Jan 16, 2009

Teaching Multilevel Classes

Workshop programme

•What is a multilevel class?
•What problems do teachers face?
•Why does the problem exist?
•What are the benefits of teaching multilevel classes?
•How can we deal with multilevel classes?

1/ What is a multilevel class?

•In a sense, every class is multilevel
•Classes are made up of people, and everyone is different
•Language classes tend to be highly heterogeneous
•Every teaching context is different
•Multilevel / Mixed ability normally used to refer to a group where differences are very pronounced
•Very clear difference in language levels: skills abilities, vocabulary range, grammatical knowledge, pronunciation, …
•Differences in learning styles, speed and aptitudes, as well as motivation
•Differences in background and world knowledge

2/ What problems do teachers face?

•Look at the comments and tick the ones you personally have experienced
•Grade the problems: 1 -5, with 1 = very important for you, 5 = not such a problem for me

3/ Why does the problem exist?

•Some people are more successful at learning than others
•Different learning backgrounds
•Different progress rates
•Learning aptitude & strategies
•Positive & negative attitudes
•External influences

4/ How can we deal with multilevel classes?

•Classroom management
•Motivating students
•Catering for different learning styles
•Learner training
•Grading tasks
•Content teaching
•Activities with different responses

5/ Classroom management

•Good classroom management maximises opportunities for all students to learn
•Teachers are often key influences

Think of characteristics attributed to ‘good’ teachers: authoritative, bright, cheerful, …
•Students’ names
•Praise & encouragement
•Teacher talk
•Instruction giving
•Using pair and groupwork
•Setting time limits
•Tasks for fast finishers
•Whole class feedback
•Using whiteboard
•Classroom layout

6/ Motivating students

•Create an English environment – how?
•Create good atmosphere – how?
•Personalise wherever possible – how?

7/ Catering for different learning styles

•What different types of learners are there?

Find nine in the wordsearch, and then match each type with its description

8/ Learner training

•Some learners automatically adopt effective learning habits

Make a list of what you consider these to be, eg, keeping neat written records

9/ Grading tasks

text level of challenge
task level of support
student success

•Long, complex text, use simple task/s to make reading and/or listening more achievable
•Shorter, simpler text, use more demanding task/s
•Look at the text and the three sets of graded tasks.

In what way/s do the different tasks support different learners?

•Look at the second text and design three sets of graded tasks for different learners.
•What are the benefits and drawbacks of graded tasks?

Discuss and make notes of your ideas.

10/ Graded vocabulary task

•Read the ‘crazy’ text. The most difficult task you could give students is to find the wrong words and replace them with the correct ones.
•How could you adjust this task to varying degrees to make it easier for less able learners?

Think of as many ways as you can.

11/ Self-access

•Caters for wide mix of ability
•Teaching can be tailored
•Learners work on something interesting and useful
•Increases learner autonomy, sense of responsibility
•More time available to spend with weaker learners
•Adds variety
•Grammar & vocabulary exercises
•Readers + cassettes/CDs
•Audio cassettes
•Reference books

12/ Content teaching

•One of biggest differences among learners is their knowledge of world, talents, interests, general knowledge, knowledge of other school subjects
•An unsuccessful language learner does not mean they have no knowledge or skills in other areas
•By providing opportunities to use other knowledge we:
•encourage self-esteem
•encourage respect, create bonds
•ensure everyone has something to contribute
•motivate weaker students
•increase value of English as means of communicationFurthermore, we …
•give English lessons educational purpose
•make lessons relevant to learners’ interests
•take learners’ minds off ‘language’ and get them to focus on communication
•allow learners to ‘show off’ and ‘teach the teacher’
•Quizzes – pictionary, noughts & crosses, What P …?, 3,2,1, snakes and ladders
•Maths tricks
•Number puzzles
•Logic puzzles

Try the two examples on your handout

13/ Activities with different responses

•Some activities allow for different responses from different students
•Projects – multiple tasks, eg, writing, researching, reading, interviewing, graphics, oral presentation – see handout
•Roleplays – variety of roles demanding more / less input

Imagine an interview with a pop group – howcould roles be designed for multilevellearners?

•Bilingual roleplays

– L1 only, L2 only, L1 & L2
– very communicative and very real-life, caters well for multilevel

A) You are an English person on holiday and you need to see a doctor.

You don’t speak her language, doctor doesn’t speak English

B) You are a doctor. You don’t speak English. Maybe another patient can help.

C) You are a patient waiting to see the doctor. You can speak English

•Drama – sketches and plays require different responses from learners, big & small parts, speaking & non-speaking, script writers, props maker, director, music department etc


•Multilevel = rich variety of human resources
•Stronger students can become teaching assistants
•Most tasks can be adapted to suit multilevel teaching
•Effective classroom management is critical
•Collaborative work is what real life is all about