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Archived Information

World Languages
Curriculum Framework
Making Connections

World Languages Content

Communicating Strand

Lifelong learners communicate in at least one language in addition to English.

How can we teach students to communicate?

Once teachers thought it was enough for students to pass grammar tests and vocabulary quizzes. But when they were unable to say, "Pass the salt," at a restaurant, or they became tongue-tied when faced by a native speaker asking for directions, or couldn't carry on a conversation outside the limits of a memorized dialogue, teachers realized it was time to rethink how to facilitate meaningful communication in their classrooms. The following pages of standards offer many suggestions.

Meaningful communication is the exchange of thoughts, messages, or information through speech, gestures, writing, behavior, or a combination of these. It is through communication that we express ourselves and transmit or receive information. The standards in this strand are organized around the functions, or purposes, of language use such as asking and answering questions, expressing agreement and disagreement, and narrating.

In order for these exchanges to be meaningful, our students need to be communicating about topics which interest them. On the following pages are topics which are age appropriate for the knowledge and experience of learners at their particular stages of linguistic and social development. They should be used throughout all four strands.

"Read and listen critically for information, understanding and enjoyment."

The Massachusetts Common Core of Learning

Grades PreK-4 Age-Appropriate Topics

Learners in this age range begin with content topics close to the self, the home, and the school. These can include family, friends, home and house, classroom, animals, and health. As they learn counting, days, dates, months and alphabet in English, these can be simultaneously incorporated into the second language curriculum. Colors, shapes, vehicles, weather, culturally significant foods, festivals, holidays, all can be made part of the content as these become part of the background knowledge of the primary grade learner. Age appropriate children's literature, myths, arts, music and games are essential content components, as well. Older primary learners are ready to use the vocabulary of geography, symbols and signs, daily routines, feelings, and topics from their studies in other areas such as science, the arts, mathematics, and social studies. Content-based instruction in the language can become the norm by the upper elementary grades.

At this age learners delight in making contact with children from other cultures. Exchanges of games and stories, drawings and photographs, toys and work supplies (notebooks, pens) can connect them to their counterparts in the local and international communities in profound, lasting ways. Adult visitors, such as an artist in residence (see Arts framework, Selected Resources), who can bring the child's perspective (stories, songs) are equally valuable to the young learner.

Most practice in the early grades is in social, face-to-face interaction with classmates, teacher, family, and visitors. Technologies such as video, CD-ROM, and laserdisk offer wonderful visual and auditory contexts. As sight-word reading develops, contexts can be print matter such as posters, charts, signs, short readings, rhymes. Older primary graders will use dictionaries, stories, plays, graphs, maps, schedules, lists, notes, postcards, tickets, magazines.

Grades 5-8 Age-Appropriate Topics

Topics for the middle grades include all of those for the primary grades, expanded to include broader areas of knowledge and interest of this age group. In addition, students in this age-range will communicate about school and schedules, extracurricular interests, sports and games, shopping and money, clothing and fashion, professions and work, transportation and travel. They will communicate about important historical and current cultural figures, places and events. They will, of course, use the language to interact in social relationships, a topic of intense interest to this age group. Topics from other disciplines such as topography, geography, problem solving, folklore, the environment, the arts, and world events are possible areas for interdisciplinary or content-based language learning.

Communication in this age group includes all the contexts for the elementary grades in expanded forms. For example, written contexts can be longer, such as paragraph-length culturally authentic readings and materials, youth literature, journals, notes and letters. Middle grade learners are entering the teen years with anticipation and excitement. Contact with pre-teens and teens in the other culture(s) is central to any effort to connect their language learning with the real world. Day long exchanges with schools in communities where native speakers live can be an introduction to the world of travel and intercultural exchange. Where this is not possible, at least we can provide channels for pen-pal, video-pal, or e-mail conversations to occur. Adult and young adult visitors open the pre-teen's eyes to the possibilities for professional or vocational uses of the other language.

Grades 9-12 Age-Appropriate Topics

In addition to all the topics mentioned for grades PreK-8, this group increasingly communicates about topics beyond the self. Those closest to the self are, of course, still very important to them: family, school, travel, shopping, music, friends, etc. But these learners are becoming part of the larger world, and can use the language to discuss history, the arts, world events, cultures and civilizations, scientific advances, careers, important people, health issues, social issues such as poverty, racism, sexism, and homelessness. Familiar topics can be used in more abstract ways to communicate about such things as educational systems, government and politics, social and international policies.

