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J.O. - U.S.A. said:
Classes of mixed abilities
It is common knowledge that no two people are the same. Similarities may occur, but each individual is uniquely different. In regards to this unique individuality also sprouts the fact that, as students, people react and adapt to situations differently, have varied strengths and weaknesses, and learn at varying rates and levels. Teachers, especially new teachers, need to be aware of this. It is inevitable that a teacher will have a classroom of students with a spectrum of capabilities. In the article, “Teaching A Mixed Ability Class,” by Susan Bremner, she states that “teaching a mixed ability class will work if all pupils are allowed to experience success and to learn as individuals.” Teachers ought to take it upon themselves to learn their students; learn about their interests, strengths, weaknesses, and preferences for learning. With tactical lesson planning and research, teachers with classes of mixed abilities can remedy this situation and provide a proper learning experience for each individual. First and foremost, teachers need to be role models to their students, and “teach pupils how to become independent and effective learners. Pupils need to be taught learning techniques and how to be resourceful” (Bremner). In this sense, students will take their education into their own hands. Teachers will provide the initial tools and strategies like rhymes or acronyms for information retention, and students will not only remember the information, but they will also be able to use the same techniques in any avenue for learning. Teachers should also inform their students of the aim of the lesson, so that they have a goal to strive for. The main goal of teaching is always to make the focus on the students. It is important to give the students the space to express themselves, their opinions, feelings, and experiences. In doing so, the teacher will be able to get to know their students interests, and plan lessons accordingly to what their students enjoy. Adapting lessons based on students’ personalities makes learning fun and exciting, and in the article “Coping With The Problems Of Mixed Ability Classes,” Deniz ?alli-Çopur states that it also helps promote a positive classroom atmosphere. School and learning will not be such a daunting task, students will not think of it as learning if they are enjoying the tasks and activities. Varying the type of work also helps. Teachers of mixed abilities classes should consider incorporating more “’open-ended tasks or questions” (Salli Copur). This gives students the area to express themselves freely, and at their own level of competency. Open-ended tasks get rid of the stress of having to search and find one single answer because they give students the leeway to provide a vast array of correct answers. Allowing students to be themselves and excel promotes a positive self-image and raises their levels of confidence. Group and pair work is also vital to the mixed abilities equation. There are a number of ways to go about grouping and pairing students up. With these match-ups, students will be able to learn from one another. One possible pairing is to match a stronger student with a weaker student. Not only will the strong student be a good source of knowledge and language, but also if brought to their attention that they are a teacher’s helper, can instill a sense of pride and gratification. Another possibility would be putting the strong students together and the weaker students together in separate groups. The stronger students would be given work involving more complicated tasks, where the weaker students can be given simpler work and the teacher may act as a member of the group for supervision and help. In the event that students complete tasks faster than others, teacher should always be ready with “contingency plans” (Salli-Copur). For the early finishers, teachers should arm themselves with extra supplement work to keep these students busy while the rest of the class finishes. Extra work can be anything from reading a passage to completing an extra exercise. This allows the other students to catch up and keeps the faster students from getting bored and/or causing disruption because of boredom. In addition to contingency plans, teachers have found it helpful to assign extra homework. Keeping in mind student levels and interests, extra homework should provide additional practice, but still be enjoyable. A good way to consider incorporating extra homework is to have students complete individual or group projects. Teachers may even allow students to pick their own subject matter for the project to get students more excited and enthusiastic. Whatever the situation may be, or how wide the learning curve is, there will always be plenty of options to satisfy all students while maintaining a harmonious classroom. The really depends on the diligence, time, and effort of the teacher. Articles: 1. Teaching a Mixed Ability Class. Susan Bremner. http://www.languageswithoutlimits.co.uk/resources/SBremner.pdf 2. Coping with the Problems of Mixed Ability Classes. Deniz Salli-Copur. http://iteslj.org/Techniques/Salli-Copur-MixedAbility.html

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