Having three levels of students in one classroom can be overwhelming. But for a reading-skills or writing-skills course, it seems relatively do-able because students can work individually on the reading or writing tasks.
However, for a conversation course in which students need to be interacting with classmates, it’s impossible right? No, it’s definitely possible.
Here is how it has been done successfully with a user-friendly approach for the teacher and with students developing their skills as they would in a single-level class.
Some of the reasons why this approach has worked well for a class of Levels 1, 2 and 3 in the same classroom.
- All the students, no matter what their level is, do the same activities on the same day in pairs/small groups. In other words, the teacher doesn’t have to prepare different lessons for the three levels.
- Even though they are working on the same activity, each level is challenged by the expectations for their specific level. For example, L1 students might only speak in simple sentences with few details, whereas L3 will speak longer, deeper and with more details.
- Since students at different levels might finish certain exercises sooner than the other levels, we have an exercise at the end that gives those students options for what to do (productively) as they wait for others to finish.
- The book that we use has many exercises in each unit. So we use half of the exercises in each unit in one term (e.g. Fall) and the other half of the exercises in each unit in the second term (e.g. Winter). That way, when L1 and L2 students repeat the course, they will be using different exercises. Notice: This does NOT mean we use the first units (Units 1-6) of the book the first term and the second units (Units 7-12) the second term.
A possible curriculum template for teachers
In this attached curriculum ( Multi Level Oral curric ), you will find:
1) The course goals for each of the three levels.
2) A chart showing how we divided uo the exercises in the book for four terms. (In this sample curriculum, we use Basic Conversation Strategies but you might find other books that will work just as well.)
3) A sample of the first classes’ activities including links to four of the activities.
Additional resources for conversation courses:
- For an effective and user-friendly process for assessing students’ oral skills in order to place them in the proper level, see • Pain-Free ESL Speaking Placement-Testing Process: Reliable, Time-Efficient and User-Friendly
- For how to provide teacher feedback to the students on their performance during activities, see • Most Important Tool for Classroom Management (First Case) and • Most Important Tool for Classroom Management (Case two and Caveat)
P.S. I want to thank a reader, Lily S., for starting a conversation about this topic with me.