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As any good teacher knows, all students do not learn in the same way. In addition, it is common for a class of students to be at a variety of levels in any particular subject. Teachers need to use different teaching methods in order to reach all students effectively. A variety of teaching strategies, knowledge of student levels, and an implementation of which strategies are best for particular students can help teachers to know which teaching methods will be most effective for their class.
Different level classrooms are as varied as the students in them. Most often, they include students who communicate in English at a variety of different levels. They may also be considered different level because they include students with different types of learning backgrounds, such as those who have learned orally and those who have learned mainly from a textbook. Students may also have different levels of literacy in their own native language. A classroom that contains some students who are not may also be considered different levels. Finally, the term different levels can be used to refer to a group
Advantages and Challenges of teaching different level Classes
When faced with the challenge of a multi-level classroom many teachers do not know where to start. They fear that the preparation will take much longer, and that the students will be more demanding. Schools that have different level classes often have limited budgets, and teachers may fear that they will not be paid for what they are worth. However, it is only by looking at the advantages of the different level classroom and employing strategies to overcome the challenges, that teachers can achieve success.
Advantages of different level classrooms
Students are able to learn at their own pace
Students learn to work well in a group
Students become independent learners
Students develop strong relationships with their peers
Students become partners in learning
Challenges of different level classrooms
Finding appropriate teaching resources and material
Organizing appropriate groupings within the class
Building an effective self-access centre in the classroom
Determining the individual needs of each student
Ensuring that all students are challenged and interested
Enforcing English only policies when teacher is occupied and students are working in small groups or pairs
Generally, for the first class, teachers have to assess learners for using different kinds of tests for many reasons. This assessment can be formal or informal. Formal assessments include standardized tests, tests from the textbook or curriculum being used, or teacher-created tests. These assessments can give teachers an idea of the previous instruction that the students have received as well as their academic level. The students in the class may have undergone various teaching methods and quality of instruction in previous years.
Informal instruction is, as the name suggests, much less formal. Good teachers know their students. If they have been teaching a particular group of students for some time, you probably already know quite a bit about their interests, ability levels, and learning styles. If the group of students is new to teachers, they can make a point of asking them, individually or in a group, about their interests and academic strengths. Depending on the age of the children, they may also be able to write about this, or answer some form of questionnaire about their hobbies, interests, previous instruction, strengths, and weaknesses. Students generally enjoy talking about themselves and having their teacher get to know them well, as it makes them feel special, as well as directing teachers in choosing their teaching methods.
There are different teaching methods in normal classes. Here are the generally ways that the teachers used.
Direct instruction is the most common form of instruction. This is the lecturing method of teaching. Many teachers use this teaching method almost exclusively, as it is considered the simplest, and they can cover large amounts of material in a short period of time. However, this is not the most effective teaching method to reach all students, especially younger ones, who often need a more engaging, hands-on strategy in order to learn effectively. In addition, it is hard for teachers to tailor instruction to students at different levels.
Inquiry-based learning is based on the scientific method, this teaching method can be used for virtually all subjects. Using inquiry-based learning takes a lot of time, energy, and planning, but it is often very effective. Students practice problem solving and critical thinking skills to arrive at a conclusion. This teaching method is extremely student-centered and student-directed, and can be modified for students at any level, reaching them where they are. Teachers will generally need to start by modeling the process to the students.
Cooperative learning is another teaching method that is considered highly effective when done correctly. With cooperative learning, students are put in small groups to work together. They are usually not grouped by ability, but put in a group with children at a variety of levels. The students are then given tasks to accomplish together. Teachers may need to monitor these groups carefully, to make sure they are staying on task and that all students are participating. This form of instruction also lends itself well to differentiation, because the teacher can assign specific tasks to children at different ability levels.
One more common teaching method is to teach information processing strategies. While it is often advisable to have students really understand the teaching methods and not just memorize facts, there are some cases when facts need to be memorized. Facts and concepts may also need to be grouped or organized in order to facilitate better understanding. Teachers can use various teaching methods to help students with memorization, or they can use graphic organizers, mind maps, story webs, or other ways to represent information visually.
