English language arts is a very skills based course. Because of this, we end up teaching the same skills over and over across the grade levels. So, if you have a great lesson, one that works well, is it ok to use the same lesson for different grades?
Obviously, you won’t be repeating content-based lessons and activities. If students study a text in tenth grade, you won’t be using the same one in twelfth. However, if your mini-lesson is focused on skills like close reading, identifying the way that character or theme is developed, embedding quotations, etc. then you can use it in different ways with different groups.
There are several elements to a good lesson. It usually starts with some teacher instruction, followed by independent and collaborative work that allows students to learn and practice. When I use the same lesson across grade levels, I will vary the activities that I use and/or the amount of time spent. I also have different expectations for the output from the students.
Let me illustrate with some specifics.
One thing I cover early in all language arts classes that I teach is how perspective affects point of view. I have one lesson that I use, but it acts as an introduction to the concept in my 10th grade class, and a review for my seniors. It’s the same lesson used across different grade levels.
With my 10th grade class, we go into a lot more detail and spend probably a week on the unit (read more about that here). They do skill building activities to help them understand the importance of perspective and then explore how it is used in the independent novels they are reading. Later in the semester, they will apply these skills to the class texts that we do as well.
I use the same mini-lesson with my 12th grade class to review the importance of perspective and point of view, but we spend less time on the skill building as it’s something that they have been exposed to before, and they just need to review. Like the tens, they will also explore perspective in their independent and class novels, but the written responses and assignments will have more complexity.
For example. I have a favorite assignment for point of view and perspective that I use for both grade levels (read about the tenth grade version on this post.) When my seniors do the same assignment, they need to write a page instead of a paragraph and use more quotations and include more analysis of author craft.
Another assignment I do across grade levels starts with the question are we too connected? It includes writing prompts, groups discussions, and a reading/viewing/writing assignment.
And in both grades, I use the same videos and articles (I do update them from time to time if I find a better, more current one.) Just like the previous example, the senior students are expected to do more – they have to read more articles, embed more quotes, use more sophisticated language in their writing, etc.
If you’re wondering why I reuse it, it’s because it’s an activity that the students always find highly engaging and an assignment that targets skills I want each grade to work on.
👉🏻 If you would like to use this assignment with your students, click here and I’ll send it to your inbox.
What if you have the same students in different grades?
This can happen. I will often have a handful of students in my 12th grade class who were in my 10th as well. However, I never worry about repeating a lesson.
Well, first of all, most of them won’t remember one ten minute mini-lesson, or even a two day one for that matter. Even if they do, if the lesson is based on a skill, and it’s one you want them to improve upon, it’s not going to hurt them to redo it. Practice is a good thing, right?
And, if you are doing these lessons with independent reading, they are applying the skills to different texts, so the experience will be very different for them. When I reuse the texts with the Too Connected assignment, then I tell them to choose a different article (they have several to choose from). We also discuss that because they are two years older, they may see things differently.
Reusing mentor texts across grade levels
It takes a long time to find effective mentor texts, right? So, if you have a lesson you love and the perfect mentor text to model the concept or skill, can you reuse it?
Once again, I say yes, especially if you are using these lessons for choice reading & writing. The mini-lessons target the skill and students are expected to apply what they have learned with the texts they are reading, not the mentor text you used to model it. All of your students, regardless of grade, should be choosing books at their grade level (most of the time). If you’ve done the work to ensure your students are choosing the right book, then they are applying the skill in a grade appropriate way.
For example, when I ask my students to identify how writers use language to create a character or to find symbols they use to develop a theme, the 10th grade student is doing so with We Were Liars and a 12th grade student may be doing it with The Poisonwood Bible. However with reading workshop, students choose books they like and are at their reading level, so that scenario may very well be flipped. But, once again, I expect different output from students in higher grade levels.
Other ways to use lessons across different grade levels:
As I said earlier, when I use the same lessons in different grade levels, I use one as an introduction and one as a review. You can also use your lessons in different ways with your various groups
For example, I have a series of lessons on literary elements that I use with my 10th grade class when we do choice reading. Because it’s new to them, we spend a lot of time on it, time we don’t have in 12th grade. I can do a quick review with the older students, or set up learning stations, using chrome books. As each group moves through the stations, they will review the slideshow for each element, so one group is reviewing opening lines, one is reviewing setting, one is looking at conflict, etc.
These stations might take a few days to work through, but by the time we are done, the students will have had a good review. Then, if I find that they aren’t really clear on one of the elements, we can go back and do more work on it.
You can also put your introductory slideshows on Google Classroom, and students can go there to review the concepts they are struggling with, or you can use them during conferences. It’s a wonderful way to differentiate.
So, that’s how I reuse favorite lessons and mentor texts across grade levels. It works well for me, and I have never had a repeat student complain. In fact, the reinforcement helps them build their skills!
Let me know in the comments if you have any questions.