Written by Helen Laflin
Helen Laflin is a UK based primary mathematics specialist and author, with twenty years’ experience improving mathematics teaching and learning in schools. Helen currently balances her consultancy and training work with adults, with teaching children in primary schools.
Helen is one of the MathsBeat authors, and here, she shares her thoughts on how MathsBeat can be used with mixed aged classes to ensure all learners meet the expected standards. She also addresses some of the common problems faced when teaching mixed aged classes.
Mastery planning is so complex and time-consuming. How can MathsBeat help?
MathsBeat includes planning, assessment and subject knowledge professional development materials to support all KS1 and KS2 teachers. Short term planning includes clear and consistent teaching sequences which build in progression and assessment throughout, tailoring teaching to the needs of all learners. Problem-solving and reasoning are built into teaching ideas to support and challenge learners to think deeply. MathsBeat is a time-saving digital resource that includes in one place IWB software, front of class slides, and downloadable pupil practice activities.
How can I ensure I cover all the curriculum objectives when juggling two year groups?
MathsBeat mixed age planning has been created for Y1/2, Y3/4 and Y5/6 classes. Strands are organised to combine units from both year groups, ensuring that wherever possible teaching is based on very similar ideas to make your teaching more manageable. Plans outline the two year groups’ National Curriculum learning objectives side by side, allowing you to plan your teaching of objectives in the context of the progression in learning and the essential prior understanding required. You can track backwards and forwards according to the needs of your learners.
You can download the mixed aged planning documents for MathsBeat at the end of this blog.
How do I structure my lesson and organise my classroom to manage mixed aged teaching?
Managing the teaching of a mixed aged class depends on whether you have any additional adults to support the maths lesson, and whether you have the flexibility to organize your own day and timetable.
Given that as class teacher you are responsible for every child’s learning and progress, you are aiming to spend equal teaching time with every child in your class regardless of their age and attainment level. You will need to use your professional judgement as the needs of each class will vary, and it’s a good idea to adopt a flexible approach to planning for each week and unit.
Here are some different approaches to consider:
Working alongside a Teaching Aassistant
Where you have additional adult support, and the learning for both year groups is based on very similar ideas, you could base whole class teaching input on the younger year group curriculum content to allow initial recap and consolidation for the older learners. You could then focus on teaching the older learners their curriculum content to achieve stretch and challenge, whilst the younger children are supported by an additional adult.
Whole class learning together
Assuming the learning for both year groups is based on similar ideas, you could begin with the same approach, teaching the whole class using the younger year group objectives. In this context, organizing the class into mixed attainment groupings would instead allow older children to recap and consolidate their own understanding of their previous learning whilst also supporting the younger children in their understanding of new learning. As the lesson/week progresses you could incorporate more practice and consolidation time so that when younger children are working independently you could work with the older children on their curriculum objectives using either directed teaching input or guided group work.
Two teaching groups rotated
You could separate your class into year groups and alternate your teaching input. This might work well on occasions where the objectives for both year groups do not match. You might also consider organising the maths lesson to allow for two entirely separate parts to the lesson which therefore creates two separate maths teaching inputs. You’d have to structure your day carefully to include sensible independent work for the other group. Some schools split maths lessons across breaks or assemblies to separate the two parts of the maths lesson. Other schools create opportunities for guided maths time outside of the maths lesson such as in guided reading time.
How do I meet the needs of all my learners when teaching a mixed aged class?
Scaffolding within Quality First Teaching is essential when teaching mixed aged classes as it allows you to keep the class together whilst building learners’ independence. This in turn allows you to target and tailor additional support and challenge effectively. Consider the following aspects of scaffolding and how the MathsBeat materials provide this:
Assessment for learning prompts
Formative assessment through effective questioning is vital to effective teaching in mixed aged classes. Probing children’s understanding, noticing, anticipating and tackling misconceptions allows you to tailor teaching to the exact needs of each learner. Probing questions, common misconceptions and suggested next steps are all included throughout the MathsBeat teaching materials to support in the moment assessment.
In lesson and same day intervention
MathsBeat teaching materials support immediate intervention by highlighting common misconceptions alongside steps to close gaps as soon as they arise. The Assessment for learning prompts in the planner include ‘look and listen for’ examples so that teaching assistants can support learners in the moment. If you don’t have an available teaching assistant, consider other opportunities for extra maths teaching time to address these misconceptions – on the same day if possible. If staff limitations mean that someone other than you delivers intervention, MathsBeat professional development materials support staff to work consistently and confidently with all children throughout KS1 and KS2. All teaching units refer to the relevant units in the matching Teacher Handbook where available.
Anticipating difficulties or building confidence in more anxious or passive learners by establishing pre-teaching can be extremely effective. MathsBeat includes prior knowledge and teaching guidance to support pre-teaching. This gives children more confidence and expertise, thus avoiding the need for further intervention. Pre-teaching could be based on the MathsBeat suggested next steps materials.
Manipulatives and representations
Use of models and images can support some children in developing their conceptual understanding of mathematics, while challenging others to deepen their thinking by representing their ideas in a different way. MathsBeat teaching sequences incorporate multiple representations and manipulatives throughout both KS1 and KS2. The MathsBeat IWB tool allows you to model these representations at the front of the class and manipulate them on your screen.
Encouraging children to collaborate and explore their thinking is vital in encouraging learners to verbalise their ideas, and to work together. This gives teachers in a mixed attainment class more freedom to focus on other groups, whilst building a culture of support, collaboration and independence. Language scaffolding is a priority throughout MathsBeat materials to support mathematical talk, and key vocabulary is identified.
MathsBeat in action
How will MathsBeat help you teach in a mixed aged class?
Due to the nature of the tasks (many being practical), I could set off one-year group with an activity then explain another activity to a different year group of children. Sometimes, a teaching assistant is involved in delivering maths in a mixed-age class. The accessibility of the materials means that a teaching assistant could follow the lessons and activities easily.Vicky Latham, Class teacher – Year 1/2 mixed age class. Scholes Elmet Primary School, Leeds.
In summary, If you are teaching a mixed aged class, MathsBeat can help you. It is clearly structured with progression and assessment built in, and the teaching activities include ideas to both support and challenge learners. MathsBeat’s accessibility, flexibility and practical nature mean that you can be sure that the learning and progress of your class is effective, regardless of your choices of class and learning organisation.
For more information visit www.oxfordprimary.co.uk/mathsbeat