Classes with mixed level students are something that every TEFL teacher will come across sooner or later. So, how can you make sure that both types of students learn in your class without anyone getting bored, insecure or left behind?
Here at i-to-i we’ve trained over 120,000 ESL teachers and have a trick or two up our sleeve when it comes to mixed level classes:
1) Make two versions of the same task. Let’s say that your topic is adjectives and the weather.
Advanced Task: Split the advanced students into 2 teams. Tell each team to write and act out a group presentation using 15 weather adjectives.
Beginner Task: Give students a worksheet with common English adjectives. Get them to make sentences about the weather with a partner.
*You’ll need to monitor the beginner class more carefully as their limited English could make it more difficult for them to concentrate.
2) Have an extra activity prepared. If your class abilities differ slightly, but they can still do the same work, make sure you have something extra planned for early finishers!
3) Don’t rely on the strongest students. As an ESL teacher, it can sometimes be (very) tempting to ask questions to the most advanced students. After all, they can give you the most detailed answers and are most likely to get the question right. Instead of doing this, give the whole class a chance by alternating between easy and challenging questions.
4) Give beginner students more time to warm up. Many successful TEFL teachers use an interesting opening question to get the students talking at the start of class. If you’re going to do this in a mixed level class make sure you give the beginner students a minute or two to process the question before asking for an answer. This will give them time to think of the words they need and to fit them together into a sentence.
5) Move on. If your students don’t know the answer, take the heat off. There is nothing more embarrassing to a beginner student than not knowing the answer and having the whole class staring at you in anticipation! Instead, try this method:
Teacher: Sun Mi, What colour is the boy’s hat?
Sun Mi: Blank Stare (give student a few seconds-they may just be thinking)
Teacher: Okay, Ji Su, What hat is the boy wearing?
Ji Su: The boy is wearing a baseball cap.
Teacher: So what hat is the boy wearing Sun Mi?
*You’ve now given Sun Mi the sentence formula with which to answer and given her a much better chance. Even more importantly you have helped her speak out without embarrassment!
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Written by Katherine Hackett. Katherine works for i-to-i TEFL who have trained 120,000 teachers to teach abroad. i-to-i also have a jobs board with 350 live TEFL jobs all over the world.