Sunday, October 2, 2016

Managing Multiple Grade Levels with Rotating Themes

A BIG CHALLENGE FOR ELEMENTARY LANGUAGE TEACHERS is teaching multiple grade levels- many of you out there teach upwards of 5 or 6 grade levels- even 9 if you are a K-8 teacher! Along with that type of span typically comes a large number of students, so prep and planning can be a bear, especially with the limited prep time often provided. One way to tackle this (and save your sanity!) is to create a yearly rotation of themes, teaching one theme to multiple grade levels in a given year, then another the following year, and so on. With embedded differentiation to take into account age appropriate activities, this allows you to plan ONE theme across many levels (obviously you will have a variety of themes across that one year, but this is a way to attack having different themes for all grade levels all through the year).


ONE WAY TO GO ABOUT DOING THIS is to look at the ACTFL standards and choose one that lends itself particularly well to differentiation while still keeping to the same basic theme. Here's an example of how that can be done highlighting a set of activity packs we have available, tapping into ACTFL'S cultural competence standards:

Under 'CULTURES' ACTFL has the following standard:
-Relating cultural practices to perspectives: Learners use the language to investigate, explain, and reflect on the relationship between the practices and perspectives of the cultures studied

Under 'CONNECTIONS' is the following standard:
-Acquiring information and diverse perspectives: Learners access and evaluate information and diverse perspectives that are available through the language and its cultures.

THESE TWO STANDARDS could be achieved in a variety of ways- a popular way to do this is to focus on a particular country, highlighting various aspects of culture from that country focus. With young kiddos, who have little knowledge of other countries in general, it is also a great way to widen their horizons and instill curiosity and interest. To achieve the standards, you could have a different country focus at each grade level; for example, for Kindergarten, México, for 1st grade, Spain, for 2nd grade, Perú. (or even regions). The alternative could be to set up a rotation over the course of a few years, like this:

YEAR 1- México- all three grade levels (or a span of your choice) study México
YEAR 2- Perú- all three grade levels (or a span of your choice) study Perú
YEAR 3- Venezuela- all three grade levels (or a span of your choice) study Venezuela

In YEAR 4, you start over again with México, and so on for another three year rotation. You could also have more years in the rotation, adding countries to the list. Or have a different set of countries for upper grade levels, with it's own rotation. The key here is you are prepping ONE THEME for multiple grade levels, rather than several themes, which eases your workload.

WE HAVE A SERIES (EVER GROWING!) OF COUNTRY FOCUSED ACTIVITY PACKS which are just perfect for this idea of rotating over the course of a few years. Each activity pack highlights simple cultural aspects of the country, including the flag, foods, animals, a special landmark or feature, and geography, using basic language to convey the information in Spanish, making them ideal for little learners. Each can also be supplemented with additional activities for upper elementary and/or middle school, such as videos, projects, songs, etc. Each also meets the above ACTFL standards through the window provided via the activities in the pack. Here are the four we currently have (keep checking back as new ones are in the pipeline!):
Pepita va a México Activity Pack
Pepita va a Perú Activity Pack
'Pepita va a Venezuela' Activity Pack
Puerto Rico Culture Activity Pack for Elementary Spanish Class
'Pepita va a Puerto Rico' Activity Pack



  1. This is exactly how I manage my classes! You are great when sharing the way you work, you make it so comprehensive for other teachers.

  2. Hola Eva,
    Mil gracias por tus palabras tan bonitas! Estoy muy agradecida por tu apoyo!

  3. I've been contemplating this for years- thanks for the "push" to go ahead and do it!Literally going crazy trying to do all that separate planning.

    1. Hi Yael! It really does make a difference, especially with the large number of levels so many of us carry. Anything that can make our job a little easier! :)