Adam Hopps is a Teacher of French and aspiring leader.
When asked to think about innovation at the British International School of Chicago, Lincoln Park (BISC-LP), I first looked to my own department of Modern Foreign Languages. Our campus prides itself on its innovative approach to languages, and at its core is the belief that students should be introduced to languages from a very early age. Our students have the incredible opportunity to start learning French in the foundation stage and Spanish once they reach Year 2. Young children are sponges and acquire new languages at a much faster rate than adults or even young teenagers.
As a result of introducing languages at such an early age compared to other schools, we have a unique problem at BISC-LP. However, it is a problem that we are ecstatic exists. How do you teach students, who by the time they have reached Year 5 and 6, have already worked through a normal primary languages curriculum and are ready for the difficult language that isn’t usually taught until Middle and High School?
Innovation is key to pushing these linguists. Over and over again, I find myself being asked language questions by students that would usually be answered in secondary school back in the UK. In order to meet the needs of our students we have created a curriculum and lessons that teach the difficult content but in creative, interactive and exciting ways that makes it accessible for primary school children. Very few schools can say that their students in Year 6 are introduced to the same level of high level language that ours are. The vocabulary of our students is very broad but what is more pivotal and innovative is that they possess language skills ahead of their years that stand them apart. They can notice patterns, extend phrases impressively, link previous learning and tackle difficult grammatical challenges. Year 6 are currently developing amazing skills at agreeing their adjectives in the masculine and feminine form, which is a concept completely alien to English speakers. However, in a lesson where we made videos selling our family members on eBay by describing their personality traits, students were making agreements that we wouldn’t have expected to have seen for a few more years.
We also look outside of the classroom to help inspire and push our linguists. After half term a group of students will be starting the DELF club where they can choose to take on the challenge of studying for a real qualification in French that is awarded by the French Ministry of Education. The course will push them to use their French in real life situations and tasks them with being more responsible over their language learning.
Innovation in Modern Foreign Languages at the BISC-LP provides our learners with constant challenge and opportunity to use language so that they can flourish. The students are sponges and we are just making sure they soak up as much as we can offer them.