More sophisticated uses of the contexts discussed for grades PreK-8 continue as contexts for grades 9-12. Technologies play increasing roles both inside and outside the classroom, such as authentic print and visual media, TV and radio, films, and the Internet. The readings are more lengthy and challenging; letters, journals, essays, novels, and plays are essential written contexts. Face to face interaction may include formal settings such as debates, group discussions.

High school learners are ready to try out their wings in the broader community. Community service learning projects are a way to put their language to use. School exchange programs, sister communities and schools in other regions or countries, summer exchanges, and semesters abroad are real possibilities for this age group. Visiting speakers who use languages in their jobs model the real thing for the young adult who is beginning to formulate schemes for job, career, and lifestyle possibilities.

At the end of a PreK-4 sequence (Stage 1 proficiency)...

PreK-4 Learning Standards

Students will use selected words, phrases, and expressions with no major repeated patterns of error to:

  1. greet and respond to greetings
  2. introduce and respond to introductions
  3. ask and answer questions
  4. make and respond to requests
  5. express likes, dislikes, and feelings
  6. express needs
  7. express agreement and disagreement
  8. give and follow directions
  9. provide and obtain information and knowledge
  10. obtain new information and knowledge
  11. describe, compare, and contrast
  12. explain, interpret
  13. narrate
  14. solve problems
  15. read and discuss authentic literature

Examples

  1. PreK-2: Students use several expressions of greeting in culturally appropriate ways, such as: "hi, good morning, good evening."
    3-4: Using familiar and formal pronouns, protocol, etc., students write a greeting card.
  2. PreK-2: Each student tells own name and asks name of another person.
    3-4: Students can introduce two peers to each other, introduce themselves to an adult.
  3. PreK-2: Classmates ask and answer questions about pets, toys, family.
    3-4: Learners ask and answer questions about hobbies, science projects, climate of a region.
  4. PreK-2: A learner can tell someone he wants to get a drink of water.
    3-4: Students ask or respond to being asked to run an errand: "Could you get me some chalk from next door, please?"
  5. PreK-2: Classmates express opinions about favorite activities, toys, animals, foods etc. (See "How it Looks in the Classroom" following this section)*
    3-4: Children express feelings about a playground incident or an event taking place in the school, community, or world.
  6. PreK-4: Students express needs such as hunger, physical discomfort: "I'm chilly; I need a sweater."
  7. PreK-4: Using expressions such as: "I think so/I don't think so; that's right/that's not right; true/false; maybe/maybe not; me, too/me, neither," students practice agreeing and disagreeing with other speakers, signers, or writers.
  8. PreK-2: Groups or individuals follow simple directions such as: "walk forward, find a pencil, turn left, jump, sing, dance, play."
    3-4: Learners follow a sequence of oral or written commands such as: "Take out your crayons, get a piece of paper, and draw a car." They learn to play a board, card, or playground game, or perform a song or dance in the language.
  9. PreK-2: Learners count objects from 1-20, tell the colors of objects, count class members present/absent.
    3-4: Students tell the four compass directions on a map, or find a phone number in an authentic phone directory.
  10. PreK-2: Children learn to sing a song or recite a poem, or learn about animals, food, shelter in the target culture(s).
    3-4: Students label the parts of a battery and an electrical circuit or write names of the planets in the solar system in the target language.
  11. PreK-2: Learners describe familiar items using descriptors such as color, size, material, and shape.
    3-4: Writing on a T-chart to organize her thoughts, a learner describes two people, telling how they are alike or different.
  12. PreK-2: In story corner time, children discuss and explain motivation behind actions, such as: "Why did Goldilocks do that?" "Because she was hungry."
    3-4: A student explains a graphic presentation, such as: "What does your poster show?" "It shows how much time I spend reading at home each day."
  13. PreK-2: Pairs of students hold dialogues about colors and types of clothing worn here and in target community.
    3-4: Learners describe a typical morning at home; tell or retell a story in sequential order, beginning to use tenses appropriately.
  14. PreK-2: Individuals or groups put word and punctuation puzzle pieces together to make sentences.
    3-4: Individuals or groups solve a written or oral math logic problem for their grade and skill level.
  15. PreK-2: In the story corner, students and teacher read a picture book together. Learners recognize and read sight words.
    3-4: Partners read and discuss a children's magazine, an authentic comic strip, a picture book.

