Articulating Your Curriculum When You Have Many Levels
from January 22, 2020
On January 22, language teachers from grades K-8, and beyond, met for the biweekly EarlyLang chat. Participants discussed the many challenges when dealing with multiple levels of students across multiple grades. They made suggestions on how to spiral content as students move through each year and their overall language learning during school. They also discussed how to accommodate different learning paces within the same class.
Q1: When it’s time to plan goals & content across the span of levels you teach, where do you start?
Several participants begin with the end in mind. Looking at the end of the year or what is expected in the next level (i.e. moving from elementary to middle school), they work backward to be able to meet those expectations. They can also plan in spiraling opportunities as well as include appropriate scaffolds. Other suggestions include to ensure age and developmental appropriateness, incorporate student identity, and social justice standards. Finally, consider what the students are interested in and what they already know.
Q2: Based on your program goals how do you spiral content as the students move through each year and overall span?
Participants agreed that it is skills, rather than vocab lists or grammar functions in isolation, that are repeated each year. Younger students can learn a structure that is then expanded in later years. Or vocab can be reviewed with the aim of using it in a new way and in new contexts. The important part is that skills are attached to vocab and grammar so that students can acquire communicative competence, not simply a memorized list of words. It is also important to present “old” material in novel ways, so students are still engaged and willing to work with those structures. Using storytelling or finding out what the students are interested in learning about can help keep things interesting.
Q3: How do you manage planning and prep effectively across multiple grade levels during the course of a day/week/month? Any tips to successfully switch between levels and developmental needs?
Organization, a common theme, differentiation, and minimalism were all suggested as a way to create effective instruction with multiple age and proficiency levels. Given that many #earlylang teachers have many classes, organization is essential. Some teachers plan a week in advance or create slides with an agenda and any relevant can-do statements. This not only helps the students, but can serve as a reminder for the teacher of what they covered in class that day. Other strategies include creating stations or “slower” lessons or planning games with differentiation for level, age, and even content.
Q4: How do you accommodate groups that need different pacing(more slowly or more quickly) and maintain a curriculum path?
@senora_panico, “I do blended grouping and I also give blended lessons for every unit. With blended lessons, students can work at their own pace but maintain rigor and high expectations.”
@MundodePepita, “I often find this happening within a gr level-one class is more ‘together’ than another, or 1 class isn’t as balanced in terms of needs-so, I frequently modify instruction for that particular class depending on their needs.”
@ProfeOLeary, “I like to use station activity days to help keep everyone on track. One station is always working with me, so I have time to check in with groups and individuals. Our school also has “workshop Wed.” which is an hour every week for students to see Ts and get help.”
@Sra_Barnett, “ I like to set up rituals and routines of how the kiddos can grow their language skills, from the get-go. This takes away the guessing game and the “I’m done. What’s’ next señora?” mentality.”
@McCristinaRV, “I’d say the curriculum path is the one that takes you to a place where language is acquired and communication is happening.”
@srtacoulehan, “I might do something extra (like a more challenging game) in my other classes while the slower paced one catches up to keep them all on the same timeline. Or I might model more or less with the group depending on need.”
@JL_Delf, “keep it simple. Recycle the important things (structures not vocab lists). Find what engages. I had great success with silly stories and fifth grade self-contained! Amazing results in a different way than I had for other classes.”
@nathanlutz, “using centers has helped me group kids and make sure each group has the work that best honors where they’re at. Some need review while others can take a victory lap and do extension.”
@windycitysenora, “Focusing on the high frequency words/phrases has helped me to let go of covering it all–I know that in the next unit, ss will get what they need…and we might not get to the next unit and we’ll still be ok.”
Q5: How do you balance the desire to personalize the curriculum for your students and your teaching style while still preparing them for future teachers?
Several participants teach their students for more than one year, which lessens the need to prep them for other teachers. Others send their students on to one of multiple schools, making it difficult to truly prepare the students for their next teacher. THe best thing to do is to keep lessons engaging so students acquire as much proficiency in the TL as they can. It is also important to begin with a well-articulated curriculum and to cover whatever skills are required for a particular level of proficiency. If students transition to another class within the same building, visiting that class or collaborating with that teacher can make it easier for the students. Finally, when possible, know what is expected in the next grade or level and use those expectations as a framework that you are working toward.
Thank you to all who participated in this #EarlyLang chat! Thank you to our lead moderator, Valerie Shull (@windycitysenora), and our co-moderator, Nathan Lutz (@nathanlutz), for helping to guide the conversation. Thanks also to @MundodePepita for the chat images and to the #earlylang collaborative team: @MaCristinaRV, @JL_Delf, @doriecp, and @SECottrell.
Want to vote for our upcoming #Earlylang topics? https://t.co/l1VbHqzLU1