ABC’s and essays. Teaching mixed level TEFL classes!

ABC’s and essays. Teaching mixed level TEFL classes!

Classes with mixed level students are something that every TEFL teacher will come across sooner or later. So, how can you make sure that both types of students learn in your class without anyone getting bored, insecure or left behind?

Here at i-to-i we’ve trained over 120,000 ESL teachers and have a trick or two up our sleeve when it comes to mixed level classes:

1)      Make two versions of the same task. Let’s say that your topic is adjectives and the weather.

Advanced Task: Split the advanced students into 2 teams. Tell each team to write and act out a group presentation using 15 weather adjectives.

Beginner Task: Give students a worksheet with common English adjectives. Get them to make sentences about the weather with a partner.

*You’ll need to monitor the beginner class more carefully as their limited English could make it more difficult for them to concentrate.

2)      Have an extra activity prepared. If your class abilities differ slightly, but they can still do the same work, make sure you have something extra planned for early finishers!

3)      Don’t rely on the strongest students. As an ESL teacher, it can sometimes be (very) tempting to ask questions to the most advanced students. After all, they can give you the most detailed answers and are most likely to get the question right. Instead of doing this, give the whole class a chance by alternating between easy and challenging questions.

4)      Give beginner students more time to warm up. Many successful TEFL teachers use an interesting opening question to get the students talking at the start of class. If you’re going to do this in a mixed level class make sure you give the beginner students a minute or two to process the question before asking for an answer. This will give them time to think of the words they need and to fit them together into a sentence.

5)      Move on. If your students don’t know the answer, take the heat off. There is nothing more embarrassing to a beginner student than not knowing the answer and having the whole class staring at you in anticipation! Instead, try this method:

Teacher: Sun Mi, What colour is the boy’s hat?

Sun Mi: Blank Stare (give student a few seconds-they may just be thinking)

Teacher: Okay, Ji Su, What hat is the boy wearing?

Ji Su: The boy is wearing a baseball cap.

Teacher: So what hat is the boy wearing Sun Mi?

*You’ve now given Sun Mi the sentence formula with which to answer and given her a much better chance. Even more importantly you have helped her speak out without embarrassment!

Check out i-to-i for more teaching tips and advice on getting TEFL qualified !

Written by Katherine Hackett.  Katherine works for i-to-i TEFL who have trained 120,000 teachers to teach abroad. i-to-i also have a jobs board with 350 live TEFL jobs all over the world. 


Beth Crumpler Beth Crumpler is the founder of adaptivelearnin. Beth is an educator who is passionate about platforms for adaptive learning and curriculum design. She earned her B.A. in music education from Southeastern University, M.S. in TESOL from Shenandoah University, and 42 graduate-level credits from several universities in California. Beth is an experienced teacher, curriculum writer, blogger, and elearning course developer in the fields of ESL and music education. She has written learning content for several major educational companies/institutions. Her strongest asset is in using needs analysis and thinking creatively to develop adaptive educational materials both through kinesthetic hands-on and technological platforms to meet the diverse learning needs of students regardless of age, learning need and content area. Beth has taught students of many linguistic, cultural, and socio-economic backgrounds. She loves her work, loves to bring positive humor to it whenever possible, and is seriously dedicated to the profession. Beth's experiences teaching for numerous content areas, diverse populations, and a wide range of age groups is what propelled her with the vision to create adaptivelearnin. Her vision has been to support educators in finding resources which support learning through modified and targeted experiences so that all students receive individualized learning to facilitate their educational growth needs. Adaptivelearnin is a place where educators can find digital and hands-on adaptive learning resources for planning and instructional purposes. Beth does freelance curriculum writing, article writing/blogging, and online course development. For inquires about hiring Beth for work, please email her at Go to to check out published articles Beth has written. Opinions are her own and are not those of her employer, or previous employers.