English Class at Camp: Mixed Levels
When campers come to American Village, many, especially summer vacation groups have varying levels of English. This means that they have to be split into classes depending on their level. Language counselors teaching English classes assess the campers level of English and try to accordingly split them into groups of different levels.
While the aim is always to have campers grouped by level, each class is different and some campers will be stronger than others when it comes to spoken English, while other campers may be stronger writers or readers. Working with mixed abilities and levels is part in parcel of teaching but there are some effective ways you can deal with this in a camp environment.
Extra material that is relevant to the theme
Prepare two exercises and make the second task more challenging. Campers who finish a task earlier can start the next one. For example, if the theme is Wild West, the supplementary task for the campers who have finished could do something fun like a cross word with vocabulary that is relevant to the theme.
Work in pairs
If you have a class where you find that there are always a few campers ahead of the class you could try splitting the class into pairs, with one camper who has a higher level of English, paired with a camper with a slightly lower level and get them to complete a task together. If one pair is finished before everyone else, they can talk quietly and go over their work and check their answers, keeping them focused on the exercise and not simply waiting for everyone else to finish.
Group work is one way to ensure that a class with mixed levels of English gets the most out of a task. Splitting the class into two groups or more and making sure that higher level English campers are working with slightly lower level English campers, allowing the class to complete something together. For example, if the class is writing a short story or a skit, each group can create their own story with campers helping one another.
Play a character and add some variety
If you find that one pair is finished a speaking activity you could get them to repeat the task but vary their responses. For example, if the task involved asking each other questions, they could repeat this but answer pretending to be someone else (a famous musician, athlete or actor).
ESL camper Camp Diary
At the start of camp every camper is given a Camp Diary to use in ESL class. It includes fill in the gaps for the campers to complete at the start of every lesson and campers are encouraged to add in material or vocabulary they have learnt in class. If campers are finished their tasks and there is not enough time to give them a new one you could ask them to check if their workbook is up to date.
If you follow these tips each camper will find a place in your ESL class and be able to communicate in English, no matter their level!
Emma M, Recruitment Assistant
American Village counselor since 2016