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Mixed ability tables...

Discussion in 'Primary' started by minnieminx, Dec 28, 2011.

  1. minnieminx

    minnieminx New commenter

    I have four ability groups for maths and literacy, not the same groups for each. Children know which group they are in, but the groups are also on the wall so they can check.

    I work with one group, TA works with another. We kind of evolved to have our own tables, just happened that way so when working with us the children sit with us. No specification of which chair.

    If not with us children have been sitting in whichever area I directed them to, in their groups. From next week they will be choosing from a selection of activities so the two groups working independently may well mix up.

    For all other lessons children generally work in random groups and choose where to sit.
  2. I use Kagan structures to teach my class mostly. In English I use ability seating because the children work on similar targets in their groups which means I can teach one group while a TA has another, with some independent groups. My maths group is Kaganised though! Principle is groups of four with one H/A, two M?A and one L/A. I find this works well and means the children benefit from being challenged by, or extending others, and by consolidating and overlearning through teaching. I do a lot of group-work and Paul Ginnis activities and this structure lends itself well to a lot of the ideas.
  3. southernteacher

    southernteacher New commenter

    You can sit the children where you like, as long as you stick to teaching in ability groups, but why would you want to mix ability groups up? It's so important to differentiate work. Seat the children where you will they always know who is best at what. But if you want to mix them up why not stick to ability groups for lit and numeracy and then mix up a bit for everything else?
  4. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    I rarely seat children in ability groups for any activity it doesn't stop me differentiating work. It has nothing whatsoever to do with them knowing who is best at anything a great deal to do with what I find works most effectively. My tables frequently change depending on what we are doing so sometimes there might be 4 groups or 6 groups or 15 pairs ...we just move tables
  5. Why the need to differentiate work? I rarely differentiate apart from maths, where it is sometimes necessary for children who are working at different levels. Differentiating activities puts a ceiling on the children's learning. Even in maths, it is sometimes unnecessary to differentiate. Just because a child is working at a particular level, it doesn't mean that they are at that level for everything in maths. They could be very capable in number, but not so capable in shape and space. If a child has particular needs, for example, an ASD child, then it is sometimes necessary, but in my opinion, you are creating work for yourself, and disadvantaging the children. I use talking partners to group children. These are chosen at random from a hat and are changed every few weeks. This is recommended by Shirley Clarke, and in my opinion works well.
  6. While I agree with a lot of this, it would cause my headteacher to have a heart attack! EVERYTHING has to be differentiated, with different learning objectives, outcomes and success critieria; children have to be ability seated; lists have to be displayed on walls of ability groups and their levels, and even books have to be marked to show which ability group and sub-level the child is working in. I completely agree about a lot of this putting a ceiling on the children's learning, and I comply with the school's requirements in the least obvious ways I possibly can.
    However, I don't agree with everything Shirley Clarke says, and I do believe in having ability group seating at least some of the time, but I certainly agree that fixing ability groups and labelling children has a negative impact on learning.
  7. lillipad

    lillipad New commenter

    But surely you have to differentiate work, my tops might be capable of adding by partitioning where as my least able can't do it without a number line! What do you do in that situation then?! When I differentiate, I always do a sweep of the room mid lesson to see who is excelling and move them on to the work of the next group up... Surely that's not giving them a ceiling? They can always progress as long as they demonstrate they can do it.

    Anyway, my idea is that the pupils would sit on mixed ability tables doing the differentiated work for their group... As I find that my top group are a bit complacent and tend to chat a lot rather than get on, where as separately they work harder so thought id mix them in with others in a bid to get them to focus as they are my potential level3 children... I'm thinking of pupils having their maths groups and then I have my table, then also an independent table, a ta table and a challenge or investigation table... So the pupils would need to rotate, which they can do in mixed groups when they aren't with me, and if the challenge was open ended, the tops could take it as far as they could go, while meeting needs of the least able. It's how I would ensure that all pupils would get to each area if I was calling children away from their mixed groups into ability groups that's the stumbling block.
  8. Lara mfl 05

