. Hi Guest, welcome to the TES Community!

    Connect with like-minded professionals and have your say on the issues that matter to you.

    Don't forget to look at the how to guide.

    Dismiss Notice

Mixed Ability at KS4

Discussion in 'English' started by mediadave, Dec 14, 2011.

  1. mediadave

    mediadave New commenter

    We've started teaching mixed ability at KS3 this year for the first time. Initially I was really against the idea - I was worried I would struggle to cover the whole spectrum of ability but so far it seems to be going well and I can definitely see the benefits, certainly with weaker students.
    In a recent TES Pro magazine there was an article about mixed ability teaching and how lots of research shows the benefits of mixed ability teaching. Moreoever there is little to support setting by ability, even though the government and probably most heads would say that it's an important part of teaching.
    This got me thinking about mixed ability at KS4. At the moment we have 8 sets; I've had the 7th of these over the last 18 months and I have to say, if they were in a class with more able kids, it would be a much more pleasant environment, the behavioural problems I've had would be greatly reduced and perhaps the weaker students would learn a lot from the more able.
    However, I would be worried: weaker kids would find longer novels like To Kill a Mockingibrd potentially harder to access (a novel I've done with a top set this year whilst other sets did Of Mice and Men) and the choice of poetry for Controlled Assessment might be different to the poetry one might do with a top set.
    I'd be interested to know if anyone teaches KS4 mixed and how they find it. I imagine the planning is more difficult since everything has to be differentiated and I'd like to know how people manage that.
     
  2. What age is KS4? I've taught mixed ability to age 16 and, while you do have to consider texts carefully, I have found it far more rewarding than set classes. What i've found is that weaker kids do miss some of the details of a text but because they hear the others discussing things, they pick up much better on the ideas and themes and "buy into" analysis of texts more than bottom set kids usually do when it's just the teacher suggesting that maybe there's a deeper meaning here! It's a balance between pace, challenge and support - but isn't all teaching?
     
  3. We sort of combine mixed ability and setting by having all of our classes as mixed ability, with the exception of a G&T group and an SEN group. This way, we're feeling the benefits of mixed ability whilst making provision for students at both ends of the spectrum. I really say I much prefer mixed ability to setting - when we DID set in the past, there was nothing worse than being landed with that 'sink' low ability group who hate English and - as a consequence - hate you.
     
  4. I don't think mixed ability works if you cream off the top. Half the benefit is letting the middling kids see the ideas and work rate of the really bright and hardworking ones!
     
  5. I don't think it holds them back - as long as there are two or three of them they can spark off each other. Besides, I find the less academically able sometimes have better insights into the characters and personal relationships and that can really add to the discussion of a text. It's about the whole class dynamic not the stronger teaching the weaker.
     
  6. manc

    manc New commenter

    Hmmmm....maybe. [​IMG]
     
  7. Really true. When we had mixed ability classes I was amazed at the depth of discussion we had for both Lit and Language topics. just because someone can't express themselves on paper doesn't mean they don't have understanding and insight and our statemented kids would have a real 'go' in the mixed ability set up. We heve setting now and i can honesty say there is little worse than a Set 3, they find it had to push themselves and all languish in ' i can't do it' doldrums. There is no 'spark' as they rarely see anyone in their peer group having 'a go', These same puipils in our previous mixed abilty classes really upped their game. Our A*/A grades were better then too - however our pass rate has gone up with setting, not sure if it's to do with the setting or the fact that it is something new and we've had to change our teaching. Also we have had a really tight focus on C/D borderline kids and also we enterd them for Language in ~Jabuary and again in August if they didn't get their target grades. Also, if the pupils don't get their target grade they didn't take Lit as they had to retake Language. So not sure our increased exam results is really down to setting at all.
     
  8. manc

    manc New commenter

    just because someone can't express themselves on paper doesn't mean they don't have understanding and insight
    I agree to an extent although in general, if someone can't express themselves on paper then they often (not always obviously) also don't have much understanding or inight. Because they are weak academically.
     
  9. VixC

    VixC New commenter

    I completely agree with this. We have a ridiculous system in our school whereby, there is a top set and bottom set and everything else is mixed up. However, what inevitably happens is tht there are more than 30 potential A/ A* pupils and more than 15 very weak students, which means we are in the stupid position of having groups at KS4 that have A*-F pupils in one group. Consequently, we tend to teach to the middle, which doesn't stretch the brighter ones and doesn't support the less able. You are right, it is NOT the job of brighter students to help the weaker.
    Our HOD won't even discuss an alternative...
     
  10. manc

    manc New commenter

    I also think that if it were the case that weaker pupils have more insight into things than the more academic, why has no-one told Oxford, Cambridge, Durham and so on who will insist on selecting their 'intake'? Are they missing a trick?
     
  11. Some things. I find what puts many kids into a bottom set for English is poor writing skills but their understanding and reading skills are of a reasonable standard. I've also taught some top sets where academic kids refuse to open their mouths except to answer a direct question and so it becomes all about the teacher interacting with individual pupils rather than having that really effective class dynamic where they all pitch in. There's a great deal of variation, obviously, but I've always enjoyed mixed ability more than set classes and I don't see a significant improvement in the marks of set classes that would justify setting. Having said that, I'll teach whatever they put in front of me and sometimes you just get classes that work.
     
  12. I never said that weaker pupils are Oxbridge candidates but a mixed ability approach allows them to engage in the subject and often opinions of less able pupils are 'outside the box' and so enables brighter puils to justify their view or to consider views they may not have thought about.
    I find my top set are so concerned about getting it wrong in front of their peers that they often fail to writer or say anything meaningful. Anyway, at the end of the day all classes are mixed ability even when setted. I just miss the day that pupils that were predicted a B grade achieved A* because they pitted themselves against the brightest in the group but now languish a little.
     
  13. PS,I don't have that much faith in the admissions process for Oxford/Cambridge etc anyway.
     
  14. manc

    manc New commenter

    I didn't say your pupils were Oxbridge candidates. I said that, if mixed ability, benefits all academically why don't prestigious universities use mixed ability classes, since apparently the weaker pupils have miraculous 'insight' which benefits the stronger pupils? If this is indeed true all selective schools and top-level universities are disadvantaging their students.
     
  15. manc

    manc New commenter

    Sorry - I added a superfluous comma by mistake.
     

Share This Page