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Responses to my blog on teaching lower-achieving pupils

I have put together the responses I've received so far about how to get the best from lower-achieving students. These were posted on Twitter and Facebook and are, by the way, an example of how you can crowd-source ideas. Many thanks to those who responded. See what you think of them.



Make sure they're listening carefully when reading a text in TL by getting then to do actions (apologies for my shocking handwriting here 😶)

Shared aim, short varied tasks practicing same in different ways using different media.accountability with recording all marks publicly. Tests at beginning of each lesson to show that effort = progress. Nowhere to hide, use sticks in pot to choose students to answer the questions. Pair, think, share. Seating plans changed until get the best fit. Not easy and I don't profess to hold answer but that's what I do. Will you do mixed ability teaching next as seems new fad... Grrrrrr

With low ability, it's even more important to cheer them on so they don't give up on themselves.

My lower sets LOVE worksheets for consolidation. Doing similar sentences x 20 means less risk for kids & more likely to retain.

Praise, competition, letting form tutor know/contacting home when good progress is being made

1st thing is to develop a relationship with each individual. Easier to get them to work if they know you care about them.

I try to recycle structures, and set high expectations - carefully scaffolded. Agree about cognates. Also teach phonics.

Turn learning into games and keep it simple. Recycle vocabulary.

Concentrate on the understanding and encouraging simple sentences formation. Listening regularly is essential

If a listing exercise requires multiple answers per question, focus on two key aspects, and highlight on the table. They always manage more!

Focus on the key aspect. If learning the past tense and they spell a noun incorrectly, move on. Make sure they know the objective

Keep it simple. If there's a cognate - teach it! Reward everything they do well. Don't dwell on grammar. Smile.

Get parents on side. engage with them & cheer them on. let them know you care.

Short structured achievable tasks, variety, fun, praise, confidence building activities.

Scaffold the learning: shared practice, group/partner practice, guided practice, then independent.

Don't give them stuff that's too hard for them - the curse of knowledge. Whilst at the same time having high expectations.

Important to engage pupils as much as possible - I have names on lolly sticks, they take it in turns to pick who answers.

Interactive stuff: making sentences, clear images and keep grammar as simple as possible.

Frequent oral 'exit tickets', giving thinking time and a chance to emulate stronger/more confident students.


I usually have three objectives (identify vocabulary for 6 family members, say what my family members are called, give further details about my family). Then after we've addressed each one, display the objective slide again and tick off the one they've met. Gives a sense of achievement and therefore motivates.

Small steps, lots of kinaesthetic activities, competitions, lots of talking, rewards and lots of praise. Also regular re-visiting.

Sometimes a list of the activities planned for the lesson helps them stay focused. I break it down into timed segments with a symbol for each type of activity (reading, writing, listening, speaking, games etc.). They tick off when they have done an activity. Sense of achievement and makes them focus more in the bits they don't like as much/find a struggle because they know it won't be forever.

Also linking language to things that interest them (I know this pretty much goes without saying) but I had a potentially very difficult Y9 last year. We set after options to get a head start on GCSE which leaves a group of non-opters who tend to be mostly lower ability. I took them on a virtual holiday around France. Each lesson I began with a story (in English) about where we were, how we had ended up there and which particular problem we had encountered. Then we learnt the language to deal with the problem. We booked the holiday, travelled and bought tickets, ate in fancy restaurants, complained about the hotel, went to Euro 2016 (and literally bought the t-shirt), decided we wanted to stay so applied for jobs at the Paris St Germain shop on the Champs Elysées, became "animateur" and designed children's activities and wrote children's books. No focus on grammar, just useful phrases. I even got them to write "useful French" on the front of their books. We had a ball. They are now year ten but when I bump into them they tell me they miss those lessons. The key thing in all of this though was that there was no pressure for the kids and no pressure for me. No exam to prepare for, total freedom to do what I wanted. It was bliss!

Praise everything! That moment your lowest ability year 7 reads words out loud unprompted with correct pronunciation or recalls vocab/structures from one lesson to the next, the praise is so powerful for their motivation and spurs them on!

I'm taking my lead from the pupils themselves this year in my low ability yr 7 class. They love getting teddies to do things....they read for the teddies, the teddies "help" them write and they role play by giving voices to the teddies. It started off feeling very strange but the pupils love it!!

Teach opinions in whatever language first then these can be built on in any topic e.g. J'aime, j'adore etc - 1st topic did this with cognates, then school, now we are adding infinitives and doing food and drink. They can loosely follow same SOL topic wise as other classes but by recycling verbs they can have a sense of achieving something too. FCSE works really well as a motivator in y9 and KS4. I also teach y7 bottom set with puppets (two puppets - one for me and one for one of the TA's) they absolutely love this and means loads of language happens by talking to the puppet. If they don't understand things the puppets helps and there are mock 'yes, no' style disagreements with the puppets too.

Don't miss steps out - plan backwards. What do you want them to be able to do at the end of the lesson? What do you need to teach them to get them there? This way you will work through each step and it may highlight things you haven't taught them yet that they will need to know!

I haven't read the blog but I find some of them tend to mix up English and French on the page as all the words are muddled for them - I either avoid English entirely on vocab lists etc or make sure everything is painstakingly clear/explain how to use the vocab resource and get them to practise finding words etc first.

By email from Clare ( Teaching Ideas)

Focus on what they can do, short chunks of work with some sort of learning game at the end.

Raffle tickets for great effort, put these in a tub and draw out a winner each half term for an edible prize.

Send praise postcards home.

Seat pupils wisely and change seating plans regularly.

Varied scaffolded texts for writing and give pupils a choice, this allows them to take ownership.

Worksheets which become progressively more challenging the more they do.

Group work, boosts morale and encourages.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


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