Raise your hand if you have to plan multiple levels in Spanish class! Over here, I’m planning EIGHT levels of Spanish class this year. I’ll share all my secrets, I promise. Just keep reading.
At first, I tried to plan a different, engaging lesson for every class. It was exhausting. I spent so much time planning, prepping, and copying. At one point I even thought a separate seating arrangement for Spanish 2 was going to help with a tricky group – what a disaster. In short, I was exhausted.
As a result, I had to find a solution. This year, I’m teaching eight preps, and I’m sharing all the secrets I have for staying sane and planning multiple Spanish levels quickly and confidently.
Routines are key to planning multiple levels.
I start all of my classes with the same activity, every day: one or two check-in questions (examples below!). It’s really easy to prep for all of my levels, and it engages all of my students right away. After that, we discuss their responses and share stories. I try to do this in the target language for Spanish 2+, and I support my Spanish 1 students in sharing their stories in Spanish by providing words they need on their board or in the chat if we’re online. As a result, my students acquire new vocabulary and have extra opportunities to participate.
We do this every day. Every. Day. I never deviate from this plan. Read on to find out why.
Afraid of teaching in the target language? Don’t be. Check out this blog post to shake the Spanish scaries.
Does planning take you forever? Check out this blog post about how I plan my lessons in 30 minutes or less.
Structure is good for you and for students.
I’ll be honest with you: structure and routine builds trust. When students know what to expect, they learn to depend on the routine. That is to say, there won’t be any surprising quizzes, unexpected physical activity, irregularly long periods of seat time, or anything else to push them out of their comfort zone.
That’s not to say you can’t do these things. On the contrary, you can absolutely build in all of those things: seat time, movement time, pop quizzes, you name it – as long as it’s part of the routine. But if you suddenly mix it up, you’ll catch students off guard and they’ll be pushed too far out of their comfort zone.
Remember how I said I check in everyday with my students? Checking in everyday builds trust with my students, because they always know what to expect when they come in. Even better, it also makes it SUPER EASY to plan the start of my class, for every class. Sometimes, I can even use the same question all day!
Here are some frequent check-in questions I use in a given week:
- ¿Qué tal el fin de semana?
- ¿Qué quieres hacer después de clase?
- ¿Tienes planes para el fin de semana? ¿Qué vas a hacer?
- ¿Qué te gusta hacer después de clase?
Or targeted questions related to our themes:
- ¿Qué tiempo hace hoy?
- ¿Prefieres la comida salada o picante? ¿Por qué?
- ¿Cuándo es tu cumpleaños?
After we check in and chat, we either review or jump into new materials, then practice. During the practice, I always call them back to teach one more thing, which they implement in their continued practice. At the end of class, we review the homework and important dates (exams, breaks, etc.) before saying goodbye. My students always say goodbye before we leave class.
Remove some planning stress – use the same activities from week to week.
Have you seen those posts for música martes and other theme days? There’s a reason these teachers keep routines like this – it works! This builds back into the idea of routine, and therefore helps you plan more easily because you already know what activities you’ll be building in to help grow students’ proficiency.
If theme days aren’t your thing (like me), it’s okay to recycle other activities. In an acquisition-focused week, this usually looks like…
Start of the Week: Story input with vocabulary and grammar structure acquisition, comprehension activities
Day 2: Story retell and creative storytelling practice
Mid-week: New stories using vocabulary or filling gaps from previous classes
Day 4: Production: writing, speaking, drawing and explaining
Finally: Formative assessment and reviewing (read more about review here)
This continues from week to week. Explained briefly, I always frontload the skills and knowledge I want students to have, then push them to produce and show off their skills later in the week.
Stay tuned for an upcoming blog post with my favorite student production activities!
Not only does structure build trust, it helps you keep a consistent plan from class to class, week to week, unit to unit. This means you can rely on the same dependable and known activities throughout your lessons. Like I said earlier, I use the same opening activity every day. I also use the same general unit structure, which helps me plan easily and keep my units consistent lengths.
A typical unit in my classroom might look like this:
- Getting started: Vocabulary and grammar structure introduction with authentic resources like stories, videos, readings
- Second week: Production focus where I encourage students to show off skills from week one
- A week of review: Review and build a in a hands-on project for students to apply their skills in a new context
- Final week: Finally, we review with stations, and assess student work with a project or exam
Basically, using this same structure makes my planning really simple, and helps me keep track of what each section should be doing from week to week. Additionally, if a class ends up “off” by a week due to a holiday or needing extra support, I can speed them up later or slow the rest down in order to get everyone else back on track.
