Language Policy

Language Profile of Atlee High School

An overwhelming majority of our students are native English speakers with an English-only background, who, if pursuing the IB diploma, will achieve a higher level proficiency by the end of their senior year. In order to support the acquisition of a second language in accordance with the philosophy of the International Baccalaureate program, Atlee High School offers French, Spanish, and German (all at the B level) to foster a greater understanding of the culture, history, and language of the peoples who speak those languages. Also, Atlee High School offers classical Latin (SL) for those students who wish to pursue the study of a classical language. The Atlee High School community does have a few English Language Learners (ELL) students and/or parents who do not speak English. For the few students who do study in an immersion program or speak another language, we actively encourage them to bring their experiences and perspective into classroom activities, CAS, the extended essay, and Theory of Knowledge classrooms. For this small group of students, we utilize contacts with three local universities – Virginia Commonwealth University, Randolph-Macon College, and Reynolds Community College – that can provide these students with opportunities to pursue the study of languages outside of our course offerings. Our administration, working closely with the World Language department, also has policies and practices in place to help those students and parents.

Atlee High School students, in general, represent one of the following language profiles:

  • Three years of a second language study, mother tongue English
  • Two years of second language student in two different languages, mother tongue English
  • Four years of second language study, mother tongue English.
  • Five years of second language study, mother tongue English.
  • Six years of second language study, mother tongue English.
  • Bilingual students who have spoken English and another language in the home since birth.
    Bilingual students with non-English speaking parents whose mother tongue is a language other than English and whose English acquisition is being reinforced by working with an ELL teacher during the school day.

Language A for the Diploma Program

All students enrolled in the IB Diploma Program take English A: Literature HL as their Group 1 subject requirement. Four years/four credits of English are required to earn a Diploma in the State of Virginia and IB English HL prepares students not only for the IB examination and Internal Assessment requirements, but provides them with the knowledge needed for the SOL End of Course exam at the conclusion of the junior year. Since English is the language of instruction at Atlee High School and is clearly spoken by all IB Diploma candidates, English Literature HL is the sole Language A option at Atlee.

Language B for the Diploma Program

Students learn to use world languages for meaningful spoken and written communication. Through world language study, students develop sensitivity to the cultural and linguistic heritage of other groups, understand their influence on U.S. culture, and become prepared to participate in a society characterized by linguistic and cultural diversity. Four world languages- French, German, Latin and Spanish- are offered as part of the Atlee High IB Program. Students entering Atlee High School have a variety of world language experiences depending on when they begin their language instruction. Students may begin instruction starting in the sixth grade at the middle school that feeds our high school. As a result, IB students may take as many as six years of their world choice language prior to graduating.

It is the goal of Atlee High School to provide students with the necessary support to make them successful in the acquisition of a second language while reinforcing their mother tongue.

Language Philosophy

Language is a major vehicle of inquiry, instruction, and expression. It is fundamental to any educational program. Regardless of discipline, all teachers in the program are language teachers with a responsibility to facilitate communication in both the written and spoken form. Language is taught through context and by building relationships between new information and existing concepts.

Instruction in reading, writing and oral communication are central components of language instruction. Classroom educators in all subject areas go beyond these core components, offering aspects of language that are particular to each academic field: the acquisition of a second language, the importance of listening as part of effective communication, the development of an awareness of the nuances of verbal and non-verbal communication, and the processes necessary to refine ones’ style and form in communication. The development of language is inextricably linked to the learner profile’s focus on communication, reflection, inquiry, and thinking as well as open-mindedness that is necessary for not only acquisition, but also appreciation of another language. Language is a critical piece in communication between teacher and student, establishing a working bond to maximize learning. In addition, understanding a language is an important first step to the comprehension of one’s own history, culture, and background. In order to enhance understanding and appreciation of other languages and cultures, people must first master than own native tongue.

It is an expectation of all courses at Atlee High School require students to read language, write in a language well, and contribute to classes through dialogue and oral presentations. This is especially true for IB courses offered in Groups 3-6. Each IB instructor works to help students improve in each of these areas while also helping the students understand and use the intricacies and nuances of language within each discipline. There are differences in terminology and expectations for communication within each academic discipline, and it is the teachers’ role, as experts, to facilitate the learning of these nuances and differences over the scope of each course. It is also necessary for teachers to clearly communicate how language and communication will be evaluated, both with formative and summative assessments. Mastery of language is an integral part of global citizenship and leads to life-long learning, both emphasized in our Mission and Vision Statements. Within each subject area, educators focus on the following:

  • teaching that only through clear use and understanding of language can one consume knowledge and content in each course
  • differentiating between various points of view and how different perspectives offer both value and potential bias
  • understanding how different academic disciplines sort and communicate subject specific information and data
  • comprehending themes and arguments within various fields
  • assessing student learning in a variety of formal and informal practices in a variety of products – Socratic seminars, presentations, short and long written responses, etc.
  • emphasizing clarity in written work and oral communication
  • evaluating the reliability and academic honesty of multiple sources of information
  • constructing arguments in such a manner that corresponds to the norms, jargon, and vernacular of multiple academic fields
  • understanding that not all audiences are the same and that sometimes one must tailor communication uniquely for different groups
  • citing sources properly when research is conducted
  • listening to others so that one’s response is an answer to the question asked
  • participating in discussion in a manner that adds to the existing conversation
  • posing thought-provoking and enlightening questions
  • organizing ideas and thoughts when conducting a formal presentation
  • teaching appropriate ways in which one respectfully disagrees with another in a debate or discussion
  • incorporating how students can use 21st century technology and social media as a tool for academic conversation
  • increasing focus on digital literacy as pertinent to all disciplines
  • emphasizing how language evolves over time and is reflected through current world events discussed in IB classrooms
  • fostering critical thinking and problem solving through communication to build life-ready global citizens.

