HS – Foreign Language

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My role at Harmony High School:

My responsibility here at Harmony is to provide a two-year program in basic Spanish language instruction. Although one might argue that this is only a minimal offering, I try to orient students on how to go about learning a language systematically, hopefully laying a foundation on which students can build later, if they choose to do so. I am a fervent advocate of life-long learning, and I hope that in the course of the two-year sequence, students will end up with a clear direction and notion about how to move forward effectively in their language acquisition, should they decide to take further courses in Spanish, work on it independently, or even take up a different language in the future. I also do what I can, along with valuable assistance from Paul, to facilitate the efforts of students who elect to work independently on languages other than Spanish.

Teaching statement / Class activities

Because language competence is really a patchwork of related but distinct skills (comprehension, speaking, reading, writing, and cultural awareness), in the classroom we participate in a wide range of different activities that aim at developing these various skills.

Sometimes students are instructed to listen to texts or dialogs in Spanish with the aim of catching the key content (listening comprehension). At other times students engage in small-group or full-class activities in which they ask one another questions in Spanish, to practice verbs and structures they are learning (speaking practice).

There is occasional focus on pronunciation details. On other occasions students write sentences or brief paragraphs expressing aspects of their own experience, e.g. self-descriptions or descriptions of family members, friends, or acquaintances; statements about their own or others’ usual activities; statements about what they are doing in the immediate present, or what they will or plan to do in the future; or accounts of what they did at various moments in the past (writing skills).

Students also get ample experience reading typical conversational exchanges and other brief texts in Spanish. A lesser portion of class time is devoted to discussion of important cultural and life-style differences between U.S. society and Hispanic societies.

My goal in the two-year Spanish sequence is not so much to provide a complete or wide coverage of grammar, but rather to get students, by a variety of techniques, to engage actively with the language, to use it dynamically at a basic and realistic level appropriate to their age and situation.

For many students, particularly in the first year, an important component of this experience is getting over the hurdle of their initial self-consciousness and inhibitions as they venture into bilingualism. I feel that students have achieved a great accomplishment if, at the end of the two years of the Spanish sequence, they have:

  • established an overall solid basic foundation
  • have a clear and informed insight into the overall enterprise of learning a second language
  • gained insight into what it actually means to communicate person-to-person in that language, even though they will not have studied the more elaborate verb tenses that would be covered in more advanced courses.