As in many other subjects, in Language Acquisition, it’s common to have students with different skills levels in the same group. Although the skills levels may vary, the group’s Proficiency Level should be the same. Let’s say: Beginners with beginners, intermediate with intermediate and so on.
But that’s not the reality. Often enough, we have Beginners with Intermediate or Intermediate with advanced students. Teachers stretch themselves, become creative, differentiate and make do. This situation is the norm.
What if I mix them all? That’s the reality of one of my classes. I have three distinct Proficiency Levels and, to top it up, it’s an IB DP class with two courses in one: SL and HL. You might be thinking: “how could this happen?”
It just does. It’s nobody’s fault. It happens, and we have to help our students to be successful through it and grow.
I knew when I accepted to take the class that it wouldn’t be easy but since I am used to different skill levels, I was sure that could make it work with clear goals, constant feedback (both ways), the rotation model and lots of work!
Multi-level teaching is NOT easy! I spend hours preparing differentiated work, activities, content. I set clear targets, I ask and give feedback, I assess, I always adjust, and the students are developing their skills.
Often I struggle, we struggle.
I am constantly exploring solutions, prototyping, thinking about how it can work… Is personalized learning an option? Can I design something that suits everyone’s needs? That’s what I have been trying to do, but I haven’t asked how they are feeling throughout the process.
Stairs by Rosmarie Voegtli @ Flickr CC-BY
Last week, one of the students told me that he was “not going to survive it” that “it was impossible.” I stopped class and started asking about how he felt. The conversation continued over break. I managed to calm him down, listened and decided to take action.
Today, I interviewed another student from the same group/level to check how he was doing.
Here is our conversation:
A student who wants to succeed
Needs (use & usability)
Quotes & Defining Words
- Understand most of it
- Work as much as I can
- Fill in the language gaps
- Learn new and use old
- Meet the standard
- Follow the class
- 10′ sessions
Actions & Behaviors
- Use of dictionary
- Independent reading
Needs (deeper meaning)
Thoughts & Beliefs
- it’s going to get harder
- Hard work pays off
- Prioritize is important
- Seat in a different table
- Speaking (only French)
Feelings & Emotions
Having the time to listen and fill out this chart gave me a new dimension to the situation. It allowed having a new perspective and insight into my class. I also believe it allowed me to identify my student’s needs and deepen our relationship.
I have been thinking a lot on how I can lead instruction in a way that is the most beneficial to a particular group, but I haven’t taken time to explore what they’ve done to survive the class so far or to be successful. I focused on my perspective. It’s time to see the experience through their eyes and rethink, prototype.
I’ll collect more data, interview other students and then…
Back to the drawing board!