The goal of the Middle School modern language program is for our students to achieve proficiency in reading, writing, listening and speaking. Students continue with their modern language selection through their middle school years, building comfort and familiarity with the structure and features of the language and gaining experience with expression and conversation. Many of our students complete the third level of high school study by the end of ninth grade. Middle schoolers also add Latin to their studies in seventh grade, gaining insights into the roots of Romance languages and Roman culture. Latin focuses on literacy, history and the analytical study of a classical language.
In sixth-grade Chinese class, students learn to converse about topics in their everyday life, such as names, ages, nationalities, schools, families, pets, friends, languages, sports and foods. While all of the lessons are initiated through listening and speaking, students are expected to read all of the text, while writing only a subset of characters in each thematic unit. Students’ reading and writing fluencies increase considerably in the sixth grade. A major portion of each class period is spent on engaging interactive oral and aural practices. As students learn about each topic, they make cultural and linguistic comparisons between Chinese and their own lives and expressions. As in the Lower School, students help each other learn through paired or group activities.
A lively, youth-oriented text motivates students to use French in situations that focus on meaningful, daily-life topics. The skills of reading, writing, listening and speaking are studied more formally. Students are introduced to elementary French grammar: the present tense of many regular verbs, some irregular verbs and adjectives. Francophone culture and civilization around the world are emphasized, and the use of CDs, DVDs and computer games encourage active communication skills. Students memorize a short poem and short roles in self-designed skits during the year. Other special projects may include reading a simple book, creating a family tree and a “personality” crest.
Within the context of the contemporary Spanish-speaking world, students continue to work toward proficiency in the four language skills. Lessons include the present tense of regular and 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 students' fluency as they facilitate the gradual transition toward reading and writing. Special projects may include creating a family tree, making a clothing catalog, presenting short skits and preparing a researched cooking project.
In seventh grade, students continue to expand their knowledge of Chinese language and culture through a theme-based curriculum. Some of the topics include the celebration of birthdays, daily routine, clothing, houses, rooms and household items. By learning to talk about these topics, students are introduced to a number of major concepts such as word order, modifiers and the use of prepositions. Through targeted language instruction, students are encouraged to gain oral proficiency that enables them to talk about each other’s birthdays, ask permission, find out what someone is doing, inquire about and express opinions, etc. Traditional and modern Chinese culture is introduced by way of hands-on activities that complement each thematic unit. Some cultural highlights include tea tasting, Duanwu sachet making, and a field trip to the Yale University Art Gallery. Students may be grouped by ability.
After extensive review and reinforcement of previously learned material, students continue to expand their knowledge of French vocabulary and grammar. They are introduced to a new set of regular verbs, many more irregular verbs and the passé composé. Francophone culture throughout the world continues to be emphasized. Special projects may include poetry memorization for the COLT Poetry Contest, DVDs, French cuisine and a short reader. Students may be grouped by ability.
After a thorough review of the previous year's material, students continue to expand their knowledge of Spanish grammar and vocabulary. They are introduced to reflexive verbs, indirect object pronouns, familiar commands, comparative and superlative forms of adjectives and the preterite tense. Projects, readings, videos and discussions heighten their appreciation of Hispanic culture. Special activities may include participating in the COLT Poetry Contest, creating a Day of the Dead craft, researching and sampling Hispanic cuisine, hosting guest speakers and planning fiestas. Students may be grouped by ability.
In eighth grade, students continue to explore Chinese language and culture through the theme-based program. They learn to interact within the context of shopping, telephoning, visiting friends and eating out, and they interpret weather reports and present about weather. Highlights of the year include singing karaoke songs, following basic Chinese recipes and enjoying a hotpot meal together. Students learn one or more poems from both traditional and modern genres to complement the thematic units. Students may be grouped by ability.
Students continue their formal study of French with a thorough review of all the grammar introduced in seventh grade. New grammar concepts include: relative and object pronouns; negation; adverbs and the comparison of adjectives; reflexive verbs; and verb tenses such as passé composé. Regular and irregular verbs and future proche are taught within the specific context of French daily life and culture. Reading skills are improved, vocabulary expanded and a greater emphasis is placed on writing. Viewing of several original French films is an important component of the program. Students are required to memorize several poems during the year, participate in the COLT Poetry Contest and read an elementary reader in French. Additional special projects may include the creation of a short, videotaped play. Students are grouped by ability.
The program builds on students' established foundation, introducing more complex grammatical structures and expanding cultural themes. New material may include irregular verbs in the preterite tense; the imperfect tense; a comparison of the preterite vs. imperfect tenses; and more. Grammar and vocabulary are introduced and practiced with native speakers on DVDs, audio CDs and online support. For any given grammar concept, activities begin with guided practice and move progressively toward freer self-expression, with numerous opportunities for both written and oral expression. Special projects may include writing and illustrating a children’s story; an oral presentation using photographs to describe one’s childhood; a researched cooking project; the creation of a filmed short play; a fashion show; creation of a marketplace; and participation in the COLT Poetry Contest. Students may read and analyze various literary selections in Spanish. They may also take a trip off campus to eat at an authentic Hispanic restaurant. Students may be grouped by ability.
The ninth grade Chinese program continues to build students' listening and speaking skills, as well as their aptitude in reading and writing. Their vocabulary expands through direct instruction, daily conversations and practice with common expressions and contemporary topics. The goal of the course is to improve proficiency and comprehension in conversational Chinese. Students listen to and interact with native speakers and engage through in-class videos and online services. They read stories and nonfiction selections to increase their comprehension skills. Students also participate in the Connecticut Council of Language Teachers Poetry Contest.
Ninth grade French builds on students' established foundation, introducing more complex grammatical structures (relative pronouns, ordinal numbers, comparisons with adjectives, superlative constructions, indefinite and demonstrative pronouns, adverbs, present participle constructions) and additional verb tenses, (including the imperfect, the conditional, the future and an introduction to the subjunctive). This expands vocabulary and cultural themes in order to develop the students' abilities to express themselves more fluently. Students continue to build upon and strengthen their aural and oral skills through daily conversations and the viewing of French films. Special projects may include the study of a French reader, oral presentations and participation in the COLT Poetry Contest. Students may be grouped by ability.
Ninth grade Spanish builds on students' established foundation, introducing more complex grammatical structures and expanding cultural themes. After a thorough review of the preterite vs. imperfect tenses, new material is introduced. This includes formal commands; the use of double object pronouns; the present subjunctive with ojalá and impersonal expressions; por vs. para; and the future tense. Grammar and vocabulary are introduced and practiced with native speakers on DVDs, audio CDs and online support. For any given grammar concept, activities begin with guided practice and move progressively toward freer self-expression, with numerous opportunities for both written and oral expression. Special projects may include researching and presenting an ancient Mayan or Aztec city or creating their own; a researched presentation about a famous Hispanic figure; the creation of an illustrated children's book or short story; and participation in the COLT Poetry Contest. Students may read and analyze various literary selections by authors from Spain and Latin America. Students may also visit local museums to discuss art in a variety of ways. Students may be grouped by ability.
The sixth grade Festival of the World caps a yearlong study of global cultures, religions and geography. Each student studies a different country, creating a range of informational and artistic projects, including a model of a famous landmark.