Teaching our students a foreign language is a long-standing Wilson tradition. We feel proud of the continuity of our program and have constantly strived to offer the very best in foreign language instruction to our students. Currently, French is taught in all grade levels, with Latin introduced in Third Grade and taught formally in Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Grades.
While French is not the most commonly taught language at the elementary level in today’s academic environment, we feel strongly about our commitment to teaching it here at Wilson. French offers a multitude of advantages to our students: the rich spectrum of sounds needed for the correct pronunciation of the language offer an invaluable basis for the correct learning of many other languages, Indo-European and otherwise. The clear grammar structure, syllable-based reading approach, and rich cultural tie-ins ground our students in language acquisition, preparing them to excel in secondary school, regardless if they choose to continue study French or pursue another language. For our youngest students, we use the Symtalk method, a method developed at The Wilson School. Symtalk enables the children to acquire a large vocabulary in a relatively short time, by using colorful images (cards) for various words that are relevant to children. We use games, play, and songs to further cement the knowledge of vocabulary words. Our students begin learning to read in French, first through the alphabet, then progressing to syllables. Our instruction emphasizes oral skills, in addition to reading and writing. In all grades, a multi-sensory approach is embraced, with hands-on activities being part of the curriculum to encourage cultural understanding, such as cooking, making paper maché, celebrating seasonal events and holidays, as well as singing and dancing. Our sixth-grade students spend the year focused on local French history, researching and writing about the French settlements in the Mid-Mississippi Valley, with special emphasis on Ste. Genevieve. This year-long unit is a collaborative effort between French, art, resource, technology, physical education and science. It includes many field trips, as well as a partnership with the Missouri Historical Society Library.
The Latin curriculum at The Wilson School was created with our specific age group in mind. The viability of Latin in elementary education is solidly anchored in the understanding of its many uses and applications in everyday life. Latin is an exceptional resource for the improvement of English vocabulary and spelling. Students who struggle with English spelling often find Latin to be a relief from confusing rules. The clarity of decoding the language, as well as its syllable-based reading, are excellent tools in the linguistic progress both in Latin and English.
Our program was started in 2002, and has been an enormous success with the students. Many students find Latin helpful for finding the root for many English words and “learning how to learn.” Latin not only offers great insights into a beautiful language, but with its rich historic and geographic connotations, offers endless inspiration. Using the Cambridge Latin Series has allowed our students to progress beyond their expected grade-level. We are committed to Latin and to making sure that yet another generation reaps the academic benefits of this classical language.