Students are taught:
- to read original (unadapted) literary texts;
- spoken and written language;
- to freely comprehend native speakers;
- written and oral translation from Russian into English and from English into Russian.
Levels of Education
In total the school has four levels of education. Each level takes into the account the age factor in selection of materials.
- 1st level– 1, 2 and 3rd
- 2nd level – 5 and 6th
- 3rd level – 7, 8th forms.
- 4th level – 9 and 10th
During the first level students fully master the alphabet in four lessons, and starting with the 5th lesson they start studying original texts – folk literature (fairy tales). Each text is studied simultaneously in three forms: audial, visual and in video form – to hear, to read and to see. In the 2nd year of study children read classics for children. At the same time a new discipline, ‘Social Studies’ – basic knowledge about society, is introduced. This subject is a starting lexical point for subsequent systematic study of history. Already at this level children gradually switch from in-depth but passive text studying to its reflexive analysis. In the 3rd form children start studying the Bible. Though the Bible is still for children, it is an original source, in no way adapted.
During the second level of education (4 semesters) they study the history of ancient civilizations – Egypt, Greece, Rome, the Incas and Aztecs civilization, as well as literature (myths and legends) of these civilizations.
The third level of education (4 semesters) is dedicated to studying history and literature of Great Britain from ancient times to our days.
The fourth level of education (4 semesters) introduces students to the US history and literature since 1500 to our days. The majority have audio and (or) video-analogues.
‘Stankevich House’ School Teaching Team
Pedagogues from Moscow language colleges as well as native speakers from the USA and Great Britain teach in the school.
Lessons are taught twice per week, 1,5 hours each. Students are supplied with all relevant study materials and learning aids, for which reason the school has a library.
Core Principles of ‘Stankevich House’ School Teaching Methods
All variety of foreign language teaching methods in this country can be divided into three groups with a certain degree of simplification.
1) Traditional methods, where teaching starts with language basics – phonetics, grammar, and basic vocabulary. Gradually students learn vocabulary, grammar rules.
2) Communicative methods pay special attention to students’ fluency in the language, to removing their so called ‘language barriers’. As such, studying of grammar is subject to living speech process and in a way is auxiliary.
3) There are also so called natural methods, when students are simply immersed into language environment, which is supposed to ‘teach in itself’.
The method used in ‘Stankevich House’ school can hardly be written down to any of these known groups. Despite the fact that the school attaches immense, principal significance to grammatical and lexical bases, at the very least the same attention is paid also to fluent communication in the language, including that with native speakers.
Psychologists have discovered that there are instrumental targets, and those kind of ideal, spiritual. One can’t really master a foreign language, when one sees the goal in itself. The target should be different – in introduction to the national culture, while mastering the language should only be a method of achieving this main goal. Only in this case one can genuinely master a language.
The main thing that sets apart the method adopted in ‘Stankevich House’ school is the fact, that the knowledge of the language even if it is perfect, is not the goal in itself. It is only the means of learning another culture, that is why the method, on a first approximation, can be possibly called ‘cultural-dialogical’. Students enter into a dialogue with the culture of the country whose language they study, moreover with the culture not at second hand, not in somebody’s version, even if skilful, but directly with the culture itself. At first, through myths, later through the nation’s literature and history. The goal of studying in ‘Stankevich House’ school is not simply in deep understanding by students of the American or British culture. It is necessary to offer to students the opportunity to look at their own culture as if from outside, to sink in how own people cooperate with others and to how exactly create positive changes in the society.
Practically at every level, one can note so called developmental effect from each teacher. This is the merit not of an individual teacher, but of the method. The method puts teachers in such a position where they are bound to be successful. During lessons, children reason about ‘the eternal truths’ and the Monroe doctrine, study the oeuvre of American and British poets. Though grammar is certainly explained at the lessons and a lot of time is dedicated to verbal subtleties, the work is arranged in such way that students actually deal with historical or literary analysis. A stranger, who does not know the peculiarities of the method, can fall under the impression that he/she is present at a lesson in source studies or even hermeneutics (the science about text interpretation).
