Spanish classes introduce new curriculum


Adam Laliberte

Students in Mr. Adam Laliberte's AP Spanish class


Busy memorizing vocabulary and verb conjugations, high school students often take three or four years of a foreign language without coming close to achieving its ultimate purpose: fluency. Many students struggle to carry on a simple conversation in a foreign language after years of instruction.

In an effort to foster fluency and expand cultural knowledge, many of NK’s Spanish classes are transitioning into a new curriculum this year. Depending on the success of the updated Spanish syllabus, the World Language Department’s French, Portuguese, and German programs may eventually modify their curriculums to include more communication. However, the other three languages have already put an emphasis on culture.

According to Mr. Mark DeLucia, head of the World Language Department, the new curriculum will be introduced in a top-down approach, starting with Advanced Placement (AP) Spanish and Spanish 5 Honors classes. The updated Spanish curriculum emphasizes both exposure to culture and development of communication skills.

Mr. Adam Laliberte, AP Spanish teacher, aims to increase students’ modes of communication, such as speaking, listening, writing, and reading. “Everything will be taught through a cultural lens,” Laliberte said. “The goal is to make students conversational.”

NK is joining a “national seismic shift in world language curriculum,” DeLucia said. “We’re trying to focus on what students can do versus what they know.”

Previously, each separate year of a foreign language “was its own island with its own curriculum,” DeLucia said. Now, similar curriculum topics are being introduced in Spanish 3 and 4 Honors classes, culminating with Spanish 5 Honors or AP Spanish. Similar changes will occur in Spanish 3 and 4 CP classes. Teachers may also modify the Spanish 1 and Spanish 2 curriculum in the future.

Such changes to the AP Spanish curriculum were implemented by the College Board last year. According to Laliberte, the World Language Department is revising the curriculum in the younger level Spanish classes to prepare students for AP Spanish. The changes also align with student feedback.

Although the four teachers of NK’s French, German, and Portuguese classes do not plan to modify the curriculum in the near future, culture is already taught in tandem with language skills.

In NK’s French classes, taught by Ms. Cecile Jones and Ms. Evelyn Byrne, students listen to French music, watch French films with English subtitles, eat French foods, and complete small research projects on France and Canada.

The German and Portuguese classes, taught by Ms. Ruthann Baker and Ms. Paula Schiavone, respectively, also integrate culture with language instruction. Both subjects have their own after-school clubs. Students from Schiavone’s classes are also traveling to Portugal in the summer of 2016, while NK German students participate in the German-American Partnership Program (GAPP), a biannual exchange program with a school in Germany.

“For the price of a plane ticket and a passport, students from our school can visit Germany for three weeks,” Baker said. “We find out what it’s like to become citizens of their communities.” This coming April, 18 students from Germany will also visit NKHS for three weeks.

Senior Rachel Douglas, a student in Laliberte’s AP Spanish class, supports such changes to the Spanish curriculum at NKHS. “I think that speaking, especially, should be taught more frequently in the younger levels,” Douglas said. “The things that I am learning in AP Spanish are helping me become fluent. Being able to speak more than one language is an important skill to have.”