How to differentiate within a mixed-age class
Differentiation strategies meet children’s individual needs while keeping the whole class learning at the same pace. Differentiation is especially important in mixed-age classes as it allows you to teach all learners together. Not only will you avoid coordinating alternating independent tasks, your older and younger learners will have the chance to work together and learn from one another.
The good news is, if you can differentiate within a single year group class, then you can differentiate in a mixed-aged class. Seriously, depending on your learners, a single-year class could have a more diverse range of learners than a mixed-year class.
So the principles of differentiating by content, process and product will still apply:
- Differentiating by content: vary your methods of teaching the same knowledge. One way to do this is by giving learners different instructions for the same task. Another way is to vary the materials given to learners, you could provide concrete resources to younger learners and pictorial materials to the older year group.
- Differentiating by process: vary the way that children make sense of the learning. You can use questioning to differentiate by adjusting your questions depending on the year group. You can make learning accessible for younger learners and challenge older learners by using ‘low-floor, high ceiling’ tasks.
- Differentiating by product: give learners different ways to show their mastery of a topic. One way to do this in mixed-age classes is to ask the older year group to explain concepts to the younger learners. Older learners find mentoring empowering and younger learners accomplish tasks they couldn’t do without the support of their older peers.
Here’s some happy learners from a Year 1/2 split class at Egremont Primary School working together to compare numbers to 100 by using concrete manipulatives.