The French program at Maple Street is informed by what is best for the child in terms of learning language. Increasingly, research shows that interacting with language in meaningful ways is what makes it stick in your head.  In order to improve their level of proficiency, children need to engage with the language in a way that awakens the language-processing part of their brains. This is similar to, but not identical to, how they learned their first language. In French lessons at Maple Street, the language which students are exposed to is carefully planned for maximum but varied repetition of essential vocabulary and concepts while simultaneously focusing on age-appropriate tasks, topics, and activities that appeal to children.

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More About our French Program

As a basis for the French curriculum, the Maple Street program uses the Accelerative Integrated Methodology (AIM) which was developed by Canadian teacher Wendy Maxwell and is used in thousands of schools across Canada, as well in other countries including Australia, New Zealand, and the Netherlands.  Because of its success, AIM is growing in popularity in the US in recent years as well.  AIM is allied with the Standards for Language Learning published by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) and meets the recommendations  put forth by the National Network for Early Language Learning (NNELL).  AIM employs a combination of pared-down vocabulary, gestures to represent words, and lively plays and songs in order to engage students and foster their enthusiastic partnership in the language-learning process. Classes are conducted primarily in French, and students are expected to participate actively.

Grammar is implicitly embedded within the AIM lessons, but it is not explicitly taught until the upper levels at Maple Street. For example, as early as Kindergarten, students learn that some words sound differently when used for girls versus boys, and they continue to build on this knowledge as they increase their French lexicon throughout their years in the program.  However, students will not hear or use the explicit grammatical term “adjective agreement according to gender” until approximately seventh grade.  Similarly, students do not learn the conventional verb conjugation charts you may remember from your own high school language classes. Instead they learn to express themselves according to the meaning of the phrase, and subsequently make the discovery that some words change. For instance, the “go” in “Je vais au gymnase” (I go to the gym) is different from the “go” in “Elle va là-bas” (She goes over there) which is different from the “go” in “Vous allez au magasin pour acheter un jean” (You go to the store to buy jeans). In the seventh and eighth grades, students are introduced to conjugation charts and other more traditional forms of organizing grammar in preparation for high school.  Commonly, our older students find this approach to grammar easy to learn, since in essence, they know it already, having been exposed to it implicitly since Kindergarten.



Spanish officially became a language of study at Maple Street School in the fall of 2017. Fanning Hearon, current Head of School, is the founding teacher of this program and current instructor for the 7th and 8th grade classes. 

In order to better prepare our graduates for the variety of language offerings at Burr and Burton and other top prep schools, we believe that Spanish is the logical language choice for program expansion at Maple Street. 

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More About our Spanish Program

This is a two year program of study designed to prepare students for a second year high school level language course upon entering 9th grade. In other words, two years of middle school Spanish at Maple Street should earn the motivated student a credit for Spanish 1 and enable him/her to enroll in Spanish 2 in high school. Obviously, there is no guarantee that a student will qualify for Spanish 2 as a freshman, but that remains the ultimate goal. For those students who may not qualify for Spanish 2, we are confident that the foundation established in middle school should prove sufficient for continued success in high school Spanish, especially if enrolled in a first year Spanish course (Spanish 1). 

We typically settle into the first days of class with a very slow review of the fundamentals in 8th grade and a solid introduction to the building blocks of the language in 7th. Both classes will work out of a textbook - Breaking the Spanish Barrier - Level One - in addition to a wide variety of handouts and ancillary academic materials. 

One of the goals for the 2018/2019 academic year is to provide the students with a balanced course of study that includes equal parts culture, history, geography, literature, conversation, and grammar. It is my hope that by exposing students to a wide range of study, they will then be able to enter a second year language class in high school feeling comfortable and confident with their knowledge of the language and Hispanic culture.

Photograph of Elizabeth Lindenberg
Elizabeth Lindenberg