Upper School Courses

Academic Departments

Modern Languages

St. Stephen’s requires that students successfully complete three years of study in the same language. Students coming from other institutions must pass the placement test with a score of at least 75% to enroll in any course above the first level. The Modern Language Department’s “readiness” policy requires that students achieve a minimum grade of G- (or approval of the department) in order to progress from one level to the next.
  • Spanish I

    Spanish I is a beginning-level language course designed to develop basic speaking, reading, writing, and listening skills. The instructor will use a variety of activities to teach new concepts and assess students’ progress, with a consistent emphasis on spoken language. Independent work, group work, as well as the use of authentic resources (music, literature, news clips, videos, etc.) will facilitate learning and instruction. In addition to vocabulary and grammar, students will gain an awareness of the history, geography, culture, and ways of life of various Spanish-speaking countries. Learning outcomes include utilizing the present tense to ask and answer questions, describe people, discuss likes and dislikes, make plans, and talk about day-to-day activities. Students will learn the present tense of regular, irregular, stem-changing, and reflexive verbs. In addition, they will learn to make informal commands, use prepositions, and use direct and indirect object pronouns. 

    New students with prior Spanish experience should take the departmental placement exam prior to enrolling in the course. 
    1 credit
     
  • Spanish II

    Students in this course learn new language functions, more complex grammatical concepts, and vocabulary. Language functions include talking about daily routines and hobbies, expressing opinions, giving commands, making comparisons, telling stories, reacting to new information, describing clothes, shopping, and discussing environmental issues. In addition, students learn to form adverbs, the preterite tense, informal and formal commands, the imperfect tense, and the proper use and placement of direct and indirect object pronouns. The course is taught primarily in Spanish with judicious use of English to facilitate comprehension of difficult concepts. Students will use Spanish as they work interactively with each other and the teacher. By the end of the course, students will be able to read and understand the main ideas and specific information in short articles, write short paragraphs on selected topics, understand short conversations, and respond orally to specific questions on a variety of topics. Students will also be familiar with traditions, major festivals and holidays, and people and places of historical importance in the Spanish-speaking world.

    Prerequisite: G- in Spanish I or adequate performance on a placement exam.  
    1 credit
     
  • Spanish III

    The objective of this course is to broaden listening, speaking, writing, and reading skills. Students undertake a more in-depth study of the grammatical concepts and structures presented in Spanish I and II, as well as studying more complex topics, such as the preterite and imperfect tenses; the uses of ser and estar, por,and para; object pronouns; the passive voice; and all of the tenses of the subjunctive verbal mode. Another important objective is to increase students’ control of more complex vocabulary. During the course of the year, students will improve their ability to engage in conversations based on familiar situations, daily life, and personal experiences. They also will read and comprehend short stories and articles of increasing length and difficulty, and write compositions expressing their thoughts on these reading selections and on topics of general interest. Historical and cultural issues relating to the Hispanic world are also considered through readings and discussions. 

    Prerequisite: G- in Spanish II or adequate performance on a placement exam.  
    1 credit
     
  • Adv Spanish III

    Students in this course concentrate on acquiring significant vocabulary related to a variety of content areas, such as personal relationships, entertainment and leisure, science and technology, health, travel, nature, and the economy and work.  Students continue to learn how to make use of both grammar and lexical items to comprehend and produce meaningful discourse in authentic, real-life situations. Their command of grammar is enhanced by the study of more complex and abstract verb tenses and moods, such as the preterite and the imperfect, present and past subjunctive, the perfect tense, the conditional, and the future. In addition, a thorough review of the pronominal system is carried out in order to improve their ability to produce grammatically accurate cohesive text. Students in this accelerated section focus on developing strong processing ability in the language by improving their skills in listening comprehension, reading of authentic texts, speaking, and writing. Students will increase their awareness of how the discrete elements of the language combine to form meaning and will begin to develop an ability to attach meaning directly to Spanish without the need to depend on translation. The course will be taught almost exclusively in Spanish.

