Reading 3 Ways: Differentiation by Level

As you look around your room, you KNOW that students are all over the place in terms of language ability.  From day 2 of level 1, you can see the fast processors begin to emerge and by year four, the gap between can be VAST.  As I changed to a CI classroom, my enrollment grew and grew… and with it the challenges of multi-level Spanish 4 students.  It is a challenge I am determined to overcome.  Although it does mean a lot more work and understanding on my part, it also means that more students are going to have great experiences with language!  Think what that will mean for them in the future.

In Spanish 2 we are studying the comprehension based reader, Robo en la noche by Kristy Placido available at Fluency Matters.  Because at level 2 they are still flirting with the Novice High/Intermediate Low boundary, I know that they need my help as they read.  Cognates are not always cognates to them.  Past tense verbs with irregularities trip them up… basically, they need a guide as they learn to read independently.  That’s me.  In this class, we read sections of the chapter in table teams and sections as a large group.  When it is a really easy section, they read alone and summarize for me.  It is so helpful in building their confidence.  I follow up the read every day not with basic comprehension questions (low level on Bloom’s) but rather with activities that challenge them to think!  For example, mapping the events or a table talk:

These post reading activities (which I use at all levels are available here).

In level 3, we are reading the same novel but are reading “reading club” style.  For more on my reading club groups, check out this free download.

They have self-selected their need for help/independence and I have grouped them with others who had similar answers.  We have our reading time daily and they follow up by doing the post-reading activities as a table.  I love hearing their discussion about the key points in the story and I LOVE that they are digging back into the text again!  Plus I am teaching my own story Vector (available from Fluency Matters) for the first time! It has been so much fun because (and I know you’re not supposed to have favorite children) this reader and its TG materials were my favorites to create!

It is fun to watch the groups interact as they read and it lets those faster processors feel like they have some independence.  Like I recognize that they don’t need me! It also lets me have fun with the kids who really DO need me.

In level 4, they are well trained. They have read MANY comprehension based readers both in FVR and in class. They get to do their last book study in interest groups.  I prepare a “book tasting” sheet with the blurbs from the backs of the choices I’m giving them (there are so many good novels that I have a lot that I can’t fit in) and the anticipated difficulty level.  They rate them 1-4.  I try to group them with their 1st or 2nd choice.  This year’s groups are reading Piratas del Caribe y el Triángulo de Bermudas, Santana, and Guerra Sucia.

Guerra Sucia is definitely the most complex story and it drew 4 very serious young ladies.  They have worked VERY independently of each other, only grouping to clarify or share an idea or a question.  They are taking away tons of cultural information.  In week one, every group did this “novel study sheet” every day to keep track of new characters and places as they were introduced.


But this week they are doing the same follow-up activities as the 2s and 3s.

The Santana group are really loving the biography.  It is a fairly easy read for them and it is very easy for them to identify characteristics of Carlos and his life.  They work together to come up with the ideas and language to express themselves.

The Piratas group is hilarious.  They actually disturb the other groups often with their laughter.  The story is very easy but they have the two who still linger in the novice high/intermediate low zone and I have LOVED watching them guide these readers in how they say things.  They’ve taken the initiative to keep the group working together and to leave no one behind.  Although the text is easy, this is not reflected in their answers to the follow-ups.  They are challenging themselves to use good language and great detail just like the other groups!

There are TONS of great reading ideas on if you’re looking to incorporate more readers but as you think about the end of the year, maybe a differentiated book study is just what you need!


  1. Hey Carrie,

    I am actually doing reading groups with Robo en la noche with my mid level 2s (aka not honors). I feel it is going well but my only concern is that when I read whole group, I ask lots of personalized or comprehension questions as I go and I feel like they acquire a lot more vocabulary. With these groups, I feel like they are not acquiring as much. I am reading some parts aloud to them. Do you have any thoughts or suggestions on that?

    • Hey! In my 2s I do mostly whole class reading! On an easy chapter I let them read as a group and before the follow up we do a summary of the action! 2s tend to include more emerging readers in my experience than 3s and 4s! I want to honor their needs yet let the star readers shine! A chapter or two in groups gives them the best of both! A strong reader usually takes the lead and in a small group of peers, the others stay engaged!

      • Great, thanks Carrie. I’m trying to balance giving them independence (as they are craving it 4th quarter) with giving them what they need. I appreciate this post.

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