When I began teaching at a small private parochial school, I learned quickly that even though I was teaching two grade levels of Shurley English in the same room, there was a disparity in the way I had to instruct each level. Each group had different developmental needs and learning objectives. Along the way, I discovered a few extremely effective strategies for teaching different groups of students that I would like to share with you today.
1. Work together. First, assess which parts of the curriculum are the same and have all your students work together. To a veteran Shurley English teacher, this is a snap. (It’s the jingles and the Question and Answer Flow!) Start with Jingle Time and have all your students work together to perfect the designated jingle. Then, move on to the Question and Answer Flow. Remember, The Question and Answer Flow never changes…it simply grows in complexity as the students gain more knowledge of the parts of speech and gain greater “sentence sense.”
2. Provide mentoring opportunities. Be sure to capitalize on the expertise of the older students to take younger students under their wings. This is especially helpful with a dynamic program like Shurley English, because the older students’ become masters of language quickly and can often impart that knowledge even easier than you can! The older groups of students can actually instruct and tutor the younger students. (Just be sure the information and training they provide is CORRECT!) Always give your older students a crash course in student-student etiquette—you know, what to say/not to say; how much help is TOO much help, etc.
3. Raise expectations. Challenge younger students to match some of the same expectations you hold for the older students. You will have to bear in mind that, developmentally, some younger kids may not be quite up to the challenge, but they will strive with a level of determination that will astound you.
Remember, when you have a unique instructional setting, it may require you to implement some out-of-the-box thinking and that is okay! Change things up. Implement the nontraditional. You and your students are more than capable of adapting and thriving!