How to work with mixed ability classes

How to work with mixed ability classes

While teaching groups of students I often face a challenge when I have to teach students who are clearly of different levels or abilities. They may have different starting levels of English, different strengths and weaknesses, some students can speak fluently but others can’t pronounce a sentence. Sometimes students just different speeds of learning and as a result, there are fast finishes who are always bored to wait for others. they may feel held back, weaker students may feel pressured. The teacher may feel stressed. Anyway, you have to do a lot of work to adapt the materials and tasks to satisfy the needs of every students and develop specific skills equally.

These are several strategies that a teacher can use to deal with this situation.

Strategy 1 – Different pairing and grouping 

Depending on the task and the class dynamics you can vary different grouping patterns. For a free activity, you can pair a stronger student with a stronger student and a weaker student with a weaker one so they work to their full potential. Stronger students would be able to work on their own, while you will have a chance to provide weaker students with more help and guidance. You can also pair strong students with weak ones, it will better work in a very controlled activity.
You may consider dividing your class into groups by level for the whole lesson. You will be able to give a different level or number of tasks to each group. So stronger students might have more questions to answer or more vocabulary to work with.

Strategy 2 – Set achievable goals

Setting goals helps to focus the students and gives the sense of achievement. The goals can be different for each student, depending on their level, that might be writing 50-word letter for weaker students and 100-word letter for stronger students.

Strategy 3 – Adapt tasks

I know, it is time-consuming to create different tasks for different levels, however, it is possible to think of fairly simple extra tasks. For example, during a reading lesson, weaker students answer less number of questions, stronger students do a profound language analysis. Also, you can provide different types of questions: weaker students read the text and match the questions and the answers, midlevel students do multiple choice task, stronger students have open-ended questions:

Task A: Weaker students
Questions:

  1. How much of London’s history does The Spirit of London show?
    2. How do you go around it?
    3. What special effects does it have?

    Answers
    a. lights, sound, music, and smells
    c. more than 400 years
    d. in a taxi

    Task B: Midlevel students
    1. How much of London’s history does The Spirit of London how?
    a. 400 years
    b. more than 400 years
    c. 399 years
    2. How do you go around it?
    a. in a taxi
    b. in a train
    c. on foot
    3. What special effects does it have?
    a. lights
    b. sound and music
    c. smells

Task C: Stronger students
1. How much of London’s history does The Spirit of London
show?
2. How do you go around it?
3. What special effects does it have?

Strategy 4 – Homework

When teaching mixed ability classes, the weaker students will be missing things during the lesson, or failing to understand. Give them homework which really recycles the class work. The stronger students may feel held back during the class, so give them more challenging work.

What strategies do you use while working with mixed ability classes?
Write in the comment section below.


Мария Цедрик

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