Hopefully, the EFL classes that you are going to teach will have been streamed for ability; however, this should not be taken for granted: you may find that you have a number of mixed ability classes to deal with.
If you teach at a level that is set to that of the average ability students, you will lose the slow ability students and bore the high ability students. If you teach at a level that is set to that of the low ability students, you will bore the average ability students and the high ability students. Finally, if you teach at a level that is set to that of high ability students, you will lose the average ability students and the slow ability students.
How then, do you, as a novice EFL teacher, deal with the slow and fast learners?
During the course of the year, you will have had time to determine the abilities of the students in your class. Once you are sure that you can stream them on the basis of ability – do so. Your assessment should be based on their overall work: speaking, reading, listening, and writing abilities will all have to be taken into consideration.
It may not be a good idea for the seating arrangements to reflect the three ability groups since this might stigmatize the low ability students. Instead, you will have to work your way round the classroom giving extra help to the slow learners.
You should still teach at a level that is set to that of the average ability students, but this work should be supplemented: in the case of the fast learners, they can be given handouts with more challenging exercises. On the other hand, in the case of the slow learners, they can be given handouts with more routine exercises in order to reinforce their understanding.
Listening exercises should be split into groups of easy, moderate, and difficult texts: this will give the slow learners the ability to score high on some of the tests. In this way, they won’t become too despondent.
Oral work should be done using mixed ability groups. Where possible, two slow learners with one average learner, or two slow learners with one fast learner: a slow learner should never be alone in any speaking situation.
If you follow these tips here, you should be able to help all your students to learn something.