By Lisa Capobianco
The first World Language Pilot Program will begin this fall at South End School after the Board of Education unanimously approved the curriculum.
“It’s an exciting opportunity for our kids to be enriched,” said Board of Education Chairman Brian Goralski, during a recent meeting. “That’s an opportunity that didn’t exist before.”
Back in March, World Language Teacher Tina Riccio of Southington High School presented the concept for a phase-in foreign language pilot program to the school board, which voted unanimously to endorse the concept.
All kindergarten students, along with the first grade students of South End, will have an opportunity to take part in the program, which aligns with the goals of the school district’s Vision 20-20 Plan and the Common Core State Standards.
The pilot also included other kindergarteners and first graders from the district through a lottery system. Those students will provide their own means of transportation to and from South End.
“I am happy where we’re headed,” said Riccio, who will serve as the Spanish instructor. “These kids are going to see and think differently—it’s a huge opportunity.”
Spanish lessons will take place once a week for about 30 minutes during instructional time. Under the goals of the program, students will develop critical thinking skills as well as listening, speaking, reading and writing skills.
The lessons will use a variety of learning materials such as books, audio and visuals. Students will also enhance their educational experience by connecting the study of language with other subjects, including history, art, literature, geography, history and music.
Throughout the lessons, Riccio will speak entirely in Spanish with the classroom teacher present.
“The teacher will be there as a learner,” said Riccio. “[He or she] is there to keep the flow going during the lesson.”
Assistant Superintendant Karen Smith said the pilot program will enhance students’ 21st century skills. She added that the program is unique because it is a phase-in program. The goal is to start the program in grades K through one and then to ultimately add another grade each year. By the time students leave elementary school, they would have already six years of experience learning a foreign language.
“It will immerse our students in cultural activities not only in the speaking part, but also in the understanding part,” said Smith.