Научная статья на тему 'TEACHING ENGLISH IN MIXED-ABILITY CLASSES'

TEACHING ENGLISH IN MIXED-ABILITY CLASSES Текст научной статьи по специальности «Науки об образовании»

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Ключевые слова
mixed-ability classes / classroom communication / interaction / class dynamics / in-class assignments / classroom language / классы со смешанными способностями / коммуникация в классе / взаимодействие / динамика класса / классные задания / язык в классе

Аннотация научной статьи по наукам об образовании, автор научной работы — Iskandar Qobilovich Yoqubov

The purpose of this article is to find out how upper secondary English teachers should work in order to reach the weaker students. I am interested in what has been written about mixed-ability classes, the challenges they present and most of all how teachers of English need to work in such classes to reach all students, especially the weaker ones. What is a mixed-ability class? Mixedability classes mean classes where students differ greatly in ability, motivation for learning English, needs, interests, educational background, styles of learning, anxiety, experiences and so on (Ainslie, 1994).

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ПРЕПОДАВАНИЕ АНГЛИЙСКОГО ЯЗЫКА В СМЕШАННЫХ КЛАССАХ

Цель этой статьи выяснить, как должны работать учителя старших классов английского языка, чтобы охватить более слабых учеников. Мне интересно, что было написано о классах со смешанными способностями, о проблемах, которые они представляют, и больше всего о том, как учителя английского языка должны работать в таких классах, чтобы охватить всех учеников, особенно слабых. Что такое класс смешанных способностей? Занятия со смешанными способностями означают занятия, в которых ученики сильно различаются по способностям, мотивации к изучению английского языка, потребностям, интересам, образованию, стилю обучения, тревоге, опыту и т.д. (Ainslie, 1994).

Текст научной работы на тему «TEACHING ENGLISH IN MIXED-ABILITY CLASSES»

TEACHING ENGLISH IN MIXED-ABILITY CLASSES

Iskandar Qobilovich Yoqubov

Uzbekistan State University of Physical Education and Sport

ABSTRACT

The purpose of this article is to find out how upper secondary English teachers should work in order to reach the weaker students. I am interested in what has been written about mixed-ability classes, the challenges they present and most of all how teachers of English need to work in such classes to reach all students, especially the weaker ones. What is a mixed-ability class? Mixed-ability classes mean classes where students differ greatly in ability, motivation for learning English, needs, interests, educational background, styles of learning, anxiety, experiences and so on (Ainslie, 1994).

Key words: mixed-ability classes, classroom communication, interaction, class dynamics, in-class assignments, classroom language

ПРЕПОДАВАНИЕ АНГЛИЙСКОГО ЯЗЫКА В СМЕШАННЫХ

КЛАССАХ

АННОТАЦИЯ

Цель этой статьи - выяснить, как должны работать учителя старших классов английского языка, чтобы охватить более слабых учеников. Мне интересно, что было написано о классах со смешанными способностями, о проблемах, которые они представляют, и больше всего о том, как учителя английского языка должны работать в таких классах, чтобы охватить всех учеников, особенно слабых. Что такое класс смешанных способностей? Занятия со смешанными способностями означают занятия, в которых ученики сильно различаются по способностям, мотивации к изучению английского языка, потребностям, интересам, образованию, стилю обучения, тревоге, опыту и т.д. (Ainslie, 1994).

Ключевые слова: классы со смешанными способностями, коммуникация в классе, взаимодействие, динамика класса, классные задания, язык в классе

INTRODUCTION

This is a very common problem. Most, if not all, language classes contain students of mixed abilities. This happens for a number of reasons, but mainly because of different learning styles, different learning speeds, variations in motivation and, very frequently, as a result of logistic decisions.

LITERATURE REVIEW AND METHODOLOGY

Very often the teacher is faced with a class with two or more distinct levels of ability and has to tackle the problem of how to meet the needs of everyone in the class. Naturally, this is not an easy problem to solve and it would be wrong to suggest that there are any simple solutions.

A fundamental step, however, is to talk to the class about the situation and to present it to them as a normal situation and one that the class as a whole has to deal with. This is probably best done in the mother tongue of the students. As most of the solutions to the problem depend on cooperation between the members of the class, it is essential to stress the need for teamwork and for the class to use English whenever possible in classroom communication.

The use of pair and group work is essential if you are to involve all the members of the class. A fundamental technique here is the use of questionnaires and interviews. By pairing off weaker and stronger students and involving both in the preparation and implementation of the questionnaire you should ensure maximum participation of all the students. You can then get the weaker students to interview the stronger ones and vice-versa. Of course, this may be frustrating for the stronger ones, but if they are able to see their role as that of "helper" or even mentor, it may also have a positive effect.

A second area of activity that can be productive in mixed ability classes is project work. Again, this can work successfully using mixed groups where the stronger help the weaker, but another approach is to form groups that are at approximately the same level and assign different tasks that are appropriate to the level of each group. By adjusting the complexity of the task, you can ensure that each group has a task that it can carry out successfully, thereby providing the correct level of challenge for the higher-level students and not demotivating the weaker ones.

A third area is that of homework. If you set the whole class the same homework task irrespective of level, then you will have to expect very mixed results. As with progress tests, the purpose of homework should be to consolidate class work. To this end, giving weaker students less demanding tasks can help both to motivate

them and to give them further practice in areas of the language which they have not yet mastered.

