Teaching mixed ability classes

Teaching Tips

Teaching mixed ability classes

Many teachers complain that their students are all at different levels. But isn't that what you'd expect? We haven't started to make exact 'clones' of humans so, of course they are different!

But accepting that differences are natural doesn't solve your teaching problem.

student in a classroom

You have to change the way you teach. You have to recognise you are teaching a group of different individuals not a single student with 25 faces!

Students are different in many ways. Some are quick, others are slow. Some are confident, others are shy. Some like working with friends, others are happier working alone.

So, how can you teach all these different individuals?

First of all, think about homework. Do you always give the same homework task to all the students in the class? Why?

If all the students have the same homework task, it will be too easy for some students and too difficult for others. If the task is too easy, the clever students don't learn anything. If the task is too difficult, the weaker students don't learn anything either.

So give them different homework tasks - easier tasks for the weaker students, more challenging tasks for the brighter students.

But doesn't this make it very difficult to check and mark the homework? Yes, it would until you discover the trick - create easier or more challenging versions of the same task so, at the end, all the students get the same result!

Remember that True/False is easier than Multiple Choice and Multiple Choice is easier than a 'wh' question. (Who? When? Where? etc.).

Make the task easier by giving more help. Give the weaker students most of the answers but with some mistakes. Correct the first few mistakes. Ask the students to correct the next few. Then ask them to do the last few items without help. You can also make the task easier by giving more worked examples.

Try to set three levels of the same homework task – an easy version, a more difficult version and the most difficult version. Make the tasks more difficult by reducing the amount of help you give.

With three different versions of the same homework task, all the students will benefit and all the students will learn.

But how do you choose which student gets which version of the task? Well, you can guess the level based on your knowledge of the student. Another way is to let the students choose their level!

But won't the students all choose the easiest task? That's what you might expect, but try it out. You'll find that the students will try to attempt the most difficult level.

If you find some lazy students always choosing the level below their ability, I'm sure you can persuade them to move up to their appropriate level.

Once you've solved the problem with different levels with homework, you can start to work in a similar way during lessons.

If you use these techniques, all the students in your class will make good progress. They will not become equal in ability, but they will all have made good progress. Can you ask for more than that?

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