Number one for English language teachers

Mixed-ability teens: Allowing students to work at their own level

Type: Reference material

Understanding that students need to work at their own level.

Consider activities like these, which all the students can do, but which can be as done at different levels as the students choose:


Students regularly write in a diary or journal. They can write about whatever they wish and however much they want. The focus is on fluency. Teachers can read and respond to the content. Students can also illustrate these diaries and/or include pictures or text from magazines /internet etc. This creates a real and personal communication between the student and the teacher.


Students design questionnaires for the class and decide how to present their findings. Weaker students can choose just a few simple questions to ask e.g. What is your favourite xxxx? And then present their findings using charts, posters or oral presentations.


Doing any work on a given topic allow time for students to think of language they already know on the topic. You can do this as a class with teacher writing suggestions on the board or with students working in groups on big pieces of paper. For example:

Bank robbery

gun robber scream
 money manager 
customer police getaway car
 fear mask 

All students can contribute, even if it is only single words.

Class stories

You can tell a story with the class, encouraging them all to contribute ideas and vocabulary. Accept as many contributions as possible especially the crazy ones! For example:

One day – what kind of day was it?

Students make suggestions and you incorporate them into the story.

OK, it was a sunny, hot, boring day. A man – what did he look like? etc.

Don’t compare students to others, but praise them for what they have managed to do, regardless of what others around them have produced. We all need to know that our contributions are of value.

Other methodology tips for teaching mixed-ability teens

Mixed-ability teens: Addressing all of the students

Mixed-ability teens: Managing mixed-level classes

Mixed-ability teens: Graded dictation

Mixed-ability teens: Managing different speeds and energy levels

Mixed-ability teens: Managing different learning styles

Mixed-ability teens: Outside knowledge

Mixed-ability teens: Problem-solving

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Readers' comments (6)

  • Very helpful..

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  • Just what I've been looking for. Thank you so much!

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  • I enjoyed reading the suggested ideas. Thanks a lot!

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  • Thanks a lot for your work!

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  • I plan to use some of these ideas at my school. I teach English at a Dutch college for ages 17 - 23.

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  • I think that this information is great.

    Thank you.

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