Some specific examples in non-language based IB courses:

  • Group 3: analyzing visual information in Economics and describing the real world applications of this content; using excerpts from historical text, scholarly journals, and non-fiction books to understand the mode of communication in the discipline of history and allowing students to write analytical essays to mastery
  • Group 4: focusing on clear, concise communication, especially in verbal formats; translating mathematical and scientific information into understandable vernacular
  • Group 5: communication through a more symbolic language, but also need to translate these symbols into understandable verbal communication to articulate mathematical concepts
  • Group 6: self-reflective portfolios are an integral part of communication in the visual arts as well as peer-peer and teacher-student critiques while staying abreast of changes in global communication and styles related to the arts

Inclusion and Equity

As language educators we include equitable access to our curriculum for students from all language backgrounds. We are innovative and adaptive to reach the needs of all learners, making accommodations as needed. Students needing a Group 2 Language courses who enter the program from another course of study or school system may enroll in ab initio language courses. The ab initio language course offers two years of language at a slower pace while maintaining the expectations and rigor of the IB program. This approach allows for language acquisition for students with little or no language experience.

English Language Learners are provided individual tutoring and curriculum differentiation in all of our classes. We have a full-time ELL teacher who supports learners and teachers. All classes use a variety of methods to assist with language learning including but not limited to visual aids, electronic media, graphic organizers, collaborative learning groups, and demonstrations. When students struggle, it is a priority to bring parents into the process so all parties work together for the best interests of the student. Our school’s librarians and counselors work with students in need of extra help with reading (librarians) or improving social/communicative skills (counselors). When necessary, assignments are adapted to maintain rigor but “level the playing field” for students struggling with language acquisition.

Mother Tongue Support

We recognize language is an essential element for each ethnic group’s culture, history, and traditions, all of which play a central role in one’s identity. The formulation of identity, while in flux, is a central part of adolescence. Therefore, it is critical that schools support development of each student’s mother tongue language to help foster personal growth and the development of students’ identity. The support and development of mother tongue languages can help make our school community more diverse and the acquisition/growth of multiple languages can help students achieve greater critical thinking and higher level reasoning. Support of mother tongue languages help strengthen family ties either locally or globally and can create within students the desire to travel abroad. Such ventures support the diffusion of culture and a greater understanding of other cultures through immersion.

While Atlee High School has few students with a mother tongue language that is not English, it is vitally important that our staff and administration support all students’ primary language. For those students with Limited English Proficiency (LEP), AHS employs a full-time ELL teacher (English Language Learner). The ELL teacher helps students develop their skills in reading, writing, listening, speaking, and in developing content area language skills. We celebrate our foreign exchange students, integrating presentations of information regarding culture and language into our Language A and B classes each year. Professional development options are also provided in which teachers learn the most effective techniques for helping ELL students in content classrooms.

Instructional Approaches Language B

The IB coordinator and IB Counselor actively work with our feeder middle school to communicate the importance of beginning the study of a second language prior to entering Atlee High School. Our IB world language instructors prefer that a student be in their sixth year of the study of a language when they sit for their Language B SL exam. In rare cases, we have students who begin their study in the 8th grade and, therefore, sit for their IB exams in their fifth year. Our instructors work with these students at the end of their junior year and over the summer prior to entering their final year so that they are as prepared as they can be for the SL B course as 12th graders. Occasionally, our school has a diploma candidate who, for various reasons, did not start a language until the 9th grade. Options for these students include: covering the content of one year of language through summer school, taking a level of a language through our local community college, or taking two lower level courses simultaneously. We have also offered ab initio courses.

Language B teachers understand that the most conducive environment to language learning is a positive and encouraging one, wherein students have the opportunity to engage in authentic and meaningful learning experiences. Language instruction considers students’ multiple learning styles and individual development. Instructors value differentiated and varied instruction which integrate the skill areas of listening, speaking, viewing, reading and writing. The goal is to help students learn to communicate effectively in a number of situations from everyday exchanges to discussion of literary texts. Teachers seek to make connections to culture, history, film, experiences through other elements of the IB program through collaboration for in-common learning experiences across subjects/classes. On-going and timely feedback regarding student progress is given in all courses. Language assistance is provided beyond the classroom through homework and individual tutoring.

World Language Acquisition Opportunities

To foster language and cultural enrichment opportunities, we offer international travel, service learning experiences, and guest speakers. Governor’s School Language Academies also offer an opportunity for full immersion in language and culture. Competitions in National Language exams are encouraged and/or required in all languages.

Students see how language acquisition is not just a subject in school but rather a way of expressing the ideas they are learning in their other classes and in life. Our school has National Honor Societies for French, German, Latin and Spanish. These student organizations host a variety of events such as fundraisers for countries in need as well as cultural awareness celebrations for the benefit of the whole school. Theory of Knowledge also explores the study of language as a way of knowing. Through investigating the history of language, students explore idiomatic expressions and etymology as it relates to the history English as well as other tongues.

Policy Review

This policy shall be revised in accordance with policy changes as designated by the IB, Hanover County Public Schools policies, or yearly. Policies are reviewed by IB Faculty, made up of the IB Coordinator, Principal, Director of School Counseling, Academic Teachers. Policies are also evaluated by and shared with stakeholders via the School Improvement Committee which consists of teachers, parents, students and community stakeholders. Policies are also reviewed by and shared with Atlee Senior Staff and Hanover County Public School Leadership.

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