Multilevel ESL Activities


For ESL teachers with large, multilevel classrooms, trying to make sure everyone’s needs are met can be a challenge. Utilising multilevel ESL games and activities can lighten the load, as can grouping students of different levels together or pairing up more the proficient students with the beginners. This method benefits everyone, as the advanced students can learn as much by helping to teach as they can by simply completing assignments, and the teacher can concentrate on individual help for those most in need.


Class Collaboration with Buddy Reading

ESL multilevel activities such as buddy reading work particularly well in both small groups as well as larger classrooms. Students pair up, with each pair consisting of one lower level and one higher level student.

Buddy reading consists of the beginner reading and the more experienced “buddy” listening and assisting in making sure the reader is pronouncing words correctly. The buddy can also ask questions after the reading, in order to make sure the reader comprehended what they just read. Then the advanced student takes a turn reading aloud to their buddy, and again can check for comprehension from listening.

Buddy reading can be model for the group first; adults generally pick up this multilevel classroom activity rapidly as it is not so different than having a studying partner outside of class. The interesting thing about buddy reading is that common mistakes that may have become ‘fossilized’ or ingrained in higher level students can often be pointed out by lower level students. Advanced students can also read aloud to their beginner buddies and check listening comprehension levels with a predetermined list of questions.

Using Articles in a multilevel class

Articles can be used in many different ways within the multilevel classroom.

Example: Your classroom includes one group of low level intermediate students, one of intermediate students, and yet another of advanced students. The material being read consists of non-fiction articles, which in general have a fairly difficult academic vocabulary.

Start with a whole group session, and read an example article to the entire class. Demonstrate the process used to preview the article. Begin by looking at the title, sub-titles, and illustrations, then ask the class for predictions about the content of the text. Finally, go over the key vocabulary ( a game can be used during this portion of the lesson).

Next, break the students into the three leveled groups. Give each group a level appropriate activity to properly assess their understanding of the article. In this scenario, the advanced group can be asked to write about their opinions of the content or debate different elements of the article in discussion groups. The intermediate group can be given a where they write ten simple content based questions, which they then give to their peers, who answer them. The teacher does not have to do any preparation for that as the class write their own questions.

The low intermediate group participate by creating and then working on a fill in the blank exercise, which can be composed in advance from sentences in the article using words they have just learned. The same article will thus be appropriate for use by students at each level.

Easy Preparation Tip

The teacher can increase class involvement by utilising the members of the class to help with preparation. This involves reading the article one day, then setting homework for all students to be completed and brought to the next class. For advanced students, this homework consists of preparing a multiple choice questionnaire about the article. Intermediates can be asked to prepare a fill in the blanks, and simple vocabulary learning sheets sent home with the beginners.

In the next lesson the multiple choice questions are answered by the intermediate students while the beginners complete the fill in the blanks. The teacher can gather the advanced students and present several thought provoking questions to kindle discussion and essay writing.

All of these ESL activities for multilevel classrooms can be used in conjunction with other ESL games and activities. In addition, there is an appropriate game for nearly every pre-teaching session, and variants of the activities listed here can be utilized for both large and small groups. Using multilevel ESL teaching methods can keep order in the classroom and allow students to participate freely at all levels.





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