Foote students build their familiarity with other cultures as they begin learning modern languages in kindergarten. Students explore Spanish and Chinese in their first three years, then choose one of the two languages to study as they enter third grade. Most of the emphasis in early grades is on the sounds and rhythms of language, building a foundation that helps students build auditory and literacy skills across the curriculum.
For our youngest students, language instruction focuses on listening, speaking, and pronunciation as the keystones of language study. Our emphasis on oral communication encourages children to distinguish and replicate sounds. Kindergarten students are introduced to the sounds and patterns of Spanish through nursery rhymes, puppets, songs, stories, games, role-playing. Art projects are also used to teach elementary vocabulary such as days of the week, animals, family, seasons, weather and numbers. Some of the topics covered in class are salutations, numbers, house, family and letters. Additionally, students learn about Hispanic culture through children’s books and special projects.
In first grade, children continue their study of Spanish vocabulary and grammar. They learn about Hispanic cultures by exploring countries such as Mexico, Bolivia and Spain. Students learn about family traditions in Mexico and make comparisons to their own celebrations in the United States. Bolivia presents lessons about El Gran Mercado, Carnival, traditional clothing and colors. Children learn vocabulary to compare living conditions between cities and towns, and make connections to their own homes. Lessons about Spain include famous sites of Madrid and Flamenco dancing. Children listen to classical guitar and play an authentic cajón drum. As their language skills expand, students are encouraged to speak in full sentences.
Second graders are introduced to the sounds of Mandarin Chinese experientially, just as native-speaker children naturally acquire their first words. Chinese classes are often full of rhymes and kinesthetic activities that require children to understand and produce the language orally. Students learn to greet others, introduce themselves and acquire vocabulary around everyday topics such as numbers, family, colors, sports, body parts and fruit. The goal is for children to use words from each thematic unit in meaningful sentences. Writing of Chinese characters is introduced in order for students to experience the unique Chinese writing system. Major Chinese holidays are celebrated through activities that are a part of traditional Chinese culture.
In third grade, vocabulary and conversational practice include topics such as families, pets, hobbies and body parts. Children learn to ask and answer simple questions using basic linguistic structures. In addition to listening and speaking, reading and writing are introduced during third grade. Instruction continues to be highly interactive. Writing objectives include being able to follow stroke orders and write numbers, single pictographs, radicals and some of the most commonly used characters to communicate meaning. In addition to celebrating traditional Chinese holidays, third graders experience a STEM unit at the end of spring in which they demonstrate math facts in Chinese.
Third graders continue to explore Spanish-speaking countries as they build vocabulary and language skills. Lessons include South American geography, poetry and arts. They “visit” the Plaza de Armas in Peru and compare the city square with their own town or city center. As they "tour" Colombia, students learn about pets, zoo and farm animals and jungle species. Units related to everyday life include the home, friends and family, the community, school life, after-school activities, the senses, body parts, healthy habits, the months of the year, and simple conversations about the weather and seasons. Special projects include a Hispanic Day of the Dead project and a Colombian salsa dance lesson.
With a cultural focus on the contemporary Spanish-speaking world, students continue to work toward proficiency in reading, writing, listening and speaking. Lessons include the present tense of regular and certain commonly used irregular verbs, as well as stem-changing verbs, possessive and descriptive adjectives, noun-adjective agreement, comparatives, interrogatives and contractions. These grammatical concepts are presented within the context of situational dialogues and DVDs that depict the daily activities of young people from a variety of Spanish-speaking countries and cultures. Vocabulary exercises expand the students' fluency as they facilitate the gradual transition toward reading and writing. Special projects include posters about families, presenting short skits and cooking quesadillas and cocadas.
Fourth grade Chinese emphasizes listening, speaking, reading and writing using engaging activities and games. Students learn to talk about professions, places of residence, physical appearance, rooms and furniture. Students present for others in class, and learn from each other in group activities. A STEM unit is typically incorporated into the fifth grade. It usually includes a survey and students express their results in charts and bar graphs. Students are expected to know the basics of writing Chinese characters. They also learn about the etymology of many Chinese characters to help with their sight word recognition.
In fifth-grade Chinese, listening and speaking continue to be emphasized, but reading and writing now play an equally important part in class meetings. Students are expected to keep a notebook on the content that is introduced in class. They also work with flashcards to reinforce sight-word recognition. Vocabulary and units of study focus on communities, as students learn to talk about professions, place of residence, physical appearance, rooms and furniture. Students present to classmates and learn from each other in group activities. They master the basics of writing Chinese characters and learn about their etymology of many Chinese characters to help with their sight word recognition. Pinyin is now used more consistently to aid students’ pronunciation and tones.
Continuing the aural/oral training begun in fourth grade, students acquire more vocabulary and grammatical structures as a natural extension of their desire to communicate in French, whether through a game, solving a puzzle or participating in an activity with a friend. While the main emphasis in this program remains aural/oral, there is a written component as well. Activities are supplemented by nursery rhymes, videos, dialogues, puppets and songs. Topics include sports, professions, days of the week, animals, numbers, adjectives, the verbs "Avoir" and "être", and simple negation. Special projects include baguette making and celebrating Mardi Gras.
Fifth grade Spanish makes use of the Descubre el Español series. Students learn Spanish through conversation, cultural activities and games. Workbook exercises parallel aural/oral activities as writing increases in importance. Topics can include greetings and introductions, descriptions, the verb ser, cognates, gender/number agreement, clothing, colors, sports and activities, shopping, places and activities in the community, the verb estar, school and classes, telling time, days of the week, months of the year, and question words. Students learn about the culture of several Spanish-speaking countries, including Bolivia, Spain and Mexico. Cultural activities can include making maps, writing postcards and making masks for the Day of the Dead.
Computer coding is an interactive, hands-on pursuit at Foote. For a third grade STEM project, students design robots using LEGOs and program their movements using click-and-drag Scratch coding.