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  #1 (permalink)  
Unread Sep 4th, 2006, 09:43 am
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Default The new student...

It's the start of a new semester and of course a few new students in a class that has been together for over 6 months. The new students haven't learned everything the previous students have so they spend a lot of time lost. It's impossible in my school to move them to another class. They are in their 'correct grade' with their peers.

Any ideas on how to deal with these students who come 6-12 months behind schedule? I'm at a complete loss...

Eric
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  #2 (permalink)  
Unread Sep 6th, 2006, 03:50 am
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Default Re: The new student...

Hi Eric,

A tough one!

Can I ask, your new students are six months behind the rest of the class, what does that actually mean in terms of language knowledge / ability?
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Unread Sep 6th, 2006, 05:57 am
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Default Re: The new student...

I have had this problem....
I give them simple worksheets from previous units, if they can write. I also review language all the time; just a couple of minutes each lesson to make sure that they aren't forgetting the language.
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Unread Sep 6th, 2006, 06:18 am
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Default Re: The new student...

Mr. E,
most of my students were fairly low when they started so if they had gone thru the basics ie the first 6 months, they'd have the basics. but these guys dont even have the basics.

things just took a turn for the worst. some chinese students just got put in the class. they don't speak korean (so the other students cant help them) and they aren't anywhere near the level of the other beginner students in english.

i learned a long time ago in my tefl course to teach to the high-mid range of the students. i'm going to continue doing that and give some supplementary stuff to the new students.
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Unread Sep 6th, 2006, 06:26 am
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Default Re: The new student...

I have the same problem. As I teach children of expats, I also have some near native speakers of English in the same class as children with very little English at all. I am currently working out how to deal with it. To get round the problem, I intend to do a lot of group work and have the children mainly working in same-ability groups. For those with limited English, I will try to simplify the task so that the language I want them to use is at their level. I wouldn't worry too much about a 6 month difference. I would do as simplyesl suggests and make sure you review previous language all the time, in warm-ups and games. (I'm sure you do this anyway, so sorry if it sounds obvious) In my experience, even when classes are grouped according to ability, there will always be a range within that and you may well find that some of your new students are quick learners and will soon catch up with the majority. Good luck!
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Unread Sep 6th, 2006, 06:29 am
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Default Re: The new student...

oops- I wrote my reply before I saw yours, Eric! Yes, I agree that's what you should do.
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  #7 (permalink)  
Unread Sep 6th, 2006, 06:34 am
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Default Re: The new student...

Quote:
Quote stanley
I have the same problem. As I teach children of expats, I also have some near native speakers of English in the same class as children with very little English at all. I am currently working out how to deal with it. To get round the problem, I intend to do a lot of group work and have the children mainly working in same-ability groups. For those with limited English, I will try to simplify the task so that the language I want them to use is at their level. I wouldn't worry too much about a 6 month difference. I would do as simplyesl suggests and make sure you review previous language all the time, in warm-ups and games. (I'm sure you do this anyway, so sorry if it sounds obvious) In my experience, even when classes are grouped according to ability, there will always be a range within that and you may well find that some of your new students are quick learners and will soon catch up with the majority. Good luck!
i like the group idea. thanks. i think of ways to implement that.
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Unread Sep 6th, 2006, 07:12 am
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Default Re: The new student...

Seems to be getting worse every minute Eric and I would question whether it's actually possible to teach a mixed nationality group at such different levels. Sounds like your school needs to step in and help you out - regroup the students according to ability / provide extra remedial lessons / assign a classroom assistant!

Six months difference in learning at a intermediate level and above is manageable in the classroom, at pre-intermediate it's difficult but just about possible, but at elementary I don't personally think it's possible.

If I think of my elementary level students the complete beginners are doing "My name is ... / this is a pen" while six months later we're starting on past simple - that's a big difference.
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  #9 (permalink)  
Unread Sep 6th, 2006, 07:28 am
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Default Re: The new student...

