Language Policy

Philosophical Overview

As language is the key to all learning, all teachers at Mechanicsville High School are language teachers. Through language, students acquire the ability to think and to learn, to develop social skills and values, and to acquire knowledge. Language is taught through context and by building relationships between new information and existing concepts.

While the overall goal of MHS is to help every student become proficient in at least two languages, the reality is that not every student will reach the same level of proficiency at the same time. Students vary in their ability to learn a second language; some will achieve basic proficiency in a target language while others will be prepared to reach true bilingual status throughout their continued secondary education. The acquisition of language must be seen as a continuum along which each individual student progresses at his/her own speed and, thus, differentiated instruction forms the core of all MHS language instruction.

As an IB World School, the language policy of MHS reinforces the IB philosophy of developing intercultural understanding and respect through the reinforcement of the mother tongue and, as described in the Language B Guide, gives students the opportunity to reach a high degree of competence in a second language while also exploring the culture of that language in depth. The goal is to create lifelong language learners and students who are passionate about acquiring knowledge about other cultures.

Language Profile of MHS

Most students are native English speakers as MHS is located in a suburban area outside of Richmond, VA. All students participate in English classes. World language instruction can begin as early as 6th grade in French, German, Latin, or Spanish, and continue for as long as six years. Recent urbanization of the area has brought more Asian, Middle Eastern and Latino families, resulting in a small percentage (<1%) of students whose first language is not English. For those students with Limited English Proficiency (LEP), MHS employs a part-time ELL teacher (English Language Learner). The ELL teacher helps students develop their skills in reading, writing, listening, speaking, and in developing content area language skills.

MHS students, in general, represent one of the following language profiles:

  1. Three years of a second language study, mother tongue English

  2. Two years of second language student in two different languages, mother tongue English

  3. Four years of second language study, mother tongue English.

  4. Five years of second language study, mother tongue English.

  5. Six years of second language study, mother tongue English.

  6. Bilingual students who have spoken English and another language in the home since birth.

  7. Bilingual students with non-English speaking parents whose mother tongue is a language other than English and whose English acquisition is being reinforced by working with an ELL teacher during the school day.

It is the goal of MHS to provide students with the support necessary to make them successful in the acquisition of second language while reinforcing their mother tongue.

Language A for the Diploma Program

All students enrolled in the IB Diploma Program take English A1 Higher Level as their Group 1 subject requirement. Four years/four credits of English are required to earn a Diploma in the State of Virginia and IB English A1 HL prepares students not only for the IB examination and Internal Assessment requirements, but provides them with the knowledge needed for the SOL End of Course exam at the conclusion of the junior year. Since English is the language of instruction at Mechanicsville High School and is clearly spoken by all IB Diploma candidates, English A1 HL is the sole Language A option at Mechanicsville High School.

Language B for the Diploma Program

At MHS, the IB coordinator must work actively with our feeder middle school to communicate the importance of beginning the study of a second language prior to entering MHS. Our IB world language instructors prefer a student is in their sixth year of the study of a language when they sit for their Language B SL exams. However, we have many that begin their study in the 8th grade and therefore sit for their IB exams in their fifth year. Our instructors work with these students as they transition into their IB world language and through their IB language courses to ensure they are as prepared as they can be for their SL B exams as 11th or 12th graders.

Language B currently includes French, Spanish, German and Latin at the Standard Level. Students are required to complete a minimum of three years of language study in a chosen language prior to entering the first year of the Diploma Program. MHS understands that the most conducive environment to language learning is a positive and encouraging one, wherein students have the opportunity to engage in authentic and meaningful learning experiences. MHS values differentiated and varied instruction, which integrates the skill areas of listening, speaking, viewing, reading and writing. Language instruction considers students multiple learning styles and individual development. The goal is to help students learn to communicate effectively in a number of situations from everyday exchanges to discussion of literary texts. On-going feedback regarding student progress is given in all languages. Language assistance is provided beyond the classroom through homework and individual tutoring. Teachers periodically sponsor trips abroad to countries in which the second language is spoken.

Mother Tongue Support

Mechanicsville High School acknowledges the cultural importance of a student’s mother tongue for, but not limited to, the following reasons:

  • The preservation and development of the mother tongue language foster the celebration of diversity and enable cross-cultural awareness, appreciation, and understanding

  • The preservation and development of mother tongue enable the development of higher-order cognitive skills

  • The preservation and development of the mother tongue enables people who are members of small cultural subgroups to better maintain and transmit cultural identity within a multicultural society

As noted above, for those students with Limited English Proficiency (LEP), MHS employs a part-time ELL teacher (English Language Learner). The ELL teacher helps students develop their skills in reading, writing, listening, speaking, and in developing content area language skills. MHS encourages the continued development of the language through cross-curricular application and community-based activities (i.e., local cultural groups, local universities, international fairs, etc.). Students are also encouraged to connect their individual cultural and linguistic experiences to learning in all content areas.

While MHS has few students with a mother tongue language that is not English, it is vitally important that our staff and administration support all students’ primary language. Language is an essential element for each ethnic group’s culture, history, and traditions all of which play a central role in one’s identity. The formulation of identity, while in flux, is a central part of adolescence. Therefore, it is critical that schools support development of each student’s mother tongue language to help foster personal growth and the development of students’ identity. The support and development of mother tongue languages can help make our school community more diverse and the acquisition/growth of multiple languages can help students achieve greater critical thinking and higher level reasoning. Support of mother tongue languages helps strengthen family ties either locally or globally and can create within students the desire to travel abroad. Such ventures support the diffusion of culture and a greater understanding of other cultures through immersion. MHS supports mother tongue development (albeit to our very small group of students) with the following:

  • accommodations for ELL students,

  • having the ELL instructor work with teachers on how to help ELL students develop English as a language of instruction without losing their roots in their own language

  • professional development options in which teachers learn the most effective techniques for helping ELL students in content classrooms

  • providing access to classes at local universities for students to pursue study in their mother tongue.

Instruction and Assessment

Students will be assessed in their Language A and Language B courses in accordance with the MHS IB Assessment Policy. Accommodations to the instruction and assessment will be provided, when necessary, in accordance with the Inclusive Arrangements Policy.

Review and Communication of the Language Policy

This language policy was developed by the Language A and Language B Instructors, the ELL Instructor, IB Coordinator, and Head of School. It is in effect for a period of three years at which time it will be reviewed and revised as necessary.

The policy will be communicated at the beginning of each year with the school community by reviewing it with the IB faculty and posting it on our website.

Website by SchoolMessenger Presence. © 2023 Intrado Corporation. All rights reserved.