It doesn’t matter what road the students take, as long as we are maximizing their growth!
I have a group of French I students that is truly mixed ability: IEPs, heritage learners, students who have taken other languages, students who are repeating, all grade levels. There are eight students and I often give three different assignments for all activities because it is what is required of me. A few teachers have asked me how I get away with doing that, meaning, don’t certain students ask why other students are getting easier assignments? The way I can “get away with it” is through that intangible product of a positive classroom climate. This class has known and accepted from the beginning of the year that there are many different entry points when learning a language, and everyone will always be at a different proficiency level. I explained to them that it is up to me to make sure that they are each challenged. By instilling this in the beginning, continuing to reinforce it, and not let any student take the easy way out, it has come to be a classroom norm.
So that’s the easy part really! The hard part is developing activities that can assess all learners. This is where rubrics enter, rubrics that are based on proficiency, requirements, and effort (another discussion all together…).
Here’s an example:
We finished a story-based unit on a fable. The summative assessment was to choose a moral or lesson and create your own fable using an online comic website, toondoo.com. All students were able to do this, just at varying levels of proficiency. Some students had less requirements, and some students had more. It wasn’t something that I advertised, but it wasn’t something that I would hide either, as already mentioned. The rubric was the same for every student. A student who was more proficient in the language would, in most cases, get a better grade, but a less proficient student was still able to be successful.
In this type of learning environment, there are no “wrong” answers. It’s about what each student is able to do with the language skills he or she has