Sunday, August 17, 2014

How Do I Structure a Multi-Level Lesson?

How Do I Structure a Multi-Level Lesson?

Anyone who has structured a multi-level class understands well that it's challenging.  Teachers need to consider how to decrease chaos that often comes with multi-level classes and increase learning.

There are a number of key factors to consider when planning a multi-level lesson.  We need to consider how to structure the lesson as a whole and structure its parts to meet the needs of all students.  Here are three important considerations when staging the multi-level lesson that will set yourself and your students up  for success:
  1. Lesson Flow
  2. Student Grouping
  3. Meaningful Tasks

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Getting Students to Show What They Know

Structuring a multi-level lesson to meet the needs of all students, reach them, and encourage them to stretch is a challenge.  

It's not always easy to structure a multi-level class that minimizes chaos and confusion while pushing each student to the next level.

Focusing on how the lesson flows, how students are grouped and how the students will interact with the content can help.

When you unpack these considerations when planning your multi-level class, you find...

Structuring a Multi-Level Language Class

The Multi-level Lesson Flow

Challenge:  How do I plan a multi-level lesson that will decrease chaos and increase learning opportunities? 

Multi-Level Planning Overview:

  1. Macro segments:  Create a shell that has a warm up, an introduction, a lesson, and a closing section.  If you're doing a receptive or productive lesson, take into consideration how each level will move through each (together, apart, mixture).
  2. Micro segments:  Plan on whole group, small group, and pair activities throughout the lesson.  Even having just a couple of segments that allows students to work at their own levels can make a difference.
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Practicing the language
  • Familiar Routines - help decrease chaos and help you notice when to adapt your lesson.
  • Regular Comprehension Checks - help you take the pulse of both groups of learners.
  • Productive and Receptive Lessons - help you shape a global format (Pre-During-Post).
  • Short Segments - help focus on incremental components of language.
  • Collaborative Learning - help students work in equal or mixed ability groups.
  1. Idiom of the Day
  2. Daily Pronunciation Tip
  3. Daily Grammar Point 
  4. Warm Ups for all levels 
  5. Closure that all learners can do

Multi-Level Student Groupings

Challenge:  How and when do I group students in a way that supports and encourages growth?

  1. Equal Ability:  This type of homogenous group is levels based.  The lower level learners work together (either in pairs, small groups, larger group), and the higher level learners work with other higher level learners.
  2. Mixed Ability:  This type of heterogenous group is mixed.  Lower and higher level learners work together (either in pairs, small groups, larger group).
Mixed Ability Groups
  • Practice Makes Perfect:  Predictable format: whole class - mixed - equal - whole class 
  • Variety is the Spice of Life:  Mix it up and have opportunities for both kinds during a lesson.
  • Smooth Transitions:  Consider how to efficiently transition students from one group to another.
  •  Grade the Task Not the Text:  Give different tasks at times can meet the needs of all students.
  1. Color Coded Class - Group/pair off with your color, group/pair off with different colors
  2. Categories - Group/pair off with people in your category or not in your category
  3. You Choose - You choose the person you want to work with on this task
  4. First things First - Begin in mixed groups for fluency and equal groups for accuracy

The Multi-Level Tasks

Challenge:  What sorts of appropriate tasks can I give my students that accommodate multiple levels of proficiency?

  1. Same Tasks:  Students do the same task but the level of teacher support or output may vary.  The lower level learners have a lot of teacher support and the higher level learners have less support.  Lower level learners produce less than the higher level learners.
  2. Different Tasks:  Students are given tasks appropriate to their levels.  Students can interact with something in a different way (Group A sequences the pictures; Group B completes the graphic organizer) or (Group A practices the dialogue;  Group B role plays with key phrases)
Teacher Time
  • KISS:  Keep it simple and use the same resources in different ways.
  • Teacher Time:  Visit each group and work with them at their respective levels.
  • ZPD:  Consider how to vary support for the students based on their individual needs.
  1. Board Work - Bring one level of learners to the board and work with them while the other group is engaged in a task at their desks.
  2. Do What You Can - Lower level learners write 5 sentences using the key vocabulary; higher level learners write 10 sentences.
  3. Stations- Use stations to provide students with varied levels of support by having each proficiency group work with separate stations for equal ability groups; the same stations with mixed ability groups that has the support the lower level learner needs.

Working in a Multi-level learning situation can be a maddening or marvelous experience

Structuring the class to account for the different levels of learners can really help decrease the chaos and increase the learning.  While you're planning your lesson, remember to pay attention to how the lesson will flow from mixed to equal ability groupings with tasks that are appropriate for each level of learner.
The Next Issue of Everything Teaching TESOL:  How do I teach in a manner that engages all learners?

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