Friday, March 17, 2000
Spanish and French are a big part of Middle School
To introduce the presentation of the foreign language curriculum, the Carlisle School Committee meeting on March 7 was treated to a skit in Spanish performed by two seventh graders, Beth Whalley and Laura Clarn. The flair and enthusiasm of the two girls for the language were very apparent and made the skit impressive, entertaining and enjoyed by all those present.
Language teacher Nicole Baker said that students in the Carlisle Middle School now have Spanish and French language instruction beginning in the fifth grade. Since this is their first exposure to a foreign language, all the students of the fifth grade become familiar with both languages and cultures in what is called the "Flex class." The "Flex Class," taught by Maria Rakhmanoff, meets for one half-hour period two times a week. Half the fifth graders learn Spanish and half learn French for the first half of the year, then the two groups switch. The curriculum includes basic readings, the geography and culture of French and Spanish countries, simple conversation and skits and the names of classroom objects, numbers and adjectives. This curriculum also coordinates with what the students are learning in their other academic courses in the units on immigration and study of languages.
Having had a half year of French and Spanish, the student in the sixth grade must choose one or the other for the rest of the middle school years. The language teachers, Baker (French) and Drea Zollo (Spanish), realize they must be aware of a balance in scheduling the numbers of students in the two languages since the classes meet at the same time. They also have worked to correlate the language curriculum with that in Concord so all students will enter the high school programs on equal footing. Both teachers expressed appreciation for the maps provided to them by the Carlisle School Association.
In the sixth grade, the half-hour class meets three times a week and the students learn dictionary skills, sentence structure and parts of speech. They begin to answer questions, build vocabulary and read bilingual books such as The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss. In French class, according to teacher Nicole Baker, the students perform skits on a number of topics, learn about the clock, friends and family, dates, the money system and the Mardi Gras as it is found in New Orleans.
By the seventh grade, foreign language classes are now meeting four times a week for forty to forty-five minutes. Zollo said they try to keep all conversation in Spanish or French. The students learn how to ask and answer questions, perform more in-depth reading and writing skills, learn how to write a paragraph and add more verb tenses. They play games with grammar structure. In both language classes, the students learn cultures of the world beyond Spain and France, in Africa, Switzerland, Haiti or Mexico, and how traditions, habits and customs in the United States are found to have roots in some of these other countries.
The current class of eighth graders is a transition class and all have learned French. The option of learning Spanish had not been introduced into the school. Baker said they do more in-depth French readings and projects, are more fluent in conversation and are learning about the future tense.
Each eighth grader adopts a French-speaking country and writes a report using the information learned. The CSC was shown reports from other cultural projects such as posters of "La Seine," the river running through Paris and France, an illustration of four days of weather, the train schedule, and a delicious menu of a French cafe. The finale to the year for the whole grade is the scheduled trip to Quebec City, the first week of June.
Superintendent Davida Fox-Melanson said, "This has been a year of tremendous growth in the language department and an enriching experience for us all." School committee member Cindy Nock said the trip to Quebec works wonderfully as a class trip. Following this year the language department is now discussing ways to incorporate the students who have chosen to learn Spanish into the language trip.
In the eighth grade, teacher Baker said, the students must make the decision which language to follow in Concord-Carlisle High School. Some are continuing with the French, some are taking Spanish and some are choosing Latin. School parent Amy Mestancik said, "I am thrilled to hear that the school has such a great language program."
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