It is unrealistic, in my opinion, that a teacher will encounter a class in which the students are all the exact same level. It is natural to have a mix of similar yet different levels in the same class. Sometimes, though, the disparity between students’ levels can negatively affect the way your classroom operates. One of the following tips might help to fix that situation:
(1) Set activities that are open-ended so that students can respond at their own level. This means that you give everyone the same activity, but the student will choose how they will complete it based on their language level. For example, you can assign a basic journaling activity, but leave it open ended in terms of the exact topic/length. In the same amount of time, students at a higher level will write a longer more complete entry while the lower level students will complete something shorter and less complex.
(2) Arrange activities so collaboration is involved. You can pair higher level students with lower level students to encourage peer teaching. You can also pair similar level students, but perhaps alter the task/your expectations of the task. More on this last point to come.
(3) Use different criteria for ‘success’. As I mentioned above, you can give the students the same activities, but you should assess them differently based on what their level is capable of. This means that a higher level student and a lower level student can reach the same level of success, but the work that they will have completed will look very different :).
(4) Have compulsory material and optional material. This is a great way to manage those high level early finishers. Have all student complete the same task, but prepare additional materials that can allow early finishers to interact more deeply with the language being taught.
(5) Work with the whole class at first, but adapt the materials or tasks for different levels. This corresponds with my point in number 2 about grouping students with other students of a similar level. This method is the most work for the teacher. You might present the language of the day to the whole group, but you have prepared level appropriate materials for the high group and the low group. All students are learning about the same topic, but completing different activities that are suitable to their level.
I hope at least one of these tips will be helpful for you! Dealing with a mixed-level class is never a piece of cake, but taking into consideration the above points it can still be a rewarding experience for you and your students!
image source: hub1.worlded.org