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Editorial NRInglês

Working With Mixed-Ability Classes

It’s inevitable that there will be students with different levels of English (though not necessarily ability) in your class, especially in larger classes. Some students will need extra support, some will need less. So here are some ideas to help you tackle this issue.

Note: We’ve used the terms ’stronger’ and ‘weaker’ for the sake of convenience but of course those terms are not completely accurate.

  • Use stronger students to correct weaker students. Make sure that you praise weaker students for their successes just as much as stronger ones.
  • Direct more difficult questions at stronger students and easier ones at weaker students.
  • Sometimes pair and group students of the same ability so they feel comfortable with each other.
  • And sometimes pair up students of different levels and encourage the stronger student to help the less confident one.
  • Group weaker students together for an activity and give them extra attention, leaving stronger students to work alone.
  • Use stronger students as group leaders and give them more responsibility for activities, like being the group ‘scribe’ and keeping a written record, for example.
  • When appropriate, give weaker students slightly easier tasks.
  • Note weaker students’ errors and give them extra homework.

Fast Finishers

If some students complete an activity more quickly than others, have some extra activities ready that they can do. Ideally, these activities should be short, fun things that are easy to set up. Students shouldn’t feel punished for finishing quickly by being given something boring to do!

  • Give them an opportunity to go beyond the page and find out more about some aspect of the topic, a sort of mini project. They should do research online, make notes and report back, working either alone or in pairs. You may want to set this up in the classroom by suggesting possible websites or just by eliciting suggestions for words and phrases to type into the search engine.
  • Easy games also work well for this. They can also be played in pairs or small groups. Many will already be familiar to you, for example:
    1. Hangman
    2. I went to the supermarket and I bought…apples. One student starts then each student adds something to the list.
    3. Don’t say yes or no! Students must answer questions without using the words yes or no.
    4. Students ask ten yes / no questions to find out who, what or where something is. For example:
    a) A person – alive or dead – or a thing
    b) What’s my job?
    c) Where’s the mosquito?
    d) I spy something beginning with B
    e) A specific word on a page
    5. Anagrams – how many words can students make from nice, long words, like information and grandmother, in a given time limit?
    6. How many words beginning with a specific letter can students list in a given time limit?
    7. Students say or write a list of ten things from a particular lexical set and get a point for every item nobody else has thought of.


Jane Revell, author of – JETSTREAM – (Helbling Languages) – the brand-new 6-level course for adult learners.

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