Teaching Mixed ESL Classes

I was given this article (Adapting Materials for Mixed Ability Classes by TE Editor) by another teacher and thought some of the content was very useful if you are teaching a mixed ESL class like myself.


Start with the same reading material and add extension activities for the stronger students.


  • Ask early finishers to write on the board new vocabulary along with the definitions.
  • Have them rewrite a part of the text in a different tense.
  • Write their personal opinion or a short summary of the reading.
  • Write questions about the text.


Hand out the script and choose a ‘vocabulary master’ to look up new words/expressions in a dictionary, and then have them explain to the group what it means. This will give you the chance to focus on their accents/intonation of the speakers, and give the listeners a chance to practice their copying skills by requesting them to copy a chunk of what the speaker was saying.


  • Give students time to discuss answers before giving your feedback.
  • If it is a gap fill exercise, supply the words.


Use this time to let students get creative and write about anything. After they have completed their writing piece, indicate mistakes using correction code to give students a chance to self-correct their work. (Ex. Sp = spelling, Gr = grammar, and etc.)


  • Encourage students to use dictionaries.
  • Give them an example before having them begin the writing activity.
  • Pair or group weaker students with stronger students.



  • Choose a topic and ask students to give their opinions.
  • Try and ban easy words such as ‘nice’ to push for higher level vocabulary.
  • Use a voice recorder and have the students self-correct after listening to their errors on intonation and etc.
  • Pair higher level students together and let them mingle on a topic. (It isn’t always in the best interest to pair a weaker with a stronger level, it should be used at your discretion.)
  • Give students time to rehearse and gather their ideas before a role play/discussion. (This will also help with lower level students’ confidence.)
  • Let students make notes before the speaking activity begins. “Thinking Time”
  • Be sure to grade students on EFFORT opposed to ABILITY.
  • Lower level students, give them more listening and thinking time before calling them to answer any questions.

3 thoughts on “Teaching Mixed ESL Classes

  1. Pingback: Teaching Mixed ESL Classes | Live, Learn, Travel, Teach

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