George Lucas Educational Foundation

What are your suggestions for managing a a split level language class

What are your suggestions for managing a a split level language class

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Does anyone have suggestions on how to set up and manage a split level class?
I have 5 level 3 French students grouped with a class of 17 second year French.
Their abilities range from beginning novice to advanced novice.

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Clara Galan's picture
Clara Galan
Former Social Media Marketing Assistant for Edutopia

Lynn, I would use backwards planning to differentiate instruction. What are your end goals for the course? Will all of the students receive the same final evaluation? Use the strengths of the more advanced students in your class to help guide the others. However, at the same time you don't want to leave the more advanced students bored! Projects can be a great way to combat this -- as you give more complex tasks to the more advanced students. I experienced a similar classroom in my Spanish I class. I had the students write and film a cooking show which was a fun way for them to implement a variety of skills.
Here's a great resource on using projects to teach world languages: I met Don Doehla at the last PBL World conference -- he has many insightful ideas for teaching world languages!

Don Doehla, MA, NBCT's picture
Don Doehla, MA, NBCT
2015 California Language Teacher of the Year, Co-Director Berkeley WL Project at UC Berkeley Language Center

Many thanks to Clara for the tips and ideas, and the kind words!

Lynne, this is always a big challenge as we seek to build our WL programs - what to do with small groups of students who want to go on, but not enough of them to warrant a separate class just yet. Hopefully, as you establish your program, the class sizes will grow to enough to make that possible.

In the meantime, a few ideas you might try include...

1) Try a PBL approach so all students can participate in a one class context - ie, don't teach it like two classes, but like one, but move to an inquiry approach where every student can grow at his/her pace. You might consider spreading your more advanced proficiency students around so there is one per group who could serve as a group leader - we all know that those who can teach the content know it better.

2) Try moving to a more story-led approach, and be less dependent on a textbook as your curriculum. If your units are theme-based, and you focus on language acquisition over language learning, you could include all students in the same overall units, and offer differentiation, as Clara suggests, with a variety of readings or stories at various levels of complexity. More advanced students can read more complex texts, for example.

I would also like to suggest a website FULL of WL differentiated ideas! My good friend Toni Theisen, and our ACTFL President, has a wiki page of many ideas worth checking out. Here is the link to the page on differentiated language learning:

Let me know what you think! Lots to try out there!

Best wishes,

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