Program Overview

The Spanish Language Curriculum Framework should be viewed as a dynamic, ever-changing, working document rather than a static document that is set in concrete. Development team members anticipate that with the implementation of the Framework, new considerations and needs will arise calling for revisions, improvements and further expansion of the document. The development team invites, and will consider suggestions, comments and ideas from all teachers using the framework.

INTRODUCTION

Developing a language curriculum for an immersion program

Studies show that successful schools and programs have a curriculum that is:
  • clearly aligned (horizontally and vertically) with standards and assessment
  • meaningful, academically challenging
  • incorporates higher order thinking
  • thematically integrated

Research on effective schools has also shown that successful outcomes result from a curriculum associated with an enriched, not remedial, instructional. A high quality and enriching curriculum is critical in dual language programs.

Guiding Principles for Dual Language Education (2nd Ed, 2007)

Traditionally, language immersion programs in the US and Canada did not have language curricula because it was assumed that the students would naturally acquire the second language while learning the standard content in math, science and other areas. Programs that did not engage in language curriculum development usually dealt with it at the unit and lesson plan level, asking: What language do the students need in order to learn this content? During content-based language instruction, teachers often emphasize content acquisition over building language abilities. Overemphasizing one over the other can result in students gaining a great deal of practice in some language functions, but only in a limited range of applications. Also, traditionally in immersion classrooms, language may not have been explicitly taught during content because of a belief that students will infer meaning, internalize vocabulary and generalize correct use of grammatical forms from hearing the language while engaged in the content. It may or may not, but what has too often been the case is that without sufficient guidance or articulation much is learned and many gaps also remain. Clearly, this approach limits students’ potential for achieving higher proficiency levels. The development and implementation of a detailed language curriculum framework is a critical step toward ensuring the success of a dual language immersion program. It is essential that the learning of language, as any other area of instruction, be intentional. A language curriculum defines program proficiency goals by identifying what students should know and do upon completion of a program and what their progress will look like from year to year. A well-planned language curriculum: 
  • significantly improves students’ potential for attaining high target language proficiencies in Spanish and English
  • provides teachers with the means for integrating language and content instruction, ensures students learn academic language, as well as everyday social language
  • simplifies unit planning in terms of assessment
  • invites targeted immersion-specific professional development
  • fosters greater program accountability within individual sites and across the district.

In addition to defining the proficiency goal of a program, a language curriculum framework serves as the basis for articulation. For Spanish Immersion teachers, articulation from grade to grade and from elementary to middle to high school was a major concern during all phases of the curriculum development process. In addition to articulating from K-12 across a single strand, Spanish Immersion in PPS presents the additional challenge of stretching across 13 grade levels between 12 sites offering dual language instruction in Spanish and English. To meet the needs of all students in the Spanish Immersion classes, development team members, representing a range of teaching assignments from K-12th grade, placed careful attention to articulation. Their efforts can be seen in all of the components of the Spanish Language Curriculum Framework. Throughout the development process, teachers have increased their knowledge of content, scheduling, instructional strategies, and expectations at grades K-12. This exchange of information and ideas is fundamental to creating a well-articulated program.

The Curriculum Framework is independent of State and District Standards. Teachers integrate the standard curriculum and the language curriculum at the unit and lesson levels. Framework developers decided to create an independent language framework so the Framework need not be altered every time changes occur in, for example

  1. standard curriculum
  2. instructional approaches endorsed by the district
  3. standards and benchmarks
  4. texts used in the district
  5. funding
  6. staffing
  7. content areas taught through Spanish.

History of the Spanish Language Curriculum Project

The language curriculum project began with funding support in 2007 and 2008 from the Portland Schools Foundation. Funding for the project came in response to Portland’s Spanish/English Dual Language teachers’ and administrators’ repeated requests for guidance and clarity of expectations for students’ Spanish language development. In Spring of 2007, a team of eight veteran immersion teachers, under the direction of Michael Bacon, PPS Immersion Education Coordinator, and Cinnamon Bancroft, Project Coordinator, formed the initial development team for the Spanish Language Curriculum Project. Representing elementary, middle and high school, teachers on the development team hail from diverse dual language programs in the district. In response to the increasing number of involved teachers and dual language sites, the development team eventually grew to include ten teachers. The team met periodically during the 2007-2008 and 2008-2009 academic years as well as for a total of five weeklong summer work sessions. Additional program teachers piloted use of the Framework over a two-year period, collaborating with grade-alike colleagues and providing critical feedback on its contents. The collaborative process has received support from Dr. Myriam Met and Dr. Patricia Rounds, as well as additional outside consultants.