Quote:
Quote Mr. E English
If I think of my elementary level students the complete beginners are doing "My name is ... / this is a pen" while six months later we're starting on past simple - that's a big difference.
that's where im at but with uni students. ths school is not going to do anything...
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Unread Sep 6th, 2006, 07:40 am
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Default Re: The new student...

Oh no, Mr English - you've depressed me now! I have students from about 12 nationalities in each class of 20+. They are not grouped by ability at all and there is nothing I can do about it - Chinese schools don't take kindly to foreign teachers' suggestions. Shall I give up now or just make sure the kids have fun in my lessons and see it as a bonus if they pick something up along the way?!!
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Unread Sep 6th, 2006, 09:54 pm
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Default Re: The new student...

Hi Stanley,

Sorry to hear about the depression and the difficult teaching situation. I always feel it's extremely unfair of a school to put a teacher into these kinds of situations but of course it happens and I appreciate that there's no amount of reasoning or screaming from the teacher that can change it - this has been my experience in many of the countries in which I've taught, particularly in the state sector.

I've always gone for 'damage limitation' tactics - the limitation of damage being to myself!! It's an unsatisfactory and unsatisfying teaching experience which is why I've never stuck around long in those schools.

Of course, it's also an unsatifying experience for the students, which is the biggest injustice. The lower level students quickly lose interest in lessons which are too difficult and that they can't understand, while the higher level students feel held back.
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Unread Sep 6th, 2006, 10:39 pm
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Default Re: The new student...

i feel it's more unfair for their students. It's their (usually very good) money and their time. I wish I could tell them to talk to the school manager's and complain but there would be big "face disgracing" issues then.

it's a no-win situation but i'll go along with the damage limitation technique and the group suggestion by stanley.
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  #13 (permalink)  
Unread Sep 6th, 2006, 10:56 pm
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Default Re: The new student...

Having a student in the wrong class benefits no one.
- It makes the teacher’s job harder and not as fun.
- The student in the wrong class doesn't learn as much because they don't have the proper language foundation.
- It's bad for the other students because the other student usually disrupts the class because they don't understand.
- Money is wasted.
- The school and the teacher look worse because the student isn’t learning a great deal because they were never meant to be there in the first place.

We have Chinese and western management staff. The Chinese staff are forever stuffing students into any class. The situation is no being corrected as the students can't enter a class unless they have a piece of paper (a special form) signed by the western management saying that they should be in that class.
Even if they were level checked at that level, but the teacher doesn't think they should be in the class then we can recommend that they go to a different class.
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  #14 (permalink)  
Unread Sep 13th, 2006, 07:08 pm
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Default Re: The new student...

It’s an unfair situation and one in which the effectiveness (and enjoyment) of the learning situation is in the hands of school administrators and not students and teachers – ridiculous. But that’s the way it is in the real world and there’s nothing that can be done about it!

Like you I feel most sorry for the students in this situation who are wasting their time, money and learning opportunity. It is this sense of fairness and a commitment to professionalism that forces me to try and make the best of a difficult situation - from the comments given here by others I’m not alone in this.
  • As Stanley says, the best method is to group the students within the class according to level; physically sit them together, get them to work together in pair and group activities.
  • Also ways aim presentations at your lowest level students. Concept check grammar and vocabulary meaning to the lowest ability students to ensure they follow the lesson and don’t get bored and lose motivation.
  • Give the language challenge to the higher level students, e.g. formulate complex sentence structures in drill activities, provide feedback to speaking activities.
  • Teacher – divide classroom time equally between the different level groups of students, e.g. work closely with the lower level group of students and give them intensive tuition while the rest of the class do something else, e.g. drills on basic structure. Or – work closely with the higher level students while the lower level students complete a different task, e.g. communicative discussion work.
  • Provide extra homework to the lower level students, e.g. multiple written sentence drills. Provide more challenging homework to the higher level students, e.g. longer written discourse pieces such as a letter.