Assigning more challenging tasks to the stronger students in the group should ensure that they remain motivated and continue to make progress. It is more work for the teacher but, ultimately, it should produce results. Choral drilling can be an effective way of involving weaker or shy students. If applied judiciously (in other words not all the time), it can give excellent practice in rhythm and intonation, as well as reinforcing word order and grammatical structure. Finally, be diplomatic in your questioning techniques. Try to avoid putting weaker students "on the spot" by nominating them to be the first to answer a question in open class. Instead, try to encourage a culture of attentive listening in the classroom so that you ask a stronger student first and then ask a weaker student to repeat the answer. It may take time but, once this style of interaction becomes habitual, it can be very productive in terms of class dynamics. To conclude, all classes are mixed ability to one extent or another. Extreme cases, when you have near native level speakers with beginners, can be very challenging for the teacher.

RESULTS AND DISCUSSION

In these cases, it is important to remember that all students will get something out of the class, but not necessarily the same things, and not necessarily, what you aim to teach them! For example, the beginners may begin to get a grasp of your classroom language whilst the stronger students may begin to be able to put a new tense into use.

Mixed levels is always a problem. Teaching students on different learning levels can be difficult. However, learning to differentiate learning abilities can help teachers present materials in a way that will engage all students on all levels at the same time.

They may have different starting levels of English or this happens for a number of reasons, but mainly because of different learning styles, different learning speeds, variations in motivation and, very frequently, as a result of logistic decisions.

Very often the teacher is faced with a class with two or more distinct levels of ability and has to tackle the problem of how to meet the needs of everyone in the class. Naturally, this is not an easy problem to solve and it would be wrong to suggest that there are any simple solutions. A fundamental step, however, is to talk to the class about the situation and to present it to them as a normal situation and one that the class as a whole has to deal with. This is probably best done in the mother tongue of the students.

As most of the solutions to the problem depend on cooperation between the members of the class, it is essential to stress the need for teamwork and for the class to use English whenever possible in classroom communication. Here are some strategies of how teachers can teach a class of students made up of different learning abilities. These are several strategies that a teacher can use to deal with this situation.

1. Supportive Learning Environment. It is important to create a supportive learning environment in the classroom, where learners feel confident and able to perform to the best of their ability.The learning environment simply refers to the classroom environment and how it works or feels to students. It's important that teachers create a classroom that will serve all students, no matter their learning abilities.

For instance, if in-class assignments are given, develop a general list of requirements, and then give students additional instructions on an individual basis so that it addresses their learning abilities. Make sure there are quiet places in the classroom where students can concentrate and focus. Or give them the option to work with partners. Make sure the class understands that the options are provided because each student works best in a different setting.

2. Needs Analysis. Use a needs analysis to prompt the students to reflect upon their learning style, learning strategies, language needs, learning enjoyment, motivation, language strengths and weaknesses. Questions that might be included are...

What kinds of class activities do you enjoy / benefit from? Which language skill do you most wish to develop? Do you prefer working individually or with a partner? Would you rather sit and listen to the teacher all lesson or participate in group work?

Students compare their answers in pairs or small groups. You should collect the information and prepare a statistical representation of the key questions and answers. This will help to develop the sense of shared community in the class.

3. Group work. Use a range of interaction patterns in class. Learners should work in groups, pairs and individually. Groupings should be changed often, thereby giving learners an opportunity to work with different learners. Varying the way students work in the class will help meet the variety of levels in the class.

These groups could be of mixed levels or similar ones. The hope is that in a smaller group, the weaker student will feel more able to contribute. Also, if the group is working with a set of information, divide the information between the students, forcing them to work together. You may consider dividing your class into groups by level for the whole lesson, enabling you to give a different level or number of tasks to

each group. Discussion of this strategy with the class should help prevent stigmatization.

4. Pair work. You can pair strong with strong, weak with weak, or strong with weak. Perhaps in a very controlled activity, the strong with weak will work well.

In a freer activity, perhaps strong with strong will be of benefit.

Variety in the pairings is the key here - and you should also be sensitive to the general relationships between different

5. Whole class - mingles. This is a favored strategy of mine.

A mingle activity involves students talking or interacting with many different members of the class in a short period of time in order to achieve a task.

This means that any one student will work with students at different levels -experiencing stronger and weaker levels of communication. This supports the weaker students and provides opportunities for the stronger ones.

6. Using Differentiated Instruction with Different Students.

The lower performing and average students are motivated to try and increase their knowledge because of the input of the stronger students. Using differentiated instruction, teachers cater to a wide variety of varied interests, cultural backgrounds and world knowledge which results in more dynamic classroom interaction. The teacher's attitude is central in setting the scene for the acceptance of differences.

7. Process. Process involves the way in which students engage with and learn content. This is key as it allows students to take the time to let newly obtained knowledge sink in. Process also gives students the opportunity to figure out what they may or may not understand. The process can also be used as a way for teachers to monitor and assess a student's progress. For instance, educational consultant John McCarthy recommends that teachers design 'one or two processing experiences for every 30 minutes of instruction'. These experiences give students a break and teachers time to find out who needs additional instruction and who does not.

8. Products. Products are the projects or assignments that encourage students to apply content in situations inside and outside of the classroom.

For example, once content is presented and processing time has been given, ask students to develop a project of their own that best exemplifies what was learned. For instance, younger students may create a poster board with pictures and labels, while older students develop a short skit or make drawings. Teachers may want to give students a set of options to choose from and even allow them to work in groups.

CONCLUSION

From my experiences, the above strategies gained over the years. In my conclusion, be diplomatic in your questioning techniques. Try to avoid putting weaker students "on the spot" by nominating them to be the first to answer a question in open class. Instead, try to encourage a culture of attentive listening in the classroom so that you ask a stronger student first and then ask a weaker student to repeat the answer.

It may take time but, once this style of interaction becomes habitual, it can be very productive in terms of class dynamics. You just conduct a few more differentiated lessons, it can be fun, even for the teacher. Dare to differentiate, and the results might just surprise you. Be fair, show your enthusiasm and dynamism!

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