Adventures in Differentiation in the World Language Classroom

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November 2022 – 

Differentiation isn’t just a giant word that’s hard to spell (or maybe that’s just me…). It’s a focus of schools, teams, teachers, IEPs, and 504s across the US and the world. We all know that our students aren’t all in the same place or coming in with the same base skills or background knowledge to our World Language Classroom. We also know that with 35 (or more) students packed into a single classroom with 45 minutes of instructional time and 842 other “requirements” on us as teachers – that differentiation can be easily left to the side. But what if between taking attendance, updating it 17 times for tardy students, signing bathroom passes, answering the office pages, starting and review a warm up / first 5, handing out and collecting exit tickets… oh, and teaching… you could provide some differentiation that would reach your advanced, average, and lower performing students in a simple way? Let’s explore…

This quarter (ish) my school is having teachers focus specifically on differentiation for both advanced and lower performing students (especially IEPs & 504s). We’re not only focusing on differentiation, but ensuring that all students have the materials they need for the educational material to be accessible and attainable. 

So here is what we did today in Spanish 1: 

First – our goal was to review our class created story. We are focusing on the verb “quiere / wants”. I put up this slide with a few BIG pieces of information for our story recall activity. Normally I use a “ReTell Slide,” which is great for my average and advanced students… but my lower performing students needed a support – so I gave it to everyone! I started with the first sentence and asked questions to help students provide me with details about what happened next until I got to the second sentence, and the third, and so on. 

After we had fully reviewed the story, I had students pull out their written down version of the story from last week (I had all students copy it into their notebook as I wrote it on the board). I gave them a few minutes to review the story with a partner and ask any questions about what happened that they needed to ask. 

Then I put this slide up on the screen – a picture of an event in the story with the challenge of describing the event without any supports. I put this challenge up to keep my more advanced students engaged. They bit! As those students started writing their descriptions – I put up this next slide. 

This slide was for my students that needed support. I gave students writing a minute to finish up their answers and the new group a chance to read through the answer choices and write down their answers. Then I allowed students that wrote “free” answers to call out what they wrote – even if it wasn’t an answer choice – the goal was using language! We reviewed the “answer” from the “answer choices” and reviewed that piece of the story and then moved on to the next prompt. 

Students enjoyed getting to CHOOSE the challenge when they felt like it – and having the supports when they needed it. Students having the story as a resource to reference created more opportunities for re-reading to make an informed answer choice as well. 

While this activity wasn’t NO PREP, it was LOW PREP. It took me about 20-30 minutes to set it up and I got a full 45 mins class out of it (twice!). And now that I’ve set up the basic format, it will go much faster the next time I implement this activity. Tell me about how you differentiate in the World Language Classroom!

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