Streaming (of the non-tech variety)
To stream or not to stream…it’s a big question, not only in EFL but education-wide. Today I’d like to present a very positive argument in favour of streaming, having seen the effects of it in class.
We currently work in a state school, giving a variety of different classes including helping final year students to prepare for their English university entrance exam. This year, the classes have been streamed into three groups and they rotate between two native teachers and their school teacher – having a block of three classes (once a week over three weeks) and then changing. They have another two hours English a week as a whole class with their school teacher.
Initially, there is a sense of “Somos los tontos” (We’re the idiots) as students know they’ve been streamed and some feel disheartened at being in the lowest group. However, focussing on the positive side of streaming today…
We’ve been working with the low-level groups on a short story about Sherlock Holmes and during the peer observations, I watched a colleague teaching one of these groups. These are classes of students aged 17-18 and so generally they are very mature and there are few discipline problems in the class. However, I have been struck during the three-week block by how particularly polite the low-level groups are. During feedback, I asked my colleague why she thought the students were so polite and she said that they respond to the material. Whilst the other two hours a week they’re swamped in a class beyond their level, for the hour a week they spend with us they use adapted material and realise that they actually CAN understand and use English.
You could argue that rather than streaming into different groups, you could teach the same short story to a mixed-level class and adapt the material to suit, but students would still know who was working with what material, which wouldn’t solve the problem of “Somos los tontos” but perhaps exasperate it as the teacher tries to give ample attention to the needs of the different levels.
With Sherlock Holmes and the Red-Headed League, I’ve felt that our students have responded very positively towards reading extended texts in English and working with them. I also feel that it’s such a shame that for all they’ve achieved with us and the effort they’ve put into our classes, it’s unlikely that they’ll pass their English exam and so will once again walk away saying, “Somos los tontos”.