The foreign language program begins with French in the preschool through fourth grades; fifth graders have a choice of French or Spanish, which they continue through their eighth grade year.
We believe learning a second language can increase creativity and flexibility in thinking; studies show language learning also benefits executive functioning skills. Language learning increases openness to other cultures and can contribute to students' eventual participation in a global society. Students of foreign language learn to be comfortable with difference, change, and uncertainty. It can be stressful not to know exactly what is being said,but learning to sit with uncertainty may help in many areas of study, where hypothesizing involves puzzling out what could be and demands an ability to imagine what is not yet known.
Singing and playing are integral parts of the French program at TGS, imparting culture, musicality, and joy into the classroom. Young children love to sing, color, dance, and listen to stories, so in all grades, students learn common songs from Francophone countries, play games, listen to and tell stories about imaginary characters, and do activities based on these stories.
Each grade revisits most vocabulary and expressions annually to assure that students retain the meaning. Greetings, talking about ourselves, basic verbs, names of animals, the body, the house, numbers, colors, weather, and much more, make up the vocabulary for younger students. While materials and stories change from grade to grade as children advance, and a smattering of written language begins to appear in the younger grades, the methods of play, music, history, and culture remain as central themes to our curriculum.
Older grades learn about topics corresponding to middle schoolers’ lives, with richer, more abstract vocabulary, and focused grammatical study. Topics include clothing, music, shopping, travel, school vocabulary, and much more. Culturally relevant tools like poetry, movies, and books help connect students with the lives of Francophone people. Students are challenged to speak, write, read, and continuously work on oral comprehension. A variety of learning tools, from language learner books, to online computer games, to CDs of native speakers, provide constant interaction with the French language, and occasional penpal exchanges inject authentic language use into students’ study of French.
Spanish is taught from fifth to eighth grade. The goal is for students to acquire language proficiency in listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Students learn to appreciate and respect cultures and civilizations of the Spanish-speaking world. Through learning Spanish, students’ thinking becomes more flexible and their minds are opened to the beauty of language. Learning a language will contribute value to students’ active participation in a global society. Students are presented with engaging lessons that meet them developmentally through stories, games, and songs. It is very common to hear laughing and “mucho” español when walking by the Spanish classroom. Students who take Spanish at The Grammar School leave with a strong foundation in the language and with great enthusiasm and joy for continuing to learn Spanish and other languages.