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Mixed Abilities

Category: Freelance Teaching

Today I taught a mixed-ability class in a company, but not the same one I wrote about before: this is as common as sunshine in the desert! Anyway, their levels range from pre-intermediate to upper-intermediate, and attendance is pretty irregular, in fact sometimes just one comes, which was the case today. At a solid upper-intermediate level, today’s student’s probably the strongest.

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William Christison
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Luckily when I teach these classes I bring about five different class plans, or more accurately, material for five different classes, often from Instant Ideas. If something goes well in a class, I’ll keep a photocopy of it in my folder, and in an emergency or an unexpected situation, out it comes, just like from Mary Poppins’ bag.

I mainly use the book when several people come: it’s an intermediate business English book so it’s an average of their levels. But if you just get one, it’s nice to give them somewhat of a tailor-made class. This invariably includes a nice chat with ongoing friendly feedback (correction), which is a real luxury for them, not easy to come by, so they’re appreciative. And as they say, the bottom line is always happy students.


Thanks for your insights about freelance teaching! One question, with these kinds of mixed-level classes, don’t you find that it is very hard to keep a sort of continuity within the class? The students have different levels to start with, and then half of them never come or each one comes very irregularly. How do you deal with this when looking at your class as a whole (rather than looking at each day individually)?

My response

You’re absolutely right: continuity is hard to come by, though in the end there are two that actually come fairly regularly to this particur class, which I still have by the way, so logically the class is aimed at them. By the way, they have different levels, one being intermediate while the other actually is probably post First Certificate, that is, advanced.

But luckily business books today tend to have a broad scope, which makes them ideal for mixed abitility classes. In this case I’m using In Company intermediate, which I’m happy with. The students are presented with a broad range of language and each student “notices” what he or she is ready to notice. My more advanced student is reinforcing her knowledge and picking up business collocations, while the other is focussing on more general lexis.

Again, this sort of broad focus, that is, exposing students to lexically rich texts, means that everyone gets something out of the class, though the poor attenders will have much less contact with the language and so progress less. Actually for them it’s not about progressing but not losing what they already have.

I hope I’ve answered your question.

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