    Prerequisite: H- in Spanish II, teacher recommendation, or adequate performance on a placement exam.  
    1 credit
     
  • Spanish IV

    The objective of this course is to help students convert the linguistic skills acquired during the previous years into a coherent, clear, and useful means of communication. To this end, students read, discuss, and analyze short stories, articles, essays, poems, and plays in class. They also review more complex grammatical concepts and structures, such as the uses all of the tenses of the subjunctive verbal mode, and expand the range of their vocabulary. By the end of the year, students should be able to organize and write short essays and reports and present these orally in class. Students will develop the self-assurance and confidence necessary to use the language in informal conversations and in speaking before a variety of audiences, ranging from a small group to the full class. Students will also broaden their knowledge and appreciation of Hispanic culture.
     
    Prerequisite: G- in Spanish III or adequate performance on a placement exam.  
    1 credit
     
  • Adv Spanish IV

    Advanced Spanish IV is divided into three trimesters: grammar, literature, and culture. The topic and the instructor of the course will change every trimester. In this course, students will continue to reinforce concepts from levels I through III, while building the capacity to communicate more challenging topics in the language. All instruction and discussion will be conducted in Spanish, and the use of authentic resources, (literature, news clips, videos, etc.) will facilitate student learning. A variety of cultural topics and current events spanning the Spanish-speaking world will be considered in the cultural section of the course. During the literature trimester, students will read a minimum of one literary work, either a play or a novella, as well as a selection of short stories. Examples of previously-taught literary works include El tragaluz and La barca sin pescador. During the grammar section of the course students will review grammatical concepts from years I through III with additional attention devoted to the review and practice of the subjunctive mood.

    Prerequisite: Advanced track students; or  H- in Spanish III and teacher recommendation; or adequate performance on a placement exam.  
    1 credit
     
  • Spanish V

    Spanish V is divided into three topic areas corresponding to the three academic terms. These are grammar and conversation, history and culture, and literature, with each taught by a different teacher. During the term devoted to grammar, all the basic structures and tenses of the language, examined during the first four levels of instruction, will be reviewed and considered as a whole. The term devoted to history and culture will include an overview of Spanish Peninsular and Latin American history and society, as well as readings on popular culture and the arts. During the literature segment, students will read short stories and articles and at least one major Latin American literary work. Because this is an advanced level course, all communication and discussions in class will be in Spanish. In the literature and history and culture sections, students will write essays and literary analyses, give presentations, and lead discussion, exclusively in Spanish. By the end of the school year, students will be able to converse at a high level of proficiency on common daily topics; they will be able to read, comprehend, and analyze short stories and articles, and understand the main ideas in short novels.

    Prerequisite: G- in Spanish IV or adequate performance on a placement exam.  
    1 credit
     
  • Adv Spanish V

    Like the regular Spanish V course, Advanced Spanish V is divided into three topic areas corresponding to the three academic terms: grammar and conversation, history and culture, and literature. Each of these topic areas is taught by a different teacher. The similarity ends there, however, because the content of each topic area differs between the regular and advanced classes. The historical/cultural readings and literary texts considered in the advanced section are more challenging. During the term devoted to grammar and conversation, the advanced section undertakes the study of additional issues and complexities that are not part of the program of study for the regular class. Beyond issues of content, the performance expectations differ significantly between the two classes. Both written and oral expression, in essays, analyses and presentations, are judged at a higher level and held to a higher standard in the advanced section. This can be seen in the higher minimum grade required (H-) for entrance into this class from a regular section of Spanish IV.  By the end of the school year, students will be able to converse at a high level of proficiency, and will be able to read, comprehend, and analyze written Spanish in numerous genres.

    Prerequisite: Advanced track students; or  H- in Spanish IV and teacher recommendation; or adequate performance on a placement exam.  
    1 credit
     
  • Adv Spanish VI

    Spanish VI follows the pattern established Advanced Spanish IV, V and V. It is divided into three topic areas, corresponding to the three academic terms: grammar and conversation, history and culture, and literature. Each topic area is taught by a different teacher. During the grammar section, attention is devoted to selected grammatical and lexical topics that, for the most part, were not covered in the general review of grammar in levels IV and V. During the terms devoted to history and culture and literature, different texts and topics allow students to examine other authors and works than those considered in previous years. Because this is an advanced-level course, it is assumed that all communication and discussions in class will be in Spanish. In the literature and history and culture sections, students will write essays and literary analyses, give presentations, and lead discussion, exclusively in the language. By the end of the school year, students will be able to converse with near-native proficiency on common daily topics; they will be able to read, comprehend, and analyze short stories, articles, and novels.

