Working With Different Ability Levels
Submitted by Karen Stafford, Washington, Missouri
Idea posted 2003-02-17
Question: Have you had any students finish the year without a black belt? And how did they take it?
Answer: You will have kids who are perfectly satisfied with just a few belts. You will also have some highly competitive kids who get pouty, but you know what? They'll do that for everything. For some of my "slower" kids, I will fudge after they've tried and tried, and I can see some improvement. The other kids understand that. But then again, I work in two small schools where most of the kids have known each other all their lives. For the highly competitive hot dogs, they have to learn that they can't be Number One all their lives at everything.
I start the year explaining that we all have our talents. I compare myself to a football coach. I could try and try, and no matter what I do, I just can't be a football coach.
I make sure they know that we all work at different levels. Having "tooter tutors" has really helped my classes, too. The kids who have achieved higher levels work one on one with those who are struggling. That extra attention sometimes gives just the right boost. For the slower kids, modify the tempo, or maybe don't make them play along with the CD, if the song has a CD. Just help them keep the beat. This is especially trying for special needs and LD students. Things have to be modified anyway for them. This is one area where that would apply.
I'm also trying to work out something so those kids who are stronger vocally get some type of recognition for their talents. Usually, that's something in one of the programs. That helps, too. If a strong reward emphasis isn't put just on Recorder Karate, but also maybe getting a singing solo, reaching Top Levels in Music Ace, guessing the Composer of the Month... that way, most kids who are competitive will find something they can win at in music.
For the ones who don't care, nothing you do will matter. And, some are happy at just trying!!!! A lot of my slower kids are pretty tickled at getting to yellow or green, or beating their level from last year. But for third grade, cut them some slack. I only use BAG songs my whole first year. The difficulty comes in the rhythm. For the more difficult songs I use BAG songs from K-8 so they have a CD to listen to and emulate.
Anyway, I guess the bottom line is: Don't make it the be-all and end-all. And, part of education is helping kids learn to cope with the real world. Not always achieving the top level at everything is just one of those lessons.