The Multilevel Merger – Can It Work For You?

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Hello again, dear colleagues!

I was at a friend’s house the other day discussing the usual things moms talk about, when my friend expressed her frustration about her daughter’s multilevel classroom. I asked how her daughter is handling the setup, to which she replied: “She doesn’t think much of it because she’s in the upper grade of the split class. I don’t feel like she’s being challenged enough.” I wondered then how our ESL adult learners — especially the advanced students, might feel about their multilevel classes, should they happen to be in one.

Every class you teach as an adult ESL instructor can be considered multilevel to a certain extent. However, a true multilevel class takes place when there’s a substantial difference in learning levels in the same classroom, (e.g. levels 2-7). I’m sure some welcome the challenge; maybe even thrive on it like: “Who are you because we need to talk?!” While many others dread the thought of being in this situation, dealing with a multitude of learning levels. 

So here are a few tips that I hope you’ll find beneficial:

Individual and group work

Something to consider when it comes to a multilevel class is the classroom size because it will help you determine which approach to take when delivering your material.

Having a smaller class (less than 10) affords you the chance to split your time between each student effectively. You get to learn about their strengths and weaknesses, (academically speaking), so more difficult questions can be assigned to advanced students while simpler questions can be used for beginners or intermediate learners.

In a larger group setting, partnering up a more advanced learner with a beginner will benefit both of them tremendously.  The pairing will prevent the lower level learners from segregating themselves when an activity is to be done and allows them to remain engaged, all the while allowing the more skilled learner to practice and enhance his/her communication abilities.

Use computer-based self-learning resources

I came across a site called Rewordify. This is free online software improves reading, learning and teaching by speeding up comprehension, building vocabulary, and engaging the students. It takes a given text and turns complex words into simpler terms making it much easier for learners to learn challenging words as well as their meanings.  It also allows you to listen to how a difficult word sounds, which is amazing! This can prove really useful when teaching multilevel classes because each student can learn at his/her own pace, while the teacher acts as a facilitator. I learned a few words myself when I tried it…check it out and report back with your thoughts, please!.

Communicative activities

Emphasize communication in your classroom. Most ESL learners are able to speak some English, so be sure to include communicative activities like the ones found on these websites:

ESL Galaxy 

The Internet TESL Journal 

CAL Center of Applied Linguistics 

The above links have so many activities, games, and tips that will surely help all learners in your classroom remain engaged and excited to work on the lessons.

Keep calm and collaborate

Lastly, remember to breathe and realize that your students are in your classroom for a reason. They look up to you and are eager to learn as much from you as they possibly can. When frustration creeps in, don’t forget to reach out to fellow colleagues who will no doubt be more than happy to bounce around some lesson plan ideas with you.

An ESL teacher’s day-to-day can vary greatly and many unexpected factors might come up, at which point you will have to be easy going. Like my little man always seems to want to remind me: “Mama, you just have to take it easy!” He says it with the biggest smile on his face.  Kids really do say the darndest things.

What are some helpful tips that you can share with your fellow colleagues about multilevel classes? What have you found helpful and what could you do without? I’d love to read all of your wonderful comments.

Until next time, happy reading and, take it easy!

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6 thoughts on “The Multilevel Merger – Can It Work For You?”

  1. Hi Laila

    I just checked out ‘Rewordify’ and it seems like a great resource. I love the audio function because a big stumbling block to learning new vocabulary is that students may be able to read new words but are still unsure of the pronunciation. Thanks for this tip!

  2. My pleasure, Nadeen! I loved it as well because of that very feature; it’s always a great thing when you can not only see the word, but hear how it’s pronounced. Thanks for your feedback 🙂

  3. Hi Laila,
    Thanks for sharing your ideas and positive attitude regarding multilevel classes. I look forward to using the Rewordify tool with my multilevel LINC class, which includes learners who read at approximately a CLB 3 Level up to CLB 8.
    There was a helpful Tutela webinar on February 8 called, “Four Frameworks for Selecting and Adapting Tasks for Multi-level Adult ESL Classes,” presented by Marilyn L. Abbott and Marian J. Rossiter. If you haven’t listened to it yet, I would highly recommend it.

    1. Thanks for your lovely feedback, Robin! I’m glad you found the post useful and hopefully it’ll be just what you need to help your students excel 🙂 And I will definitely check out the Tutela webinar you mentioned – thanks so much for sharing that with us! Have a great day.

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