D. Planning Your Curriculum
What is a theme?
A theme is a central idea around which a unit can be planned. The theme dictates the vocabulary fields, cultural practices, and language structures that credit villagers will learn and use. Planning around a theme includes involving the credit villagers in simulated and authentic situations in which they can use culturally appropriate vocabulary and language structures. A theme can be developed for use at any language level.
How do you plan a theme?
You can pick a theme based on your interests, expertise, resources, and/or experiences. Brainstorm topics associated with the theme. Consider the length of time that you would like to teach this theme. Narrow down the topics you brainstormed based on the amount of time on which you decided and the needs and interests of your credit class. Plan the overall content of each day that you plan to teach the theme. Then use the curriculum framework to map out the context, communicative functions, language structures, and word groups that you’ll need and the activities you’ll use to teach these items. Decide on ways to assess credit villagers’ progress with oral, written, and listening skills. Consider all learning styles when planning activities and contexts in which to teach language.
An example of planning a theme (this could be expanded even more):
Curriculuar Theme: Reisen, Length of time: 5 days, Level of Course: Aufbau II
Waldsee Goal: 2. To improve language proficiency skills in German, including the interpersonal, interpretive, and presentational modes of communication. 3. To improve understanding and knowledge of Germany’s role in the global community – historically, politically, economically and artistically.
These are examples of themes that can help you start planning units, lessons, and class periods.
Learning must build on what the learner already knows. We need to be aware of what the learners can do by listening and watching as they interact in a variety of situations. Take time to get a sense of where they are, not by asking them what grammar they have been taught, but rather by providing them with opportunities to demonstrate what they can do. Within the first couple of days we will use a variety of techniques (informal conversation in German, short writing samples, villager profile information, self-placement, etc.) to place students in the appropriate level.
Waldsee levels typically include Grundkurs, Aufbau I, Aufbau II, Aufbau III, Fortgeschrittene. Sometimes villagers come to specifically complete a specific high school level in which they are hoping to earn credit. If we need to review a particular placement, we will discuss that as a staff and always try to remain flexible and attuned to the needs of each individual villager.
C. Concordia Language Village and Waldsee Goals
Quality curriculum has a well-thought out, clearly communicated purpose. You will always want to convey clearly to your students the point of the language learning task upon which they are about to embark. You will want to do the same for any assessment that will be made of villagers’ German.
The goals and mission statement of Concordia Language Villages are outlined in the Appendix. These are the goals upon which all work and programming in Waldsee are based.
We have identified four broad goals for our credit program. We call these the Waldsee Goals:
To gain knowledge and understanding of one’s self as a cultural being as well as the cultural practices, products, and perspectives of German speakers
To improve language proficiency skills in German, including the interpersonal, interpretive, and presentational modes of communication.
To improve understanding and knowledge of Germany’s role in the global community – historically, politically, economically, and artistically.
To build our village community through communication, team building and stewardship.
Credit villager work will be guided in broad terms by these goals. In addition, villagers are asked to identify two Personal Goals when they consider how to make best use of their time at Waldsee. These goals will be advanced through various projects. (see section IV: Waldsee Portfolio Guidelines)
D. Communicative Functions
Language has many functions that depend on our communicative purpose and the particular context. The themes will help us determine the most appropriate functions. For example, if we choose transportation as a theme, some necessary communicative functions for students to learn would include requesting information, identifying locations, and interpreting written information such as schedules.
E. Language Structures
Once one has defined the theme, the goals, and the functions, one is ready to identify the particular linguistic structures necessary to support the communication. Considering again the transportation theme, prepositions of location, question words, and inverted word order in questions come to mind. These are then the language structures you might choose to review and attend specifically to while working on this theme.
F. Cultural Aspects
Every theme has a culture dimension at its core. Types and uses of transportation in a culture reflect a great deal about the beliefs and values of a group of people. There is no limit to how one might explore cultural practices regarding transportation or underlying beliefs and values that dictate how a particular culture goes about getting from point A to point B. Waldsee is bursting with opportunities for students to engage in cross-cultural comparisons with native and near-native cultural informants. Each learning opportunity brings the student a little closer to realizing there is more than one valid way to do something.
G. Communication Modes
The interpersonal (one-on-one verbal and non-verbal communication), interpretive (listening and reading comprehension) and presentational (speaking and writing for a larger audience) modes of communication—at Waldsee we seek to integrate as many communication modes as possible for each and every theme.
H. Waldsee Village Curriculum
Waldsee’s own village curriculum is used by all of Waldsee’s citizens throughout the village. It enables villagers of all levels to communicate competently with each other and with Waldsee staff in a variety of natural settings, and to perform regular tasks during daily village life. See the section V: “A typical day in Waldsee” for more details on the village daily schedule. The village curriculum is an excellent medium for task-based learning. And “Die Brücke” themes, which correspond well to the daily village themes, provide a wealth of practical learning opportunities.