Friday, June 16, 2006
World Language squeezes into K-5 school day
At the June 7 Carlisle School Committee (CSC) meeting, Principal Stephen Goodwin presented the "Elementary World Language's Impact on the K-5 Curriculum" report, which explains how Spanish classes will be included into the K-5 curriculum. Noting how hard the teachers worked to accommodate the new foreign language unit, he said everyone is excited to have kindergartners through fourth graders receive Spanish classes once a week. Fifth-grade students will be able to choose a foreign language (Chinese, French or Spanish) and carry through with their choice through eighth grade.
The difficulty, he explained, was finding 30 or 45 minutes in each grade's already packed weekly schedule. The grade-level teams met all year, discussing how to shave off minutes from existing subjects or activities to create the time slots. Each activity of each day, including recess and time before school, was reviewed and discussed. Though the process was long, he explained, it was accomplished.
Changes in kindergarten
Kindergarten and first grade will each have 30-minute Spanish lessons once a week. To accommodate Spanish in kindergarten, the teachers, according to the report, plan to "combine their current 'letter of the week' activities and Read Aloud times into one instructional period." The Spanish instruction will be closely aligned with the kindergarten curriculum and will "reinforce instruction provided by the kindergarten teachers (e.g., work on number, letters, calendar, author studies, rainforest vocabulary, et al.)"
More spelling homework
First grade has made room in the schedule by shifting some spelling practice, done this year in class, to homework. "Next year, parents working in conjunction with their sons/daughters could work on upwards of 25 different activities (e.g. use yarn or string to form words, use colored chalk to write the words on the driveway, write three or more words that rhyme with your word, et al.) which would serve to reinforce a student's retention of the weekly word lists."
Accommodations in second,
Finding 45 minutes per week for second through fifth grades created a larger challenge, Goodwin explained. Recess in second grade has been longer than the other grades. Next year recess will be reduced from 30 minutes to 20 minutes. This would give the teachers 50 minutes each week, 45 of which will be used for Spanish instruction.
The third grade will take a "multi-prong approach" to accommodating Spanish. The study of current events using the magazines Time for Kids and Scholastic News will be reduced, gaining a few minutes each day. Recess, which will remain at 15 minutes, may be reduced depending on the daily schedule. Cursive writing practice in the classroom will be reduced, and shifted to homework.
Beginning Band shifted
to before school
According to Goodwin, the fourth-grade team had the most difficult task of fitting in a 45 minute Spanish class. Beginning Band practice has traditionally been held once a week from 2:22 to 3:05 p.m. Goodwin's report states, "We are proposing that fourth-grade Beginning Band move to 7:55 a.m. one morning per week before the elementary school day." The fourth-grade students would ride the middle school bus, joining their classes after band practice. Students who are not in the band would come on the elementary bus.
Next year the fourth grades will not have the same foreign language introduction classes that were offered in a pilot program to the fifth grade this year, introducing each language (Spanish, Chinese and French) for a period of weeks, explained Carlisle School Superintendent Marie Doyle. Instead, at the end of the fourth-grade school year, the language teachers will visit each class, introduce themselves and "give a tease" about their language to help the students choose.
Complicated for fifth grade
Next year's fifth graders will sign up for one foreign language, staying with that language choice through eighth grade. To accommodate foreign languages the team proposes to move some spelling work done in class to homework.
Cut back on social studies
Another way to gain time in fifth grade is by consolidating the social studies curriculum, which, according to the report, is "a mile-wide and an inch deep." The report proposes to shift the Pre-Columbian portion (Incas/Aztecs/Mayas) of the curriculum to the lower grades where it will be "naturally integrated into the elementary Spanish instruction."
Reading the description of the Massachusetts Department of Education Frameworks for fifth-grade Social Studies and History, it is clear there is much material to cover: "Students study the major pre-Columbian civilizations in the New World; the 15th- and 16th-century European explorations around the world, in the western hemisphere, and in North America in particular; the earliest settlements in North America; and the political, economic, and social development of the English colonies in the 17th and 18th centuries. They also study the early development of democratic institutions and ideas, including the ideas and events that led to the independence of the original 13 colonies and the formation of a national government under the U.S. Constitution. The purpose of the grade five curriculum is to give students their first concentrated study of the formative years of U.S. history." (www.doe.mass.edu/frameworks/hss/final.doc).
Voicing his concern about the needed changes in each grade, Carlisle School Committee member Wendell Sykes worried that English literacy was being cut back by moving spelling work to homework.
"We should alert parents," Carlisle School Committee member Michael Fitzgerald warned, that more "spelling homework is going home." Noting that in some cases the homework involves working with parents, he added, "More and more is being expected" of parents.
Answering a question from a parent about the difference between Spanish "cultural versus language instruction," Carlisle Spanish teacher Andrea Seddon said Spanish would be introduced to the younger grades through conversation and studies of Spanish culture. She said Spanish language-based activities could be easily meshed with the regular curriculum.
© 2006 The