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Tips for planning lessons in a mixed ability classroom

Monday October 6, 2014

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All classes are mixed ability to one extent or another; teachers may feel concerned that they are not challenging the high-achievers enough and at the same time are not giving enough help to those who are not doing as well. Variations in motivation, learning styles and speeds are all things to consider when planning your lessons for a mixed ability classroom, making it difficult to suit everyone at once.

To help teachers overcome this challenge, WST have compiled some top tips on creating effective lessons aimed at different abilities within the same classroom.

Knowledge levels

Being able to gauge where each of your pupils is at  academically will help you to build a profile around the levels at which subjects need to differentiated, helping you to introduce different learning styles into the classroom. Kahoot is a game-based classroom app ideal for schools and universities that encourages participation. Open Kahoot at the front of the classroom and ask students to join through their own personal devices. As students are logged in via their own personal devices, they can take control of their own learning and ask questions about content. Teachers can get an overview of the current knowledge levels throughout the room and can adapt their lessons accordingly.

Group Work

Vary the way pupils work, allow pupils to work individually, in pairs and in groups. The use of pair and group work is essential if you want to involve all abilities of the class. When setting a task, it is key to explain to pupils the importance of everyone in the group having a role to play. Encourage pupils to talk about their strengths and interests with each other and divide up the tasks equally so they all have an equal responsibility. This helps to encourage social skills and also pupils will work best in the role that they have been able to place themselves in. Highlighting their own strengths will make pupils more confident in a group.

Learning environments

Each student will be receptive in a different environment. Some students may learn best when they can move around, some pupils respond well to a room with lots of sensory activities and others function best when they are in a quiet, concentrated environment without any distractions. Although as a teacher you cannot manipulate the classroom to every student’s needs at once, it is worth responding to these different styles and incorporating various learning environments into the classroom for more diverse lessons. Or why not try creating a room with several “looks” in different sections of the room, or varying presentation skills? Using variety can encourage each individual’s unique learning style.

Open tasks

Pupils could be given an open and creative task which allows them to work at their own level. Open ended tasks also mean that there may be several acceptable answers. These tasks enable students to participate more actively in lessons and also express their ideas without feeling they may have the wrong answer or outcome.  Open-ended activities are also good to have to hand for the early finishers and more able. Games and quizzes which ask pupils to recap or apply the knowledge they have just learnt are great.

Are there any methods that you think we have missed or that you would recommend? Let WST know on Twitter to share your suggestions with our online community of teaching professionals.