Addressing multiple learning levels simultaneously in a classroom (slow, advanced etc.)


Perhaps this would be a question more appropriate in context with a traditional classroom like learning environment or a workshop where a teacher is surrounded by students.

I am curious to know how some of you as an educator might have experienced this or if there is an effective or creative way of handling this, without letting any student feel high or low or different? And also that we can make sure all of their learning needs are rightly addressed within that stipulated timeframe allotted to each teachers; precisely, a learner who is apparently quick and advanced doesn’t feel tired of exploring within the limits of the “wide wall” and keep coming back with questions, while at the same time some others who are not as quick comparatively, do feel equally involved and part of the team and are also able to keep up with the speed at which rest of the class is learning.

As an educator sometimes I feel this is a big challenge and it makes me think and approach every student in a different way… however sometimes that is not possible unless time is allotted separately to each kid.
Any thoughts? Experiences? Reflections from regular experiences? Strategies ? In short I am looking for a way in which every learner irrespective of their capacity of learning is making the best possible progress in their respective areas of learning. In an informal learning environment this feels better addressed however it might be good to learn different views of people participating in Creative Learning…


This is a biggie. I have a large number of students who are silent, and tuned out during class discussions, with the thought they have nothing to contribute, or it is the ‘smarties’ who will give the answers so they don’t have to do any of the work. This drives me crazy.
A few of strategies I’ve used:
waiting. really long empty silent spaces, so my kids know I’m taking responses from all, not just the quick thinkers

‘talk to your elbow neighbors’ giving everyone a chance to engage in the conversation in small group then large group share.

getting them to write the questions:

One issue I have related to this is managing curriculum for very different abilities, in a way that students can proceed independently and I’m not going crazy trying to meet everyone’s requests for help. Learned helplessness eats up teaching time and energy.


Thanks Shelly! I like your approach.

In fact I was asked a question by @Lily yesterday in an Unhangout chatroom where she mentioned - "Mohona, what techniques have you tried for helping students who are quickly moving on from an idea? "

Perhaps I overlooked her question at that time, but later found it out and realized how relevant it is to this topic that I had in mind. Well for such learners usually what I do is, try and maintain an eye contact and make sure, their questions are all getting answered from time to time, even if I might be busy at that time dealing with other kids. Also, I make sure they have the right materials around to explore and sometimes I write it in my diary later, that this kid is getting to learn something new every day and is silently or slowly being able to create the new path that is constantly “ON” in his/her mind. I’ll state a few examples here…

  1. Suppose this person has learnt some new word today and is curious to know what it means, so I make sure he or she gets an opportunity to not only know the meaning but use that word in a sentence and perhaps in a story or may be write something applying the things just learnt. For example yesterday when they were all drawing pictures or kind of scribbling anything on boards as well as piece of paper, I used the time to create a card for each of them with a small picture and some sentences appreciating their work. So far, I noticed them not feeling so interested in reading or writing books. But after reading a few lines written on the card, they realized how they might apply the words they learnt along with drawings to make something for me and their friends.
    In the process, what happens is they not only understand it better but seem to fly with a great joy of learning and creating something new applying that knowledge!

  2. Suppose they have come up with a new concept or an idea in Physics or Science e.g. gravitation and what it means? I would mentally prepare myself with the bunch of questions which are going to follow. So I would try to provide the right set of materials (e.g. in this case say balls of different weight and size for him to test) or experiment and play around with the new concept and relate it to their surroundings. I make sure their inquisitive minds are getting constant feed and are satiated. Because otherwise they might start feeling lonely or ignored or may think that they are probably on the wrong track which in reality is absolutely not! I wondered later following such examples how this kid tried to associate another new concept they just learnt about magnets to objects like a duster sticking onto board, elements of a magnetic chess board or other fun games around etc.
    Even the same happened when the same kid came across an hourglass … now I was not around but watching him from a distance and found out that he is cleverly relating it to other flowing liquids, watching patterns and answering questions generated in his mind which is now easily explainable from the concept just learnt called gravity.

