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Sunday, May 17, 2015

Help ! Need Strategies for Multilevel Classes

Last week in my multi-level class for seniors, a student had a meltdown. This person is one of the minority who functions at the lower end of the CLB 2/3 to 5/6 spread in the class. Because the students had asked for dialogues around diagnostic imaging, I got out the old LINC 4 Classroom Activities book (yes, the old one from 2001) because it has a wonderful section about CT scans, MRIs, ultrasound and nuclear medicine.

I warned the students that we would be tackling level four material, but only for one week. The following week, we could focus exclusively on building and practicing some doctor-patient dialogues using our new vocabulary.

In spite of this disclaimer, I found myself with the unfortunate first of having made a student break down in tears. "Difficult, difficult," she exclaimed as she buried her face in her hands. I crouched in front of her and stroked her shoulder, assuring her next week would be easier.

Most of the time I think I succeed in meeting the needs of the lower level and higher level students. This past week I did not. Sigh.

As if my multilevel class bad mojo were contagious, I also had a very unsuccessful day with the literacy class that afternoon.  Just by happenstance, all my stronger students--those who will be ready to graduate from our class within another few months--were absent at the same time.  I had nobody in class but the newer students. And that is when a big spotlight was shone on something I hadn't till that point noticed. The material I'd been giving the class is too challenging for these students.

How had I not seen it before?

I've never had more than one foundations student at a time, and the teaching assistant is usually available to take that person out for one-on-one support. But now it seems I do have several students who need foundations activities and materials, not Phase I material.

It would be lovely if our school were large enough to have separate classes for the various ESL literacy phases, but we don't. They are all in the same class together, and it's up to me to provide a quality experience for both the Phase One (developing and adequate) and the Foundations learners.

What about you? Have you ever had a class in which you struggled to meet the needs of a group with a wide span in ability? What advice can you give me?

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