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A proposed new Spanish course for Newtown High School would support students in “ways we really haven’t” supported them in the past, according to Interim Superintendent of Schools Dr Lorrie Rodrigue, who spoke before a presentation about the new class at the Board of Education’s meeting on October 17.
NHS World Language Department Chair Liz Ward spoke about the proposed program, which had previously been shared with the school board’s Curriculum and Instruction Committee.
Sharing data from the first semester of the 2016-17 school year, Ms Ward said 46 percent of students struggled by the end of the semester in Spanish classes.
“We had to create supports, and it brought to our attention that maybe we needed to do something further to help these students,” said Ms Ward.
In Newtown Middle School, she explained, the current Spanish 1 program is taught to students over the course of two years, seventh and eighth grade. Students who do not take the course at NMS take the course at NHS, where it is a one-year program.
“Those are often students who are struggling with their own language,” she said. “So we are taking students who are struggling with their own language and asking them to do the [same] amount of material in half the time. It is really a lot to ask those students.”
Ms Ward proposed a new Spanish 1A program for NHS, which she shared is similar to a digital Spanish class offered in Bethel.
“It’s a different kind of course. It isn’t going to be your traditional grammar-based course. It’s going to be more of a personalized, student-centered, safe learning environment,” said Ms Ward, adding that students can be afraid to make mistakes in Spanish.
Moving at their own pace while being supported by their teacher, Ms Ward said, will help the students find success in learning the language. The course is based on a program that mimics infant language learning.
The new course will be just as culturally rich as Spanish 1, she said, and the assessments will continue to be contextually based.
The Duolingo program will be used for the course to integrate technology into the learning, Ms Ward said. The teacher will create assessments, support students when needed, and will monitor student responses in the program. Ms Ward shared the Duolingo program also has built-in supports to further help students.
“It is not just students doing a program online. This is students personalizing their learning with using a tool that will support them,” Ms Ward explained.
The proposed Spanish 1A program was also aligned with the current curriculum. If the program is approved by the school board, Ms Ward said she would like to create a Spanish 1B course to further the learning in Spanish 1A to prepare students for Spanish 2.
The school board is expected to discuss or vote for approval of the program at an upcoming meeting.