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by Erica Fischer on Jun 23, 2017

Strategies to Help Effectively Teach Combined-Level Language Classes

combined-levelOn May 11, the #langchat discussion addressed the strategies used to help effectively teach a classroom full of students with various language levels. Participants considered the approaches and methods on how to keep materials fresh and exciting while meeting the needs of a diverse combined-Level group of students.

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Advantages of Teaching a Combined-Level Class

At first, it may seem daunting to teach a combined-level language class. However, there are many advantages to teaching world languages in this type of classroom. For example, “peer coaching and cooperative grouping reinforces learning for both the high and low flyers” (@MrM0REHEAD). A primary advantage of a combined-level language class can be known as the “One-Room Schoolhouse effect.” This is where “novices can learn from more advanced students who can learn by teaching the novices” (@magistertalley). In other words, @SraWilliams3 shared, “if set up right, [students] can be teamed and work together. [Students] become “teachers”.  #Langchat teacher @ADiazMora said, “I’d like to think that [combined-level language classes] can motivate [students] to push themselves.”

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Various Approaches to Teaching a Class with Different Levels of Students

#Langchat teachers shared a variety of perspectives on teaching a class with different levels of students. Every classroom of students has different needs, so learning about the different approaches can prove to be very beneficial to world language teachers. @MrM0REHEAD said, “Reach for the sky. Set high expectations for everyone. They will all rise to a level that’s attainable for them.” @mmeshep shared, “I definitely prefer ‘teaching’ them together and having an A/B curriculum.” When teaching a mixed level group, “use tech to differentiate. Differentiate tasks while using the same text. Sometimes keep [students] with their same level and sometimes mix them!” said @angardner06. When mixing students of different levels together, “the collaboration still has to be carefully scaffolded instruction!” said @SraSpanglish. World language teachers can teach the same material to different level students, but change the expectation based upon the student’s proficiency levels. According to @GrowingFrench, “students get different proficiency goals based on where they are.” For world language teacher @welangley, “Higher level [students] do independent reading activities during class time.”

Keeping Material Fresh

#Langchat participants discussed strategies they use to keep the materials fresh for those students who have already been exposed to a split-level class. #Langchat teachers shared ideas on how to keep the material new and interesting, instead of repeating familiar topics and lessons.

  • @angardner06 suggested implementing “new tasks, activities, materials every year, no matter what level or if it’s a split class.”
  • @SraWilliams3 said, “the curriculum rotation helped with [keeping the material fresh] a lot. It was fresh for all the students.”
  • @sr_connolly said, “Don’t be afraid to reframe, revisit, and recycle. One learns by seeing the same thing with different eyes [and] experiences.”
  • According to @MmeGoodenough, “every class has a different dynamic and you always have to play to your audience.”
  • @MarshDuxfemina shared, “change what you can, accept what you can’t, foster a spirit of camaraderie and grace.”

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Strategies for a Single-Level Class with Students of Diverse Backgrounds and Abilities

Single-level classes with students of diverse backgrounds and abilities can also be a interesting classroom to teach. #Langchat teachers shared how they begin to tackle this teaching challenge in the World Language Classroom. “Meeting [students] where they are first” is essential; then, “nudging them up the proficiency scale and making them feel valued” is one way to strategize teaching a diverse group (@VTracy7). @mmeshep said, “providing appropriate scaffolding (sentence starters, etc.) can enable all students to participate in interpersonal activities.” @magistertalley uses “personalized reading: students choose what to read and how to demonstrate understanding. [This allows] students to proceed at their own pace.” Another strategy is to “prompt with [questions] that spiral up through [levels]; sometimes pair with similar levels, sometimes with different levels” (@angardner06). Finally, @MarshDuxfemina shared, “be honest with all the stakeholders about what the curriculum requires, what it takes to get there and what commitment is required.”

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Pairing Students in Ways that Benefit Everyone Involved

#Langchat teachers shared their approaches to effectively pairing students of diverse backgrounds, abilities, and proficiency levels.

  • @welangley shared, “I would say only pair [students] for interpretive tasks when mixing levels.”
  • @mmeshep said, “Using the speed-friending set-up for interpersonal tasks allows [students] to negotiate meaning with a variety of proficiency levels.”
  • @AHSblaz prefers “pairing by interest. Do some teambuilding, find strengths, choose a task and off they go!”
  • @JessicaKunz1 enjoys “variety! At times allow same levels to work together and then have varied level groups. They all bring some skill to the table!”
  • @HVRHS_Frau uses “stations, varied groupings. Modify, differentiate or scaffold activities/worksheets, varied acts – they always shine somewhere!”

Thank You

Thank you to our moderators Laura (@SraSpanglish) and Elizabeth (@SraDentlinger) for leading the chat on how world language teachers can effectively support learners in combined-level classes. Thank you to all who participated by sharing their successful classroom techniques. Don’t forget to check out the #langchat wiki to suggest a future discussion topic!
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Erica Fischer
Erica is the founder and CEO of Calico Spanish. Her passion for teaching her own children to speak Spanish led her to create Calico Spanish. Our mission is to give all children the opportunity to learn to speak real Spanish for life.

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