A foreign language exploratory program (sometimes called a FLEX program) is a foreign language program that usually meets only 1-2 times per week for short classes. Although some exploratory programs focus on a single language, it is not uncommon for exploratory programs to provide exposure to multiple languages.
Generally, exploratory programs aim to introduce students to language learning, build awareness and appreciation of other cultures, develop an appreciation for the value of learning another language, and increase motivation for future language study. Through the study of other languages, students also gain an enhanced understanding of English. Because classes are so short and meet so infrequently, fluency in the new language is not an expected outcome of an exploratory program.
Many of the goals of exploratory programs are related to students’ attitudes, so a major curricular priority is positive learning experiences. Thus, an exploratory program curriculum is likely to emphasize the use of games to practice the new language, and the use of activities to learn about other cultures.
What are the benefits of exploratory programs for elementary school students?
Research has demonstrated that students who participate in a foreign language exploratory program have an improved attitude towards language study and other cultures; attitude is a key predictor of who will persist in foreign language study. Foreign language exploratory programs also offer an early opportunity to correct misconceptions about language learning. Students going into foreign language study in high school with the misconception that only certain gifted people can learn languages, or that they should expect to become fluent in a new language after a short period of study, or that learning another language is primarily about plugging new vocabulary into English sentences, are less prepared for the realities of language learning and may be less likely to persist.