Teaching Higher Levels

by Zhenya

This post was written in the process of preparing for a session on the topic. The audience is going to be mixed: there will be teachers of English, German and French, and their level of English will vary (between A2 and C2). Their experience and qualifications will be different. There are similarities, however: all the teachers share the same L1 (and L2 – in our context, it is Russian and Ukrainian), and all of them have close educational background (MA or BA in TESOL, Applied Linguistics, Translation/Interpreting, or Psychology)

The activity I am sharing in this post is aiming at several purposes during the session: getting to know the audience, learning about their teaching philosophy and beliefs regarding the subject, and ‘probing’ their reflective skills. In order to invite some discussion, I will let the participants read the statements below (in a form of Gallery Walk, most likely) and share their views on it (their and their students’)

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[Note: All of the statements are about/by the students of higher levels. By ‘higher levels’ I personally mean the proficiency levels starting at B2 according to Common European Framework of Reference)]

  1. The lesson pace is unpredictable (something takes longer than you had planned because they are engaged, and vice versa).
  2. It is hard to stop a discussion – there is so much everyone wants to say.
  3. Students don’t need any controlled practice/drills (‘it’s boring/pointless/meaningless, etc’.)
  4. They don’t want to learn grammar and only want to talk more.
  5. Learners make much slower progress than lower level students (beginners).
  6. Students don’t feel/see the progress they make.
  7. Learners don’t want to remember/use any new grammar or words (are feeling comfortable using what they already know)
  8. They don’t like to be corrected.
  9. There are no mistakes to correct.
  10. There is no need to have writing or reading lessons in class (can be done at home).
  11. There is always a mix of levels in one group, especially in terms of speaking accuracy, fluency and confidence.
  12. The focus is on developing communication and culture skills rather than on purely language skills (e. g. presenting skills, polite interruption skill, etc.)
  13. Students are more sensitive and critical to teachers’ choices (whereas at the lower levels they ‘eat’ what you give them)
  14. Sometimes they ask for words or structures that the teacher does not know. 
  15. ___________________________________________________

The activity will appear earlier in the session, and will be followed by a discussion of possible strategies and techniques of working with higher level students.

I would be interested in hearing your thoughts and questions (and opinions!) about the statements above. Which one(s) describe the language learners in your context? In your classroom? Which of the beliefs do you personally share (as a language learner, and as a teacher)? What else have you heard/observed/noticed about how higher level students’ attitude to learning changes? 

Looking forward to reading your comments! 🙂

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