Classes of mixed ability Classes with mixed ability can be a

Classes with mixed ability can be a challenge in that, as a teacher you would like each student to learn to the best of their ability and to be stretched if they need to. It also means that there may be people in the class who know whole concepts of English that others do not.

This would mean working out the levels and spending some time with each level group to get an idea of where each group needs lessons. This would be a time too to get an idea of interests of the groups to help plan lessons. In cases such as with more advanced students it could mean them working separately from the others. This could be achieved by giving them other tasks that might interest them. There might be an on going project they have to work on independently or there might be a learning area where they have comprehensions or other activities to do again independently.

They might also have assignments that they can do as a group or pairs, such as working out a newspaper article, writing a menu, making up a fiction story based on their country, helping and encouraging each other as they work on it.

These more advance students might be able to help with the other students looking at texts with them, helping with games that are being played, and perhaps taking leadership roles if they have the ability and the class is large.

In these cases though, it is important that they don’t over power the lower student and that the lower students still do the work.

There is no reason why the higher students can’t be involved in other parts of the lesson with the other student. Warm up sessions can be done by all students and certainly there will be teaching sessions that they must be involved in. The work after these sessions might well be more advance and at times such as with listening they can be listening to more advanced conversations or narrations. These techniques can be used for the intermediate levels too, keeping the work at the appropriate level. They might do worksheets at their level or perhaps word sorts, sorting words into groups of their choice i.e. rhyming, similar meaning; they might to some work with a dictionary. All things they could do independently or in groups.

Using the above techniques can gives the teacher more time with lower levels. They might need more explanation of a grammar topic or perhaps some repetitions work. Worksheets would be very useful in this type of class as it is something that all the groups could potentially do independently. The teacher needs to be able to spend time with each group from time to time and the higher levels might be able to help the lower levels while this is happening.

It would be good if the class was big enough for all these things to happen in the one room so the teacher might be aware of what is going on but this will not always be possible and some times some students will have to leave the room which will make it hard to keep track. Sometimes, in fact it might not even be advisable depending on the discipline of the students making it difficult too.

One way to help this situation is to keep things flowing and changing activities so that the teacher gets to spend blocks of time with each group. I can see that these things would be hard to do though and to be extremely organized would be essential. Having good discipline early would also be essential. Overall this would be a difficult situation but not an impossible one and one that if you were confronted with it, you would be able to work through.

Reference: New Connections, an integrated approach to literacy. Kathy Pike, Rita Compain, Jean Mumper.

How to teach English. Jeremy Harmer