In higher forms, teenagers discuss, for example, problems of political expansion and civil law, circumstances of Churchill and Roosevelt’s biographies, and all this is done in English. The very ‘developmental effect’ which is the most important thing in every education is in evidence. In other words, very smart and genuinely learned kids speak fluently in the foreign language during classes. And such students are no exception in this school, but kind of ‘brand-name product’.
Let’s examine distinctive features of this method in more detail. Here are four core characteristics of this method:
The first distinctive feature — is commitment to the source. The main thing, whereupon the whole system reposes, is the focus on the source. It is only the source that teaches in all its shapes and sizes. In this school we have totally given up on any texts written by Russian authors, and on any learning aids published in the USA or Great Britain which are intended for foreigners who study English. The learning process is conducted exclusively on the basis of ‘natural product’, no stand-in, no substitute, even the most perfect. Texts are accompanied by guidance manuals, developed by the school specialists, so called ‘learning files’, information about which is presented below.
Education is based on three types of sources:
The first and the most important one is His Majesty Text. At first, myths and biblical legends (of course, in the original, no adaptations), then literary texts, historical documents, etc. Originals are presented without localization and omissions. At first, relatively easy, but nevertheless genuine fairy tales without adaptation whatsoever. Later – more and more difficult texts, up to Shakespeare or Faulkner in the original.
The second form of the source is teachers from the USA and England, so called ‘native speakers’. It is no surprise that foreign pedagogues teach literature in the school, as only they can communicate national-cultural comprehension of texts. Indeed, any literary text is multilayered, there is always a possibility of its endless interpretation and understanding, but in the processes of encuituration it is very important to understand, how literary texts are perceived in the culture of that nation whose language is studied. And then, in fact, to study language means to try to gain an insight into the nation’s character
History is taught by Russian pedagogues. But the teachers must be in touch with the methods of working in particular with sources– either directly with historical documents, or with history textbooks, designed for native speakers.
And, finally, the third form of using sources – means of auto-recording and films. The school possesses a huge video picture library, a great number of audio recordings. Practically all texts are about literature and history have video and (or) audio analogues. There are also documentary (the most difficult for perception) video pieces, and video versions of literary works, included into the program. And there are no educational video films, even those made in the target-language country.
All other distinctive features of ‘Stankevich House’ school are only consequences of this system.
It is due to the focus on the source that students do not have a stage of lengthy introduction to the language. Training in reading, writing, listening comprehension skills and, of course, speaking, happens practically simultaneously. It helps to reach actual intensity of education, students’ rapid progress in mastering the language.
The second distinctive feature is that the method envisages a special role of the teacher in the process of education. Children study not from a teacher, but from a source, and the teacher is only a partner, a guide along this road. Outstanding Italian pedagogue Maria Montessori has a confirmation for these thoughts – ‘teacher is only a student’s assistant in his/her quest’.
In no way may the teacher obstruct the source, hinder its perception. As a result of this, a child’s development is actually determined not by the teacher, but by the very source. In the hierarchy of pedagogical values the teacher is always inferior to the source; hence the task is to create partner relations between a teacher and a student. The source (folklore, the Bible, a literary work, etc.) is always a Golconda in its meanings, and that is why both the teacher and the student comprehend it together.
The school imposes special requirements for teachers. Of course, he/she should be extremely fluent in the language, but not limited to it. The pedagogue needs to be ready to ‘cling’ to the original, whether it is a literary or historical text. The main thing is teacher’s ‘humble’ readiness to learn to place confidence in the text, to learn working in the domain of culture and not only with the language and help students to work with the source.