  3. Again for some others on the contrary, who are lagging behind for any reason or are struggling to cope up with the rest in a team, sometimes compassion helps play a great role. Sometimes for them what I do is make difficult problems broken down to smaller pieces in order to learn or comprehend well or try and align it with the subject that they find more interesting e.g. music for instance. For now these are some I may state or quote… and again, I am happy to discuss and learn more from all of you here, who are perhaps more experienced in this area of educating a diverse group and range of kids… :blush:


Huge topic indeed… Again, it’s one of the issues that arise from having these narrowing constraints (in this case little time to deal with multiple, diverse needs). Much of what is needed frequently, I feel, is just… time. And time is something we usually don’t have as teachers/students!

@MissMissShelly I like this idea of having kids discussing in smaller groups, because there’s this tendency in groups that it’s always the same ones who participate (many of us are way too shy to break that barrier!).

I also experimented a lot with the idea of peer teaching: having kids that had already grasped it help the ones that didn’t… It was a different perspective that usually helped the ones lagging, but also the ones helping, because… teaching is quite a learning experience!


I sure like your approach.
Inspires me to provide some very engaging material for some of my learners.


I am always so happy when there is more than one teacher in the room! I do the best I can to circulate with help, but I really like collaboration and the attitude that classes are learning communities, that our exchanges generate wealth.



There is also the popular practice of peer programming. Or fellowship programs could provide structure to peer mentoring. Here is a Creative Journaling Dashboard I have built. Useful for teams, as well. It is functional, interactive and live. Each person can keep track of their personal make/create story.


Several years ago I tutored a group in Middle School group in Meteorology. Their goal was to prepare for the regional and state Science Olympiad contests in the Spring. We could only meet once a week for about 45 minutes. Most of the work the students did was guided independent study. None knew more than the basics. The first year, our sessions were fairly linear and followed more traditional teaching models. We reviewed homework, they worked on an activity to learn new material, I assigned homework.

The following year, as some students decided to return, I had to come up with methods that allowed multiple levels to move forward. I use Google sites and created WebLabs. The content was primarily on-line so no parent needed to buy supplementary materials. Each lab had a grid of activities linked to the layers of the atmosphere. For example, entry level was the troposphere. The content grew more advanced as they worked up the levels of the atmosphere. Within each level, I had multiple modes from games based on content (Quizlet, Quia), readings, student created content and online lessons from outside sources. The same year, I also created a series of WebLabs for our Glacier group. Levels were linked to the altitude where you could find specific features.

This style is very labor intensive, especially during the initial run through the material. It also may not be practical for all learning styles. The group I worked with were very interested in the content and self-motivated.


Could the students make their own content?


The 8th graders did do some of that. I found it took a critical mass of knowledge and confidence to get to that level.

Some contacted the authors of college textbooks. One author’s website mentioned study sessions at a local bakery pub in England where he promised chocolate cake and Guinness. Due to limits imposed by distance and age, they agreed to toast his chapters with chocolate. Another offered free content as long as the user sent an email describing how it would be used. The authors sent enthusiastic replies with follow up questions. One of the girls was my daughter. The summer before college, she went through her earth science library. Since she would be majoring in earth & atmospheric science, she decided to donate most to a local teacher. Two she saved were the ones where she had connected with the authors. Another she kept was because she connected with the author’s written voice. She may not have created that content, but she connected to the authors and through them the content.

In the meteorology group especially, some became mini-experts in a particular area: radar and satellite images: mountains, floods and mud, mathematics. We explored Calculus concepts armed only with Algebra I. We also found on-line classes. They would come to tutorial and talk about the ones they were working on. Even though they are in college now and have different majors, the girls continue to share and discuss images and articles about weather.


Sometimes I feel even if an educator or a parent may put the best effort to manifest the best qualities in a child, but it only works when sooner or later a child develops awareness from within … And since learning is a lifelong process it holds good for adults too… Therefore even hoping that these differences in learning levels will be wiped off completely is perhaps a myth… All we can share here in forums and perhaps help each other is by showing ways as to what works and what doesn’t… so happily I am closing my realization chapter … leaving behind… a space for you all to fill… in your own ways :blush: as and when your time permits…