Teaching a Variety of Learners
Photo by Shane Rounce on Unsplash
In the first few weeks of my internship at Plymouth Elementary School, I discovered the challenges involved in teaching a variety of learners in the same classroom. Classes at PES are not organized by achievement level. As a result, there are students well above average and well below average in the three sections of eighth-grade ELA. Non-tracked classes have advantages, such as students receiving insight from a wide variety of classmates. But as an intern, it can be difficult to compose lesson plans when you have so many different students.
After completing about five lessons in my internship at Plymouth Elementary School, I discovered the challenges of teaching such a variety of students. It can be hard to pace a lesson because students complete the handouts at different times. In the first few lessons, I noticed that some students would finish the handout early, and others would take more time than given. I questioned what I could do. Do I need to explain the directions and expectations more clearly? When some students finish earlier than others, it can throw off your class. Should I give extra essential questions or other work to the students who finish earlier? When you get behind early in a lesson, you can find yourself running in circles trying to cram your lesson into the time frame. Problems can increase when you plan to have students share their responses in small groups. When students are at different points in assignments, they often become less collaborative in their discussions.
Overall, I have found that the best way to teach lessons when you have various levels of students is to carefully explain directions and check in on struggling students more than you might think you need to. In the last class I taught, I focused on circulating the room and checking in on students. It helped with the flow of the class and provided support to struggling readers and writers. I still wonder whether having non-tracked classes is good or bad. Since I have never taught sections of a class in which students are tracked by their levels of achievement, I can’t compare the two scenarios based on my own experience as a teacher.