MIXED-ABILITY CLASSES

Teaching groups with mixed abilities - for teachers; Advantages of learning in a group - for students; Personal experience - Irina Fedichkina.

TEACHING MIXED-ABILITY CLASSES

In the perfect world, all groups are going to consist of people of exactly the same level, speed, and background, but in reality, this is impossible. Even if originally all students were placed on the same level it is highly unlikely they will have the same knowledge gaps, skills, and strengths. People also study at different paces and benefit from different types of activities. When you consider it, knowing how to work with mixed-ability and multi-level groups is essential.

Differentiate

You can try to provide different students with varying tasks based on their specific needs. Stronger students can get more challenging tasks while weaker ones will need something fitting their needs. Balancing between individual work and tasks and group work is what will bear the most fruit when teaching such classes. 

Praise

It is important to give out praise according to the students’ personal success without comparing them to each other. This way they will feel their efforts were acknowledged. Keep in mind everybody’s struggles and weaknesses and praise them when they manage to overcome them.

Grouping

There are two ways you can manage group work in mixed-ability classrooms. The first is to bring together stronger students and make them work on different tasks than a group of weaker students. Thus, their activities will be based on their abilities and strengths appropriate to their levels. 

Another option is to group stronger students with weaker ones, enabling peer correction and help, especially if the goal is for everyone within the group to complete the task.

Expectation

If you give the whole group the same task you can expect different results or achievements from them. For example, stronger students may complete the whole exercise, while weaker ones only a half. During speaking practice give your students more time to think about their answer asking weaker students last. 

Extra work

Every student may get extra homework from you, or one that is tailored specifically to the things they need to work on. This may increase the teacher's workload but will help the students. 


ADVANTAGES OF LEARNING IN A GROUP

When choosing how to study a language many people often opt for individual lessons which have many obvious advantages. However, studying in a group can be even more beneficial if you have a lower level. Here are some more reasons to join a study group:

Variety of speaking activities

Firstly, when you study with other people there are many opportunities to practice your language in different ways. When it’s just you and your teacher, you can only talk to each other, however, in a group there are debates, negotiations, little conversations you can have with different people, who all have their own way of thinking and saying things.

Sharing knowledge

Several studies have proved that people learn better from their peers than from a teacher. If you hear a word, phrase or a grammatical structure used by your groupmates you are much more likely to remember them and immediately try to use them.

Collaboration

Your groupmates have different ideas, knowledge, backgrounds and their own unique ways of looking at things. When you work on some exercises together, you may find solutions much quicker or even come up with something unexpected. Not even to say that doing groupwork can be extremely fulfilling and so much fun.

Motivation

If your classroom has a friendly atmosphere and you genuinely like the people you are studying with, that only may motivate you to keep learning and attending your lessons. And some people may even become your lifelong friends!

Competition

One more point, is that seeing your peers do their homework and studying hard may motivate you to keep up with them and work harder than you would have. Some people just love healthy competition!


PERSONAL EXPERIENCE

Hello, everyone! I’m Irina and I’ve been teaching English for over 7 years. The things I like most about my job are a chance to share my knowledge with students and an opportunity to be creative in my workplace. My job also allows me to grow and develop constantly. And I’m simply happy to help people, to make them feel more confident about their knowledge and cultivate love for the language.

It’s every teacher’s dream to teach a group of students of the same level. But in most cases, the real situation is far from those ideal conditions. And it’s a great resource to spark your creativity!

Teaching mixed-level classes is always challenging for a teacher and requires some additional work as a lesson is supposed to be informative, helpful, and exciting at the same time for all the students. In my practice, I use different approaches to prepare activities suitable for each student in a group. The most common one is pairing. It’s important to pair students properly and to do so a teacher should be very attentive to relationships between different students. In some cases, it’s productive to put weak students in pairs with weak ones and strong students with strong ones, but it’s also effective to pair stronger students with weaker ones.

In the whole group discussions, it’s better to differentiate tasks. For instance, you can create several subtopics within one main topic for each student to be involved in an activity. Let’s say you need to introduce technology vocabulary in your lesson. You create three different tasks for three levels: the weakest students are supposed to make a few basic sentences about technology in general like “I love technology”, “I can’t live without technology”, “Technology is developing fast”, etc. You can ask

higher-level learners to tell a story connected to technology using past tenses.

Other students will listen to these stories and prepare follow-up questions. The strongest students can compare different tech products.

A teacher should always make sure that stronger students are challenged enough but at the same time weaker learners are not overloaded otherwise the whole lesson may result in overall demotivation. That’s why it’s essential to keep a balance and be flexible.


That’s all for now!
Stay amazing♥