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Promoting Speaking in a Mix Ability Class

In: English and Literature

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Promoting speaking in a mixed ability classroom | August 2
2014
| Many educators find it increasingly challenging to get the weaker students in a mixed ability classroom to participant fully in class discussions and activities. This challenge is faced by teacher from all background and at all levels. Many educators have come up with different strategies aimed at solving this problem. However, the most widely accepted and applied strategy is the ABCD goals approach proposed by McCombs and Pope in 1994. This is an easy to use strategy as it gives educators the flexibility of customizing the ideas to suit the need of different classrooms. | “it so hard getting the weaker students to join in” |
Cameroon Teachers association in Thailand
Mahasarakham

Cameroon Teachers association in Thailand
Mahasarakham

To get every student in class active is the dream and desire of every good educator. However it is not that easy to achieve. Studies have shown that educators across the world face a day to day challenge in bring all students in their class to participant in classroom discussions and activities. The failure to achieve desired result has resulted in many schools separating class room based on ability of students. This solution limits the number of mixed ability students in one class making it easy for educators to get more than 80% of the students active.
You must be wondering if this is a solution then: 1. Why keep mix ability classrooms? 2. Why not divided the classes until only students of same ability are left in each class? 3. Why waste time on such a topic?
The answers to the above questions are simple. 1. If we put all higher ability students in one class and lower ability students in the other, how do we think the lower ability students are ever going to improve? 2. It is not possible to have a class filled with students of the same ability. 3. We are educators in Thailand and our classroom happens to be filled with students of same age not of same ability.
Based on these reasons therefore we should as educator strive to give the best to our students. If we feel they don’t need this consideration. Then let me remind us that “we owe it to the ethics of our profession to give our students the best education possible.
It is based on this backdrop that I picked up such a topic not because I am an expert in it but because I believe that our exchange in this topic will be of great help not only to all here present, but also to our students, school and other whom we may share the knowledge gain here today with.

Objectives
This presentation will focus on the following. * Focus on weaker students/pupils’. * Raising confidence. * Simply strategies and techniques.

Weaker students: What do we mean?
By weaker students we mean those that exhibit the following characteristics: * Lower level of spoken English * Lower level of general English * Learning difficulties * Lower confidence * Poorly motivated
Mixed-ability classroom or group: What do we mean?
By mixed-ability classroom we mean those that exhibit differences in the following: * * Language-learning ability. * Language knowledge. * Cultural background. * Learning style. * Attitude to the language. * Mother tongue. * Intelligence. * World knowledge. * Learning experience. * Knowledge of other languages. * Age or maturity * Gender.

* Personality. * Confidence. * Motivation * Interests. * Independence. * Self-discipline. * Educational level.

Weaker student (speakers): Why are they reluctant to join in? * Afraid of marking mistakes * Afraid of looking foolish. * Do not understand the task. * Do not have the language * Do not have the confidence in themselves * They are shy of their friends

The ABCD goal approach (attempted solution to this problem)
A= Achievable (by McCombs and Pope 1994)

These two writers came out with this goal as being the first and most important in every lesson plan. Educators must make sure that their students believe they can achieve what their teachers want or ask from them. Don’t let the task give students the idea of “It so difficult or wow I can’t do this”

B= Believable (by McCombs and Pope 1994)
Each task in your lesson should be something realistic. When you ask students to participate in something that they think can never happen, they spend time thinking on how this could ever be possible rather than trying to find a solution to the task at hand.

C= Conceivable (by McCombs and Pope 1994)
The task in each lesson should meet the ability of the students. They should be able to conceive in their minds an idea of what the task requires.

D= Desirable (by McCombs and Pope 1994)
This is most probably the most important in a Thai educational setting. Whatever you do, make sure you are able in each task to capture the interest of your students. If a student finds the task interesting, he or she does everything possible to be part of it (Dudley June 2014).

Confidence and proficiency: What is the connection?

One leads to the other and by achieving that first, you inevitably get the other. “ it is important to establish a climate of trust among the members of the group, so they can feel confident enough to say and do things in front of the others without fear” (Jill Hadfield 1992)

How can teacher build confidence in their students? * Pay attention to the learning environment of you class. * Establish habits and routines. * Set an example with your own behavior. * Provide encouragement. * Enable weaker students to experience success. * Win your students’ trust. * Be empathic (have feeling for your students)

Practicalities: What can we provide? * Time * Options * Varity * Intrinsically motivating tasks * Resources
Providing time
Teach your students how to provide themselves with time. When you need time to think you could say the following; * Let me think, let me see, what else? Hmmm…..
Let the students know that it is okay to say * I don’t understand. * Sorry did you say (two weeks)? * Could you say that again, please? * Could you repeat that, please?
As a matter of fact these and other classroom language phrases should be place on a billboard in your class until student are able to memorize them.

Providing options
Give a range of options so that each student can find something to say.
Example:
Tell your partner any of the following: 1. Two things you do every weekend 2. Two things you don’t do every weekend. 3. Two things that are happening in the class now. 4. Two things that are not happening in class now. 5. Two things about your friend 6. Two things that make you happy 7. Two things about yourself.
This activity provides students with seven different options to choose from and limiting the possibility of students not having what to say.

Providing variety
Variety may be similar to options. The reason for using this is so that your students feel they can create their own sentence.
Example: Work in your group read the headline and tell the class what you think. Use the following words or your own idea.
(Drug-dealers, in hiding, kidnapped, murdered, on the run, robbers, stolen) Headline: 25-year old man runs away from a hotel in Bangkok, leaving 1,000,000 baht in a suitcase.
What do you think happen? A. He might have ………
He could have……….
May be he ……………

B. ………………..

C. He might have left it there to collect later.
He could have been kidnapped by somebody.
May be he forgot it.
The three clearly shows different level of difficulties and could be used in a class with three different ability levels.

Providing intrinsically motivating task:
“When the desire to get involved is stronger than the inhabitation holding the student back” What makes a speaking activity intrinsically motivating? * Providing activities with flashcard. * Bring video activities to class. * Let students make their own videos as class projects. ( simple video introducing their pet to the class) * Let the class be filled with activities and require students participating and having fun.

Providing resources
This requires the teacher to make the students comfortable in each task by providing all that is needed to complete the task. Never start a task only to end half way because some item or items needed were not available. Make sure you get the following right before you start your class; * Information * Language format and structure * Encouragement
Conclusion
I will like to apologies for the fact that the examples in this paper are more suitable for average and advanced learners. However I and many of the experience teachers we have here present are more than willing to provide you with example that may suit the need of your class.

References
Edmund Dudley, (June 2014) shaping learning together, Oxford university press.
Jill Hadfield and Zoltán Dörnyei, (April 18, 2013) Motivating Learning (Research and Resources in Language Teaching) Routledge; 1 edition. Kenneth Beare (2013) Speaking Strategies for English Learners. Pearson.
Jill Hadfield and Charles Hadfield (Jul 15, 2009) Oxford Basics: Introduction to Teaching English. Oxford University Press.
Jill Hadfield (October 26, 2000)Simple Speaking Activities (Oxford Basics). Oxford University Press.
McCombs and pope, (January 1994) motivating hard to reach students. American Psychological Association (APA); 1 edition.

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