Teaching Strategies for All Ability Levels in a Larger Classroom

  • Co-teaching Models - One Teach, One Gather Data

In any general class, there are students of different ability levels and, correspondingly, grade levels. Direct teaching the entire class together can sometimes leave higher-grade, higher-ability students bored and perhaps acting out, while lower-ability students may struggle to understand the lesson. We need teaching strategies that reach all the learners in the classroom.

This is where a variation of the Teach Half, Then Switch teaching strategy can be implemented, called “Pre-Teach or Enrich.”

Co-teaching Models - One Teach, One Gather DataEssentially, the co-teachers divide the class in half by ability level. The students who have lower grades or lower ability level, who may need additional support, are “pre-taught” the concepts, background, vocabulary or other elements needed for the lesson’s objective. The students who have higher grades and/or ability level (some students have the ability, but are behind due to missed classes, for example, and should be in this group) go ahead and learn the lesson objective.

After teaching for a 10-minute chunk, the teachers switch groups—but there’s also a shift in what is being taught.

The lower-ability group, armed with the concepts they were pre-taught, now learns the lesson’s objective. The higher-ability group doesn’t need to be pre-taught the lesson concepts, so they instead do a challenging enrichment activity for the next 10-minute chunk of teaching.

Pre-teach or Enrich does take planning, but not much more than usual if you and your co-teacher are already doing Teach Half, Then Switch. Here are a few tips:

  • Sort the class quickly by student grades, rather than alphabetically.
  • After dividing the list in half, consider any individual students who may have lower grades but actually have the ability to be in the higher-grade group.
  • Decide ahead of time what the enrichment activity for the higher-grade group will be, and which co-teacher will teach it. For example, the specialist co-teacher may be comfortable pre-teaching the first half and then implementing the enrichment activity for the second half, but may not be comfortable direct teaching the lesson objective.
  • Make sure you are both in agreement about what you will teach to each half of the class, and what you are trying to achieve as it relates to the curriculum.
  • Set a timer for 10 minutes, and when it rings, switch groups.

Over time, students’ grades change—and that means the students in each group will change, with improving students getting the opportunity to do more challenging work within the same lesson. Meantime, those who need to catch up will have the opportunity to do so, too.

Pre-teach or Enrich doesn’t have to be used frequently—it can be occasionally implemented to help lower-ability or lower-grade students get up to speed more quickly, and to allow higher-ability students to explore a lesson more thoroughly so they don’t get bored. That can make periods of direct teaching easier for everyone in the class.


Co-teaching and Collaboration in the ClassroomFor more information on co-teaching and co-teaching models, see Susan Fitzell’s book, Co-teaching and Collaboration in the Classroom.

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By | 2018-04-11T12:12:52+00:00 March 13th, 2018|0 Comments

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