With all attention to the source, ‘Stankevich House’ school does not venerate foreign teachers, ‘native speakers’. The method presupposes that only constant interrelation between the Russian and the English languages can ensure the dialogue of cultures. That is why the school is constantly concerned about the balance between foreign teachers, native speakers, and Russian teachers, who possess the foreign language at a high professional level and knowing at the same time the mother tongue just as professionally.
The third distinctive feature of teaching in ‘Stankevich House’ school is that at every lesson together with the teacher there work assistants – young teachers, who help teachers in technical aspects of lessons (prepare handouts, verify class work and home written paperwork), unloading pedagogues and creating space for creative work.
But it’s not just the technical aspect. Assistants verify students’ home works. In lower forms it is individual works, and in senior forms — essays on a specific theme, free analysis of a literary or historical source. Thus they implement an individual approach which in ‘Stankevich House’ school is no longer a falsehood, but becomes a daily reality. It remains to add that ‘Stankevich House’ school graduates who got relevant linguistic or philological education, already work as assistants.
The fourth distinctive feature of the method. It is clear that it is hard to work with a source. And if we take into account that new material is provided at each lesson, it is twice as hard. A guidance manual is needed for the source. The ‘file’ (i.e. work book) is such a guidance manual for the lesson, where the lesson vocabulary, idiomatic expressions and grammar are clearly, almost algorithmically, specified. At the same time ‘the file’ provides the vocabulary necessary for understanding the source under study in specialized, carefully adjusted interweaving of synonyms, antonyms, active and additional vocabulary, previous and upcoming lexical experience. Each lesson envisages a large volume of lexical material: 15 new words and three derivatives to each new word, 8 synonyms and 5 antonyms on the average, 7-10 idiomatic expressions and phraseological units and finally a special thematic dictionary, directly connected with the text contents — some 10 units. In total, at least 15 new words, and more than 60 units of auxiliary lexical material to them.
In accordance with the method, the vocabulary basis is formed by book, literary and not colloquial vocabulary – only so one can approach understanding of the source. While colloquial vocabulary is absorbed only insofar as belles-letters, especially modern, uses this lexical layer as well. It is amazing that with such bookish focus on studying students speak fluently on general topics, but for them it is a side effect of language acquisition.
Each lesson also contains grammatical material and the necessary number of exercises, which assist in the retention of lexical and grammar material.
The fifth distinctive feature of the method — principal attention is paid to studying grammar, which is a frame of genuine linguistic and even mental culture. (There are works that clearly bring out the connection of the state of mind with particularly the language grammar. Just precision and stability of the English word order in a sentence has much to offer in understanding nation’s state of mind.) At any lesson, in any form there is a grammar topic which is reinforced by studying the source itself. Grammar is provided at four levels. During the first three years grammar basics are studied. Later the grammar course is repeated three times, deepening and using increasingly difficult lexical material. In such a way the concentric principle in grammar learning is implemented.
Alongside with this, the method presupposes parallelism of grammar learning while studying history and literature. Russian pedagogues explain how this or that rule works. And native speakers demonstrate how it is used in living speech, how and for which purpose it is broken. In fact, one and the same rule is simultaneously practiced with different pedagogues and in different contexts. Grammar difficulties are overcome gradually, along the way toward text understanding.
The sixth distinctive feature of the method – is the control system over grades. At the end of each school term students should write 2 big review works — in history and in literature. Besides, at every lesson students write small tests, so called quizzes, the aim of which is to assess the quality of lexical preparation to every lesson – simply speaking, tests at every lesson demonstrate if a student has learned the words, synonyms, antonyms, vocabulary definitions for this lesson, if he/she has taken a close look at idiomatic expressions and set phrases and a thematic dictionary. Only those students are eligible to write review works, who have passed the majority of every lesson tests during the school term. Quizzes are composed on the ‘ninth wave’ principle — the first-lesson quiz is the shortest and the simplest, the second-lesson quiz includes both the material of the second lesson and the material of the first lesson, the third-lesson quiz – the materials of all three weeks, and the fourth quiz is final for the month. After that the procedures is repeated for lessons 5,6,7, and 8 and after the second round the final term paper is written. While using this principle for test papers students have to constantly review the material covered, thus ensuring its systematization and qualitative long-term memorizing.
