Classes of Mixed AbilityI find this subject particularly interesting, especially in an adult english
class. I think the reason it appears appealing to me is because I can see the challenges and the fun activities that this mixed ability group can bring to everyone involved.
For an adult mixed ability class, I assume this could mean their levels of the language and/or different backgrounds. In any case, I would take this challenge and turn it into an advantage.
According to ‘Teaching Multi-Level Classes’ at http://www.englishclub.com/teaching-tips/teaching-multi-level-classes.htm
some advantages and difficulties for this kind of classes are,
Advantages of Multi-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 Multi-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
For a class with mixed levels/backgrounds, it would be important to let the students of lower level feel comfortable about going at a slower pace while keeping the higher level students interested and challenged. In this case, practicing pairing students in the strong/weak order could be beneficial to both party as long as cautious are being taken so that the more advanced students are not doing all the work. In order to keep this from happening, planning according to student’s background also comes in handy. On top of pairing students in the weak/strong method, each student’s background is also taken into consideration, so when an activity is given, each student can teach another something new, that way, the power in the group is not shifted and they will need to work together. Example- for a pair of constructor and chef, have an activity where the chef is hiring the constructor to build something for his/her kitchen. They will both need to communicate their needs and explain the different terms in their industry to one another. The constructor can help the chef with construction terms while the chef helps the constructor with kitchen vocabulary.
Aside from grouping students in different level/background, another system that could work is to find out what each student’s purpose for taking the class is- for school, for work, traveling, moving, etc. After determining the purpose, the teacher can try to group students in similar purpose/interest and the exercise for each group could varies depending on their needs. I think this would work well once the class has established its own guide and therefore can break away to do our own things, this helps beginners feel less pressure and once they feel comfortable, specific goals and learning structures can be introduced.
Overall, I think in every class, there will be some sort of different ability, some more than other. Acknowledging the different needs will help the teacher plan out appropriate lessons that can maximize each student’s learning experience. The importance here, to me, is to maintain a certain level of stability to the class while trying out different systems and activities so the student will be challenged and feeling assured at the same time.