*How it looks in the classroom

As part of a "Getting to Know You" unit, students cut pictures from magazines and other authentic publications or draw their own to make a classroom bulletin board, scrapbook, or collage of their interests, labelling them in the target language. Children may also bring in something to share from home, such as a favorite toy, travel photos, a book, or a person, to introduce, describe, and answer questions about in the target language.


At the end of a PreK-8 sequence (Stage 2 proficiency)...

Grades 5-8 Learning Standards

Students will use sentences and strings of sentences, and recombinations of words, phrases, and expressions, with frequency of errors proportionate to the complexity of the communicative task to:

  1. greet and respond to greetings
  2. introduce and respond to introduction
  3. ask and answer questions
  4. make and respond to requests
  5. express likes, dislikes, and feelings
  6. express needs
  7. express agreement and disagreement
  8. give and follow directions
  9. provide and obtain information and knowledge
  10. obtain new information and knowledge
  11. describe, compare, and contrast
  12. explain, explicate, interpret
  13. narrate
  14. solve problems
  15. read, discuss, and write about authentic literature

Examples

  1. Students can write greeting cards or otherwise demonstrate several appropriate greetings for both familiar and unfamiliar peers and adults.
  2. Individuals conduct introductions of self to others, both peers and adults, and of others to others, peers and adults.
  3. Learners probe for and give more detail when asking and responding to clarifying questions, such as asking a penpal or videopal to tell more about something (s)he described in a communication.
  4. In a culturally appropriate way, students ask to borrow an item (a pen, a cup of sugar), or loan such an item, or ask for and perform a favor: "Excuse me, would you mind taking our picture?" "Of course, I'd be happy to!"
  5. Pairs role-play feelings such as excitement, joy, or pain; students practice complimenting someone's actions or clothing; groups dramatize expressing a complaint.
  6. A learner expresses the need for help on an assignment; pairs participate in and transact a commercial situation such as buying an item at a store.* (See "How it Looks in the Classroom" following this section.)
  7. Students write or state opinions on a school rule and compare it to the rules in school from the target culture.
  8. Using written directions, pairs locate sites on a map; students follow directions, as in an authentic recipe to cook a dish, or to solve a maze or a logic problem.
  9. Each learner interviews a partner about his/her hobby and how it is done.
  10. Students use a source in the target language (a book, a person, a movie, an Internet web site, etc.) in the preparation of a report for social studies, science, comprehensive health, etc.
  11. Students write sentences as in a short note to a friend describing a new bicycle, or weekend plans; they describe in target language a character from a legend, and compare him/her to someone they know.
  12. An individual explains the creation of a piece of art, tells what the process was, and what the work shows or signifies.
  13. A learner might summarize a story, recite a poem, or work with a group to dramatize a scene from literature.
  14. When using a bilingual dictionary, students use context and logic to choose among possible word or phrase translations.
  15. Pairs or groups read poems, proverbs, short stories, etc. They compare their readings to literature of a similar genre in English, looking for similarities and differences. Then they report their findings in writing, orally, on videotape, or multimedia presentation.

*How it Looks in the Classroom

Students and teachers bring in empty boxes, cans, and other packaging to set up a school store in the classroom that reflects the cultures of the language of study. If such packaging is unavailable in the local community, students can design and create their own, based on advertisements in magazines and newspapers. Once this "store" is set up, students play roles of storekeeper and client, negotiating purchases and sales using homemade versions of the appropriate currency.


At the end of a PreK-10 sequence (Stage 3 proficiency)...

Grades 9-10 Learning Standards

Students will use sentences and strings of sentences, and paragraph-length messages with frequency of errors proportionate to the complexity of the communicative task to:

  1. greet and respond to greetings
  2. introduce and respond to introductions
  3. ask and answer questions
  4. make and respond to requests
  5. express likes, dislikes, and feelings
  6. express needs
  7. express agreement and disagreement
  8. give and follow directions
  9. provide and obtain specific information
  10. gain new information and knowledge
  11. describe, compare, and contrast
  12. explain, interpret
  13. narrate
  14. solve problems
  15. read, discuss, and write about authentic literature

