Combining language classes proves challenging for teachers

September 22, 2010 — by Megan Benzing and Olivia Chock

When French teacher Laura Lizundia explains class assignments this year, she has a challenge she has not had before: trying to give work to kids in two levels in the same class. The reality of a tight district budget and fewer students reaching the most advanced level of the language has led not only to larger class sizes but also more combined world language classes.

In general, learning a new language is challenging. Teachers take on a new level of difficulty when two different levels of students are crammed into one class—a situation that French 4 Honors, French 5 AP, Chinese 5 Honors, and Chinese 6 AP are facing this year.

According to Lizundia, who teaches the honors and AP courses concurrently, the classes for French 4H and French 5AP had to be combined because there were not enough students signed up for 5AP this year. Lizundia believes that there will not be the same problem next year because there are enough 4H and French 3 students to support two separate classes.

The combined class involves a completely new curriculum, Lizundia said. The textbook is neither the French 4 nor the French 5 book from previous years. Because the two groups of students are at different levels, teachers must assign different assignments to each group.

“For now, they have the same homework assignments,” said Lizundia, “but when it gets near to AP testing time, the 5AP students are going to have more assignments tailored to that while the 4H will be preparing for next year’s 5AP class.”

Senior Jason Shiuan, who is currently taking Chinese 6 AP, is excited for the combined class with Chinese 5 Honors because it is an opportunity to make new friends, but he is also concerned for his teacher, Mariam Fan.

“I think this will be more work for Ms. Fan,” said Shiuan. “She has enough on her mind to teach one class, but now, with two classes, it’s going to be even harder for her.”

Having two different curriculum in one class is challenging, especially since teachers have to prepare the AP students for the AP test in the spring, when the honors students will be studying their normal curriculum.

Some French 4H students, such as junior Arjay Parhar, were hesitant with the thought of a combo class.

“It seems like we made a bit of a higher jump than I expected,” said Parhar. “The entire curriculum has changed so I feel that it’s going to be a challenging year.”

While some students are nervous about the school year, junior Katya Simpson looks forward to the French combination class.

“Having the 5AP students in the same class is almost better,” said Simpson, “because we can learn from them in a way we can’t learn from teachers. When they participate in class, you see how a student in a higher level will respond. If they are unsure, the 4H students are able to go off of what the 5AP students say.”

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