Implementing a Spanish program has many pluses. Not only are the students learning a second language, but they are also expanding their horizons beyond their school and home environments. Students learn to appreciate other cultures as they begin their journey through the Americas. Beginning language study in middle school permits students the opportunity to enroll in higher-level Spanish courses in high school allowing them to extend their language learning sequence that helps them attain a greater level of proficiency in Spanish.
Some considerations for implementing a middle school Spanish program include curriculum, funding, and student pre-requisites related to the different programs. There may be other considerations specific to the school.
The Spanish curriculum is developed specifically with middle students in mind. Though Spanish courses may be the same in middle and high school, the class activities have to be age-appropriate for middle school students. The curriculum should address state standards for foreign languages (also known as languages other than English) and should reflect the World-Readiness Standards for Learning Languages from the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (www.actfl.org). The regular curriculum can be used for honors Spanish. However, it should include constructive, higher order thinking skills activities not just “additional” work. A special Spanish curriculum is highly recommended for Spanish for Spanish-speakers as a traditional curriculum would not be beneficial for improving the students’ language skills.
Establishing a budget for a middle school Spanish program is very important. If textbooks are not provided by the state, the budget should include funds for purchasing textbooks, textbook ancillaries, dictionaries, readers, visuals, videos, and other teacher materials. The textbook selected should address the state standards. If possible, the same textbook series used in the high school program should be used in middle school to ensure a smooth transition from middle school to high school classes. Textbooks for Spanish-speakers are available from several publishers and should be considered in the budget for the SSS classes. Dual language programs will also require special materials.
There are no pre-requisites for students to enroll in regular Spanish classes. These classes are open to all students. At the discretion of the district, special criteria may be developed for students enrolling in Spanish honors classes. Spanish for Spanish speakers classes are offered to students who have some knowledge of Spanish. If Spanish-speakers and non-Spanish speakers are going to be combined in one class, a placement test may be developed to evaluate the Spanish skills of the students in order to place them in upper level Spanish courses based on their language skills. If the school is enrolling students from dual language programs, these students may also take a placement test to determine their proficiency level and thus place them in upper level Spanish courses.
As educators, take the leap into implementing these programs. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain for your students.
María J. Fierro-Treviño
Instructional Specialist, Northside Independent School District, San Antonio, TX. (Retired)
Director for Languages other than English, Texas Education Agency (Retired)