Introducing Ohio’s Model Curriculum for K-12 World Languages
Ryan Wertz, Kathy Shelton and Paula Sondej, World Language Consultants, Ohio Department of Education
By the time this issue of The Cardinal goes to press, the State Board of Education (hopefully) will have approved our new model curriculum. The first thing that you should know is that this invaluable new resource, which is officially titled Ohio’s Model Curriculum for K-12 World Languages, is NOT actually a curriculum. The name is a misnomer, since Ohio law prohibits the Ohio Department of Education from developing specific curricula for implementation at the local level. Ohio’s educational system is built on the premise of local control, and the responsibility for the development of curricula in any subject lies with local school districts. As much as many overworked world language teachers might want ODE to hand them a pre-made curriculum on a silver platter, Ohio Revised Code precludes our agency from being able to provide this level of service. ODE will share recommended strategies and resources via the model curriculum tool while teachers continue to take full responsibility for day-to-day planning and year-long curricular sequencing.
So what IS the model curriculum if it’s not really a curriculum?! Well, it could be best described as a comprehensive set of tools that world language educators can use to ensure that instruction aligns with Ohio’s New Learning Standards for K-12 World Languages. As you likely already know, this particular document, adopted in 2012, presents two overarching standards: Communication and Cultures. These standards require language learners to build proficiency in a world language so that they will be able to communicate with native speakers in culturally appropriate ways for the purposes of college, career and citizenship in today’s global society. The standards are the blueprint of what students should know and be able to do as a result of the time they spend in K-12 world languages programs.
The model curriculum supports the learning standards by enabling K-12 world language educators to:
- Develop local curricula aligned to the new learning standards;
- Select high-quality teaching strategies tied to research-based best practices;
- Determine proficiency-based learning outcomes;
- Identify high-quality authentic instructional resources;
- Make strong connections to a variety of careers; and
- Build learners’ intercultural competency.
The creation of the Model Curriculum would not have been possible without the assistance of a variety of stakeholders. ODE first worked with two expert contractors to develop and flesh out the framework for the model curriculum tool. These contractors, current OFLA President Teri Wiechart and OFLA Technology Integration Chair Theresa Minick, are both highly respected Ohio world language educators whose expertise was invaluable in terms of the tool’s initial design.
We then solicited the participation of a representative stakeholder group representing a cross-section of languages, levels, experiences and educational settings from across the state. This group had three primary responsibilities:
- Identify and screen high-quality teaching strategies and authentic resources;
- Create thematic unit samples using the eight suggested model curriculum themes; and
- Review the finished draft prior to its presentation to the State Board of Education.
Last year, we provided all stakeholders in Ohio with the opportunity to contribute appropriate, high-quality strategies and resources for all languages and across all levels of language-learning. Earlier this year we asked our stakeholders to review and comment on the initial draft of the model curriculum, and they came through for us in a big way. Many teachers and other stakeholders with an interest in the effective implementation of our new learning standards participated in both activities and provided us with rich feedback, including many recommendations for further enhancement of the tool. In fact, during the public review period, the ODE world language review website received over 3,200 hits, over 2,500 responses on the rating section of our survey, and nearly 200 open comments and recommendations. We have understood from the beginning of this process that strong participation on the part of the field would be necessary if we were to produce a model curriculum that people would actually value and use. We feel very confident that we have achieved this goal, and we are excited to finally share our work from these past two years.
The model curriculum tool has six distinct components. Here is a summary of each of the six components:
- Introduction to the Standards: This section contains information to explain our state’s proficiency-based learning standards and how they should be used to guide curricular planning, instruction and assessment.
- Expectations for Learning: This section will include the NCSSFL-ACTFL Can-Do Statements, the NCSSFL Intercultural Can-Do Statements and Standard Alignment Tools.
- Content Elaborations: This section contains recommended themes, topics and essential questions, a curriculum design tool, and a unit design tool with accompanying unit samples in different languages and across different levels of proficiency.
