This one is mixed level class and it requires creativity to manage the differences. Three kids in the class are 5th and 6th graders, becoming as critical and self-conscious as they can be. Two of them are 2nd graders, still being in a la la land, careless, easily amused, playful and chatty. Two of them are 4th graders, becoming little more self-counscious yet still showing innocent curiosity with pretty much everything. My mission is to design lessons that somewhat satisfy needs of all the students. Since they have different level of comprehension in all 4 skills, I can assign them individual activities and check their work individually while they share some of activities such as singing. I've done that and it was rather easy to handle, however, to make this unique circumstance more beneficial to all of us, I started to offer more tasks to complete as groups. I usually divide them into three groups and ask them to work on some tasks together. The elder kids automatically become leaders of each group, trying to control little ones. Their control is surely much better than mine. Little ones work more diligently to complete their missions.
Yesterday I put up a piece of paper on the white board with 20 Halloween vocabularies we have learned in last class. This class served as a review one. Then I asked them to make three groups. One of students didn't show up yesterday so that we made three pairs. The activity goes:
1 On the piece of paper, letters, ABCD and numbers from 1 to 5 were printed on the top of the Halloween vocabulary chart and the right side of it.
2 One of the pair finds the word from the chart as I call a letter and a number, for instance, A-1.
3 Then the student tell the word such as witch to his/ her pair and he/she write it on his/her notebook.
4 The chart contains pictures and written words underneath so that the reader can tell how to spell to the writer as he/she asks, "How do you spell that?"
5 I set timer just to add more thrill to the activity but I often stretch time as it needed.
I encourage them to use simple English phrases as they do this task such as
Student A: It is a witch.
Student B: How do you spell "witch"?
Student A: W-I-T-C-H
Student B: Can you spell that again? W and what?
However, depending on the purpose and amount, L1 is allowed to use to a certain degree. The objectives of this task is to encourage learner to learner interaction, build rapport among learners while they work on their reading and writing skills. We did the same activity twice as students switched the role in the pair activity.
One of the best findings via this activity is that elder ones needed to be patient with the young ones and provide extra support. None of them lost their temper and tried to complete the task with little ones patiently. 6th grade girl, who has the best ability in the class in all 4 skills, lost her patience a little because her pair was the slowest learner. However, how she endured the sluggishness of her partner and started giving him a lesson on alphabet writing, using the picture dictionary I put on the table. She looked at me as if she needed my approval to use the picture dictionary to guide her partner. So, I nodded.
She has a little brother in the class but can't be that patient with him like I can't be so patient with my daughter. It is funny human tendency.
I think this kind of simple tasks with explicit goals might make meaningful lessons for they can build rapport between students, empathy and patience while young learners learn new vocabularies or phrases. While I mix with some of individual activities and group ones, I will see what other fascinating abilities of them emerge :-)