One Day In Russian School: A Learning Scenario

Jane W. Shuffelton, Brighton High School

The national project on Standards for Foreign Languages K-12 challenges teachers to redirect curricular activities in ways that may be at times quite different from traditional classroom practice. What is the nature of a learning scenario based more on the Standards than on a textbook or a traditional grammar or vocabulary topic? How does a Standards-based learning scenario actually work in the classroom?

The generic Standards for Foreign Languages K-12 sets forth five major goals for teachers and learners, representing a shift in focus for many programs. The goals of Communication, Culture, Comparison, Connections and Community direct language learners in ways that may be new or have previously been unstated as central to the classroom. ACTR has named a Task Force on Standards for Russian to produce a document in coordination with the other language associations who have collaborated on the national standards. The document will present the goals, standards of what students might be doing within each goal, and sample progress indicators that specify some of the programmatic activities that might be involved.

One portion of the document of particular interest to teachers will most surely be the section on learning scenarios. These are classroom activities, units and lessons that exemplify current practice reflecting standards-based learning in a number of schools. However, the document has room for only brief summaries of each scenario, without the details of a resource guide.

One Day in Russian School is a learning scenario developed for third-year students in a public high school. The class includes a mix of traditional learners and a range of heritage learners, some familiar with school culture in Russia and others who have never attended Russian school. The scenario was created this year in part with the intent of integrating the national standards into a local curriculum, mostly because it promised to be an appealing unit of work.

The basis for the scenario is a collection of recent Russian and vintage Soviet school textbooks and other school realia such as dnevniki. The first lesson involves using the dnevniki, comparing the Soviet and new dnevniki, and inevitably discussing the local equivalent, an American student handbook. Following this the class does a lesson on geography, one on history, one on math, several on Russian literature including the chapter on the Bible for Children, and one on English. Each lesson is based on pages from Russian school textbooks for fourth through ninth grades.

The AATSEEL presentation will outline the activities involved and discuss the role of heritage learners in this scenario. It will illustrate the application of the national Standards and share homework assignments and assessment activities for the scenario. There will be opportunity to reflect on possible modifications for future situations.