- Instructional Strategies: This section contains assessment guidance and a variety of sample rubrics, specific strategies to promote interpretive, interpersonal and presentational communication, and strategies for working with diverse learners.
- Authentic Resources: This section contains authentic resources by language and proficiency level, strategies for locating high-quality authentic resources, technology and digital learning guidance and a portal to videos of quality classroom instruction.
- Career Connections: This section contains strategies for incorporating college and career connections into lessons and units of study, a link to the 21st Century World Language Skills Map produced by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, and a comprehensive list of careers which are enhanced by world language proficiency.
The six components of the model curriculum will be easily accessed online via an entry page that will be housed on the ODE World Language learning standards webpage. The online model curriculum will be highly interactive with an abundance of links designed to take users from one area of the tool to another with ease. We have worked to create a resource that will meet the diverse needs of K-12 language teachers around Ohio.
Once the State Board of Education has approved Ohio’s Model Curriculum for K-12 World Languages, some final editing will need to be completed before the tool can be made available to the public. We anticipate that it will be officially posted sometime in July. Following its release, we plan to offer a series of regional model curriculum familiarization workshops during the fall to train world language educators, curriculum coordinators and other stakeholders on its use.
We would like to offer some initial advice and suggestions for using the new model curriculum.
1. Focus/limit your initial efforts to familiarize yourself with the tool. Our model curriculum is one of the most comprehensive resources offered by any state. There is a lot of information! Begin by reading the Introduction to the Standards section, which contains a wealth of critically important information about the standards and how they should be used in a proficiency-based setting. Visit each of the other six sections on separate occasions so as not to completely overwhelm yourself.
2. Use the tool and its resources to begin effecting change to one thematic unit of study at a time. Start small, and don’t try to change everything at once!
3. Carefully consider the research-based proficiency targets recommended in the tool. The model curriculum will contain different sets of proficiency-based learning targets that take into consideration of factors such as language difficulty, program model, and instructional time among others. It is imperative that user of these charts keep in mind that these are meant to be recommended – NOT state-mandated – targets. Programs that have traditionally emphasized grammar and focused on teaching about the language and culture mostly in English may require a few years before the targets can become realistically obtainable by learners. When using these charts, it is important to keep in mind that different learners develop language proficiency at different rates as the result of a variety of factors. It must be clearly stated there will be students who fall below and student who surpass the targeted levels.
4. Use the tool with a team or professional network of colleagues. Consider assigning different parts of the model curriculum to different members of your team or professional partnership group. Then ask each member to take responsibility for familiarizing him or herself with that particular part and later training the others in the use of the components contained therein.
5. Be attentive to resources for your own particular language(s), but realize that many of the resources for other languages can also be easily adapted for use with your own. Like the former model lessons that appeared on the old IMS system, the model units that were created for inclusion in the new model curriculum were written in such a way as to be easily adapted for use with multiple languages. Resources and Websites listed under one language might be adapted easily for use with another language, or they might point you in the direction of other, similar materials that are more appropriate for your own learners.
It is important to understand that the model curriculum was not designed to become a static document. Rather, as new high-quality resources are identified and as research substantiates the value of new or different strategies, revisions and additions will be made to further enhance the model curriculum. Here at ODE, we view the model curriculum as a living document that will be regularly updated to ensure its continuing utility to the field. As you come across new authentic resources that you feel would further enhance the tool, there will be a way to submit them to be considered for inclusion.
In closing, keep in mind that there will be a learning curve involved in using the new model curriculum, just as there is with any new educational tool or resource. We encourage everyone to take some time to carefully familiarize themselves with the many different facets of the tool. Rather than attempting to effect massive change overnight, users of the new learning standards and model curriculum should work to effect gradual, systematic change over time in order to improve the academic achievement of their learners. Only in this way will more Ohio K-12 learners be afforded the means to develop the higher levels of language proficiency they need to thrive in the 21st century’s global community.