How To Teach A Group Of ESL Students Who Are At Different Levels-Tips From Teachers From HAWO American Academy
Imagine walking into a class or signing on as an online teacher to work with a new classroom of ESL students.
When you get into the classroom, you quickly realize your students speak, write and read at all different levels with various cultural backgrounds, levels of education, and language differences.
A common scenario:
The first student you see is almost fluent in English, and he or she enthusiastically welcomes you.
Next, you go over to meet your next student to introduce yourself, but you notice this student looks at you with complete confusion.
You keep waiting until you realize that this student doesn’t speak a single word of English.
Does this happen? Yes, one student can speak almost fluently, and the other student doesn’t understand a word you’ve just said.
And, they’re in the same class.
How are you supposed to teach a mix of students at all different levels? Which student will you cater to the most–the novice or the expert?
Fortunately, there ways to navigate this type of classroom.
Some of your students might be beginners, while others may have intermediate or even advanced English skills. For most ESL classes, whether in-person or online, you will most likely find a mix of English skills and levels within your classroom.
Some of your students may have had experience reading English, while others have been exposed to writing, music, or art in this new language. Others may not have been exposed to any English at all.
You can manage and teach your differentiated ESL classroom despite their backgrounds, first language, exposure, and experience. It can be a challenge, but it is indeed doable.
Here are a few tips to start the class off right.
To begin, you must have a full picture of your students’ abilities.
Introduction to the Class:
Ask your students to introduce themselves so you can get a general sense of their English levels and skills. You should do talk to your students in private if possible, so you start the classroom relationship off without embarrassment or humiliation.
After you find out your students’ English levels, you can begin assessing their speaking, listening and writing skills.
Start with simple tasks so you can pinpoint the exact strength and weaknesses of the class. Make notes and mentally divide the group into beginners, medium and advanced. If you’re working in a public school, most likely you will be required to provide them with a state test to garner their levels.
Once you know their levels and abilities, create a more detailed description of their skills and levels. You do not need to go in-depth about it.
Once you have this critical information about your class, you can start to arrange your classroom or lessons accordingly.
The primary goal is to provide exercises that you can approach from various angles. These exercises can be challenging for the high-level students, and simple for the beginners.
For example, show a short movie with subtitles to your entire class–this can open up a lot of learning possibilities to discuss, watch, engage, and read and write.
If you have an advanced student, ask him or her to write a short essay summarizing the movie.
At the same time, you can allow beginner students to focus on the subtitles, and by the end of the movie, you can provide a simple task. For example, you can ask your students to describe what the film was about by holding a class discussion.
You can change activities throughout the month to meet the needs of your growing group of students.
If some students need improvement in their speaking and pronunciation skills, then you can focus on that aspect by bringing all the students together so they can learn from each other. You can use these methods for most group activities.
You can also use this strategy with movies, art, radio, and other types of media.
Mixing up learning strategies can save you a lot of time, and make working with multi-level English students that more enjoyable.
Tips From Teachers From HAWO American Academy
“Get them all excited and make them feel comfortable. Let your students know you are proud of them for every little bit of involvement. Provide constant encouragement.”
“Work with the more advanced students so they can lead by example when you have students who struggle.”
I also focus on the students’ strengths. And most of all, get them involved, get them moving, and have fun!”
“It is important not to give more attention or more chances to the more experienced students, and to involve the weaker students equally. This way, they will stay motivated and not feel left behind. It’s heartwarming to see the stronger students whisper the answer to the weaker ones when their turn comes around. Maintaining a good rapport between the students is essential for a wholesome classroom atmosphere.”
What other tips would you share?