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3 Steps to Teaching Mixed Ability ESL Students Effectively

3 Steps to Teaching Mixed Ability ESL Students Effectively | ITTT | TEFL Blog

It is well known that the population of students in the same class is usually heterogeneous. In other words, all students have different learning abilities, talents, intelligence, interests, and maturity level. A teacher's task is to understand how to help each student to learn best. Educators use various teaching techniques, methods, and tools to reach students' needs. There are different ways to teach the classes with mixed learning abilities, and among them are the strategies that work well in the multilevel classes.

This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Aya A. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.

1. Testing the students' level

To start with, a teacher needs to determine students' language level. To assess the students, the teacher could use formal and informal tests to show each student's language level. The same age class might have a wide range of academic levels. For example, some students might have excellent fluency and accuracy and, at the same time, have low comprehension, whereas other students may not be able to read. Moreover, some bright students in the same class can grasp the new material quickly. What should also be taken into account is that each person learns the new concept differently: some move around the classroom while learning the new vocabulary. Others need to sit in one place and complete the assignment step by step. Knowing each student and identifying their academic skills, potential problems, and needs can help the teacher design the curriculum and plan lessons accordingly.

2. The principles of instruction

The next thing the teacher needs to consider is the usage of differentiated instructions in a mixed-ability class. It means that even if the whole course studies the same material, each group of students (formed according to the student's language level) receives separate instructions and level-specific material based on their needs and abilities. For instance, when teaching Irregular verbs, an educator explains the content to the whole class first, then to a group, and after an individual student according to their language level. An Advanced level group gets a card with a text in the present the use, and the student's task is to put all the irregular verbs in the correct past form. An Intermediate level group has to complete the sentences by choosing the Irregular verbs from the box. An Elementary level group's assignment could fill in the blanks with irregular verbs in the parenthesis. This way, each student should be involved in the learning process while the teacher monitors the whole class and helps the individuals who are still struggling or need the teacher's assistance for clarification. Using a variety of instructional strategies and delivery methods in mixed-ability courses and grouping students is essential to the learning process since there are many benefits.

3. Variations in classroom management

Classroom management goes inseparably with differentiated instructions. Educators use various management systems broadly in mixed-ability classes, including Daily 5, centers, stations, etc. Each station has a specific task and lasts for about 10-15 minutes, depending on the students' ages (the younger the students, the shorter the time). Students rotate from station to station when the time is over. For example, at one station, students could do some writing assignments, at the other one-listening and reading the text, and so on, including a station with some language games. It is up to the teacher what station to create and how many. These factors are based on students' learning needs. Students should work independently at all of the stations while the teacher meets the individual needs of the whole group, a small group, or does one-on-one conferencing. This system works productively, as in one lesson. Students use various ways to learn the material under study: games, movements, audible tasks, writing assignments, etc. While students work independently at each station, it is essential that they feel comfortable and confident in the classroom.A teacher should create a safe, positive workplace for students to receive the teacher's attention and feedback to ensure better learning.

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It takes extra preparation for a teacher to plan the curriculum and activities for a mixed-ability class. However, once educators define their students' learning levels, they can design lesson plans differentiating various learning abilities. Teaching mixed-ability classes can be challenging, but it is possible. Moreover, teaching students with different power levels will be an excellent opportunity for teachers to be creative, energetic, and tuned-in to their students' needs. In the end, both learners and teachers will get incredible satisfaction and the most rewarding outcomes because teachers can engage every student in the learning process and provide a safe learning environment for students to learn, create, produce, and have fun.

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