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Foreign Language Curriculum

The curriculum in the Middle School has a dual role: the presentation of information and the guiding of the students’ critical thinking skills from memorization to thoughtful, independent analysis of the material being presented. The curricular content continues to support the liberal arts background that IAS believes to be an integral part of each student’s educational foundation. In early adolescence, students begin to develop analytical thinking skills. Using the material in each course, Middle School teachers challenge their students to support opinions with facts and to question the world in which they live. The purpose is to continue the shaping of responsible young people who will contribute to their society.

Both languages, French and Spanish, are taught in a similar way. Oral skills that include both speaking and listening are constantly presented and reinforced. Reading and writing skills are developed, largely through workbook exercises. Work in grammar and spelling familiarizes the student with the structure of the language. As the student becomes more knowledgeable in the subject, writing assignments advance through the sentence, paragraph, and short essay stages. Areas such as geography, history, literature, current events, and culture are also covered so that students can begin to expand their intellectual and cultural horizons. Classroom activities often challenge the student to use the newly acquired language in meaningful real-life situations. Homework is assigned nightly and should take about twenty minutes. Most assignments have several parts: studying a section of the text, hearing and repeating an assigned portion from a CD, and writing either in the workbook or other assigned material. Homework assignments do contribute to the overall grade earned by each student. Two to four quizzes are usually given before each unit test. Both quizzes and tests include listening comprehension and written grammatical forms. Pronunciation and speaking quizzes begin only after the student has had time to achieve an adequate familiarity with the language. The second-year language experience reinforces skills that were introduced at the first-year level, develops them to a higher degree, and continues to present grammatical structures and tenses. Classes are conducted — and the student is expected to think, speak, and write — exclusively in the foreign language. Daily oral practice, including group activities, games, and student-inspired dialogues, provides an opportunity to perfect pronunciation and intonation, while developing the ability to express ideas in the target language. The presentation of vocabulary through pictures and other visual aids and the use of patterned grammatical substitutions establish structures which students will use at the second-year level. Students read for understanding and appreciation while also building vocabulary and language skills.