Session 309: Strategies and tips for challenging the most able children in your classroom

Thursday 30th June 2016

Following the result of the UKEdChat discussion poll, the chat session explored, “Strategies and tips for challenging the most able children in your classroom“, and hosted by @87history.

The questions which were asked during the session:

  1. What’s your best advice for challenging more able students?
  2. Do you provide any extra curricular events or activities for more able students?
  3. What support do teachers receive to help challenge more able students?
  4. What are the main factors that lead more able students to underachieve & how can this be prevented/dealt with?
  5. Where do you find resources that challenge more able students?
  6. What are your top tips for ensuring more able students achieve their maximum potential in your subject?


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Compiled by @digicoled

The problem

Supporting the brightest and more able pupils in a classroom situation can be as challenging to teachers as it is supporting lower ability pupils. Striking the right balance is exacting as the range in abilities can stretch the skills of the most established teachers.

As with all students getting to know strengths, weaknesses, diverse needs, and intrinsic tools, but teachers should not be intimidated by more able students, although they are likely to recognise if their knowledge is better than yours! However, this could be celebrated, with the teacher learning alongside pupils, permitting students to act as coaches.

Practical Ideas

Alongside effective teaching, effective questioning is critical. Challenging and developing pupil responses to our questions and not simply providing answers to theirs. ABC questioning excellent for this – Agree, Build, Challenge. Also, explore PPPB questioning technique (Pose, Pause, Pounce, Bounce!), getting students to lead PPPB either with the whole class or in groups.

Giving something beyond their comfort zone – shows that they still have to work hard in lessons, and using current affairs is a great strategy (possibly for older students) in offering thinking challenges where there are no easy or right answers. Alternatively, setting mini-research projects with correct intellectual research plans works very well. Additionally, give students a purposely incorrect answer and ask them to explain reasoning as to why wrong and how to make it right.

You may find exposing more able students to complex writing structures that they can use to frame ideas very powerful. It was also suggested that you could run a TaPs group – Thinking and Problem Solving, inviting pupils from across the school exploring questions and answers that demand higher level thinking.

One suggestion challenged to help more able students fail, as they are so capable they rarely practice failure so it devastates/shocks. Challenge them young! What is key here is to ensure any public ‘outing’ of failure is avoided.


It was observed that ‘most able’ pupils are not always the most academic. Those that possess leadership skills are ‘most able’ in group work. Mixed ability grouping can help. If lessons aim high conceptually and teacher is positive, all abilities can shine. Focus on leading lessons with a strong sense of purpose, pace and energy -and creating a space that feels challenging yet safe.

Enthuse & inspire. Challenge preconceptions. Encourage risk taking in thinking. Go beyond specification parameters.

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The Editorial Account of UKEdChat, managed by editor-in-chief Colin Hill, with support from Martin Burrett from the UKEd Magazine. Pedagogy, Resources, Community.

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