Is it Easy to Study in ‘Stankevich House’ School?
As was already mentioned, students work with new material, new sources at every lesson. Above we mentioned the volume of material at every lesson, which students should absorb. Besides, school teachers speak using different variants of the English language – both the British English and American English. And every foreign teacher brings in his/her accent and style of speech.
The method used in the school does not presuppose a separate listening comprehension course. Listening comprehension skills are developed by themselves and result in complete comprehension by students of any type of speech. How do students, among whom there are no more talented people than in any good school, manage all this? From all has been said it is clear that a lot of techniques are included into the Method itself, which allow for a common student to work efficiently:
- The fact that mew material is given at every lesson (with the compulsory guidance manual – ‘the file’) creates students’ unfailing interest and thus their strong motivation;
- The principle of proactive training, implemented during ‘the file’ creation, when a new word is encountered several times: at first as supplementary material, and then already as basic material, when studying the relevant source, and most naturally introduces the new word into the students’ active vocabulary;
- Parallelism in studying grammar structures – during history and literature lessons – makes it essentially easier to absorb difficult grammar units;
- The teacher with the assistant’s help can individually treat the work of every student – availability of audio-discs with the special methodology developed in the school for quick memorizing of a large number of new words.
There are a lot of other most interesting techniques envisaged by the method which give the opportunity to rather successfully absorb most difficult material and obtain such, say the least phenomenal results. But yet the main thing is not in these psychologically-precisely elaborated techniques. As was mentioned in the beginning, the point is that neither grammar nor lexical abundance of speech in itself is the learning objective in ‘Stankevich House’ school. All these goals are only auxiliary on the way to achieving the core learning objective – introduction to the culture of another nation and thus to the increased insight into understanding own culture. That is why all immense difficulties turn to be quite surmountable. That is why we get such results.
It is hard to study in ‘Stankevich House’ school. But this difficulty is one of those that mould children and teenagers’ character and will. It is this difficulty that from the very beginning sets this developmental discomfort which in itself is the means and condition for mental and personal growth. One can’t develop only in cognitive comfort, without serious and ongoing strain. And that is why the majority of the school students go through a peculiar crisis stage, after overcoming which they change. The difficulty of genuinely intensive education, introduction to another nation’s culture becomes essential and joyful. Victory can only be sweet after the stage of struggle and overcoming difficulties. Children in lower forms literary pop out their desks in the desire to speak out, and in senior forms they write literary or historical essays at their own initiative. That is why it is beneficial to study in ‘Stankevich House’ school also for the purpose of personal growth (especially for those students who have got accustomed to the fact that everything comes natural to them), so that they can mould their character. As psychologists say, form ‘a winner scenario’.
As a result, kids, teenagers change intellectually, change personally, change spiritually. And there appears that very ‘developmental effect’, which all pedagogues and psychologists care about, but which is so hard to achieve. May be this is the main thing.
Learning Outcomes in ‘Stankevich House’ School
Due to the method described above, by the end of their education the students:
- Are familiar with texts of high difficulty level;
- Fluently discuss topics of high difficulty level;
- Easily translate texts of high difficulty level from Russian into English and from English into Russian and are capable of interpreting;
- After the 8th form students can easily join learning activities in any English-speaking country;
- The method creates the basis for successful passing of TOEFL, SAT and the Cambridge test.
The performance results of ‘Stankevich House’ school have already been recognized by the international community. Graduates of ‘Stankevich House’ school have achieved impressive results both in Russia and abroad. Many work in Moscow University in different domains of science, have become professional journalists and economists. There are graduates who work in educational institutions in England and the USA, in the universities of Israel and Canada.