Thursday, December 4, 2008

World Languages Overview Grades 1-12

The following is a draft of the World Languagese Curriculum Overview narrative. The purpose of this document is to supply a brief but comprehensive statement of an articulated K-12 (vertical) world language education narrative for all interested stakeholders. A final version of this narrative will be due in the early part of 2009.

In keeping with the New Jersey Core Curriculum Content Standards, we believe that both communication and culture are at the crux of a well structured and sound World Language program. The two are inseparable and when constantly addressed in the classroom with an equal emphasis placed upon both, serve as an ideal situation for second language acquisition. Both communication and culture are addressed in the interpretive, interpersonal and presentational modes. For true proficiency to be achieved students need to be able to receive auditory and visual data, participate in authentic exchanges of information, and formulate ideas and express them formally in the target culture. We aim to provide them with the tools to accomplish this end.
As World Language educators we embrace perspectives, practices and products of both the home and target cultures as our own in order to make long lasting and meaningful connections for our language learners. In the early years, from kindergarten to fifth grade, we focus on the child’s base of knowledge and build upon it by associating new information with prior learning formal or otherwise. Familiarizing the students with basic greetings and identifying the world around them allows them to make sense of subjects in the target language that are already very simple to them. Also, the repetition of such things as the weather, numbers, the days of the week, colors and other frequently accessed information solidifies the learning by way of constant reinforcement.
We recognize that developmentally our young language learners will enjoy self exploration more so than anything else. As educators we address their needs for self discovery by allowing them to use interrogatory and introspective methods (i.e. surveys and journaling). The themes serve as a constant reflection of their own culture and the target culture in terms of similarities and differences through a lens of appreciation. It is in these primary years the students will acquire the vocabulary needed to express themselves on a basic level, and become acclimated to the sounds and everyday expressions used in the target culture and under what circumstances these words and phrases are culturally accepted and appropriate.
In the middle years we venture farther away from ethnocentrism with an end goal of world citizenship. Students begin to delve deeper into the immediate benefits of being worldly and can appreciate the diversity present in their own community. We begin to investigate more explicitly the economic, geographical and political circumstances under which different peoples around the world thrive, how this affects them and how we as citizens of the United States interact with said populations. Moreover, from the sixth grade to the tenth grade the district incorporates the Middle Years Programme. This program focuses on five areas of interaction; human ingenuity, community service, environment, health and social education and approaches to learning. These are lenses through which the students learn the content of any discipline in the program. Other points of consideration are the learner’s profile, and big ideas that serve as guiding questions for teaching the curriculum.
Developmentally, students begin to exhibit a more social and interactive disposition during the years under which they will be exposed to Middle Years Programme. While still providing the students with plenty of authentic realia, information and imagery, we provide students with a platform to communicate independently and encourage original communication. The themes become more complex and analytical in terms of research and exploration as students use the information learned to shape their own identities by establishing boundaries and peripheral realization. With culture as the guiding light and constant discovery as its own motivation, grammar, reading and writing find intrinsic incentive in the classroom. As needed, grammar rules, verb tenses and sentence structure are introduced via culture rich artifacts such as newspapers, magazines and even the introduction of television shows or popular music from the target culture.
While remaining cognizant of the multiple entry points that need to be addressed, we aim to constantly review the everyday phrases and typical exchanges from the target language so as to differentiate instruction with respect to each student’s familiarity with the target language. By the end of tenth grade, students will be proficient enough to follow commands and ask for information in the target language. Their level of communication will be developed enough to describe most people, places and things they will encounter on a daily basis. More complex topics or attempts at expression will also be possible via circumlocution and manipulation of the known vocabulary and grammatical structure of the target language.
Finally, in the last years of the World Language program we use the foundation built thus far to delve into the literature of the target culture and provide the language learner with a respectable repertoire of canonic writers, artists and political leaders. This will be especially helpful to those students who are interested in a diploma from the International Baccalaureate Diploma program which is an extension of the Middle Years Programme already in place in the district. All students (IB or otherwise) will be challenged with authentic materials and assessments in all modes; interpretive, interpersonal and presentational. Students will develop the skills necessary to use the target language both formally and informally, written and orally. By the end of the program we aspire to prepare our students to interpret the world with a tolerant, open-minded and enthusiastic appreciation of language and culture on their journey towards global citizenship.

Tasha Leggard
Isabel Bruno
Tania Trinidad
Geidy De la Rosa

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