Grouping Students to Raise Attainment

There is a lot of data to show that thoughtful seating plans can raise attainment and improve behaviour.  Personally I now have all my classes arranged in a ‘most able, least able’ formation, with the belief that if my lower ability students are struggling and I am otherwise detained with another pupil (who has just smashed a beaker/set themselves on fire etc) that there is an interim level of support.  It also means that in a practical subject one of the pair undertaking the experiment should have understood the safety measures in place.  I change the seating plan after every internal test/exam and now the boys are used to this routine so any changes cause minimal disruption.

So has it made an improvement?  I haven’t got any hard data to prove it has worked but my classroom ‘spidy sense’ says yes it does.  On a practical note I feel there is a lot less mess after experimental activities and the class all seem to get the work carried out and cleared up in a similar length of time – before I would be forever waiting for a couple of groups to get settled while the rest of the class was waiting to continue.  On a academic note I now ask the pupils to check that their partners have underlined headings/dated work/spelled key word correctly, and as a result I am definitely spending less time red inking books.  I also tend to find that the more able pupils quite like explaining things and the less able are receptive to asking more questions in this less public setting.  Where my middle ability are matched up together they seem to work well plugging in each others gaps, but I am also able to focus more of my time on this often overlooked group of pupils.  So does this mean the top ability don’t get stretched?  The answer is no because this is simply a seating plan and does not detract from the fact that the resources and lesson itself has elements of differentiation and stretch and challenge.

I am also flexible in my seating plans.  While this is the default position the class will get rearranged for some activities so like abilities work together at times but that can wait for another time.

My first #teachmeet

This evening I attended my first #teachmeet.  Enticed by the title ‘High ability’ and always on the look out for new classroom ideas to engage all learners I thought I’d see what inspirational ideas my fellow teachers had to share.  After giving my Lower Sixth form stick about not taking opportunities to ‘lead’ (by presenting a Ted Talk in assembly) I felt that I really ought to lead by example and put myself in a presenting position that would potentially take me out of my comfort zone (but would hopefully do me good in the long run).

So this evening saw not only my first teachmeet but also stupidly? bravely my first slot presenting. When I committed to the event it was before I was given the last minute opportunity to attend a CPD course on ‘Differentiation’ on the same day.  This course shed some interesting strategies which I look forward to trialing over the coming weeks but also meant I spent much of my working day munching through vast quantities of chocolate croissants/chocolate biscuits/muffins/more biscuits so by the time the presentation slot came up at 6.30pm (and after another piece of chocolate cake – it would be rude not to right?) I was experiencing what is commonly referred to as a massive sugar rush.  So a normally pretty calm me found myself standing up facing a room full of random teachers and talking somewhat faster than usual with my heart beating so loud I practically had my own backing track.  I bottled my planned audience participation start in favour of what seems to be the more traditional ‘me talk you listen’ approach taken by the other seasoned professionals and proceeded to give an example of how stretch and challenge can be embedded in lessons.  It wasn’t my finest presentation and I missed a lot of key points out but I did it, and at the end I was approached by Charlotte Still from the RSC with some new educational opportunities for my pupils.  I wouldn’t have known about these if I hadn’t presented and I know by keen Year 7 Science Clubbers will be stoked to be part of the RSC’s Mission: Starlight programme.

Next form period I will regale the ordeal to my semi-interested, teenage boy filled form and hopefully make them realise how important it is to embrace new opportunities, even if you’re not quite certain whether it’s a good thing at the time.  I have two more #teachmeet events lined up in the next few weeks and I know next time I’m going to smash it.

My motivation

A reoccurring theme for teachers today is to educate young people into the negative implications of living your life via social media.  Personally I am tired of lecturing bored looking teenagers about what they shouldn’t post online, so instead I have decided to lead by example and promote the concept of creating a positive digital profile through a blog.

I spend hours every Autumn term reading through the personal statements of aspirant medics who struggle to fit the vast number of extra-curricular commitments into 4000 words, massacring vast quantities of worthwhile text that would help reflect the thoughtful and reflective nature  of my students.  Instead I have put it to them – why not start a blog?  While it is unlikely that the poor soul who is given the unenviable task of reading the thousands of applications that come flooding in will actually access the blog it would provide lifelong evidence that at the age of 11 they were passionate about becoming a doctor/vet/lawyer. If future employers undertake a digital background check how impressed would they be to instantly see how articulate, reflective and motivated their interviewee was as a teenage boy and just think what kind of a man must he have become?

So here is my experiment.  I am going to try and encourage a small group of pupils to create a blog in the hope that it might make us all a little bit more reflective about our lives.