PSI’s academic program has both a Russian language component and a literature component. The Russian language coursework takes place in a 5-week intensive program: students meet for four hours a day in the classroom and have a 1.5-2 hour study hall/tutorial in the evening to review the day’s material or ask questions of tutors. In addition to the language classes, workshops on Russian culture are held several times a week. These cultural workshops cover such topics as making bliny (Russian crepes), Russian superstitions, etiquette when visiting a Russian home, Russian folk music, etc. The Pushkin Summer Institute’s goal is to advance students from the Novice Mid level to the Novice High and Intermediate Low levels on the ACTFL scale.
The summer 2019 curriculum will be “Passport to Russia.” Each student will get a PSI passport, in which they will complete self-assessment forms based on weekly can-do statements and collect “stamps” and “visas.” These will be designed around these weekly themes and questions: “Entry Visa / Introducing ourselves,” “Where we live”, “Our habits,” “Our likes and dislikes,” and “Shopping in Russia: clothes and presents.”
Our curricular design is grounded in the Standards for World Language Education. Students use Russian in the three modes of communication daily, within and outside the classroom. They engage with topics and opinions related to their daily lives, languages, education, interests, and the geography of Russia; interpret spoken language and written texts in Russian on these topics; and present information on themselves, their interests, and Russian culture. Students demonstrate an understanding of the relationship between the practices, products, and perspectives of Russian culture in an integrated fashion by exploring and discussing Russian social networking sites; shopping for, cooking, and talking about Russian food; role-playing Russian customs; exploring Russian culture through Russian music, movies, fairy tales, cartoons; and participating in Russian folk dancing and costume making workshops as well as celebrating Russian holidays outside of class. All extracurricular activities are conducted in the target language or include a language component and provide opportunities to practice Russian outside the class. Community building is an important aspect of the program. PSI provides daily interaction in Russian in and outside the classroom, including interaction with resident counselors in the dorm and on field trips, and through organized activities with UW-Madison Russian Flagship students taking summer Russian courses and with members of the Russian community in Madison. Additionally, students become members of the PSI alumni community: they will communicate with PSI graduates participating in the PSI Abroad program via Skype and join the growing PSI online community.
The literature component of the academic program is centered on the life and works of Alexander Sergeevich Pushkin, Russia’s national poet. Once a week students attend a lecture by Prof. David Bethea on an assigned reading; students are expected to actively participate in the discussion during the lecture and write a 1-3 page essay (in English). The syllabus for the literature program centers around 1-2 works by Pushkin each week. The first week students are assigned a general reading on Russian literature, a reading on Pushkin’s biography, and the short poems “The Poet” and “The Prophet.” In Weeks 2-3 students read 2 stories each week from The Tales of Belkin. For the remainder of the program students read the unfinished novel The Blackamoor of Peter the Great, the short story “The Queen of Spades,” and the dramatic piece “The Stone Guest.” Once a week Prof. Bethea holds individual consultations with the students to discuss their writing in terms of content, style, grammar, etc.
In addition to individual consultations with Prof. Bethea, the Pushkin Summer Institute normally coordinates weekly writing workshops with the UW-Madison Writing Center. These workshops focus on, respectively, writing literary analysis and writing college admissions essays. Through individual consultations and workshops, the Pushkin Summer Institute endeavors to not only advance students’ fluency in Russian, but also sharpen the type of writing skills they will need to succeed in college.
Students do not receive UW-Madison credit for participation in the program, but they do usually receive some form of credit at their local high school. It is the expectation of the PSI that a significant portion of participating students will apply, and be admitted, to UW-Madison and enter the Russian Flagship program on campus. These same students should also be on track to complete their major and college coursework expeditiously.
Assessing Student Progress
In addition to the weekly class assessments, students take a Listening and Reading diagnostic exam at both the entry and exit stage of the program. Students participate in an official online ACTFL OPI at the end of the program and receive certificates of their progress level.