How to Differentiate in the World Language Classroom

Are you wondering how to differentiate in your world language classes? It’s reasonable to ask a teacher who has 20-25 students a day to differentiate.

But high school world language teachers have from 100 – 150 students. Requiring us to write different lesson plans for the variety of skill levels in our classes is asking us to put our mental health in jeopardy.

How to Differentiate in the World Language Classroom

OK, we’ll do that. After we create resources for comprehensible input, write lesson plans aligned with the ACTFL standards, grade papers (essays are murder!), arrange for modifications for our IEP and 504 students, call parents about misbehavior or academic fraud (sweating every minute), make copies (if the machines are working), attend lunch tutorial session (no time to eat), fill in for an absent teacher, attend PLC, department, and PD meetings, attend NIDs, fill out referral and other various forms, fix the technical issue that ruined our lesson today…


THEN we’ll write an extra lesson to accommodate the students who had a non-Spanish or French-speaking substitute the previous year and the misplaced native students who are bored to tears.


OK, now that we’ve commiserated, I have good news. There ARE ways to differentiate in world language, to challenge the advanced students and support the struggling ones.



  1. Have a system in place that rewards fast finishers.


Sometimes the rabble-rousers are just bored. Give them a challenge.  I used Minimaratón (Spanish Trivial Pursuit.)  I wrote the question on the board in Spanish, but you can also give the students the question card.


When students have finished, they are allowed to ask for their phones (which are safely hanging in the phone pouches) so they can use  They raise their hand and ask, “¿Puedo contestar Minimaratón?” The first person to answer correctly gets a prize. OK, I admit. I gave them chocolate bars.


I started the year by giving large bars. After the Minimaratón culture was embedded into the class routine, usually a few weeks, I gave out smaller bars and students were just as motivated to figure out the question and find the answers.

How to Differentiate in the World Language Classroom, Spanish Trivial Pursuit Questions

2. Give students choices of reading material.

In my advanced classes, if I had handed out, “Cajas de carton” I would have had to deal with a few tearful, discouraged students whose vocabulary was not sufficient to comprehend the story.  So, I gave them the choice between two novels, one at advanced or the other at intermediate level. Students self-identified honestly and chose the book appropriate to their level.

3. Give students choices of homework.

How to differentiate with homework? Differentiation applies not only to skill level, but also to interest. If students are more interested in one topic than another, or prefer one method of presentation over another, they will apply themselves more diligently.

For projects, I gave students several options:

  • Write about a place in a Spanish-speaking country or a famous Hispanic.
  • Create a Prezzi, PowerPoint, video, or poster presentation.
  • Use real photos or famous people, etc. 


For daily open-ended homework, I sometimes gave options:

Choose one of the following activities:

  • Write the vocabulary two times in French and once in English or draw the vocabulary and write it once in French. 
  • Call me on Google Voice or record a video.
  • Talk to someone in Boomalang, Talk Abroad, or to a native speaker friend/parent.


And here’s an idea I always meant to do but never did.

Create a list of homework assignments related to what you will cover during the year and have it ready.

Here is how Kara Jacobs did it in her Spanish Three class: Homework Choice

Here is Musicuentos’ Homework Choice List  from her Blog Post.


 4. Provide Stations


This will take a while to create, but once created, can be used for years. Look at the topic or concept you want to teach, for example, describing people. Set up four to six stations with different activities. Assign students according to level or have them self-assign.


For example, in one station, students can read about famous people. In another, they can listen to an audio about famous people, while reading a script. In another, they can watch a video describing people. In another, they can write a description of a person they know (for higher-level students who are ready to produce.)




In the following activity, students speak the target language all period long, or even during two periods with the higher performing students asking the questions and the middle-to-lower performing students answering them: Eight-Stations Activity for the Preterite Tense.


There are Eight-Stations Activities for Spanish One (present tense), for Spanish Four (subjunctive) and for French Two (passé compose) in my store.


And here is a FREE 8-Stations Activity for Spanish Three (future tense.)


I hope this post gave you some useful ideas for how to differentiate in your Spanish and French classes.


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  • Reply

    I do agree with everything that you have said. Usually, all students don’t have a choice to learn what they want. I think that it is wrong.

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