Coping with Mixed Ability Classes

Outside of an Aldous Huxley novel, you aren’t going to find a class of students of exactly the same ability. It is frustrating when you set the class a task and one student has finished before some have even started. Here are some ideas which may help you organise a mixed-ability class more effectively. 

1. Information exchange exercises.
Weaker Student A has a text. Stronger Student B has the same text but with some gaps. for example: Elvis Presley was _______________ when he died. Student B then has to formulate a question (What was Elvis Presley doing when he died?) Student A has the simpler task of understanding the question and looking for, and giving the answer.

2. Find Someone Who….
When you prepare your Find Someone Who cards, make some of them easier than others. I have a series of eight cards all about trains and train journeys. Two of them are quite difficult, four are ‘normal’ and two are quite easy. As you ‘randomly’ give out the cards, make sure your stronger students get the harder cards and your weaker students get the easier ones.

3. Challenges.
If you prepare a worksheet, divide it into three sections, A,B and C. All students should do A and B. C is only for those who are up for a challenge, i.e. the ones who finish A and B before the others.

4. Cloze tests.
A cloze test is a text that has had every nth word removed. The students then have to add the missing words. There are a number of software programs that allow you to make a cloze test with every nth word removed automatically – and usually an answer key given. Probably the best is the one included with hot potatoes (now freeware)
   So how can a cloze test help a mixed ability class? If ‘n’ equals 15, then it is comparatively easy to work out what the missing word is. If ‘n’ equals 4 (i.e. every 4th word removed) then it is much harder – and therefore takes more time. It is easy to prepare the same text with n5, n7, n9, n11. Then you can challenge your better students to work on an n5, while your strugglers can do an n11. Be aware that they could cheat/help each other as the gaps will be different for each text.

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