Friday, March 30, 2012

Mixed Level Classes

Most of my classes are of mixed English proficiency, and there is a large discrepancy in focus and ability which means I can spend a lot of time assisting lower level students who may otherwise get distracted.
I'm co-teaching with a native English speaking teacher. We're teaching students in Grade 5, and 6 mainly focusing on listening, and speaking skills. We have about 30 students of varying proficiency in English in one class.
The questions then becomes, who will you concentrate on, the higher level students, then the middle and lower level starts to feel English is too hard or impossible. Focus on the middle level, then the higher levels are bored, and lower level distracts the class, or the lower level, then the whole class sleeps.



  1. When I was teaching in grade school, this dilemma I faced in every classroom everyday. I tried every conceivable idea I could. Finally, I tried this. During the semester, I would have some assignments. Each assignment was broken down to 3 levels; Intermediate, lower advanced, and upper advanced (notice how I labeled each level). Each level was given a certain criteria and explained to the students, if all the criterias were met, a score was given. For intermediate, the highest score possible was a 6, lower intermediate a 8, and upper intermediate a 10. Students were to assess their abilities and choose which level to aim for. Of course the lower level would choose intermediate and the advance the upper level. The middle group had a choice. Their choice would depend on how much work they wanted to do. If none, they would choose the lower level. Just enough effort, the middle and if they strived to achieve something higher, they chose to do the higher level.

    As I only did this for one semester and finally got a job offer at an university, which of course, has its own problems, but I figure after 10 years of experience at the university level and my MA TESOL's degree, I'll come up with something experimental and worthwhile. Anyways, the results were surprisingly good. If a regular assignment were assigned, the low level students would have not done the work, therefore achieve a zero, or close to a zero score. The advance would score highest and the middle, well, in the middle. But by doing this, something strange started to happen. The lower level actually produced something (written as well as spoken). Not much more than they regularly produced but something else. They started to do some work. Some Ss later started to attempt to do the lower intermediate level. Yes! This was great, then I left the school.

    This experience/experiment leaves me with the idea that even within a mixed level class, by giving students achievable goals with some form of reward may benefit them, and overall, benefit the class and the teacher.

  2. How to manage the various proficiency level?
    The idealistically, teachers should prepare for the different level of materials or activities according to students various level but obviously it seems not very easy to Korea education environment whether it pubic school or not. So I reckon, it is very important to precede teacher should consider the proficiency gab for whatever activities and tasks that teacher ask students to do.

    So how can we deal with that situation?
    To being honest by myself, I haven’t had actual teaching experience but while I’ve been thinking of that at least group work will be helpful both of low and high level students. What If teacher provided extra activities for both the low and high level student such as role playing with a funny situation. According to Vygotoky’s theory – social interaction ZPD-of cognitive development, when learners are collaborative in expert-novice relationship, learners can successfully commence co-construction of knowledge. So a groping student of varying ranges in the same group will promote cooperative learning.

    The other things what I've been thinking is that when teacher engage students with easy questions or test to a student in a lower level and then ask more difficult questions to a student with higher proficiency level. In that way,slow learners would build confidence while the advanced students expand on their knowledge, constantly challenged without losing interests or getting bored.

    I could image that how hard to managed class with a mixed level students even though I don’t have any experiences. But if I face with this situation, I hope to find some kind of solution which could help my class more wisely.