Ray, a high school Chinese teacher, was recently told that his level I, II, and III classes will be combined next year. Having read the original article by Gerry Wass about multi-level classes on this blog, he contacted me asking what I thought Gerry would advise. I forwarded Ray’s main question to Gerry:

“If a student took his Spanish class four years in a row, would he/she see the same TPRS lessons/vocab/grammar patterns every year but engage at a different level or would there be new material each year that wasn’t there before.  In other words, did he cycle new material in each year with some kind of a four year plan?”

Here is Gerry’s response to Ray:

I would expect to have some overlap, but not in ways that are obvious to a student.  If you are a teacher who has tried-and-true activities that you rely upon, students could notice their ability to better perform them, or they could go immediately to ‘this again?’  If you do whole-class novels and do not have a three or four-year rotation, students will probably not want to read the same book again.

On the other hand, students demand to have familiar songs again, if they were actively involved in singing them the year before.  I used to try to rotate songs from year to year, but frequently had students demand ones they had fallen in love with before.  My students also enjoyed doing skits I had written, but they were probably of questionable value, more for ‘practice’ than acquisition.

There should always be new material to go with the new students, if the class is about them, and some activities are geared for that, such as Bryce’s Persona Especial.  The whole ‘untargeted input’ movement has emerged since I retired, and I’m a big fan because it assures that things will never become stale, and I highly recommend it as a primary approach.  But I would not ask to you to throw out every activity you have developed and love; just be prepared to adjust them through the wonderful new lens of a multi-level class.  It’s more than a good thing; it’s the way all classes in all subjects should be taught, as hard a stretch as that is for anyone who has not seen the community they generate.

I heartily agree with Gerry’s assertion that a spiraling, inclusive, comprehensible and engaging multi-level approach is the way all classes in all subjects should be taught. Gerry has laid the ground work for how to do that.

Please stay tuned to this blog.  Gerry has nearly finished a second, more-detailed article about the entire multi-level class scenario which he hopes will do much more to illuminate the practice.