By KMS Principal, Rosemary Vickery
A goal of the Natick Public Schools is to provide students with an education that will allow them to succeed in the real world when they leave our schools. One of the key components to being a successful 21st Century learner and citizen is fluency in a second language. The first steps to building that fluency start in the middle school World Languages program and continue on throughout students’ high school careers.
Middle school students in seventh grade World Language courses have a unique learning opportunity this year. For the first time in middle school programming, students studying French at Kennedy and Spanish at Wilson Middle School are taking the course in a blended learning environment—part online and part with a world language teacher, but always under the guidance of teachers. Middlebury College, a recognized leader in global language studies, has developed this interactive learning experience based on the proven methodology and philosophy that has been in existence in their traditional world language courses.
The course is designed to promote understanding of the target language in the areas of grammar, vocabulary, oral language proficiency and cultural understanding. Students log in and using headsets, are able to listen to native speakers and are soon recording their own voices in an authentic French or Spanish accent. This learning experience allows students to work at his or her own pace and to revisit material on an ongoing basis. The program is available both in classes and can be accessed at home on a variety of devices, laptops and iPads to name just two. For digital natives, this is the way they learn best and it is the way material will be presented to them in their high school, college and career environments.
This course is the best of all worlds as far as learning is concerned. Observations in classes have shown students working independently and cooperatively to learn new material and how to negotiate the technology. Reactions from students have been enthusiastic: “Awesome!” “Cool” and “Great” and isn’t that what we all strive for as both parents and educators?