My name is Wintermute, and this is Dumbr, an account of my life and experiences teaching in South Korea. Over the past few days we’ve been discussing common classroom practices to help you in teaching your students. Today we will discuss how to deal with a level gap among students.
It’s sad to say, but no matter what you do you will always have that student who seems to be a bit behind. This is very common in private schools as they tend to just shove as many kids in one class regardless of skill level. When I started I had 7 students, 4 were good, and 3 were bad. About a week or two later I got many more, the numbers kept increasing and the skill levels constantly changing. I had to find a way to reach out to the students who were behind. Oddly enough, each one had to be handled separately.
Caden: Caden was my worst speaker, you could hardly understand him when he spoke, and he was a major cry baby and hardly ever listened and so couldn’t do his work or answer questions. He was friends with the smartest kid in class and wanted to be friends with everyone. I separated the class in two parts, the Furious Five and Fantastic Four, or good and bad. I would have the two compete in order to show the level gap, the Furious Five did remarkable and could answer every question. I would then ask the Fantastic Four the same questions but they were not able to answer as many. When this happened I had the Furious Five laugh and literally mock the Fantastic Four, and make fun of them. Sounds horrid right? Yes it is and I do not recommend it. However it got wonderful results. Caden was so ashamed, he wanted to do well and be a part of the Furious Five, Caden was able to see how far behind he was from his friends and did not want to be made fun of. He tried really hard and in a little over a week he was able to move up turning the Furious Five into the Super Six. He continued to do well and became one of my top students.
Kevin: Kevin had to of had issues, when I got him he could not walk or sit in his own chair. When met with any opposition he threw a temper tantrum, we did not get along well at all. His favorite past time was to eat his crayons, I don’t mean naw, I mean bite down, chew, and swallow his toxic crayons. There were other classes at this school; one was the “baby class”. To be put in this class would bring shame and dishonor to your whole family and well being, so of course it made for a wonderful threat. But this wasn’t enough, so I did the opposite of what I did with Caden. Whenever Kevin had a hard time I would have the class help encourage him by yelling out things like, “you can do it”, “we believe in you”, “keep trying”, so on and so forth. It made Kevin really happy to see that the class wanted to accept Kevin as one of their own and so he began to try harder, his mom came in one day to tell me how much better he was doing and how happy she was he no longer ate crayons or pencils.
James: James was my smartest and brightest. This child was way beyond ahead, if intelligence was water, my students could fill a fish bowl, and James could fill a planet. Anything you said, he remembered. I had him writing digits in the millionth place, when I taught ordinal numbers to my class I taught him Alpha through Omega, I taught him French German and Japanese, the boy was 6. And of course he became the class clown, as is normal for smart kids because they get bored, so I had to prepare a whole separate lesson just for this one kid. I could not meet the demands of this student; I would bring him books to read, or printed out worksheets online. He usually spent the day on the board solving some weird riddle I stole from Professor Layton and the Curious Village. I requested he be put in higher level classes but since the managers could care less about education he remand with me.
As mentioned earlier I had both smart and not so smart students. It got to the point where the smart could finish their work in 5 minutes, where as the others could not finish. My solution, have the smart kids teach. Oh I received high praise for this one. Basically if a kid was finished I had that student go around and help the kids who were still working. On the plus side it just made my job that much easier, also to sit and watch my class speaking in full English to one another was rewarding too. This brought great joy to the managers, sadly I received no pay raise, but I did get more students from other classes…
I bring these up as all of these scenarios could happen to you, and at least one will. You will get a kid ahead or below the rest, you need to take the time to help that kid. I assure you he wants to do well, and really it’s not his fault he isn’t, it’s yours. Just like adults every child is different; they learn and respond to different methods. Find the ones that work for your kids, I gave up many the break periods and lunches for my kids, and I have no regrets.