All these techniques are fine and sound great on paper (or screen) but in practice teaching a class, particularly a large number of students, is a difficult juggling act.
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Unread Sep 13th, 2006, 09:34 pm
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Default Re: The new student...

Great post Mr. E!

I totally agree that it looks very sound on paper but in reality you will have to deal with a lot of different levels in the class and trying to get something for everybody's level would be tricky. Not just the level but the time constrants. If you give one students something and then work on other students, that first student could be finished and then you have to deal with the bored student. Of course the answer to that is give more work but you don't want your class to be a homework class!

Having taught in a public elementary school, where the supervisor wants all the teachers to have a couple of different lesson plans for their various level students, but I have never seen any teacher apart from one or two actually do this.

Normally I would teach everybody the same thing (stick to the national circum.) and then if it was a small movie clip from the CD or something similar I would ask some simply questions (for everybody) and then some higher level questions (for the advanced students). It worked out quite well but then again I had huge resources such as books, CD's, games, music etc in the classroom. I would imagine that some private schools wouldn't have that compared to the public owned schools. In that case, the teachers would have to be a lot more inventive then me!
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Unread Sep 13th, 2006, 09:35 pm
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Default Re: The new student...

Following on from that, where would you seat the students in the classroom especially when taking part in games? If you are doing some pair work activity/game would you prefer to have students of the same level sit beside each other or would you prefer students of different levels to sit beside each other?

My point is that the low level students could learn more from siting beside their high level classmates than from their fellow low level classmates. However this could have the opposite effect of boring the higher level students.

Any opinions about this?
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Unread Sep 15th, 2006, 06:33 am
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Default Re: The new student...

I think it's important to vary the way you group the children. It largely depends on the activity. I don't think it would be fair to the higher level students to always pair them with lower level ones (I wouldn't like it in my Chinese classes - I much prefer to work with someone of a similar level) On the other hand, there are some situations where mixed ability groups work well, for example in a role play where the higher level student is given a more complex role. Today I did the True False activity, where students have to make up some true/false facts about themselves, get into groups, take turns to read their sentences to the group who vote on whether they think they're true or false. When modelling the activity, I first wrote out some simple sentences(about me!) and then explained how I'd expect more able students to expand these using more complex language. They worked in mixed ability groups and it was a success - everyone speaking at their own level and everyone listening to other group members.
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Unread Sep 17th, 2006, 08:05 pm
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Default Re: The new student...

Good point Stanley and good example of how having a slight variation of level within a group can actually be to an advantage.

But would this work at elementary level with most students unable to produce complex language an sentence level?
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Unread Sep 17th, 2006, 08:11 pm
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Default Re: The new student...

I agree with LivinginKorea. The only real way to get around the problem of ability / knowledge difference at elementary level is to have a huge amount of resources readily available. But then a school which doesn't stream its students properly in the first place isn't likely to have a large bank of teaching materials - I guess.
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Unread Sep 17th, 2006, 09:59 pm
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Default Re: The new student...

I've seen both sides. My first job was in a private school where resources were lacking and thus I had to photocopy a lot of materials or buy them myself. I had to use the board and classroom a lot to interact with the students. My second job was similar but my third job was in a public elementary school, which had a seemingly endless supply of cash!

Seriously they spent about 60,000 euro on the classroom and materials but as usual when they have too much money they bought things to show off. They bought 7 computers which sat at the back of the classroom, collecting dust. I would use them for my advanced classes which had a small number of students compared to my normal classes (14 to 40). Also they bought two air conditioners which none of the homerooms had (but I was delighted in summer) and a touch screen and project which cost about 10,000 euro. There were many things like that. They had a huge amount of books too, which I picked out for them and evenyually presuaded them to place them in the library, not in the English classroom.

Anyway, having said all that it was interesting to see the differences between the haves and have nots. The students don't have to pay for public education yet there is a huge amount of money spent on it here in Korea. Money that is going nowhere. They should spend the money on getting new teachers and buying better English books not on equipment to make the classroom look like a television studio but that is another topic of discussion here in Korea
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