Differentiating the Levels of Your Classes

One of the questions that I often ask as I work with language programs on their curriculum documents is "Tell me what differentiates your Level 1 from your Level 2 class? And your Level 2 class from your Level 3 class?" 

With these questions, I get those responsible for the curriculum to start to articulate the language proficiency progression that the students are to go through as they move from one level to the next. Your first reaction might be, "Well that is obvious, the grammar gets more complex and the vocabulary gets harder as students move up from one level to the next." This is the language system approach to language proficiency progression. But there is more to it than that.

Here are the other aspects of language proficiency progression that you need to factor into your curriculum documents:

  • What skills and strategies can the students use with listening, reading, speaking and writing?
  • What communication functions can students perform?
  • How complex are the topics that students can comprehend and discuss?
  • How long are the texts (listening and reading) that students can comprehend?
  • What types of genres are students able to comprehend and produce?
  • What types of media can students understand (print, audio, video, multimedia)?
  • For listening in particular, how many speakers can students process at once in a dialogue? How much background noise can they handle? What speed of speaking can they follow? Which accents can they understand?

Asking and answering these questions will help you better understand the language proficiency progression you want your students to go through and how this needs to be reflected in your curriculum documents.