Teaching Tools for the Multilevel Classroom: Part 2

Sarah Lynn

Sarah Lynn

This is part 2 of a series on tools for teaching in the multilevel classroom.
pearsonlongman.com/ae/emac/newsletters/june-2012-adulted.html”>Last month,
Sarah Lynn wrote about managing break-out groups in a multilevel class.

As educators, we know how to differentiate instruction one student at a time, but how do we differentiate instruction for a whole classroom of students all at once? And how do we maintain cohesion in a classroom with so many moving parts?

Learning Routines

Learning routines establish classroom culture; they release responsibility of learning to the students and they free the teacher to provide one-on-one feedback rather than manage activities. But not all learning routines work well in a multilevel classroom. The routines have to allow for student differentiation and variation. This month I will discuss one of my favorite learning routines, one that I use in class every day.


In class, students create their own sets of flashcards for class and home study. Students can work in same level pairs and use the cards in an array of ways. Over a month or so, I model all the different ways to use flashcards, but then I allow students to pick and choose their variations each day.

This list flashcard activities starts with the most concrete and progresses in task complexity.

1. Take-away. Pairs place ten word cards face up on a table top. Student A says a word and Student B finds it and takes it away as quickly as possible. Students can time their game on a phone.

2. Concentration. Pairs select ten of the same words from each of their sets so they have two cards for each word. They place the cards face down on a table top. Partners take turns flipping over one card from each set. When a student finds a match, she removes it from the playing field.

3. Spelling: Students take turns picking a card from each other’s set and ask “How do you spell X?”

4. Alphabetic scanning: In pairs, students scan the words for particular alphabetic features. For example: Find all the words with ch. Find all the words with a long a sound. They write the list of words for teacher feedback.

5. Definitions: In pairs, students pick words from each other’s piles and ask “What is X?” The partner defines by drawing, miming, pointing to an example, or giving a definition.

6. Word dictation. Student A picks a word from each other’s piles and reads the word aloud. Student B writes the word. Student A checks work.

7. Sorting: Students sort the words by:

  • part of speech
  • number of syllables
  • alphabetical order
  • category of meaning ( clothing, colors, daily activities, slang) They write lists for teacher feedback.

8. Sentence writing: Individually students select words and write sentences with the words. Teacher checks student work.

9. Pictionary: In pairs, students select nouns and verbs from their flashcard sets and take turns drawing the word for their partner to guess the meaning.

10. Compound Words: Students pick up a card and brainstorm other words or phrases that include the word on the card. Examples:
PHONE: phone call, cell phone;
BUS: bus stop, bus driver, bus station.
Students use a smartphone or dictionary to check their work.

11. Conjugation. Students select the verbs from their sets and conjugate them on the board. Teacher checks student work.

12. Collocate: Students select words from their sets and ask “What other words go with it?” For example: SEND: a letter, an email, a package, my love. Students use a smartphone or a collocation dictionary to check work.

13. Rhyming: In pairs, students select one syllable words and try to come up with rhyming words. For example: BRAKE: fake, lake, make take. SEND: bend, lend, offend.

14. Root Words: In pairs, student select words with two or more syllables. They underline any root words and look up other words with that root in the dictionary. For example: TRANSFER: translate, transistor. FAMILIAR: family, familiarity.

For ideas on how to store and organize flashcards sets, visit my blog at: http://teachertwoteacher.wordpress.com/