I decided to start by finding out what it was like to teach half the class as one group. So, instead of worrying about how to group them, and who to group them with just yet, I simply asked to see the Girls and Boys as seperate groups. The learners absolutely loved it, but in hindsight (and what a beautiful thing it is) this may not have been the best decision... BUT, it did allow me to get a feel for what it would be like to have half the class down on the mat.
What I noticed:
- We can fit - One of my main personal resistance's to this approach was the fact that I believed I would not fit a half-class group on the mat. Well we did, and it was easy.
- Some learners will shine - After the initial shyness wore off, there were some clear stand outs that loved being able to share their thinking, or their "way" of doing the maths. They loved having the attention of the whole group, and this was clearly their element.
- Some learners will freeze - Even some kids who I know will happily share their thinking in a small group froze. I believe this must of come from a place of insecurity, i.e. knowing that they were in the same group as the "smart kids", and not want to get shamed for being wrong.
- Confident kids will convince more capable kids they are wrong - Confidence is key! I had kids working at Early Stage 5 convincing other kids working at Late Six that they themselves were right with their "guesses", while and the mathematical reasoning and computational thinking was wrong.
- All of us were going to take some time to get used to this - I talk too much. Both myself and the kids are going to need more practice at this approach before we have any success.
- It was fun - All of us left the lessons buzzing.
After a week and a bit of staying just the boys and the girls. I finally decided to regroup. Initially I asked each group of boys and girls to split into 2 groups and then combined them from there. I later read that social groupings does not necessarily (and in most cases does not) mean "friend groups". So I rejigged some of the kids around after that. After I had done this, I looked at their current achievement data, and found that the kids had organically done a pretty decent job at mixed ability grouping all on their own! The ability spread was pretty even across both groups, and I hadn't had to do any of the work, fantastic.
What I noticed:
- It worked a lot better - Both the boys and girls worked together well, and took the lesson far more seriously now that the genders were mixed. However, I'm not sure if this was due to being mixed, or whether it felt more like an 'official' maths group, and therefore should be taken more seriously. Either way it was good news.
- Confidence was improving - I started seeing less of the initial "hanging back" that I noticed, and more kids were piping up. I also noticed that my higher ability learners were now backing themselves a lot more. Instead of simply trusting the "loud" kids.
- It was still fun - Aside from a small number of resistant and/ or very quiet kids these lessons are becoming a highlight of the day for everyone.