- Keywords: Peer teaching/learning, class collaboration
- Learner English level: Any
- Learner maturity: Potentially any levels, different or the same age
- Activity time: Parts (20 to 30 minutes) of two or three 90-minute lessons
- Materials: Relevant materials based on selected teaching point
As teachers, we may sometimes feel that our classrooms have slipped into a transactional model of learning where students passively receive instruction from us. Mixing classes provides an opportunity for learners to take on active leadership roles and reflect on the challenges and benefits of being a role model to their peers. Furthermore, mixing classes can potentially be done in almost any educational setting as long as you have a willing partner class during the same timeslot, and are able to scaffold the content to suit both groups. Mixed class activities do not have to take up a whole class and can even be done in as little as 20-30 minutes.
Step 1: Find out who has classes at the same time as you do.
Step 2: Ask if they would like to do a mixed class where students teach each other different things. This could be the same or different age groups.
Step 3: Set the date far enough ahead to let your students prepare things to teach.
Step 4: Prepare a simple but reasonably challenging language point, saying or skill that your class can teach to their peers. Make sure both teachers agree on what kind of things will be taught and exchanged. In our classes, one group of freshmen taught the meaning and use of some English sayings, and the other, more senior group, taught their “students” how to juggle.
Step 1: Announce to students: “In a few weeks, you will join another class and be paired up with one or two students to teach something you will be learning in the next few classes.”
Step 2: Explain, and model if necessary, the type of information or skill that the students will have to teach to the other class. Also, introduce some useful teaching strategies if necessary. Place students into small groups in order to provide peer support as they prepare for the mixed class.
Step 3: Ask students to practice teaching the material in English to others outside of class.
Step 4: Prime students just before the mixed class with a short survey to record their feelings and beliefs about peer teaching/learning. Questions we asked focused on how enjoyable or difficult students found learning from peers.
Step 5: One class visits the other at the designated time, and each student is then matched with one or two (depending on class numbers) students from the other class. Ask them to introduce themselves first. Students then teach each other the teaching points they have prepared.
Step 6: Toward the end of the mixed class, distribute a short questionnaire to students asking some follow-up questions, such as “What was the most fun while teaching?” and “How can we make this better?”
Students can review and discuss questionnaire responses from their classmates and from the students they taught.
We have both done mixed classes before and highly recommend them as something that helps students become more serious about their language and content study. We noticed a number of positive results from doing mixed classes, including students paying a great deal of attention to learning the things they will have to teach, as well as members of both classes getting an altruistic rush from teaching something to people they don’t normally learn with. We strongly recommend that teachers in any educational context—be it university, eikaiwa, or elementary school—get together with colleagues to consider mixing classes, and see students reap the benefits!