Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Curriculum News - World Languages

The following post is from World Language Director Martine Fisher and first appeared in Superintendent Gormley's January 30th E-Blast:

The High School World Language Department has three more good reasons to be proud of its students since last summer: 100% success in both French and Spanish Advanced Placement exams[1] and 100% success in the DELF, a newly introduced International French proficiency exam.

The success of our AP students is particularly noteworthy as the College Board recently updated both French and Spanish curricula. These changes reflect the general evolution of the field of world language instruction towards a holistic and functional approach to language proficiency. Our High School language team, well-aware of this growing emphasis on active communication, re-evaluated and progressively revised curriculum, instruction, and expectations for all classes and levels.

In current French and Spanish classes, students learn and use the target language in meaningful and real-life contexts through a wide range of reading, writing, speaking and listening activities. In AP Language and Culture classes, instruction is organized around six interrelated contemporary themes defined by the College Board: Global Challenges, Personal and Public Identities, Science and Technology, Beauty and Aesthetics, Contemporary life, Families and Communities. The objectives of these standard and performance-based courses are to develop student communicative, critical thinking and problem-solving skills in authentic contexts.

The exploration of the various cultures of the Francophone and Hispanic worlds is conducted through historical, socio-economical and multidisciplinary perspectives.  Technology plays, of course, a major role in 21st century language classes. Smartboards, a newly equipped language lab, i-pads and authentic audio-visual resources connect our classrooms and our students to the world.

The addition of performance-based international exams to our current French and Spanish programs was a logical next step. The DELF (Diplôme d’Études en Langue Française) was successfully introduced two years ago through a collaboration with the French Cultural Center in Boston (Alliance Française). The DELE (Diploma Español como Lengua Extranjera) organized by the Institute Cervantes on behalf of the Spanish Government will be piloted this school year. Both exams are divided into six levels of proficiency (A1, A2. B1, B2, C1 and C2). Our French students take their exams at the B1 or B2 level[2]. All candidates succeeded two years in a row. We expect our Spanish students to perform at the same level. Both certifications are officially recognized by the European Consortium for Foreign Languages, and constitutes the equivalent of the American TOEFL. Such certifications are official international acknowledgement of language mastery, a noteworthy advantage for college application and a gateway to international careers around the world. Scores are valid for life.

[1] The AP Latin exam was not offered last year but will be this year. The format of this exam has also been recently revised by the College Board.
[2] At the B1 level, the user becomes independent, can understand and maintain a discussion and give an opinion. The student is capable of dealing with situations likely to arise in daily life. A B2 user has a degree of independence such that arguments can be defended, opinions explained and viewpoints negotiated. At this level, the candidate has a degree of fluency and spontaneity in regular interactions and is capable of correcting mistakes.