Tackling foreign language study in middle school was not on the plan this year. However, my son was so excited to have an opportunity to study German that we plunged into Middlebury Interactive Languages digital foreign language program. Our review will specifically focus on his experience in using the Middle School German 1 course from Middlebury Interactive Languages.
Middlebury Intereactice Languages is an on-line interactive program that teaches students foreign language skills. These include being able to read and speak the language as well as teaching things about the culture. During this review period our son, who is at the 6th grade level for his other coursework, worked in the Middle School German 1 course designed for students in grades 6-8. Middlebury Interactive has courses appropriate for Elementary, Middle School, and High School students. The languages offered through this company include Spanish, French, German, and Chinese. The classes that we have looked at are all designed to take a full year of study to complete. The level I courses at each grade breakout do not expect any prior knowledge of the language in order to be successful.
How The Program Works:
The German I course was broken up into units based on different topics. This was largely driven by vocabulary subjects, such as clothing, food, greetings, etc. Each of these units then contains daily lessons where the student is focusing on not just the vocabulary, but also learning about grammar, word order, and the culture of the people. The lessons vary as new material is presented and reviewed. Students have exercises that help to reinforce vocabulary skills, reading comprehension, speaking and diction, and writing. Because their ability to speak the language is an integral part of the program, students do need to have some sort of microphone connected to their computer. Our son used a headset that enabled him to clearly hear the lesson content and also speak back into the program.
The program provides immediate feedback to students on how they are doing. This is a self paced course, which means that your student can work at a pace that is comfortable to him. All sections of the course remain open so it is possible to go back and review lessons or redo them if a greater level of mastery is sought.
In the upper left corner of the console, there is a button that activates a drop down menu that allows you to access the table of contents of the course as well as the stored gradebook for easy reference. Most assignments are automatically graded by the software. There are some assignments that must be graded by either the parent or a teacher. This program can be purchased with the option to have a teacher from Middlebury Interactive oversee your child’s progress and grade these assignments. This service is purchased at an additional cost.
Within the gradebook, you can generate a summarized grade report. However, if there was one area of the program that I would encourage further development, it is in the area of record keeping, especially as you move from middle school into high school. As a homeschool parent that keeps documentation of my child’s work, it would be helpful to be able to print a copy of the table of contents or scope & sequence of the course as well as a more detail grade report.
Our Overall Impression:
We reviewed the Elementary Chinese I from Middlebury Interactive Languages last year with our son. Our previous review can be found here. When our son heard that we had an opportunity to review another course, he was very excited about trying out a new language and specifically requested German. I bumped him up to the middle school level because of his age. He was able to be successful with the lessons, but it did definitely take more effort than the elementary course.
Overall, I feel that this is a very solid program in teaching foreign languages to students of all ages. The decision to pay the additional fee to have the added teacher feature is completely up to the individual family. I could see it being more beneficial at the high school level and if your child was really super serious about foreign language study. The majority of the assignments are automatically graded by the software and do give a good indication of how your student is doing. If functionality could be added to the grade book to print these individual assignment grades it would be a real winner for documentation purposes as you no longer have access to your child’s work after your subscription expires.
The best part of all is that both last year and this year, our son has enjoyed doing this and it is one subject that we have not had to pester and bicker over getting his work done. That says a lot all by itself in this mama’s book!
As always, I do encourage you to check out the reviews by others on the Homeschool Review Crew. There are families that have used various levels in each of the foreign languages, so you will probably find additional information specifically on the language and level of study you might be considering for your children.