In the first part of this post, we covered what problems you can expect when dealing with a multi-level classroom and some strategies you can adopt to make life easier for yourself. However, differing language levels are not just an obstacle in a class, you can also use them to turn your lessons into fruitful and inclusive language acquisition.
In this part of the post, we’ll cover how you can use the multi-level class to your advantage and share additional strategies for creating and conducting inclusive lessons that benefit all students.
Advantages of a multi-level class
While many teachers might be tempted to treat their multi-levelled class as a bane, there’s also much to celebrate in the variety of students you can hope to meet. If you choose to use the buddy system of recruiting stronger students, you’ll foster a tighter connection between the students. Grouping together students with similar levels enables each of them to learn at their own pace.
Catering to a wide variety of language skills will also teach students to accept each other’s differing levels and will limit competition between them, leading to a more inclusive learning environment and less stress for everyone involved.
Teaching students to teach themselves
In addition to using students to help each other out, you can also help them to become independent learners. While this works in every class, a multi-level class is especially good for acquiring individual learning skills. Since your aim is to include every student in your lesson, they can choose for themselves the best course of action for fulfilling their personal goals.
Helping them create and focus on their own goals will ensure that motivation is kept high throughout the year. You can foster this sense of independence (and, hopefully, enthusiasm) with differentiated teaching.
Differentiated teaching will put you more in tune with students
Using differentiated instruction can have a beneficial impact on both you and the students. While we touched on this topic a bit in the last part, it’s time to dive deeper into the concept.
While it involves around the same idea of creating your lesson around a single topic, there are several ways of differentiating your teaching. For example, you can choose to hand out completely different tasks revolving around a unified theme, catering to students’ varying levels beforehand. The other option is to provide an increasingly difficult set of assignments, letting students decide how many they want and are able to complete. To make life easier for you, the Internet luckily has a great wealth of multi-level resources available.
In each case, students get to learn at their own level and speed, fostering confidence and ensuring a fruitful lesson. And you get a much better overview of each student’s strengths and weaknesses, enabling you to have a more individual approach.
Have a back-up plan
As we mentioned in the first part, an issue that will come up with a multi-level classroom is advanced students who become disruptive once they’ve finished their tasks. Of course, this is much more of an issue with younger learners but, even with adults, you don’t want your class feeling bored.
To nip this problem in the bud, you should always have a back-up plan. While the ideal of differentiated teaching is that all students finish their tasks at the same time, this will often not be the case. That’s where your “Do This Next” collection will come into play. Essentially, the goal is to have a collection of additional language tasks you can hand out to students who’ve finished their work. Create lists of these filler activities for several levels, so that students can pick one that’s suited for them. This way you limit disruptive behaviour while keeping the student engaged and learning throughout the class.
Approach students individually
Often, the below-level students will feel uncomfortable telling you that they struggle in your class. That’s why it’s paramount that you build a personal relationship with your students. You need to convey the message that, as a teacher, your goal is to help everyone succeed, regardless of their current level. Getting to know your students personally and building trust will ensure that even the below-level students will feel comfortable coming to you for help or asking for explanations if they’re needed.
Conclusion – Your multi-level class has benefits
In addition to challenges, your multi-level class can provide many opportunities for growth. This applies to both you and your students. You can and should engage learners personally, create multiple tiered assignments revolving around a single theme, and always have a back-up plan. A multi-level class is a great environment for fostering independent learning skills. For the more motivated students, you can also share various self-learning resources to keep them improving outside of class.