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Mixed ability year 9

Discussion in 'Mathematics' started by DBizzle, Aug 22, 2011.

  1. Hi all,

    I'm starting my NQT year in a couple of weeks, all very exciting if a little nerve-wracking! I have recieved my timetable, and not that I will have one mixed ability year 9 class (at this school they are not set until year 10). During this last year I have only taught classes streamed by ability, so was wondering if anyone has any advice as to how to go about teaching the GCSE maths syllabus (they start in year 9) to mixed ability? I realise lots of differentiated outcomes/tasks would be the ideal solution, but as I will be mostly teaching courses I havent taught this last year I'm a little concerned about my planning time as it is.

    So yeah, are there any good techniques/tips for teaching mixed ability GCSE?

    Thanks
     
  2. Hi all,

    I'm starting my NQT year in a couple of weeks, all very exciting if a little nerve-wracking! I have recieved my timetable, and not that I will have one mixed ability year 9 class (at this school they are not set until year 10). During this last year I have only taught classes streamed by ability, so was wondering if anyone has any advice as to how to go about teaching the GCSE maths syllabus (they start in year 9) to mixed ability? I realise lots of differentiated outcomes/tasks would be the ideal solution, but as I will be mostly teaching courses I havent taught this last year I'm a little concerned about my planning time as it is.

    So yeah, are there any good techniques/tips for teaching mixed ability GCSE?

    Thanks
     
  3. DM

    DM New commenter

    I'm wouldn't be in favour of mixed ability teaching for Year 9 KS3 but mixed ability GCSE changing to setted GCSE partway through the course just sounds awful.
    I think you need to talk to your Head of Department. Have you been given Schemes of Work?
     
  4. DM

    DM New commenter

    I do have an avatar for you anyway!
    [​IMG]
     
  5. Cheers for the avatar!

    And to be fair, the top and I think bottom set are streamed off after the first term I think, so the mixed ability shouldnt be too wide ranging. I actually find the whole idea of teaching a class completely unlike any I'm used to quite exciting, I'm just not too sure how to best go about it. I mean are there any particularly good ways of getting good learning from a mixed ability maths group by using their differences effectively (as opposed to just pupils doing different work who happen to be in the same classroom)?

    And yep, I do have a scheme of work, first half term is pretty much number/FDP.
     
  6. DM

    DM New commenter

    Avatar looks good.
    How many teaching groups are there? My school has 14 classes in Year 9 so creating one top set and one bottom set would still leave a major problem!
    I'm glad the Scheme concentrates on number initially - that seems wise to me. However you are almost certainly going to need to differentiate for students working at Levels 4, 5, 6 and 7. Good luck with that!
     
  7. David Getling

    David Getling Senior commenter

    If this is a school of large or reasonable size then the maths HOD, or headteacher need a good kick up the backside!

    Ability in maths varies so much that setting from Y7 is highly desirable. Of course, you timetable the classes in parallel, so students can move between the sets as need be.

    How many times do I and others have to say this: MATHS IS DIFFERENT. Not setting is unfair to both the more able and less able kids, and makes it harder for the teacher - nobody wins.
     
  8. PaulDG

    PaulDG Occasional commenter

    No, none at all.

    Do yourself a favour and get a job at a school that understands Maths isn't the same as History and that, while it is just about possible to accept that a task on WWII really can be differentiated so that the level 3s can do a cartoon strip while the level 9s do a properly cross-referenced essay, no maths class can work when you're mixing some kids who can breeze through algebra and circle theorems with kids who can't count to 20 or tell the time!
     
  9. I see there are some pretty strong views on here..

    As for schemes of work, no there aren't any lesson objectives or activities, just topics to be covered in 3/4 week blocks. From what I can gather this is done on purpose as one of the department's aims this year is to encourage teachers to create creative and engaging lessons/activities/projects without being constrained by a restrictive SoW. I actually quite agree with this policy, especially as despite starting the GCSE in year 9 they don't actually sit the exam until year 11, so there's not the mad rush to push through the content like there was on my GTP (modular exams... STRESS!)

    And I think there are 6 sets, so after the first term that'll be 4 middling ability sets, which I guess (hope?) won't be too wide an ability range. I had a supposedly streamed class that went from level 4 to 8 last year, was a nightmare in terms of behaviour (due in part to the spread of ability, but also in part due to me being a too-friendly newbie in a tough area of inner-london), hence my asking for advice here (though from what I have seen behaviour at this school is much less of an issue in general)..

     
  10. googolplex

    googolplex Occasional commenter

    Interestingly, none of the pro mixed-ability gang has joined in, as yet. There are some ardent mixed ability aficionados lurking, for sure. Nearby to our school, there are some extremely high achieving schools who have switched to mixed ability teaching based on the Jo Boaler approach - and it has improved their results. Her 'elephant' book would be a good one to read - although I'd be surprised if you hadn't read it already.
    From my point of view, I'm a bit lost to know what your school are up to. From what you describe, they can't seem to make up their minds. Are they mixed ability, or do they teach in sets? One or the other, or at least a clear rationale behind their organisation of the curriculum. It doesn't sound as though this has been made explicit. Shocking.
    Regarding behaviour, a strong word of caution. Don't go into any job thinking behaviour will be easy, irrespective of your previous experiences. First term in any job, establishing yourself will be your number one priority. The kids may be generally more biddable than your previous school, but give them an inch...
     
