Middle School Overview
At the middle level, the curriculum builds upon what the students learned in the primary and intermediate levels. To make the target language more meaningful and relevant for the students, the language continues to be highly contextualized within each unit. These units are thematically based and contextualized in the culture of a Spanish-speaking country. All vocabulary, grammar, and cultural information relates to the theme of each unit. At the middle level, the language is at times broken down and grammar is examined a little more closely than in the primary and intermediate levels. Spanish is the primary language of the classroom and is spoken the majority of the time by the teacher. Students are also consistently encouraged to use as much of the target language that their learning level permits. Students often work collaboratively on presentations, projects, and other activities because we believe that students learn not only from the teacher, but each other as well. In middle school Spanish, the curriculum is designed to develop the students’ listening, speaking and reading abilities while establishing an understanding and appreciation of cultures other than their own.
In sixth grade spanish, students start adjusting to a longer class every day. They transition from 15 minutes a day to 40 minutes a day. Students start exploring basic concepts about the language as each curricular unit is contextualized on a Spanish speaking country. Students are exposed to basic grammatical structures and vocabulary that allows them to create and elaborate longer texts and dialogues. Students are also exposed to the range of linguistic diversity within Spanish itself. Students recycle their learning upon their K-5 education and build more complex concepts in the language. For example, students learn about schools in the United States and in Mexico and they compare these two educational systems describing the routines of kids in Mexico and themselves. Also, in this unit students create an advertisement promoting Falk School to students in Mexico. The class is conducted mostly in Spanish and students have the opportunity to bring their own inquiries to the class.
Thematic units: Introduction (United States), ¿Qué tiempo hace hoy? What’s the weather like? (Cuba), Mis amigos y yo - My friends and I (Guatemala), Mi escuela - My school (México), Vamos al supermercado - Let’s go to the supermarket (Puerto Rico)
In seventh grade Spanish, students continue to explore various cultural themes and practices while gaining facility with the language. Students are exposed to new grammatical structures and vocabulary that enables them to express themselves more clearly in Spanish. We believe that students must experience the language and culture in order to really appreciate what they are learning and why they are learning it and we aim to immerse our students in both Spanish language and Hispanic culture in the classroom. Consequently, students are presented with a variety of activities and interactions to do so and are assessed in ways that simulate real life experiences when possible. For example. during our unit about clothes and shopping in Peru, students’ speaking abilities are assessed through a bargaining simulation and their writing abilities are evaluated through a fashion critique or fashion show. Students also see and interpret video clips of how in parts of Peru communities are continuing their ancestors’ traditions of making products completely naturally (wool, detergents, dye, tools) and weaving them by hand. Students then gain an appreciation for how difficult this task is by creating their own weavings. These types of cultural connections and opportunities to use, interpret, and connect with the language are prevalent in all of the thematic units throughout the seventh grade Spanish experience.
Thematic units: Our families (Cuba), Let’s go shopping! (Peru), The city (Argentina), Where we live (Ecuador)
In eighth grade Spanish, focus continues to be placed on the students’ understanding of cultures other than their own and increasing their abilities to use and understand Spanish. In eighth grade, students learn more grammar that allows them to narrate their stories and ideas more clearly and completely. Students are also presented with more challenging writing and speaking tasks as well as reading material written at a higher level. We want students to leave Falk School with the confidence and ability to use Spanish outside of the classroom walls and the curiosity and interest in Hispanic culture to want to. One way that their confidence using the Spanish language is fostered this year is through a collaboration with our S.H.E.R.P. program and second grade students. Our eighth graders, who are already knowledgeable about composting and execute a school composting initiative through their S.H.E.R.P. classes, teach our second graders how to compost – all in Spanish. Eighth graders also participate in a quinceañera celebration simulation and are in charge of planning, preparing, and participating in the various components of the quinceañera while using Spanish to do so. We also want students to see how Hispanic culture and language is present and influences the U.S. and their own community. At the end of their middle school Spanish experience, students take a field trip to the Strip District and visit many of our local Hispanic stores and restaurants and have an opportunity to interact with the Hispanic community in Pittsburgh. The linguistic foundation and cultural experience provided throughout our Spanish program at Falk prepare and excite our students to continue their language education in high school and beyond.
Thematic units: Hispanic heritage in the U.S., Caring for our world, Quinceañeras (Uruguay), Let’s play sports! (Dominican Republic), Vacations (Colombia), Mi daily routine (Costa Rica), Going out to eat (Spain)
In the Spanish Heritage class, the students can explore their identity more deeply while using their advanced linguistic skills. Students are encouraged to write and read more complex text as so they can improve their literacy skills in Spanish. This class is aimed at enabling students to continue gaining proficiency in aural comprehension, speaking, reading, and writing as well as meta-linguistic and cultural competence. The Spanish Heritage Language program curriculum for this specific class focuses on the heritage culture as the basis of the curriculum. The main goal of this program is to develop academic language skills through materials and activities specifically designed for Spanish heritage language learners. The classroom activities focus on developing oral and written abilities in a variety of formal and informal contexts. In addition, this course incorporates specific materials and projects to develop greater familiarity with U.S. Hispanic cultures. For instance, important figures from the heritage language group - their interests, activities, and importance in society and world, presented through literature, articles, movies, and interviews - serve as the foundation to build an appreciation for the heritage culture.
Thematic units: ¿Quién soy yo? - Who am I?, Bilingualism, Hispanics in the United States, Identity