Middle School Language Practices
Language and Literature in English, Chinese, French, German, Spanish
English: English is the working language at our school. All students take this course each year of middle school. English is a Language and Literature course. Science, Arts, Design, and PE are taught in English.
There is no formal ELL (English Language Learner) program; however, when students need ELL support, it is given on a case-by-case basis.
Chinese, French, German, and Spanish immersion programs: Our immersion language classes are Language and Literature courses. Students who come from a school abroad where one of the immersion languages is spoken or students who have been in an immersion setting in elementary school can be part of an immersion program in Chinese, French, German, or Spanish. Mandatory classes taught in these languages are Language and Literature and Individual and Societies. Math is taught in French in grades 6-8. All French immersion students are required to take math in French in 6th grade but may choose to take math in French or English in 7th and 8th grade. Students are not necessarily formally tested before entering an immersion program, trust is given to the previous school, experience, or education system. The French part of our program is accredited by the French Ministry of Education and the content of our curriculum in languages is guided by the French curriculum.
Our school policy requires that teachers in the same subject develop and plan units together. While the language content and support materials differ, the curricular objectives, statements of inquiry, questions, assessment tasks, and methods are the same and when possible calibrate if two teachers are teaching in the same language.
Language acquisition in Chinese, French, German, and Spanish
All students start a new language when they arrive in 6th grade. This language must be different from the immersion language when applicable. Students are required to keep the same second or third language for the three years of middle school. We believe that students benefit from the “ tenacity” and reap the rewards of their work when they are able to travel abroad and feel comfortable in another country by the end of 8th grade.
Our school policy requires that all language acquisition teachers develop and plan units together: while the language content and support materials differ, the curricular objectives, statements of inquiry, questions, assessment tasks and methods are the same.
The school believes that all languages are equally important and useful. The students and families choose the language; with no “pecking order” given to one language over another by the school.
During open house and student shadow days, students may choose to visit a language class in order to determine the best fit.
Students who do not have an immersion background
Students who do not take an immersion language and literature course have four hours per week in their schedule and take the following courses: Public Speaking (6-8) Art of Geometry (1 semester 6-7) Environmental Science (1 semester 6-7) and technology (8). Each of these courses provides further opportunities for students to build on their language skills, particularly Public Speaking.
ELL: When a student arrives at our school with little or no English, families are informed during admissions of the following process: the student’s level of English is assessed. An ELL teacher is hired (on demand) to support that student (alone or in a small group) for one hour during the school day for the first 6-8 weeks of school. There is an evaluation after 6-8 weeks and the need for continued support is decided.
French support class: a support class is open to all students who need help with work or homework directions in French (Language and Literature or Language acquisition, Individual and Societies, Math).
Arriving mid-program: When a student joins our school in 7th grade they are required upon admission to take a summer course to catch up on language acquisition.
Changing languages: as stated above students are required to keep the same languages for three years. However, the school is ready to hear supported cases, for academic reasons, and requests to switch. In this case, a student and their family are responsible for proving that the level is at expectation. Before making a final decision the student is assessed.
Students’ home languages: All languages spoken in the homes of our community are honored and supported. The library provides opportunities to read books in 60 languages. However, the school does not have the resources to provide instruction in those languages other than Chinese, English, French, German, and Spanish.
Procedures for adding another language
Should the school choose to add another language, it would analyze demand, reasons for demand, and availability of space and resources.
International trips and exchanges
At the end of 8th grade students are invited to take part in an international trip. We believe that these trips represent an opportunity to live our school mission in a different setting. We promote an appreciation of cultures and experiences and demonstrate traits of the learner profile:
- By making the right decisions away from home, in a foreign environment we need to be principled.
- By using our newly acquired language skills we are better communicators
- When being part of a new family, family life, and school, and trying new foods and schedules, we need to be open-minded.
- As we prepare for the trip in class, and learn about the arts and culture of the country we are going to visit, we strive to be more knowledgeable.
- By agreeing to step out of our routines and comfort zone with the support of our friends and teachers we take risks.
- When seeking to understand different people’s experiences and cultures we are reflective inquirers and thinkers.
- When we are with our teachers and friends so much for two weeks we have the opportunity to demonstrate how caring we are.
Our objectives are academic, cultural, and social-emotional growth. When we take our students to another country at the end of 8th grade, we want students to practice the language that they have studied for three years, experience daily life in a foreign country, as well as visit and enjoy sights they may not have seen before. This trip is not entirely a “class trip” because students are in different groups; it is also not a vacation. We realize that a week-long homestay is very short and that is it sometimes only at the end of the week that lasting connections with new friends are made.
Students need to be willing to step out of their comfort zone, be ready to spend time with people they do not know, understand that the purpose of the homestay is to make new friends, and demonstrate the cultural competency skills they have started developing. We know that, once in the country, this is difficult for some students (language barrier, homesickness, shyness, change in routines) and we know that in the end, it has been an eye-opener and an opportunity for growth.
If, during the trip and upon return, our students realize that they have more in common than differences with people and values of another culture, we think we have made a step forward and towards international mindedness.
When our students leave our school we want to keep the door open to them and offer classes that will help them prepare for European certifications (Common European Framework for Languages). We work in cooperation with European representatives of governments and cultural centers (Goethe, Cervantes, Alliance Francaise). We are also a national examination center for the DALF. We have partnered with local high schools to help provide continued language.