In my opinion, I have been an English teacher for over twenty years. I have forced many problems in the English class. One main problem is different level students in the class. I have created in various ways to manage my different English class as the following;
1. Determining the Needs of your Students
One of the first things teachers should do when assigned to a different level classroom is determine the needs of the individual members. If possible, this should be done before the first class. There are a variety of ways to conduct needs assessment, depending on the size of the class, and your access to an office and a computer. Many schools use a standardized test for new students. While this may help teachers determine the language level of the students in the different level class, standardized tests cannot determine the personal needs of the individual students. For small classes it is useful to invite students into the office for a quick chat to determine what the students' objectives are (ex. improving writing skills, learning conversational English, understanding of rules and grammar). Students may not know the answer to this, so it is a good idea to create a list that they can pick from. I give the option of picking a primary and a secondary reason. Here are some examples that could be placed in a list for students to choose from:
To improve my speaking skills
To get into college
To use for traveling
To become a future teacher
To learn the rules of grammar
To please my parents
Teachers should also use this time to explain to the students that there will be other students with different levels of English in the class and that they will be using partnering and grouping exercises and activities in order to meet the needs of everyone. If they don't have access to an office or classroom or they have a large class, teachers may want to e-mail the question to their students, or have short telephone conversations with them. When none of these options are possible, they can always set aside their first class as an intake day. If possible, stagger the start times of their students by five minutes so that they can speak to each one individually. Brainstorming in a group may also work if teachers have a small enough class.
2. Selecting Materials
Finding a core textbook for the class may help teachers if they have a number of students who are at a similar level of English. Teachers may find that they need more than one level of the same textbook series. If they require more than two levels, however, using a core textbook may only make their life more complicated, and different level textbooks are difficult to come by. Another option is to use a theme based approach. Keeping all of the students working on activities and lessons based on the same theme is a great way of maintaining a class-like atmosphere in a different level classroom. Not only will this help their students feel like they all belong in the group, it will save them prep time and make them feel more organized. Follow up activities, such as games and discussions can then be based on the theme. English Club has collected a wide range of theme based lessons to save time for teachers.
Whole group Warm-up
Information gap exercises
Art and images
Computer lab assignments
3. Teaching Method Strategies
Experiment with different types of groupings to find the ones that work best.
Teachers may find that cross-ability pairs work best for certain types of activities, while like-ability small groups work better for others. If possible, use a wide variety of groupings to keep things interesting for the class.
Use a simple schedule that is similar each day.
Here is an example:
Start with a warm-up that involves the whole group.
Break part of the class off into one type of grouping (i.e. pairs) and work with part of the class on a lesson, grammar point, or activity.
Break off the class into another type of grouping (i.e. small groups) and have the other students use self-access materials.
Bring the class back together for a whole group activity/game.
4. Try to use differentiated instruction. Since all kids learn differently, this approach will help teacher see that some of their students are visual learners whereas others are more hands on. There are many books that teachers can buy on differentiated instruction. I have been using it in my classroom and it has helped both me and my students.
5. Teacher must teach the basic points to the whole class and then, after a short time start preparing different exercises for the different "levels" in the class. This is not easy because teachers have groups of 25/30 students. If they are a few teachers of English teaching the same level or form they should try and regroup students of different abilities at the same time making more homogenous groups. Teachers can do it in 6th grade up and it works pretty well.
6. Choose activities/tasks that allow learners to draw on their own experience (e.g. life stories or a funny experience) this way everyone has something to say and the focus is not on whose better/not so good, but on sharing experiences and ideas through English.
7. Individualize the lesson as much as possible, and use the different levels to your advantage. Pair/group them and have the stronger students work with the weaker students.
8. Show short clips from popular cartoons, childrenââ‚¬â„¢s dramas in English and then get them acting out various scenes.
To sum up, there are many, many more teaching methods, but these are the most common. If the teacher finds the best teaching method for a particular group of students, the students are likely to learn more quickly and be more engaged. In addition, using a variety of teaching methods will keep children from being bored, and help them encounter the information in new and exciting ways.