Examples

  1. Learners role-play appropriate greetings in business transactions.
  2. A student introduces a guest speaker to the class, giving background information about her.
  3. In a role-play, pairs enact a tourist looking for specific location and a local resident helping him find it.
  4. Students write a standard business letter requesting specific information about a region where the language is used.
  5. Groups of students hypothesize what feelings new immigrants to the U.S. might have upon arrival, and what they might like and dislike in their new environment.
  6. A student identifies what items are needed to complete a task such as fixing a car, framing a house, or creating a sculpture.
  7. Debate teams state and support opinions about converting abandoned public railways to bicycle trails; students express disagreement with another person in a culturally appropriate way.
  8. Individuals or pairs give or follow directions on how to change a tire, get ready for a party, create a hairdo, open a bank account, or use a tool or machine.
  9. Groups prepare to and then interview a community member about his or her role in a war.
  10. A student reads an article in a magazine, newspaper, or electronic bulletin board and summarizes the main points.
  11. By reading and writing e-mail correspondence with peers, students compare and contrast personal interests such as soccer, theater, or computer games.
  12. Students write essays explaining character motives in a novel read in class and interpreting how they reflect the character's culture.
  13. Individuals write a précis of a short story or play read in class; they give sports commentary while watching a soundless video.
  14. Groups suggest possible solutions to an environmental problem, a sociocultural problem, or an interpersonal conflict.
  15. Students read a modern novel or play. They discuss characters, setting and theme in class.*

*How it Looks in the Classroom

For homework, students have read a chapter of a story. They meet in pairs or threes to discuss the reading passage. Each group then designs a short script to dramatize the action of the chapter. They perform their dramatic sketches for one other group; observers give feedback on points which interfered with their understanding, such as grammar or pronunciation miscues or plot misinterpretations. In this way, students discuss their reading with peers, work on writing and conversation skills, and get peer feedback which pushes them to be clearer communicators.

The same activity would be appropriate in an Adult Basic Education class for ESL or another language, with reading passages selected or adapted to the reading skills of the learners.


At the end of a PreK-12 sequence (Stage 4 proficiency) . . .

Grades 11-12 Learning Standards

Students will use sentences and strings of sentences, paragraph-length, and essay-length messages, with some errors which don't interfere with meaning to:

  1. greet and respond to greetings
  2. introduce and respond to introductions
  3. ask and answer questions
  4. make and respond to requests
  5. express likes, dislikes, and feelings
  6. express needs
  7. express agreement and disagreement
  8. give and follow directions
  9. provide and obtain specific information
  10. gain new information and knowledge
  11. describe, compare, and contrast
  12. explain, interpret
  13. narrate
  14. solve problems
  15. read, discuss, and write about authentic literature

Examples

  1. In a public speaking situation, learners use appropriate greetings.
  2. After watching a UN session on video, students role-play culturally correct protocol in introductions of guest speakers.
  3. Simulating a telephone conversation (no visual contact), pairs initiate, sustain, and close a dialogue to arrange a social meeting or a job interview, or to follow a doctor's prescription.
  4. Students fill out a business form in the target culture, ask for telephone service to be connected, or demonstrate ability to seek and apply for a job.
  5. For a class publication, a student writes a critique of a book, movie, video, or CD from the target culture.
  6. Two students role-play negotiation of a compromise with a parent about a weekend curfew
  7. A learner writes a position paper on a multifaceted issue.
  8. Learners in a vocational technical class follow oral or written instructions to troubleshoot an electronic device, repair a machine (voc. ed), or to use a computer game, find a particular building, or embroider a design.
  9. Individuals write or prepare a videotaped report on a subject of particular interest. Students post specific information in an electronic bulletin board.
  10. Working in pairs, students identify the main points presented in a videotaped news program from the target culture.
  11. After investigating possible community responses to a societal problem such as violence or drunken driving, groups describe, compare, and contrast their findings about the local and target cultures.
  12. A student writes a screen play or dialogue script based on a short story from the target culture, depicting character motivation and emotion.
  13. As part of an ongoing "check-in" time in class, students state future hopes and plans upon graduation from high school or recount the events of a recent incident.
  14. A group of students decides to devise a possible action plan to confront a school-wide problem of harassment due to gender or sexual orientation, using the target language to present it to classmates.
  15. In a multidisciplinary humanities class, students read and/or view several works with related themes and compare them in a written and visual project for portfolio evaluation.*

*How It Looks in the Classroom

For a humanities class, students of French, Spanish, and Italian classes join forces to do a collaborative project examining the genre of stories of the fantastic, or the supernatural. (Double language students read or view stories in both languages, and can contribute multiple viewpoints to the conversation.) Each language group examines plot, characterization, and theme in several stories. Different language groups then come together to compare and contrast information across languages and cultures. The combined groups plan a unified visual presentation of their research; individuals prepare a written paper on the project.






Last Updated: January 1, 1996
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