1.Testing and assessment:

All that you should know about testing and assessment ….

2. Test writing

What you need to know to write and administer tests..

3. Reading:

Some clarification about some reading techniques ….

4. Teaching mixed-ability class 1:

Understand better you classes…

5. Teaching mixed-ability class 2

And more understanding…

6. Teaching large classes

How easy or hard is to teach lots of kids?

7. Teaching small classes

How easy or hard is to teach few kids?

8. Methodology and teaching:

A method of how to use texts…

9. What is Reading Comprehension?

10. Fostering Reading Comprehension

11. The Five Essential Components of Reading

12. The Relationship Between Reading and Writing

13. Vocabulary Basics

14. Effective Strategies for Teaching Vocabulary

teaching mixed ability classes 2

Gareth Rees, teacher/teacher trainer, London Metropolitan University, UK

You may often be teaching a class which has students who are clearly of different levels. They may have different starting levels of English or they may learn at very different speeds – for any number of reasons. There are several strategies that a teacher can use to deal with this situation. This is the second of two articles on the topic.

The first article deals with…

Discussion and needs analysis

Student self awareness

Work groupings

This second article deals with the following strategies.

* Range of tasks

* Extra work / Homework

* Student nomination

* Error correction

* Conclusion

Range of tasks

This involves creating or providing different tasks for different levels.

For example, the number of comprehension questions for a text. You might have two sets of questions, A and B. Perhaps all students have to complete set A, the stronger ones also have to complete set B. Or, they even have an extra reading text.

This obviously increases the amount of lesson preparation. However, it is possible to think of fairly simple extra tasks. For example, during a reading lesson, the stronger students have to do detailed dictionary work on vocabulary in the text. It takes very little time to select words for the students to research. With the stronger students spending 10 minutes working with dictionaries, you have time to monitor and help the weaker ones with the text. Then you can go through the shared comprehension tasks as a class, and perhaps the stronger students can make a presentation about the words they have researched.

Extra work / homework

It is straightforward to give different students different homework – unless it is part of a standardised assessment procedure. Give weaker students homework which really does consolidate the class work, and give the stronger students work that will widen their knowledge or put it to the test a little more. When teaching mixed ability classes, the weaker students will be missing things during the lesson, or failing to understand. Use homework to address this. The stronger students may feel held back during the class, so homework can now really push them (if they are so inclined!)

Writing tasks are great for homework, as a productive skill that can be performed individually. You can expect more from the stronger students, and use it as a way to identify their weaknesses, which may not be so apparent during the class.

Student nomination

This is a simple classroom management technique that really helps in the mixed ability class.

When asking for answers to questions, ask particular students, rather than asking the class in a open fashion e.g. ‘What’s the answer to number 9?’ is an open question, whereas ‘What’s the answer to number nine, Maria?’ is a nominated question. If you ask open questions, the same old strong students will provide the answers. This creates a poor dynamic to the class, for many reasons.

When nominating…

* Ask the question before you give the name of the student. That way, everyone has to listen

* Consider how easy it is for the student to answer. If a weak student will struggle, perhaps ask a stronger student. If a weak student should be capable, then ask them.

* Avoid making students seem foolish, and yet also avoid patronising them by only asking super simple questions

* Nominate with variety. Be careful to avoid nominating the same selection of students. In a large class, I keep a note of the students I have asked over a lesson, just to make sure I haven’t developed a pattern.

Error correction

In a mixed level class you can have different expectations of the language the different students produce. Sometimes, it can push stronger students if you correct them heavily – although you should be sensitive about this. And for weaker students, be more selective in your error correction.

To conclude

The key strategies for teaching mixed level classes are probably developing a positive and collaborative working atmosphere and providing a variety of work suitable for different levels. It probably doesn’t work to stick your head in the sand and pretend the class is all of one homogenous level, a situation which doesn’t exist anywhere.

Teaching mixed ability classes 1

Gareth Rees, teacher/teacher trainer, London Metropolitan University, UK

You may often be teaching a class which has students who are clearly of different levels. They may have different starting levels of English or they may learn at very different speeds – for any number of reasons. There are several strategies that a teacher can use to deal with this situation. This is the first of two articles on the topic.

