Language Acquisition: French, German, Mandarin, Spanish
All students choose a beginning language when they start sixth grade and continue the study of this language until the end of eighth grade. All language skills, receiving and producing (speaking, writing, listening, reading, interpreting images) are treated with equal importance in beginning languages. Each year concepts are added upon and seen with more depth leading to more elaborate, complex, and sophisticated interactions and productions. Grammar, pronunciation, intonation, vocabulary, functions, and specificities of each language (conjugations, agreements, cases, tones) are part of the course. The teaching uses a communicative approach to language learning and students both express and construct meaning. Each unit includes activities that require interactions and model real-life situations. The emergent phase establishes the foundation of the language while addressing themes or questions about daily life. In the following phase, teachers construct units around the development of language and skills and then address questions that are pertinent to a student's life and their place in the world beyond their country (purpose of education, how clothes are made, different healthcare systems, human movements, place of service, preparing for a trip, celebrations of moments of life in the world, etc).
Teachers collaborate on creating units of work together. Even though language content will differ according to each language the curriculum objectives, summative assessment tasks, and use of criteria are the same.
Choices for beginning languages include Chinese, French, German, and Spanish. At the end of the three years students who choose to can present the levels A1-B1 of the European Council of Europe (capable communicators)
In all Language Acquisition courses students are encouraged to:
- Communicate in the target language: By the end of eighth-grade students can function and communicate in daily life situations: school, family, relationships with people, public places, but also can express their opinions and develop an argument on worldwide issues. An opportunity to travel to a country where the language is spoken allows them to use their language skills in an authentic setting. Classes are taught by a native speaker
- Think about the world beyond their usual community: By the end of the eighth grade, students have acquired a foundation knowledge of the culture and arts of the countries in which the languages they are learning are spoken. Students are exposed to music, literature, visual arts, architecture, and movies as well as linguistic and cultural differences amongst regions or countries. Students learn to understand different social codes and cultural differences and draw parallels between their own culture and that of the countries where other languages are spoken.
Language learners in middle school:
- Interact, inquire, think, and communicate in the languages they learn.
- Speak up, use the language, take risks, and improve from errors.
- Demonstrate curiosity and an open mind for the world and its diverse cultures.
Aims and objectives:
- Be able to use languages effectively, as a means of practical productive, receptive, and interactive communication in a variety of contexts, for different purposes, and with different audiences.
- Develop multiliteracy skills (oral, visual, and written)
- Be able to understand the nature of language and the process of language learning.
- Get insights into the cultural characteristics of the communities where languages are spoken and develop awareness and understanding of perspectives from people of another culture.
- Develop curiosity, lifelong interest, and enjoyment in language learning
- Become interested in involvement with different communities.
- Be exposed and take part on a regular and frequent basis in interactions, conversations, skits, and interactions with each other and the teacher. All areas of spoken language are addressed starting in sixth grade: accuracy of vocabulary and sentence structures, register, pronunciation, intonation, and respect for social codes. Both teacher and student use the target language as much as possible starting in sixth grade. Pair activities, memorization, improvisation, and games are activities used by all language teachers. Starting in sixth grade, accurate pronunciation plays an important part in the class. Vocabulary is learned with a thematic approach.
- Develop more acute listening skills Because native speakers teach our students and consistently use the language; students exercise and sharpen their listening skills daily. The use of tapes, videos, movies, songs, and peer activities reinforces listening skills.
- Communicate in writing. Writing is an ongoing process tied to each topic learned. Students are expected to write at their level, in complete basic correct sentence structure from the beginning of sixth grade, providing relevant ideas, details, and conventions. A variety of formats is used according to the purpose of the writing. New writing systems are introduced from the beginning of sixth grade ( Mandarin Chinese). Writing activities may include invitations, descriptions of people, postcards, letters, menus, descriptions of illustrations, simple stories, short story books, flyers, and crossword puzzles.
- Develop strategies for reading for specific information, ideas, opinions, main ideas, supporting details, and conclusions. Develop an appreciation for literary and non-literary texts. Develop a sense of format, audience, and purpose. The use of authentic material for comprehension or reading aloud, is an important aspect of reading and adds a cultural component to the course. Posters, receipts, ads, newspapers and magazine articles, schedules (shows, movies, classes), poetry, songs, as well as stories originally written in the language can be used at each level.
- Develop strategies for interpreting images. Students will have multiple opportunities to develop their understanding of visual messages and conventions interpretation and communication skills using relevant images and artwork. Demonstrating and communicating an understanding of a visual text is part of developing the language as well as the development of critical thinking skills and have an important role in the language class.
Students are continually presented with clear information about the objective of each task and how their work with be assessed. These assessments are given with different requirements and under a variety of conditions to develop a strong fluency in the various skills required to perform tasks such as writing under test conditions, on word processors, handwritten, time and untimed, formal writing process, and improvisational as well as rehearsed writing and speaking. All skills of reading, writing, listening, speaking, and interpreting visuals are assessed in each unit of work.
Sequence of Units:
All languages use the framework below. All skills are developed in each unit of work and assessment tasks are similar for all languages. The summative assessment tasks are developed collaboratively by the teachers and given to all students in their respective target languages. The order of units will change according to the language and the language content progression that makes sense for this language.
Grade 6 Emergent
- Foundation: basic sentence structures and functions, specifics about the language( case, tone, conjugations, agreements)
- Focus on communication in daily situations
- Introduction and greetings
- Activities people enjoy and do regularly: hobbies, sports, schedules
- Family, friends, and simple descriptions of people and their lives, food, house, neighborhoods, and cities
Grade 7 Emergent and:
- Continued and expanded work on the foundation. Sentences get longer and are more elaborate. Students explore verb tenses. Students can deal with more unfamiliar situations.
- Discussion of ideas in the target language begins to take more importance. More creative work is possible.
- Review: activities in different landscapes, cities, countries, mountains, and sea; how people dress and what appearance conveys; how are clothes made; calendars, and food.
- School life, the power, and the importance of education. How school works in different parts of the world
- Routines and healthy lives
- How people construct and tell stories. Stories are the heritage of a culture.
Grade 8 Capable:
- Language is increasingly strong and applied to analyzing and thinking. Topics invite discussion of ideas.
- Review: how and why humans move across the world, the impact of different technologies on how we communicate
- Communities we are part of, actions we have, and the impact of our actions
- What humans celebrate around the world and how. The importance of traditions and rites of passage in different cultures
- Getting ready for a trip: The arts (visual, architecture, monuments, literature and their place in the culture of one country, daily situations, and how to avoid culture shock.
- Reflecting on a three-year journey: it all comes together!