Tips for managing a large mixed-level class
Does this ring a bell?
Imagine you are meeting a new class for the first time. You walk into the classroom. The chatter of young voices begins to subside as you take your place in the front of the room, and more than forty young faces turn eagerly to look you over, trying to gauge how cool, hip, old, young, strict or stuffy you are. At the same time, you are surveying the sea of young faces, already knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that, in a perfect world, not all of these forty-two young people would be in the same class, and that getting them to operate as a single, cohesive group is going to be a challenge that you might not always be up to.
You introduce yourself to the group, then ask them to tell the class their names and a little about themselves. If you are observant, you are already learning something about the students as individuals, something beyond just names and interests. Some of them are eager to answer; they want to show off their skills and are more than ready to add to the skills their already have. Others hesitate, their brains obviously working to come up with an appropriate response; they know they can say something, but don't feel sure about how accurate or comprehensible it will be. Still others look puzzled, distracted or just plain disaffected. They may not understand what's going on, or simply feel too insecure to even attempt to answer your question. They are the ones who have been left behind in other classes and feel that they will never be given a chance to catch up now.
The teacher's job, your job, is to bring the class together into a single unit – not at some later date when you've had time to think and prepare, but right from the beginning of the class. The tone you set in the first few minutes of meeting a class will stay with the students for the rest of your time together. Make it positive, and make it clear: everyone in the class is equal, capable, and a full member of a winning team.
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