    Prerequisite: Advanced track students; or  H- in Spanish V and teacher recommendation; or adequate performance on a placement exam.  
    1 credit
     
  • Adv Spanish VII/VIII

    Spanish VII/VIII is an advanced-level special topics course. The course is divided into three trimesters with each trimester focusing on one special topic. Previous topics have included film studies, immigration studies, survey of Spanish-American literature, the short story, and current events. Because the course is conversation-based, students are expected to have advanced-level proficiency in the language. Certain topics may be writing-intensive, while others emphasize group work, presentations, and critical writing, among other skills. 

    Prerequisites: Successful completion of Spanish VI. Open to students in 11th and 12th grades. Offering of this course is contingent on numbers and will be determined on an annual basis by the department. 
    1 credit
     
  • French I

    In French I, students begin an in-depth discovery of the French language and the cultural diversity of Francophone countries. Students begin to develop proficiency in pronunciation, comprehension, speaking, reading, writing, and spelling of idiomatic French. Students will learn question words; articles; noun and adjective agreement; the present tense of regular, stem-changing, and irregular verbs; the passé composé; the immediate past and immediate future tenses; comparisons; commands; subject and stress pronouns; and direct and indirect object pronouns. Upon completion of the course, students should be able to make introductions; make and respond to invitations; order and talk about food; discuss family, friends, home life, and weekend and vacation plans; discuss wants and needs; ask for and give directions; make purchases; and discuss physical health, clothing, and summer and winter sports. Students are encouraged to speak French in simulated real-life situations through which they begin to understand and express themselves in the language, while assimilating basic French language patterns. In addition, students are introduced to the cultures of Francophone peoples around the world.

    New students with prior French experience should take the departmental placement exam prior to enrolling in the course. 
    1 credit
     
  • French II

    The objectives of this course are to achieve greater proficiency in French in all four language skills (listening, speaking, reading and writing), and to be aware of and sensitive to existing cultural differences. Students will review the material covered in French IA and French IB and will learn more complex French grammar, vocabulary, sentence structure, and pronunciation. The course is designed to simulate real-life communicative situations, in which the students learn to participate and express themselves. Students will learn vocabulary and language functions pertaining to mealtime, vacations, travel, leisure activities, daily routine, health, shopping, and current events. The students will learn additional irregular verbs, pronominal verbs, the imperfect verb tense, the future verb tense, the conditional verb tense, present participles, direct and indirect object pronouns, relative pronouns, “if” clauses, and an introduction to the present subjunctive. Students are encouraged to take risks to express themselves through communication activities, class projects, and cultural presentations while striving for accuracy in communication. 

    Prerequisite: G- in French I or adequate performance on a placement exam.  
    1 credit
     
  • French III

    In French III, students learn extensive vocabulary and all of the core grammar necessary to communicate effectively in French both orally and in writing. Students learn reflexive verbs; articles; the passé composé; the imperfect, future, conditional, past conditional, and pluperfect tenses; the subjunctive; the passive voice; pronouns; the partitive; negation; comparisons and superlatives; and “if” clauses. Students expand their oral proficiency and cultural awareness through exploration of online French media resources followed by discussion. Thematic listening comprehension exercises are a key component of the course. Upon completion of the course, students should be able to discuss physical description, personal care, feelings and physical conditions, chores, vacation time, shopping, travel, medical care, personal relationships, and professional life. Students read Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s Le Petit Prince aloud to develop their pronunciation and are then tested over the vocabulary and themes. At this level, students should expect the course to be conducted entirely in French.

