The World Language Department at Hamilton High School offers a wide array of options for its student body. With six levels of Spanish, French, German, and having just begun to offer Mandarin Chinese, the department goes above and beyond the State Standards for the study of world languages. Our program adheres to the National Standards of Foreign Language by incorporating its five goals into the curriculum: Communication, Culture, Connections, Comparisons, and Community. The department implements these goals by focusing on the four essential skills of reading, writing, listening comprehension, and speaking. We work in vertical teams to make certain that all students develop thorough language skills, as well as horizontal teams to ensure that all students are learning the same material during the years their years of study of the target language. Once a quarter, all world language teachers in the district meet to revise common benchmarks and discuss strategies to address and evaluate student needs and performance. Our program is rigorous, and honors level classes begin during the third year of foreign language. Levels three and up are honors/AP classes and stress the four essential skills through literature, art, and history. Through the study of culture in greater detail, students move from proficient to fluent.
Our world language program offers many cross-curricular opportunities to students by integrating other curriculum (math, science, social studies, etc.). Students are required to do projects, presentations, and other assignments that involve other areas of study. For example, in a unit on health, students have to incorporate issues of science into their projects and analyze results using math skills. For a unit on myths and legends, students have to discuss, in the target language, common elements of a myth or legend that they have learned from English class. Students are required to know the various countries where the language is spoken as well as major geographic landmarks. Grammar of both the target language and English are reinforced at all levels, and students are constantly making comparisons between the two. Students are reinforced with the parts of speech, and vocabulary is enhanced through the study of word roots and origins.
With the recent explosion worldwide of technology, our students have more opportunity than ever to learn to employ non-traditional media resources. For a unit on art, students may research any of the great painters of the target culture by utilizing a search engine in the United States, or in a country where the target language is spoken. The same is true for historical figures or literary works. We teach students to access the wealth of information available in other countries and help them become more discerning in the sources they investigate.
It is the World Language Department's goal to immerse students into the target language during class time and to offer them a full-language experience. As each level, increases in depth, students are asked to make personal and relevant connections with the target language, to themselves and the real world. Paired and small group activities are essential in our classrooms to allow students to practice real-life scenarios (restaurant, airport, etc.), and they are encouraged to go beyond the classroom and school setting. Combining visual, auditory, and cultural input allows for the simultaneous practice of the four essential skills. For example, in watching a video about a particular target language country, students not only get to see the country and its important landmarks, they also listen to the target language and see native speakers interacting. Our program offers a variety of activities to enhance a full-language experience.
Hamilton High School also offers a program for native speakers of Spanish. These students face unique challenges experienced by Spanish speakers with the formal learning of their heritage language. Their studies culminate with the AP Spanish Language and Culture and AP Spanish Literature and Culture tests.