Every lesson with my teens is a tale of two cities: one third of the learners start fidgeting before the others have done half the task. Yes, there was placement testing, but let’s face it: every group has mixed abilities anyway.
All morning, I’ve been digging through teachers’ favourite ways to work with fast finishers, and my impressions are very similar to what Mark from TESOLToolbox wrote: “they [fast-finisher activities] have only ever complicated things and certainly didn’t result in any extra learning”.
And the problems are – well, it reminds me of lessons in Marxist Dialectics because you have to balance so many opposites!
On the one hand, you want to keep the students busy, but on the other hand, you don’t want to give them busywork.
If you want to stretch them with a challenge, they might need more support, whereas you should be supporting the main group.
The extra task should look like a reward, not punishment for doing well, and yet it shouldn’t be so motivating that the learners are encouraged to do sloppy work on the main task.
If you ask fast finishers to help weaker students, it fosters collaboration, but will not challenge stronger students enough.
And – if you differentiate tasks by adding ‘levels’ to them, your preparation and marking time will increase exponentially.
So, what can I do?
I think I’ll delegate it 🙂 In other words, I’ll let the learners decide how they would like to be challenged and kept on task, and report to you tomorrow.
[to be continued]