Use the same activities across all of your sections.
Do the same activities all day.
Since I follow the same unit structure for all of my classes, it makes it easy to do the same activities all day. Even better, it makes it easy to plan multiple levels in Spanish class I can mix it up from week to week, but I tend to choose the same activity for all of my sections, all day. If Spanish 1 is doing a clip chat in class, then Spanish 2 also does a clip chat. This means my seventh grade inclusion group is going to see a video clip in class, too. Essentially, everyone gets a clip chat, because I can do the same activity and class structure all day. I can sometimes even use the same video to target different vocabulary and structures across multiple levels. Learn more about how to make authentic materials more accessible for your students here!
It’s important to know that doing the same activities all day does not mean I teach the same lesson all day. On the contrary: it just means that I follow the same class structure all day long. For example, let’s say we’re doing a vocabulary introduction lesson across all of my classes. Spanish 1 is learning food vocabulary and Spanish 2 is learning holiday vocab, in this example.
I can use the same lesson structure all day, by doing something like this:
|Activity||Spanish 1||Spanish 2|
|Opening: written check-in with discussion||¿Qué comida te gusta?||¿Qué día festivo te gusta?|
|Vocabulary input: Clip chat||Restaurant clip of someone ordering food and changing their mind||Holiday clip of someone receiving a special gift|
|Discuss: Favorites||Favorite foods||Favorite holidays, gifts received|
|Storytelling with grammar pop-up||Tell a story about my favorite food, discuss why I like it, grammar pop up: me gusta, porque||Tell a story about a good gift I received for a special holiday, grammar pop up: past simple, past continuous|
|Personal storytelling||Students write about foods they like and why||Students write about holidays they enjoy and/or gifts they’ve received|
Homework & Announcements
Homework & Announcements
This way, my students are all acquiring language skills all day long, but I’m not losing my mind trying to keep up with different activities. As a result, all I have to remember is the different content instead of many different activities.
Consistency helps you keep track of the plan.
This has made it SO much easier to plan multiple levels in Spanish class. I write out a chart like the one above for my classes and I plan accordingly. There might be a few blank boxes or small adjustments here and there, but it makes my planning so much more simple. What’s more, I can keep the same agenda on my board all day long, and it helps me remember what comes next when I’m following the same structure all day.
Remember to breathe, and take it slow.
There’s no such thing as perfection. When you are working to plan multiple levels in Spanish class, it means you’re also grading and building relationships with many groups of students. First, encourage mistakes, and own up to your own mistakes in front of your students. This models vulnerability, which is so important in a language classroom. Second, if you get lost in the plan, own up to it. Third, if you forgot to make copies, skip the copies and have the students pull out a piece of paper. Alternatively, skip the activity and come back to it when you have it ready.
You’ve got to take care of yourself.
Looking at a yoga class or an hour of planning? Go to the yoga class. Dinner or grading? Eat dinner. Nap or parent phone calls? Grab the blanket. Before you’re a teacher, you are a person. Maybe you’re putting in long days at school, but you deserve time to recharge.
If you’re exhausted and overworked, you can’t plan effective classes. Taking the time to care for yourself makes a huge difference for you and for your students. Most importantly, by modeling taking care of yourself, you’re showing your students that they should prioritize themselves, too. By choosing to take care of yourself instead of spend another afternoon grading or planning, you’re making sure your students have a more focused and energized teacher later.
Students need a breather from time to time too.
Do you remember the feeling you had when it was movie day in school? That hasn’t changed. Your students need a break from time to time, too. It’s okay to pull out a movie or a cultural reading in the target language (or students’ first language). They’re learning new information, just in a slightly different way. When you need the rest, know that it’s okay to find a resource for a movie or show and pull it out on a break day. Just make sure there’s plenty of other stuff happening in between these break days.
Finally, after every unit, I do reflective activities with my classes and allow them to make up or resubmit work. We watch movies, play games, and reflect on our growth in class. This helps students get a break from new materials, reflect on their growth, and set goals. I can also reflect on my teaching and get a little break from providing input. Check out my reflective worksheets here. I use them after every unit.