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Classroom Ability Groups

Posted by in Assessment, Classroom Ideas

Some teachers hate using ability groups, but I’ve always found them to be beneficial. I use ability groups in my class for some subjects and mixed ability groups for others.

I have four ability groups – red, green, yellow and blue. Red group is my more able group working down to blue group who would be weakest and in most need of support. The ability group colours match my table colours which helps to organise the seating arrangements.

The children have two seats – name seats and coloured seats. Their name seats are as it sounds – the seat where their name tag is. They sit in these seats for the lessons, which are mixed ability, and when eating. For lessons where the children are grouped according to ability they sit in their ‘coloured seats’.

The children are not all in the same group for every subject and it can be hard to keep track of who is in which group for different activities so I use coloured labels to help me keep abreast of the situation.


The coloured labels are stuck on the spine of the children’s books and copies for subjects that are grouped by ability. The children know that if they have a book with a colour on it, they sit at that table for that activity. If there is no label, they sit in their ‘name seats’.


I have found grouping the children in this way works well for differentiation and also allows me to move around the classroom helping children more effectively. The children are unaware of the reasoning behind the colours and really enjoy sitting with different friends all the time.

I have found a range of other benefits from the children moving around the class for each lesson. The children benefit socially from sitting with different children throughout the day. I have found that moving the children around the class also works well for children who struggle with concentration or have sensory issues as they get plenty of movement breaks. It helps to improve the children’s independence and develops their sense of responsibility.

How to make the labels

The labels are really simple to make. I use sheets of address labels and there are various ways in which you can colour them. You can colour them by hand if you have the patients! I print mine using Microsoft word/powerpoint. Simply make a coloured document – the handiest way is to fill the page with a coloured shape – and print it onto the labels. It is even handier to just colour photocopy a coloured piece of card on to a sheet of labels although the colour doesn’t come out as strong as printing them.

Another trick is to use rolls of tape. Coloured washi tape, duck tape or even electrical tape does the same job!

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