The second article covers…

Range of tasks

Extra work / Homework

Student nomination

Supporting the weaker students

Error correction

This first article deals with the following strategies.

* Discussion and needs analysis

* Student self-awareness

* Work groupings

Discussion and needs analysis

It is easy for students to get frustrated in a class of mixed ability. Stronger students may feel held back, weaker students may feel pressured. The teacher may feel stressed. The best solution to this is to have an open class discussion about the classroom situation – to ensure the best for everyoneit is better to acknowledge the situation and for everyone to agree how to deal with it. It is probably best to stage and structure the discussion.

* Needs Analysis

Use a needs analysis to prompt the students to reflect upon their learning style, learning strategies, language needs, learning enjoyment, motivation, language strengths and weaknesses. Questions that might be included are :

o What kinds of class activities do you enjoy / benefit from?

o Which language skill do you most wish to develop?

o Do you prefer working individually or with a partner?

o Would you rather sit and listen to the teacher all lesson or participate in group work?

Students compare their answers in pairs or small groups. You should collect the information and prepare a statistical representation of the key questions and answers. This will help to develop the sense of shared community in the class.

* Explain and discuss

Explain the mixed level situation to the students and give a list of possible approaches to the teaching and learning. In pairs, the students rank the approaches/ideas according to their suitability for the situation.

Following feedback, you should highlight the strategies you plan to use.

* A student contract

Developing with the students, or perhaps writing it yourself, a contract of behaviour for activities is a useful device. ‘I will help and support my activity partner.’ ‘I will participate in group work.’

* Tell them what you are going to do

If you think your students are not mature enough to carry out this kind of reflection, explain the situation to the class and tell them what strategies you will be using. If students know what to expect, you can hope that they will cooperate.

All of the above work could be done in the mother tongue, although I feel it is best done primarily in the target language (as it draws attention to the fact that this is a learning language issue.)

Student self-awareness

Encourage students to develop an awareness of their own language abilities and learning needs. What are their strengths and weaknesses, and how can they focus on these? How can they measure their own progress?

This may take the form of a learner’s diary, regular self-assessment, keeping records of mistakes, keeping a record of things learnt.

Work groupings

Varying the way students work in the class will help meet the variety of levels in the class.

* Pair work

You can pair strong with strong, weak with weak, or strong with weak. Perhaps in a very controlled activity, the strong with weak will work well. In a freer activity, perhaps strong with strong will be of benefit. Variety in the pairings is the key here – and you should also be sensitive to the general relationships between different students, and learn to note who works well with whom.

* Group work

These groups could be of mixed levels or similar ones. The hope is that in a smaller group, the weaker student will feel more able to contribute. Also, if the group is working with a set of information, divide the information between the students, forcing them to work together.

You may consider dividing your class into groups by level for the whole lesson, enabling you to give a different level or number of tasks to each group. Discussion of this strategy with the class should help prevent stigmatisation.

* Whole class – mingles

This is a favoured strategy of mine. A mingle activity involves students talking or interacting with many different members of the class in a short period of time in order to achieve a task. This means that any one student will work with students at different levels – experiencing stronger and weaker levels of communication. This supports the weaker students and provides opportunities for the stronger ones.

A classic activity is a ‘Find someone who…’

o In this activity the student has to survey the class to find people who…(for example)

*have got something – Do you have a CD player? Or…

*have done something – Have you eaten fish and chips? Or…

*like something – Do you like tennis?

If a student answers yes to a question, then the other student should ask for more information. If a student answers no, then the other should find a new person to ask, and may come back to the first student with another question later on.

The potential for this is endless. It is a great way to provide practice of a particular language structure/area (10 questions all using the past simple) and provides controlled practice as well as the opportunity for further freer discussion. It also creates a lively classroom dynamic.

Mingles can take many forms – students may have to find the person who has a matching word to theirs, or the second half of a split sentence. The students may all have the same or different questions, or a mixture. The key is the general principle of an information gap or communicative need.

Overall, variety in the types of working groups, and an open discussion of the class situation will help to deal with some of the diffculties that are present in mixed ability classes. The aim of these strategies is to create a positive working environment, which is all part of ensuring better learning.