“Streamed ability classes” may be a term that is unfamiliar to some, but the practice has been going on for a very long time. Dividing students into groups so they can move forward or get extra time to work with a concept has been a trade mark of a good teacher.
There is much debate about how far to carry streamed ability classes and if they can be handled in one classroom. There are concerns about how students may feel about about being in different groups and what the labels will do.
Dig back in time about 30 years ago, in a small town, and there was an elementary school. In fifth grade the students began moving to different classes for different subjects. There was a class period dedicated to reading, the program was a set of cards with reading exercises on them. The idea was to be self paced. The students all started out with the guppy cards and worked their way up the to whales. Mrs. Spear was the teacher and she did her best to be there for every student.
Two of the girls in the class were exceptional readers. They were whales and finished with the project long before the other children. So during the time when the other students were working on the cards – they put on miner lights and went in the closet with pillows to read. They were required to choose from a list and do various forms of book reports.
It may sound a bit naive, but the two girls didn’t feel privileged or smarter, they were just doing what whales do. When questioned about it one of the girls told her mother, “Look, whenever the next kids get to whales, there will be something else for us and they will be in the closet because that is what whales do. “ Children can handle it. If the teacher handles it properly, the children will as well.
Most children do not excel in every academic area. They are more gifted in one area than the other. It could be that a group from several different classrooms come together just for one subject in which they need extra help or need to have next level. It is certainly more work for the teachers and yet what is best for the students?
Students seems to do better if there is someone that is getting a little better grade. It is within their reach to become as good as that mark. No matter what level, this seems to be the case.
Streamed ability classes are a win-win situation. Children who need more time and explanation are given that time. Other children of about the same level don’t view it as odd. They are learning together as a class. Gifted students are not waiting for others to “catch up” in a streamed ability classroom they are challenged to do more and get better.
It’s clear that with great teachers and active concerned parents streamed ability class.