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"Our school has been involved with instruc-

tion in the humanities since its early years.

This effort and the evaluation of its effect on
students led us logically to an expansion in
the area oflanguage study. In the fall of 1966,
plans were made to implement a summer pro-
gram in the humanities in Spanish.... It was
proposed that we simulate the culture and the
atmosphere of the Spanish-speaking nations....
All students would be studying the mores, the
culture, and the language together."

Its the Atmosphere That Counts

Total Immersion in a Foreign Language

A GROUP of pupils, with a student guide and some with

an instructor, are a walk through the neighborhood
around Kenmore East Senior High School. They are discussing
the houses, the cars, the people, and possibly things in which
they personally have an interest. In the school building other
young people are performing in a dramatic skit that was de-
veloped and directed by themselves. Other groups are listening
to records, a radio, or tapes; some students are discussing art,
music, or poetry.
In other areas, &dquo;older&dquo; students are instructing more recent
arrivals to the area under study. On some days there are adult
visitors who discuss any of many areas of interest with pupils
and teachers. And, yes, there are some students who are rou-
tinely involved in studying as they have all year long. They are

Frank K. Hyatt is curriculum consultant and assistant principal and

Sarah L. Aloisio is the consultant in foreign languages studies at Ken-
more East Senior High School, Towanda, New York.


using texts and are concerned about final tests. Almost all of
this may seem routine. However, it is rather extraordinary, for
the students are studying, talking, and learning to think in a
foreign language in our summer language institutes. The pur-
pose of our summer program in language study is to allow
teachers and students to abandon the conventional methods of
instruction and to immerse themselves in the culture and the
It is theatmosphere that counts in studying-whether it is a
foreign language or any other subject. No one, however, would
dare suggest that there is a better way to learn a new tongue
than by living in the culture that fostered the language. Neces-
sity encourages, or demands, that we attempt communications in
such an atmosphere. Over a period of time we learn to convey
our ideas in a variety of ways. Add to ordinary conversation ges-

tures and facial expressions and we soon become capable of

communicating in the new tongue. Beyond this we must be able
writers and listeners; and we must understand the culture and
mores of the society. If our students of foreign language become

skillful and knowledgeable in all these areas, we have done all

we can hope for in our instruction.

Pressures and Interferences

There are, however, in our schools many things that interfere
with our students fully developing the fundamental skills in a
foreign language. In the regular school year pupils study a lan-
guage in addition to pursuing work in three, four, or five other
areas. Therefore, a very limited amount of time and concentra-
tion is spent in the language area. Most schools will rate the
efforts of the pupils on a percentage, a letter, or a quality point
scale at the conclusion of the year. As a result, both students
and teachers are often preoccupied with grade achievements.
The educational impact on the student and his knowledge and
skills are often not judged so important as the grade achieved.
In addition, many colleges place a language entrance hurdle be-
fore their students; this often acts as a barrier to sound learning
and the attainment of the skills we would wish to impart.
Attempts torelax pupils and teachers and make instruction
more attractive in the lower levels of language study in the regu-

lar school year have been relatively successful. However, the


pressures mentioned above tend to work against the establish-

ment of a sound atmosphere for learning. As a rule,
at the upper levels we see far better work. Many less adept stu-
dents have dropped out of the sequence when their requirements
for college have been met. When pressures are relieved, when
entrance requirements have been met and class placement has
been completed, students and teachers tend to relax. The ex-
ternal pressures are gone and study continues in groups where
pupils are interested and competent. Probably, then, our best in-
struction is afforded those who are least in need of it.
High school administrators and curriculum workers endeavor
to set a sound, yet relaxed, atmosphere for language study at all
levels. Often, however, and for many of the reasons suggested
above, attempts to encourage innovation in instruction have
been largely unsuccessful. For several years we have urged teach-
ers to consider grouping classes together for study or for discus-
sion-even if the pupils were at different levels of study. Efforts
have been made to free advanced students at certain intervals so
they might serve as &dquo;assistant&dquo; teachers in class groups. Art and
music personnel have agreed to visit classes and discuss, in Eng-
lish, these two vital areas. Probably this has been our chief
success in innovation in this area. Many other suggestions have
been made by us and others. Almost parenthetically it must be
noted that we seek no lessening in the ability of pupils to handle
the fundamentals of language study well.

Spanish Humanities
Our school has been involved with instruction in the humani-
ties since its early years. This effort and the valuation of its
effect on students led us logically to an expansion in the area
of language study. In the fall of 1966, plans were made to imple-
ment a summer program in the humanities in Spanish. It was

hoped that this program might replicate our successful, previous

ventures in the humanities. It was proposed that we simulate
the culture and the atmosphere of the Spanish-speaking nations.
We would use the full term of the summer session of 30 days
with four-hour daily meetings. All students would be studying
the mores, the culture, and the language together; there would
be no arbitrary division according to the number of years a
pupil had studied. Students would aid students, much as older
children aid younger ones in families. At times the pupils would

be divided into study groups according to interests and capabili-

ties. However, the students as a group would comprise the
summer institute. The plan was to completely immerse the
student in the language in every way that was possible in our
school. We sought to increase competence and confidence in
each student. A definite attempt was to be made to &dquo;transplant&dquo;
the pupil to the new culture. The instructors would use every
means to do this. Native speakers in the community agreed to

visit with our students. Records, art portfolios, games, and read-
ings were collected for use. Movies, slides, and film strips were
scheduled from our resource center and elsewhere. All of our
rather large supply of electronic hardware was made available to
our teachers.

