Best Practice

Ideas for effective differentiation

How do you teach a mixed-ability class effectively? Helen Webb offers some practical advice and ideas to help achieve effective differentiation in your classroom

For the majority of my teaching career, nearly every science class I have taught has been set by ability. The differentiation required to successfully deliver the curriculum was within relatively narrow limits.

This year, due to school changes in age range, intake and subsequent timetable implications, this is no longer the case. I am now teaching mixed-ability groups at all levels.

My current attention is focused specifically on my GCSE year 10 biology classes in which the distribution of ability is not only wide but fairly evenly spread across levels 1 to 9. Previously, I was able to pitch lessons to the majority and slot in a little extra targeted support for the few that were either struggling or needed stretching that bit further. This strategy is no longer effective for these particular classes as I now have students barely accessing the entry level content of the curriculum in the same class as exceptional students requiring challenge beyond the key stage.

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