  11. I was going to suggest that perhaps the school has this approach because, apart from the most able students, there's evidence that mixed ability teaching is beneficial to students.
     
  12. Nazard

    Nazard New commenter

    I am aghast by what follows:
    I can understand not having lesson objectives and can cope with the idea of 'topics to be covered'. But the idea of deliberately not having any activities (that can be used or not by teachers as they wish) seems utterly wrong. I really do hope that you will actually find there is a strong sense of collegiality within the dept and lots of sharing of ideas and activities going on, or that every minute of departmental meeting time is devoted to the discussion of teaching activities.
    Otherwise, what does the Head of Dept actually do?
    I can just about see how the sort of thing you describe might, by some teachers, be workable (I am not saying I could do it, though!). There is a real danger, though, that teachers who are not used to working in this way (whether new to the profession or experienced at teaching in other ways) will find it extremely hard and that there won't be appropriate support in place to help.
    There is also the danger that topics turn into a succession of 'projects' ... and that more colouring gets done than mathematics.
     
  13. Thanks, I'll definitley look into this one! I happened to be reading Phil Beadle's (really excellent) book yesterday and he seems to have some good ideas on seating arrangements and pair/groupwork I think might be useful.
    As for the rest of the comments re: my new school's way of doing things, in all honesty I imagine most of the problems you are seeing with it are entirely due to my own lack of understanding of the system, having not taught there yet. Whilst they're not on the schemes of work, i'm told there are plenty of shared resources available (and not even powerpoints, i am genuinely unbelievably excited about teaching lessons with the projector off!), and the department is incredibly friendly. Plus it seems to work, the maths department has been getting consistently over 95% A*-C with big value added scores, and from what I can see very happy staff. So the system is obviously effective, I'm probably just accidentally libelling them on the internetz through my own lack of knowledge.

    So yeah, any more advice like googolplex's or any other practical tips would be greatfully received ,concerns over the department's competence (based on my poor information) maybe less so

    Cheers


     
  14. Mike Ollerton, I hope I've spelt his name correctly, has written extensively on mixed ability teaching, amongst other things. His books are always worth reading even if you don't agree with mixed ability teaching, or at least I think they are.
    Some other authors to read, in no particular order, are John Mason, Anne Watson, Sue and Peter Johnson-Wilder. Reading some of their books will lead you to other authors, who could give you good ideas.
    Good luck with this and please continue to let us know how this experience actually works in practice.
     
  15. Wanderer007

    Wanderer007 New commenter

    +1 [​IMG]
    Wholeheartedly endorse what ic3g1rl points out. Big fan of Mike Ollerton - there are many of his resources available from ATM.
    I teach at one of those "high achieving schools
    who have switched to mixed ability teaching based on the Jo Boaler
    approach - and it has improved their results". I also lurk. [​IMG]

     
  16. Neither of the schools that i did my pgce placements had a formal list of activities/resources against SoW topics/objectives; though to be fair the 2nd placement school were in the process of trying to create such a beast.

    Also at the second school there were lots of ideas given when requested (either by pgcers or perm staff).
     
  17. Chazette

    Chazette New commenter

    One of my placement schools during my PGCE had a textbook as its SOW. Hence week 1 - chapter 1. Week 2 - chapter 2. And "resources...what resources? theres a perfectly good textbook there!"
     
  18. PaulDG

    PaulDG Occasional commenter

    Good approach. One that would be celebrated in industry.

    Why reinvent the wheel? The authors of the text book have done all that work, they had a lot of time to do it and very professional publishing tools.

    Why does anyone think a fresh teacher with 240 kids to teach should be putting any energy into pretending they can do a better job all the time?

    In any normal job, you'd be sacked if you did that!
     
  19. (Ok, I'll bite). It's a terrible approach! It erodes our professionalism, reduces our wonderful subject to a dry and boring set of exercises and at worse dehumanises our relationships with our students. The argument about "not reinventing the wheel" is a straw man in my opinion.
     
  20. Maths_Mike

    Maths_Mike New commenter

    I quite understand how mixed ability can work well in high achieving schools. the kids are generally well behaved, recptive to learning and therefore will work well together with the less able be supported and guided by the more able.
    Opportunities for rich open ended tasks that can be accessed at a range of levels are endless and classroom manangement is usually not too much of a problem.
    Now many of these academics will say that the same can be said of any school but my own experience of a bog standard comp (well several) is that it simply is not the case. The kids need far more teacher direction and structure with work closely matched to their ability.
    Doing this is a mixed ability group is trmendously difficult. Of course there will be the exceptional teachers who can do it but I certainly cant and (in my defence) neither could the majority of teachers I have ever worked with.
    So while mixed ability is undoubtedly an ideal system in an ideal world most of us dont teach in a ideal world.
     

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