The city of Los Angeles is a microcosm of global communities and its languages. It overflows with opportunities to engage with the world within a local landscape. At Geffen Academy, the Department of World Languages and Cultures acknowledges and builds upon the linguistic and cultural wealth found in. We also acknowledge the heritage and the interests of our students. Our approach to language instruction supports the school’s mission to encourage students to be powerful communicators, persistent inquirers, compassionate partners, thinkers and creators, and adaptable learners. In support of these school-wide learning goals, the department embraces pedagogical approaches that foment student growth in these areas. Our approaches include backwards design, a communication-centered classroom, and a cultural studies/ehtnic studies approach to language instruction. In the promotion of these school-wide learning goals, the department develops three main skill areas--communication, making cultural connections, and relationship-building.
Because cultures and languages are more than objects of study, Geffen Academy commits to a communication-centered and sociocultural approach to the study of languages. What is a communication-centered approach to language study? As you walk into a language classroom at the Geffen Academy, what should be most notable are the dynamic interactions among students who use the target language to communicate about topics firmly grounded in cultural understanding and appropriate to students’ development into graduates. Each unit of study is driven by communication objectives, incorporates authentic materials and culminates in a real-world project outcome. What is a socio-cultural approach to language study? At Geffen Academy, students reach their communication objectives while engaging deeply with culture. A socio-cultural approach to the study of languages places culture at the center of learning. At the same time, cultures are presented as the complex, evolving daily practices of people abroad and here in the United States. In addition to the study of culture as a dynamic concept, we engage students in conversations about difference through a cultural studies and ethnic studies lens. In our classes students will learn to identify, understand and dismantle patterns of stereotypes, discrimination, bias and oppression in our local, national and global histories.
The Middle School years aim to give students a strong foundation in the target language by acknowledging that language acquisition happens over time. While still a variable, some experts estimate that it takes students five to seven years to reach intermediate to advanced proficiencies. The middle school years will be a time for students to build strong foundations in language. Students more advanced in language will expand their academic register in the target language through advanced topics in literature and other cross-disciplinary themes such as history, music, art and community service.
In the Upper School, Geffen Academy students will strive for superior understanding of languages and cultures by taking concentration classes largely shaped by student interests and department expertise. Students are challenged to apply and extend their aptitudes in language and culture towards expertise.
Learning a language requires persistence and practice. At Geffen Academy students have an opportunity to begin language studies as early as 6th grade. The University of California requires two (and recommends three) years of the study of the same language. At Geffen Academy, Upper School students must complete three years of the same language. In both Middle School and Upper School, we accommodate students who have learned Spanish and Mandarin either through immersion programs or as a heritage language by offering these students a placement exam and rigorous topics to help them achieve their language learning goals.