    Prerequisite: G- in French II or adequate performance on a placement exam.  
    1 credit
  • French IV

    In French IV, intensive grammar review, speaking, and writing activities are supplemented by study of French historical and literary readings, films, and online media resources. Emphasis is on improving oral and written skills. Class begins each day with a 10-minute salon de conversation regarding a topic introduced by a student. Students review and delve more deeply into the function of all of the verb tenses, pronouns, the subjunctive, reflexive verbs, negation, and the passive voice. Vocabulary expansion is a key element of the course. Students learn idiomatic vocabulary and language functions pertaining to feelings and relationships, leisure, academia, the household, etc. In the spring, the class examines the history of Franco-Algerian relations with an emphasis on understanding the experience of France’s largest immigrant population. Students explore Albert Camus’ L’étranger, set in Algeria under French rule, from literary, philosophical, and sociopolitical perspectives. The course is conducted entirely in French.

    Prerequisite: G- in French III or adequate performance on a placement exam.  
    1 credit
     
  • Adv French V/VI

    French V/VI features intensive writing practice as part of a two-year curriculum that permits students to repeat the course for credit. Students get better acquainted with Francophone literature and civilization through the exploration of books, films, and online media resources accompanied by class discussions and essay writing. Students in French V read Algerian author Kamel Daoud’s novel Meursault, contre-enquête, while those in French VI examine Irish writer Samuel Beckett’s play En attendant Godot. Such study requires students to develop a more sophisticated vocabulary and master advanced syntax and grammar. When an area of weakness makes itself known, we examine the corresponding unit(s) of the Amsco French Three Years, and students are then tested over that unit. Though not a formal AP course, the oral drills, reading and listening comprehension exercises, grammar practice, and essays all reflect the format of the AP French Language Examination. The course is conducted entirely in French.

    Prerequisites: G- in French IV or adequate performance on a placement exam for French V; G- in French V or adequate performance on a placement exam for French VI. Open to students in grades ten through twelve.
    1 credit
     
  • Adv French VII/VIII

    French VII is a college-level literature course. Students read, discuss, and write substantial essays about significant literary works from France and la francophonie. In the first half of the year, the course focuses on French imperialism and decolonization and their lingering effects on society in France and in Africa. Students examine contrasting points of view in Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s Terre des hommes and Cameroonian author Mongo Beti’s Mission terminée. The exile of les pieds-noirs is touched upon in the graphic novel Là-bas. Women’s voices move to the forefront in the second half of the year as students read Colette’s classic Chéri as well as Muriel Barbery’s philosophical novel L’élégance du hérisson. Upon completion of the course, students will have acquired a thorough grounding in academic writing in French, and will have further developed their skills in literary textual analysis. The course is conducted entirely in French.

    Prerequisite: G- in French VI or adequate performance on a placement exam.Open to 12th grade students.
    1 credit
     
  • Chinese I

    Chinese level I is a beginning language course through which students learn basic speaking, listening, reading, and writing skills in standard Chinese. Students will learn the Pinyin Romanization system, Chinese radicals and characters, and basic grammar. The course emphasizes active learning of the Chinese sound, Pinyin systems, and mechanical orders of strokes and radicals in writing basic Chinese characters. The overall goals are to lay a solid foundation for further study of the Chinese language and to instill an appreciation of the Chinese culture. Students will learn in a communicative setting with a variety of language activities, including games, dialogues, oral presentations, and imaginative tasks. Students are encouraged to join the Chinese Language Cultural Club and their participation will be well noted. St. Stephen’s follows the National Standards in teaching Chinese by helping students develop essential skills: effective communication, cultural competence and understanding, recognition of connections between world languages and other disciplines, gaining insight through comparing languages and cultures, and fostering communities within the school and globally.

    New students with prior Chinese experience should take the departmental placement exam prior to enrolling in the course. 
    1 credit
  • Chinese II

    Chinese II is a basic language course in which students will review and continue with the materials introduced in Chinese I with the expectation that students will master more in terms of degree and quantity. Students will continue to build vocabulary, learn grammar, and immerse in richer Chinese cultural and historical traditions. A variety of language tasks will be provided for students to increase their ability to acquire information through listening, express themselves with more confidence, and read and write characters with more ease. Beyond the textbook, students will recite raps, sing songs, read and write stories, watch short films, and play games. At the successful completion of this course, they will be able to make appointments with teachers and friends and ask and answer questions involving areas of school life, leisure time activities, shopping, and transportation. Students also will create a Chinese picture book by the end of the year. To expand their Chinese culture experience and increase their interaction with native Chinese speakers, students are encouraged to participate in Chinese Language and Culture Club activities. 

