Modern Languages

At the beginning of the sixth-grade year, every student chooses one of three languages to study for their Middle School years: Spanish, French, or Mandarin. At every grade level, middle school language students develop their proficiency in listening, speaking, reading, and writing in their chosen language. Language learning skills and strategies are also emphasized.

All language classes build upon the skills and vocabulary of previous years and include cultural studies, geography, and the history of places where their target language is spoken. Students develop a deeper understanding of the origins of that language and its associated cultures. Students often have the opportunity to travel to a country where the target language is spoken.

By the end of eighth grade, students will have reached the novice-high or intermediate-low level of the language and developed proficiency in the following:

  • Ability to continue in target language at the Upper-School level
  • Strategies to analyze authentic writings and infer wholistic meaning
  • Identifying and explaining some cultural perspectives that differ from what they are accustomed to

6th

Students gain proficiency in listening, speaking, reading, and writing in the target language. The developmental theme is Increasing Students’ Independence in Accessing Resources and Identifying Strategies for Linguistic Growth, and the curricular feature is the Influence of Culture and/or Religion in a Language.

Students use these lenses to answer essential guiding questions that include:

  • Who will I become as a learner?
  • How do I develop self-awareness?
  • How do I build proficiency in the target language?

The focus is on learning the structure of the language and practical vocabulary words that are relevant and meaningful to their daily, personal, and school life. Students learn short, discrete sentences and question formats. As much of the instruction as possible is in the target language. Teachers partner with students to instruct in best learning strategies, then experiment and refine them.

Students sharpen their language learning strategies. By the end of the year students will be skilled at using rote memorization and formulaic expressions to communicate as well as having increased their understanding of linguistic comparison.

Students participate in experiential learning including:

  • Student pen pals abroad
  • Conversations on Skype
  • Community field trips

7th

Seventh grade students continue studying the language they selected in sixth grade. The developmental theme is Deepening Understanding of the Target Language, and the curricular feature is Beginning to See Connections Between Target Language and Other Cultures.

Students use these lenses to answer essential guiding questions that include:

  • How do I become a resourceful, independent language learner?
  • How do I transfer my skills to new contexts and situations?

Students increase their vocabularies and are expected to speak the target language more in class. They expand their understanding of grammar, verb conjugations, and nuances of expression, and learn to write longer pieces. Students are expected to increase their capacity to work independently and to have more voice in project decisions. 

Spanish students view and respond to two films that highlight prejudice and linguistic and cultural miscommunication, all within the context of Mexican-American history. French students conduct oral interviews, research art and music of francophone countries, and perform skits. Mandarin students continue to add to their repertoire of characters, vocabulary words, and grammatical structures, and learn to read and write longer messages.

Students’ experiential learning includes:

  • Continuing the pen pal relationships established in the sixth grade
  • Verbal dialogues and conversational role-playing
  • Singing and music from the culture
  • Community field trips

8th

By eighth grade, most instruction is in the target language. The developmental theme is Realistic Interpersonal Interactions. The curricular features are More Advanced Cultural, Community, Global, and Political Topics.

Students use these lenses to answer essential guiding questions that include:

  • How do I expand my sense of global membership?
  • How do I become more aware of my cultural biases?
  • How do I communicate with native speakers in a culturally and linguistically appropriate manner?

Students gain greater confidence in their linguistic abilities and increase their ability to communicate with others in the target language. They are expected to communicate as much as possible in their chosen language during language class and can use materials in the target language.

Students’ experiential learning includes:

  • Continuing the pen pal relationships established in the sixth grade
  • Engaging students in exploring and solving problems in their immediate community and beyond
  • Cooking and the importance of food and geography in the culture
  • Community field trips