The battle for enrollments pushes teachers of Russian language to look beyond the traditional conceptions of course and classroom. In addition, students now demand an expansion of the traditional language course content, seeking a broad awareness of culture and tradition incorporated with language proficiency. The multi-level course presents an alternative that takes advantage of available classroom technology and builds upon the communicative approach to language acquisition. In my most recent foray into the multi-level arena, the incorporation of radio and print media via the Internet provided extensive resources for the inclusion of cultural studies in the language classroom. In addition, these materials proved invaluable for engaging students of all levels in communication activities.
Seventeen students (three third-year students and fourteen evenly divided between first and second year) met together for fifty minutes, three times per week, using the Prentice Hall Golosa/V puti series, which utilizes a communicative approach. After an initial warm-up period incorporating all levels, the groups (first, second and third year) rotated through a set pattern of learning situations that steered students through group work, individual work, and work with the instructor. Each learning situation concluded with some type of evaluation, oral or written. The third-year group worked on semester-long portfolios. The portfolio work often took these students out of the classroom into the Multimedia Center, where they watched films, listened to radio broadcasts via the Internet, created web resource materials or videotaped interviews with native Russian speakers from the Greensboro community. The portfolios included summaries of these broadcasts, articles, web sites, and interviews and the third-year students, acting as mentors, peer tutors or guides, presented these materials to small groups of first and second-year students, actively incorporating culture and current events with active acquisition of language.
The strength of the multi-level classroom is precisely that the students’ various levels offer a resource that is absent in a classroom setting where students are starting from the same skill level and are aiming for similar end-levels of proficiency. Using the resources unique to this class setting encourages beginning students by showing them success, while helping continuing students to see their own progress. This paper will focus on the development of the portfolio materials, available resources on the Internet, and the appropriate applications of these materials in the quest to incorporate culture into the language classroom.