    Prerequisite: G- in Chinese I or adequate performance on a placement exam.  
    1 credit
  • Chinese III

    Chinese III is an intermediate Chinese course (refer to Chinese I and II syllabus for a definition of basic Chinese). At this level, students are familiar with the processes of learning vocabulary, character components, and grammatical structures. The focus of this course is on four essential skills: speaking, listening, reading, and writing. These skills, coupled with practicing vocabulary, grammar, and syntax, and gaining further cultural exposure, allow students to improve their language skills holistically. Students write in various formats, including dialogues, paragraphs, free and guided journal entries, short stories, and essays. They also practice oral communication and presentation skills through drills, dialogues, interviews, class discussions, and project presentations. Students are encouraged to join the Chinese Language Cultural Club and their participation will be well noted. St. Stephen’s follow the National Standards in teaching Chinese by helping students develop essential skills: effective communication, cultural competence and understanding, recognition of connections between world languages and other disciplines, gaining insight through comparing languages and cultures, and fostering communities within the school and globally.

    Prerequisite: G- in Chinese II or adequate performance on a placement exam.  
    1 credit
     
  • Chinese IV/V

    Students in Chinese IV and Chinese V are transitioning from intermediate to advanced Chinese. At this level, students are familiar with the processes of learning character components, building up vocabulary, and reinforcing grammatical structures. This course focuses on helping students integrate the four skills of speaking, listening, reading, and writing, as well as spiral the vocabulary, grammar, syntax, and cultural information they have learned in the previous Chinese courses to improve their language skills.  At the successful completion of this course, students will be able to comprehend conversations on basic topics in daily life situations, including initiating questions and responding in social situations; understand some excerpts from Chinese films; explore selected poems and short essays; write simple notes and short reports; and show a deeper understanding of culture. They also will give several Pecha Kucha presentations throughout the year as they continue to improve their oral skills in various topics. To expand their Chinese culture experience and increase their interaction with native Chinese speakers, students are encouraged to participate in Chinese Language and Culture Club activities. 

    Prerequisites: G- in Chinese III or adequate performance on a placement exam for Chinese IV; G- in Chinese IV or adequate performance on a placement exam for Chinese V. 
    1 credit
     

Upper School Faculty

  • Photo of Robert Lewis
    Robert Lewis
    Spanish Instructor
    University of Texas at Austin - Ph.D.
    Middlebury College - M.A.
    Yale University - M.A.R.
    Wheaton College - B.A.
  • Photo of Ann Befroy
    Ann Befroy
    Spanish Instructor
    New York University - Ph.D.
    Dartmouth College - B.A.
  • Photo of Joseph Doig
    Joseph Doig
    Upper School Dean of Students
    University of Texas at Austin - M.A.
    University of Texas at Austin - B.A.
  • Photo of Valerie Kelly
    Valerie Kelly
    French Instructor
    University California Santa Cruz - B.A.
    San Jose State University - M.A.
  • Photo of Hai Olefsky
    Hai Olefsky
    Associate Director International Program, Coordinator of Chinese Studies
    University of Texas at Austin - M.A.
    University of Texas at Austin - B.A.
  • Photo of Maria Serrano
    Maria Serrano
    Spanish Instructor
    Universitat Pompeu Fabra - MA
    University of Texas at Austin - BA
  • Photo of Alisa Vereshchagin
    Alisa Vereshchagin
    Spanish Instructor
    Northeastern University - M.Ed.
    University of Massachusetts, Boston - MA
    Kenyon College - BA
  • Photo of Charles Warlick
    Charles Warlick
    French Instructor
    University of Michigan - M.A.
    Pomona College - B.A.
  • Photo of Ying Xu
    Ying Xu
    Mandarin Chinese Instructor
    Harbin Normal University - B.A.
Address: 6500 St. Stephen's Dr., Austin, TX 78746
Phone: (512) 327-1213