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Very, very mixed ability class. Advice needed...

Discussion in 'Modern foreign languages' started by Kamol, Dec 8, 2011.

  1. Dear all,

    I teach French to a class of 18 year 10s. All of them are EAL, some of them quite severly. In this class, I have a near-native speaker, a couple of very high-achieving kids, 3 total beginners, and pretty much every possible level in the middle. It's not my first year teaching mixed ability and I have lots of strategies to make sure that every one can access the subject at their own level and pace. With a similar group last year I obtained excellent results, but this group is proving quite challenging.

    Is anybody in a similar situation? Are there any strategies that have helped you?

    Thank you for any advice you'd be willing to share!
     
  2. Dear all,

    I teach French to a class of 18 year 10s. All of them are EAL, some of them quite severly. In this class, I have a near-native speaker, a couple of very high-achieving kids, 3 total beginners, and pretty much every possible level in the middle. It's not my first year teaching mixed ability and I have lots of strategies to make sure that every one can access the subject at their own level and pace. With a similar group last year I obtained excellent results, but this group is proving quite challenging.

    Is anybody in a similar situation? Are there any strategies that have helped you?

    Thank you for any advice you'd be willing to share!
     
  3. Lara mfl 05

    Lara mfl 05 Star commenter

    The problem is, no strategy works for all children, as you yourself know. You say you've built up a range of strategies, so perhaps you need to look at 'tweaking' those strategies<u> for the actual children</u> in this class. After all that's what we do all the time as teachers.
    I presume you've tried lots of pair work able with LA to boost confidence?
    What are they expected to achieve by the end of the year? This will effect what you can hope to achieve with them.
    Have they 'chosen' French', or are they having to do it (for example because it's a Lang. College)?
    If they're EAL there must be lots of opportunit to compare garmmar in their own language which might interest them?
     
  4. zrcadlo

    zrcadlo New commenter

    Hi
    You are not alone - I am in an international setting where ALL of my classes are like that! For instance in Year 11 I have 3 A* level near-native German speakers, 1 extreme EAL and hearing-impaired student who had never learnt German until a year ago, and then some middle ground of Bs and Cs just about using 3 tenses well. So it is a real mixed bag!
    No rocket-science answers from me I'm afraid as I'm still trying everything out, but I always follow these rules for teaching mixed-ability and EAL groups:
    1. Use the board as much as possible to have a simple English/German/picture version of everything you say. When planning lessons I do them all basically on Word or Ppt and have even the page numbers, exercise number and an explanation or diagram of what they have to do. So that for those who get it, you can do a quick oral explanation and they can start, but for beginners they can see the explanation on the board AND refer back to it if they forget/get stuck.
    2. Pitch the lesson to the top and differentiate down - I find in my situation (all the kids, regardless of ability, are motivated - yes I am lucky) it is worse to risk alienating the high-achievers by boring them than it is to risk losing the beginners, who will always try to keep up. So when I plan I have my A* kids' planned achievement in mind and then think 'how will I get the beginners to do a version of the same work' rather than the other way round.
    3. We give all of our total beginners - in every year group, whether EAL or not - a starting workbook (eg. Expo 1) and set regular homework that they do with their parents. THis helps them get the basics quicker so they can catch up with the others. Sometimes we use these in class too, where there are activities that are relevant for the beginners to do alongside the others.
    4. I do a limited amount of buddying - beginner with native, or beginner with B/C student, or B/C student with native - but only really for speaking presentation tasks to give them the chance to listen to German at different levels. I don't do this kind of buddying for writing or reading comprehension tasks, or conversations, because I find that it just frustrates everyone really. So I tend to keep pupils of a similar level together so that they can challenge each other and actually work TOGETHER on a task, rather than one leading the other.
    As I said, nothing revolutionary here, and I'm always grateful for more tips myself on how to improve this, as this level of differentiation is totally new for me too. Hope it helps you though.
     
  5. Hello,

    Thanks for your reply. I teach in an internation school so the kids in that class come from 13 different countries and speak languages that are not remotely close to French. I like the idea of getting them to compare their grammar, but it is not something I will be able to di with them. I will point it out as an independant strategy, though.

    I have paired the more able with the less able and I have just given them an individual target for next term with a list of individual strategies to reach that target. We'll see how that goes.

    They have chosen to do French, but they have to do a foreign language at IGCSE. My problem is that some of them, despite my best effort, still can't say 'I like playing football', while others can conjugate regular and irregular verbs in 6 different tenses. Ideally I should prepare 2 different lessons and teach them in two groups, but I have tried that and I seem to be running back and forth between the two groups and it's exhausting for me and not necessarily more productive.
     
  6. Lara mfl 05

    Lara mfl 05 Star commenter

    No, you don't have to do that, just differentiate. Years ago, before the term 'differentiation' I had A, B & C on the board. <u>Everyone</u> had to complete A (targeted so even least able could do so), B was an extension for the more able and C a challenge encouraging students to be more 'creative' with what they'd been learning. Like your previous poster I planned one exercise and then just took out the 'easiest elements' for the A group. Might be something you could consider?
     
  7. derekdalek

    derekdalek New commenter

    I agree its a very hard challenge. I have 29 students in yr 10 Spanish ranging from A* to F and its hard going at times. Its a similar ability range in my two yr 11 groups, with 22 in one and 9 in the other.
    I have found that using the Activeteach Edecxel GCSE resource has been very helpful with differentiation, though its very expensive.
    If thats not an option, I'd say grouping by ability is something to consider but it can leave you running round like a headless chicken trying to help all the groups. I do tend to group by ability, but I change my seating plan from time to time to pair stronger and weaker learners to shake things up a bit.
    Lots of reference materials to help them be self reliant seems to help.
    Have a look at my other post on the recording equipment thread to see how Im trying to get round not being able to use IT rooms most of the time. (It makes differntiation for listening activities easier, I hope).
    Good luck!

     
  8. runaway

    runaway New commenter

    Not easy but try to make the students as independent and self-reliant as possible, eg;


    Individual learning plans for each one -lot of initial time invested will pay dividends if each has their own personal plan knowing exactly and very specifically what they need to learn this term/year and to what level in order to prove they have learnt it. It needs to include Grammar + content + skills + evidence + where to get resources.

    Students then need to be taught ownership of the plans as it will not be automatic and to shift their thinking so that they understand they are responsible for proving to you what level they are working at, and what progress they have made -not waiting for you to make a judgement.

    Sounds like you are already providing a menu of activities but take it a step further and encourage them to design their own activity within lessons that they believe will address the needs of their own learning plans if the generic ones you have suggested do not stretch them enough to reach the next level or if they feel they are not yet secure in a particular area.

    Must should could works best if the must activity is challenging and not easy. At the other end Kids will only bother with the could if it is an attractive task.

    Provide a permanent bank of resources/support so the students know they can get up and access these whenever
    they feel they need to. This could include dictionaries, own language dictionaries even if necessary, Internet access, reference, old textbooks that you may not be following but could still be useful -yup even old copies of whitmarsh!! ok maybe not quite but that sort of thing.

    And a large glass of wine each night helps... YoU not them!
     
  9. Runaway that is a lot of amazing advice, I couldn't help but reply. I am saving it and will refer back to it later, although some parts I can use immediately, such as the must, should, could and having eng-eng dictionaries and old language textbooks at hand - thank you! It sounds like you are an expert at creating indepenent learners :)
     
  10. runaway

    runaway New commenter

    lol - very kind of you and yes lots of working with mixed ability but mostly lots of very generous colleagues who have shared and supported me.
    Oh and the wine helps - a lot...
     

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