    Lara mfl 05 Star commenter

    Lillipad, just a suggestion, but could have you have ability groups when working with you or a TA and the rest do mixed ability exercises. So you plan 3 days of mixed ability activities , which children access on a carousel basis and when they work in ability groups with an adult, just the ability group needs to move?
  9. Because in my class I have child who can barely write his first name, doesn't know all his sounds and can only count to 20.
    I have others who are at the end of the reading scheme, can add and subtract in thousands etc etc.
    Our books are checked for differentiated work and we need to prove it at at least 3 and sometimes 5 levels.
  10. Aren't you just talking about different kinds of differentiation though? Some by outcome, some by task, some by scaffolding (number lines or written methods etc)? We all differentiate, it's just that we use different kinds, and hopefully use all of them at some stage in our teaching?
    I try to use differentiation by outcome whenever I can, as I feel this is the least 'obtrusive' form of differentiation and means the children set their own 'level', rather than me 'capping it'. In practice, this means I often have a series of tasks with increasing levels of difficulty. They start at the same level, then move on if ready at regular intervals. E.g., in maths, I routinely stop the class after five minutes and do a quick mark. Those who have got 'enough' done and all correct, move onto the next level of challenge. Those who haven't, get me, my TA and extra time on the beginning task...
    etc etc!
    Have to say though, this works well with my class, who are setted and so working within a level of each other. It probably wouldn't be appropriate in every class, where other forms of differentiation might work better.
  11. We're not supposed to differentiate by outcome at my school. Our policy is that differentiation is by activity, and then again by support and resources, if necessary.
  12. minnieminx

    minnieminx New commenter

    It isn't generally a good way to differentiate if you have a fairly wide range of ability. The more able shouldn't have to waste time on the simple questions before they can move on, get them moving on from the very beginning. Also the less able only have a few questions at their level and then it gets harder and harder, when they might actually need a fair bit of practise at a lower level. And giving children all the same task at the same level generally makes it clear that you don't know where each child is in their learning or where they need to go next. However in class or set where children are largely at the same level and with the same needs, then it can work well enough.
    But would the mixed groups actually be working as a group, or just a set of children doing the same task? If they aren't actually a 'group' then it doesn't matter.
  13. lillipad

    lillipad New commenter

    Well neither Minnie, because the idea is that work is still differentiated but they don't sit with pupils necessarily at the same level... so you might have a top sitting with a bottom and a middle... doing different tasks on the same table. This is because of my rather complacent tops who think it's ok to have a chat with each other rather than get on as I noticed they work better when with other children, so it's partly aimed at behaviour and choices. That said they could be doing the same task, if it was open ended enough that all could access and extend... I do like the idea of the carousel for the week so they get called to me or TA in an ability group, then the rest of the time in mixed groups doing which ever task they haven't done. The only trouble is when one week is inclusive of 2 different topics because then activity wouldn't necessarily match input. Maybe I just need to carry on as I have been doing and keep them in abilities... lol.
  14. minnieminx

    minnieminx New commenter

    Then they can easily just come when you call them. They can put their work wherever you want them to and come to your table. Those you have just finished with can go and sit in the gaps. I definitely wouldn't give them 'places' for when they aren't with you unless you have enough spare tables that they all have a 'place' away from you and the TA.
    I would maybe leave this until you feel a bit more confident about group and independent/mixed teaching and working in your current classroom. Keep it in mind for after Easter maybe?
  15. lillipad

    lillipad New commenter

    Yeah I think I may save it. I think half the problem is that we will be expecting ofsted in the summer term, so any changes I was going to make to the workings of the classroom, I wanted to make sooner so that the kids were used to it and in the groove of it by the time we were inspected. I'd hate to introduce something and then ofsted appear a couple of weeks later while the kids are still trying to get used to it!
  16. minnieminx

    minnieminx New commenter

    LOL yeps never a good idea to have new stuff for Ofsted.

    But no reason to do what you have been doing, just have the rest on mixed tables.
  17. mystery10

    mystery10 Occasional commenter

    In my experience as a parent ability groupings related to seating can be counterproductive. One of my children did not have any friends in the top group so worked her way down to the middle group. Her strategy was successful for a while until it was unearthed.
    I'm sure this wouldn't happen to teachers on here but I've also seen children go a long way through primary school sitting next to their best friend who was more "able" than them, and getting by on the best friend's coat tails. It has been discovered a bit late in the day that the child had large gaps in their understanding and learning.
    Differentiation done by fixed groups and different work set does fill me with dread a little though - done wrongly it can be such a self-fulfilling prophecy that I can never feel comfortable with it.
  18. minnieminx

    minnieminx New commenter

    Differentiation done as 'they all do the same thing and the more able just go further' can also be terrible though. The lazier of the more able just coast along and no-one realises they could be doing so much more. The less able can also always feel they aren't good enough and can never keep up.

    Anything done badly is counter productive. Not a reason to never do it well though.
  19. veritytrue

    veritytrue New commenter

    This sound really idle to me. Just because you differentiate it doesn't mean you place a ceiling on what a child can do. Differentiation should be about enabling the child to achieve.

  20. This is one of the reasons why I switch all my table groups, in every subject, every half-term. The partnerings and groupings are very carefully chosen - by me and me alone!

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