[LEARNING CURVE]When levels differ in class, start jugglingThe lesson for this particular day had us reviewing the difference between singular and plural. If time permitted, we would delve into our grammar books.
After greeting the class, I began to write two columns on the white board in my favorite blue marker. The first was titled “It’s a ...” and the second, “They are ...”
Refreshing their memories, I baited them with “ It’s a ...” “Shirt!” a student replied sharply. She’s always on the mark.
“Sweater!” a second kid exclaimed. He’s pretty good too, aside from having trouble with plurals, like gloves and pants.
But there’s another student in this class who really struggles with the material. He only repeats after his classmates.
I copied the rest of the clothing items in their appropriate columns after we finished reviewing.
Then I asked the 8- and 9-year-olds to transcribe it to their notebooks. After they had finished, we would move into “pair” and “pairs.”
The faster students wasted no time copying down the lists. They finished their “pair-pairs” assignment in similar fashion. Because they finished so quickly, I told them to begin working in their grammar books.
The other kid remained lackluster. He clearly functions well below the level of the others, and he tends to zone out during class. I had to repeatedly tell him to stop daydreaming and pay attention.
But he had a long way to go; he hadn’t yet finished writing his name and the date. Because the others can work somewhat independently, I exploited the extra time between explaining stuff to them and checking work by helping the slower fellow.
While the others were well into the grammar supplement, I had him repeat things like “It’s a coat” and “They are shoes.” I try to give him all the individualized attention that I can afford, but without neglecting the others.
Most teachers eventually get classes with students of different levels. One teacher flatly told me she sat a kid in an empty room and had him practice his ABCs. Another shared a more palatable method: New arrivals were given past assignments as homework so they could better rise to the other students’ standards.
Teaching requires fluidity so that each student is able to learn, even if you have to deviate from the lesson plan. At the end of the day, my slow kid got to practice writing and speaking during the lesson and his homework would reinforce that.
by Jermaine Demetrius Lloyd