Classes of mixed abilityIn this essay I will look at classes of mixed ability, how they are dealt with in the classroom, and how the needs of the individual learner can be catered for.
To begin with, a definition of a mixed ability class must be looked at. Susan Bremner defines a mixed ability class as, ?A mixed ability class does not just consist of a range of abilities but also a range of learning styles and preferences. All pupils will show strengths at different times depending on the topic being studied and the learning style being used.? This definition appears agreeable, as it flags up the idea that there are not ?good? and ?bad? pupils within a class, but rather students
may have different language abilities in different areas.
Keeping this in mind, one area that must be looked at is using a variety of activities within the classroom. If the activity is constantly changed, then pupils who are visual learners for example, may be more able to understand a subject, so when this is then explained in a written way, learners who prefer this can also understand. For example, Nordlund suggests, ?Kinesthetic learners learn best when they can manipulate objects e.g. by doing, touching and moving.? This would suggest that a physical activity must take place for this style of learner in the classroom, as well as more traditional styles of written work.
Another thing that must be taken into consideration is timing. Some pupils may be faster at getting through work than others, so enough must be provided in order that learners do not become bored and disinterested, but at the same time those who are not grasping the subject as well do not feel overwhelmed by vast amounts of work. Giving pupils their own sense of time within the classroom may help them feel in control of their learning, and allow for individual catering. For example, ?Helping them with a structure, reminding them and preparing them for changes in the activities will not just help them to remain on task, but will allow you to be proactive in your behavior management techniques.? This suggests that time management can also help with behavior, due to keeping the attention of all pupils at all times.
Finally, tiered activities may be a way of managing learners of a mixed ability. It allows learners who have grasped the new vocabulary to explore it further, whilst those who need more help can look at the original grammar in a different way. This is again explored by Susan Bremner, who states, ?I also tried out a tiered writing task. Pupils were to create a puzzle on food for a parallel class to complete. The bronze level was to design a word search, the silver level was to be an odd-one-out exercise and the gold level was to be clues in French e.g. C?est un fruit jaune.? This is a perfect example of catering for the individual learner using tiered tasks.
In conclusion, to an extent all classes will contain mixed ability within it, so tefl teachers
must always cater for the individual learner. If the right techniques are used this can be a rewarding experience for both pupil and teacher.