What counts in teaching is not the size of the class, nor the age or grade of the pupils in it, but the quality of the teaching. In this key resource document are some suggestions for teaching classes with pupils of different grades. You might also find it helpful to see the Key Resource: Working with Large Classes.
Active learning strategies for multigrade classes
The following teaching strategies are for whole class or mixed-grade groups:
- Round: Each pupil has a two- or three-minute opportunity to express his or her point of view on a given topic while others listen. For older pupils, the topic can be controversial or thought-provoking, such as ‘Education is valuable for my daily life.’ For younger pupils, choose a simple topic, such as ‘What I like about school.’ This activity will provide you with a range of viewpoints to consider when delivering your lessons, as well as building a sense of ‘safe participation’ and confidence among your pupils.
- Brainstorming: Ask pupils to think individually about an issue or problem – for example ‘Why is water becoming scarce?’ or ‘How can we improve our school?’ – and to list its possible causes. Stress that people working together can create more than an individual alone.
- Simulations and games: Ask pupils to role-play a situation; for instance, ‘What would you do if you were confronted by a bully?’ By creating situations that are momentarily real, your pupils can practise coping with stressful, unfamiliar or complex situations.
- Peer teaching: Randomly select pupils to find out about a specific topic and then teach the basics of the material to a partner, group or the entire class.
Assessment Strategies for multigrade classes
The following assessment strategies help give effective feedback and summative evaluations within a manageable workload for mixed-grade classes:
To identify which pupils need more personalised feedback, and to manage the paperwork, use the ‘portfolio’ method. A portfolio is a file, such as a manila folder, containing samples of a pupil’s assignments, such as essays, stories and reports; illustrations, pictures, maps and diagrams.
- Pupils’ non-curricular activities can also be recorded, such as taking responsibility in a classroom activity.
- The material in a portfolio is organised in chronological order with each item containing a date and the context in which it was produced. It follows the pupil’s successes rather than failures.
- Once the portfolio is organised, you and your pupils can evaluate their achievements. At least twice every semester or term, review the whole range of work to identify those pupils who need more individual attention.
Create exams that ‘look’ familiar to pupils
Exam questions should be in the same form as those that you used in quizzes, homework assignments, lectures or discussions.
Conduct review sessions
Set aside class time to conduct review sessions, either with the entire class or in groups. One third of the session time can be spent in a short lecture revising the major points of a topic, and then the remaining time for pupils’ questions and/or a short practice exercise.
Develop exams that demonstrate learning achievement
Together with, standard multiple-choice exams:
- Add short essay questions; control the length of responses by providing pupils with a limited amount of space for answers (an ‘answer’ box).
- Ask pupils to answer questions using diagrams, flow charts or pictures. These are short and easy to grade, but can be very informative about pupils’ analytical skills.
- For some multiple-choice questions, ask the pupil to choose the correct answer and then provide a one- or two-line explanation of how they got that answer.
- Give group examinations. The same grade can be assigned to all members of the group, based on the ‘group product’ they produce. For individuals, ask group members to anonymously grade each other, and then assign the average of the group’s grade to each pupil.
- Ask pupils to write their own examination questions and answers based on your class lectures and activities. These can be used on actual tests.
Give prompt feedback on assignments
- Ask pupils to do assignments in group
- Assign a short in-class assignment for individual pupils and ask them to bring you their completed assignments when they finish. You can grade these on the spot and give them instant feedback. To avoid a line at your desk, ask your pupils to take numbered pieces of paper when they have finished their work and to come to your desk for feedback when their number is called.
- Ask older pupils in upper grades to help you grade your pupils’ assignments.
- Occasionally pupils can exchange their assignments and they can grade each other’s work.
- Give out an answer sheet so pupils can assess their own work, or set aside class time to go through the answers to the homework with the entire class.