FAO: teachers, help me!


So I know a couple of you are teachers so any advice would be really appreciated! I’ve ended up committing to substituting as a tutor for a mixed age class of ks4 and ks3 students in science and English, do you have any tips for how to deal with teaching different age groups at once? I’ve only ever done one or the other


Just trying to imagine this class set-up is hurting my head - good luck to you! I’m assuming that it’s a mixed age class but students have the same level of subject knowledge so surely the older students are going to feel like they are being overtaken by the younger students who will probably ‘get’ the same new concepts quicker than them? Or worse it’s the second or third time they are trying to learn the same subject but the younger kids get it the first time? Sounds like a recipe for massive awkwardness. The closest we get to this in my school is mixed-age tutor groups but that’s only for registration


Thanks! It’s now broken down to year 8 and 9 then year 10 and 11 which is a lot better now, just ks3 and 4


@slicky @keith @bigfoot @gonad are all teachers if I remember right? If you’ve got any tips I’d really appreciate it!


I would look at the curriculum and then aim high. It is easier, and better practice, to pitch the lesson at the middle to higher age/ability kids and then differentiate down than the other way round if you see what I mean.

@Scagden will probably be able to help you too. I am primary but I assume there is some repetition between secondary year groups so it shouldn’t be a complete nightmare!!


Completley agree with @Slicky 's advice above re: differentiation.

One other thing I would add is that you might well find the class dynamics and the challenges that you face vary a fair bit from English to science.

In Science because so much of the curriculum is knowledge based you’ll probably find that the Year 11s know what Boyle’s law (or whatever) is as they’ve covered it before and The Year 10s won’t. So in that case I would suggest using the older kids to help teach the younger ones (nothing helps something stick in your head like teaching it to someone else) maybe by pairing them up or by having mixed age group work groups at the beginning of the lesson.

With English, because so much of it is skills based, you might well find it’s less of a problem (unless half of them have read a compulsory text and the other half haven’t - that would be fairly hideous) because the same skills - learning how to use multi-sensory language when doing descriptive writing; learning to use the semi-colon correctly; learning how to use quotations to back up their points; whatever - get repeated each year mostly anyway and could always do with more reinforcement. How big is the ability range going to be? If it’s quite a wide spread then you’ll probably find that the bright Year 8s have more in common with the bright Year 9s than their own peers and the age thing becomes less of an issue than just differentiation generally.

Oh and will you have a TA or any kind of adult in the class? They are an absolute godsend if you do end up having to basically divide the class down the age lines and set different work for each half. In that case I’d get used to working with one half while the TA works with the other and then swapping or talking to him/her beforehand and working our where her strengths lie and deploying her accordingly.

Apologies if I’m just stating the obvious/mansplaining teaching! Good luck with it all!


I’m an English teacher at secondary.

Couple of questions:

How many students in the class?
What sort of standard are they at currently?
Are they accustomed to being taught in this grouping?
What content do you need to cover in English?
How are you assessing?


This will be an intro class so I’ll be gathering info about abilities, supposed to have 10 kids for years and and 9 and 10 for years 10 and 11! This will be a remedial class so I’m expecting anything in terms of ability!


This is amazing and so helpful!! I won’t have a ta today and will be trying to get more info about where they’re at and what they’re doing, so it’ll he more of an introduction type thing. I’m preparing a lesson plan so I can get this info in a fun and engaging way that will make them look forward to future lessons but I’m stuck on how to actually do this! :sweat:


Just to add I’ve got each 10 for 2 hours!


Can you clarify ‘intro class’? Have these kids been in mainstream schooling up to now?

If this is remedial, is the English primarily going to be literacy-based? If so, the primary teachers will be able to give you far better advice on approaches.

p.s. just reading your new replies - is this for today only, or longer term?


They’re all in mainstream schools - I’ve worked as a ta and a private tutor before so have some experience, and if this goes well I’ll do more lessons but it all depends on how well today goes!


Get then to write something, look at Pobble for a picture as starter and get a text that complements it then use that? Could then share and peer review and improve.

Should give you a fair indication?


I wanted the first hour to be understanding what they are struggling with and what they’re doing st the moment and work off of that - is that a bad plan?


Yes that’s a great idea!! I’m more comfortable with science tuition as I’ve studied it at uni but with English I’m a little bit worried, but that’s a great place to start. Just looking at pobble now - will see if I can find a suitable exercise for both ages!


The absolute best of good luck! :slight_smile:



Anything slightly more open so that you can see roughly what you’re working with.

Start with a picture/short film. I’ll often then just get students to do word/phrase association, take feedback and get language into the room. Then get them to write for 20 minutes or so, stressing quality, not quantity.

I’d also find a short piece of text to see what their understandings like - could do some verbal questioning then get them to answer some comprehension Qs leading up to some sort of personal response.

In answer to your last Q: I would probably do that towards the end - get them energised with the writing/creative stuff. I would then do the functional stuff at the end and get more information the (I’d suggest this is more important for the older ones: specifications, what texts they’re studying, what they’re doing at the moment in school etc. For the younger ones I would gauge their work and go from there)

Having written all this, one thing you haven’t mentioned is what’s actually expected, (i.e. what are these parents expecting?) obviously that’ll have a bearing on the approach you might take.

Echoing Scagden’s good luck!


I teach mixed year 5/6 so hopefully some of this advice is transferable to ks3/4

I’d echo what others have said - pitch high and drag the rest up e.g. I teach to year 6 and support the year 5s - that’s easier imo because if the work is too easy for the older lot that’s when you’ll get behaviour issues - most of the time boredom and lack of challenge are the cause for behaviour probs

For English again what others have said - do a ‘cold task’ maybe based on a short film or stimulus and then you’ll get an idea of what your working with

Literacyshed is my absolute fave website for short films and pictures for creative writing ideas

Hope some of that is useful! Good luck with it all!!


Nobody will know what Boyles Law is I assure you


I work with post-16 and it’s very different. Whoever made the point about English being skill-based and Science knowledge spoke a lot of sense.

The advice you’ve had from the others is good. And starting with a bit of a diagnostic task is sensible. I tend to try a load of relatively short and separate tasks in the first class so you can assess how they work in different situations.