We sought to enroll students who wished to perfect techniques

in the language and those who wished to grow in their under-
standing of the culture and the language. Our early registration
of students was small; it was not large enough to consider the
concept seriously. Therefore, we had to open the program to
students who would be eligible to take final tests at the end
of the session. We then had a mixture of students in the first
program. Some were interested in the program as originally
presented, some wcre absolute newcomers to the language areas,
some had failed the course, and some were endeavoring to raise

grades received.
As in any other area of study, the work in the institutes re-
flected the drive, the initiative, and the interest of the teachers.
We have had three good years in the Spanish Institute. The per-
sonnel has changed and so have the techniques and working
philosophy. We have never had a majority of students inter-
ested in Spanish on a non-credit basis. Our program has had
an average of 30 pupils enrolled with our two instructors.

French and German Institutes

The French Institute has operated for two years. In the first
year, almost half of the 30 students were on a non-credit basis.
This was a most successful year. Fourth and fifth level students
served ably as assistants in instruction.
One teacher handled our German Institute this past summer.
She used several advanced students to aid her as assistants.
Pupils from three levels were enrolled in a completely successful

In many ways then, the

summer program differs from the or-

dinary, as far as school is concerned. There is a relatively

small budget for expenditures, but we have been able to bring
to all groups what they want to add needed dimensions to their

study. The restrictions that are normally felt in the regular

year seem to evaporate for most teachers in the programs. The
attitude toward instruction has been most important. Each in-
structor has his area of strength; each is encouraged to innovate
and to capitalize upon his personal strengths. We have also
altered our marking system in these institutes. During the sum-
mer we use the grades &dquo;satisfactory&dquo; and &dquo;unsatisfactory&dquo; until
the final test is recorded. On the final grade, the instructor re-
cords one-half of the final estimate as a result of observations
made in his daily contact with pupils. The other portion of the
final result is obtained from a formal, written examination.
Generally speaking, instructors faced with students who are
enrolled to raise grades have used the beginning portion of the
school day to deal with structure-of-the-language studies. This
is done in varying ways. Advanced students may work with
other pupils. Groups are divided in different ways; different
instructors and varying conditions and goals prescribe various
Every effort is made to bring each pupil into the atmosphere
of the language. This is not a spectator sport; involvement is
needed if there is to be success. It would be difficult to cite each
and every effort made in these programs. It might be more sig-
nificant to list some of the most successful ventures. The im-
plementation in each of these areas varies from teacher to
teacher; therefore, no description of particulars will be at-
tempted. We hope to convey the philosophy, the feelings our
personnel have. The implementation elsewhere, or even in our
summer program this year, will depend on the personnel as-

signed for duty. It is interesting to note that some of the sug-

gestions and techniques have come from students.
Situations, Techniques, and Methods
a. &dquo;Walks-talks&dquo; in the school neighborhood
b. Field trips-cultural and sociological
c. Word games

d. The use of students as &dquo;assistants&dquo;


e. Intermingling of pupils from all levels of academic train-

ing in discussions and studies
f. Simulated situations. For example,
1. social gatherings
2. preparation of foods using home economics area
g. Student presentations, including skits, talks, etc.
h. Discussions relevant to pupils daily life
i. Complete availability of audiovisual materials and hard-
ware by groups or individuals

j. Music, songs, and films

We cannot encompass the full scope of what has been done;
we would hope only to suggest areas to others.
Probably as essential to the success of the program as anything
else is the physical setting. We use large areas where division
of rooms or groups is possible. A cafeteria and rooms with divid-
ing walls are used for the summer groups. The language labora-
tories and the multi-media study center are available to the stu-
dents and teachers as they desire.


We have used a variety of methods to evaluate results. A

strictly statistical evaluation has not been attempted nor will it
be. As much as one author enjoys statistical analyses, both feel
that our qualitative judgments are more valuable in making our
It would be wrong for us to say that all teachers and students
have enjoyed the institutes. If teachers and students prefer
rigidity and structure, they are disappointed in our summer
programs. Pupils who are extremely mark-conscious dislike our
total-effect concept. However, at the conclusion of our summer
work, even some of the pupils who were extremely concerned
about grades have relaxed. The teachers and students who re-
main with us enjoy the free atmosphere. It is a good atmosphere
for learning with the teachers and students working together on
the instruction.
Teachers have used simple questionnaires and rating scales to
determine student reaction to these programs. As would be ex-
pected in a non-compulsory summer session, the results over-
whelmingly favor what is being attempted. Some students have

attended these programs on a continuing basis. In fact, one

young lady joins us in summer because &dquo;she enjoys it.&dquo; She has
given up her formal study of the language during the regular
Each program is no better than the instructors involved. We
have had successes; we have experienced disappointments also.
As in all education, the answer lies with the teacher. Hopefully,
the programs will not fall into a stereotyped pattern with teach-
ers carrying out their work unimaginatively. This is, of course,
a genuine concern and
responsibility of the administrators in-
The Future of the Institutes
Very few major changes are planned in our programs. We
hope, however, to attract more pupils who wish to study for the
joy of studying. We would like to move away completely from
the test-conscious pupils-and teachers. Frankly, we need our
best and most imaginative teachers. And, we need other attrac-
tions. At this time we are discussing a possible visit to a French
speaking community north of the border. Even now we are
gathering information and making contacts for this. In the
other language areas, we would like to expand on the use of
native-speaking visitors in formal and informal settings.
The character of the programs has been established by the
teachers, the students, and the demands of our school and col-

leges. It is hope
our that we shall continue to alter attitudes
and goals that are now too prevalent and restrictive, for in study-

ing a foreign language it is the &dquo;atmosphere that counts.&dquo;