The ABC of ELT

Teaching Higher level students

I have a confession to tell you. But first let me set the scene.

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Advance learner's dictionary by @sandymillin via #eltpics

The situation

A little while ago I had to cover three advance lesson for a teacher who was going away. I was presented with a load of material to use on Conditionals (as the students were very rusty and needed to revise) and even a possible lesson plan. Looking through with my very critical eyes I decided that there was no guided discovery just presentation, there was too much material and that they could achieve similar/better results via a more discussion based approach (with the guise of a get to know you activity) and then we could compare dreams, regrets etc.

Now, I should add that I don’t normally teach higher level students, the vast majority of my groups are Intermediate or lower.

I had also heard that the advance students spent too long in open class discussions and that this meant some of the weaker quieter students didn’t get to speak. So my mission was to have a lot more small group discussions.

The result

The results were mixed but one thing was for sure. All the groups still spent a very long time in open class discussion and in many of the groups, the weaker students didn’t get to speak. This was partially due to some very bossy strong students who, when I set the groups, stated that they wouldn’t break into small groups. However, it was also because they acted interested in me and asked me questions. I know I should have probably shut them down and let the students break into groups, but I fell for it.

The students still seamed to enjoy it and some of the groups improved their conditional work but results certainly were mixed.


However, my big reflection was about open class discussion and in particular advance students.

  • Is it more common to spend longer in open class discussion with advance students?

  • Is this possible a good thing?

  • Are there any tips to help encourage the weaker students to contribute more in opinion giving class feedback?

  • What other differences should a teacher adopt when teaching higher level groups?

About Chris Wilson

I'm an English Language teacher based in Krakow, Poland. I enjoy writing, using technology and playing the Ukulele.

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