Ultimately, Framework development represents the collaborative efforts of many Portland Public Schools teachers. The Framework has been created by teachers, for teachers and to benefit all students in our Spanish/English Dual Language classes. We acknowledge the following teachers for their efforts in the development process.

Development Team Members Pilot Team Members
Michael Salmon
Elena Garcia-Velasco
Marisol Kreuzer
Sara Stiles
Kimberly Lambert
Luzi Gilson
Ruth Tucker
David Brady
Eryn Barker
Veronica Magallanes
Martí Diaz
Kris Vala
Luzi Gilson
Martha McArthur
Guiza Ramirez
Monica Lagos
Mijail Otero
Jorge Meza

During early team workshops, the development team crafted the following mission statement to guide our work:

The mission of dual education in PPS is to cultivate dual immersion students who are culturally competent world citizens capable of using, appreciating and developing academic and social language, both in Spanish and English, in a variety of settings.

El estudiante del programa de inmersión es un ciudadano del mundo culturalmente competente y con la capacidad de usar, apreciar y desarrollar los idiomas español e inglés tanto a nivel académico como social en situaciones variadas.

Based on feedback from Dual Immersion teachers across the district, the development team determined the document should serve the following purposes:

  • Provide K-12 Dual Immersion teachers an articulated language curriculum framework that outlines a clear set of language expectations for each grade level.
  • Guide and support classroom teachers to accurately inform instructional decisions.
  • Continually push students to achieve ever-higher levels of academic performance.
  • Facilitate consistent connections between language development and content in every lesson.
  • Align language goals to state standards and national language proficiency standards.

The Spanish Language Curriculum Framework was developed specifically for use in Portland’s Spanish/English Dual Language programs. However, teachers acknowledge the potential for collaboration with other Spanish language programs and other districts. Hopefully, the development of this document and the work surrounding it, may serve as a conduit for connection with surrounding districts and, perhaps, beyond. Part of the process of establishing expectations for student outcomes has included reflections upon the following:

  • Results from standardized as well informal language proficiency assessments
  • Consultations with other districts and programs providing dual language instruction
  • Increased student performance resulting from improved planning and intentional instruction

Overview of Framework

The Framework will eventually consist of three main sections: Oral Language, Written Language and Culture. The Curriculum Framework currently includes resources to support students’ Oral and Written Language development.

Acknowledging the primacy of oral language, development team members began the curriculum development process by focusing first on the oral language components: Functions and Forms, Grammatical Accuracy and Vocabulary. These three components serve together as the foundation for the development of Spanish language proficiency.

The framework is intended to provide a road map for teachers to plan for instruction that supports students’ development of conceptual understanding while stretching and refining their academic and social language to increasingly higher levels to allow students to effectively communicate their ideas.

Rationale for minimum proficiency indicators for all students

Following considerable discussion, the development team chose to adopt the same set of Spanish Language Arts Standards for all students. These standards do not differentiate among groups of students but rather include the language competencies all students studying in Spanish, whether it be their native or other language, need to become fully proficient in the language. In doing so, the Framework proposes benchmark proficiency standards for all students in the district’s dual language programs supporting the ultimate goal of high expectations for language and literacy development for native speakers and second language learners alike.

The following bullets summarize our rationale for this decision:

  • Establish rigorous and comprehensive standards that are comparable to and align with existing state English language arts standards
  • Foster the development of bilingual/biliterate individuals so that they may contribute to the increasingly diverse workforce and global society
  • Offer educators practical ways to translate the body of research that supports the cognitive and academic advantages of being bilingual into their teaching practices
  • Fulfill the need for teachers and administrators to have SLA standards in this age of accountability.

Adopted from Consortium for World-Class Instructional Design and Assessment (Spanish Language Arts Standards, 2005)