Monfredo: World Language Classes Expose 6th Graders to Another Language

Sunday, April 01, 2018
John Monfredo, GoLocalWorcester MINDSETTERâ„¢

It’s that time of our year again when grade six students going into middle school start selecting their course of study.  One suggestion that I would like to make is for them to consider one of the World Languages that is offered at many of the middle schools.

Researchers agree that it is never too late to learn a language and to learn it well.   Mastering even a few words in a new language can be tremendously empowering for the students.  It opens up a whole new world about languages and learning another language helps students appreciate and understand the working languages in general and their own native language as well.

In the Worcester Public Schools Michelle Huaman, World Language Liaison, has promoted World Language with many outstanding activities with the students and staff.    When asked why should middle school students take a language her response was “the younger the better!   She stated that younger students are less inhibited to try using the target language in class.”    The more that they speak, the quicker they make gains in proficiency.    Another advantage of taking up a language in the middle schools is that if they take it for two years and pass moving forward  they will enter high school at Level 2 and well be will prepared to take the advanced language classes.

One of the many activities that Ms. Huaman has started with the World Language classes is to involve her students in a World Language Service Learning program.  She wanted to see if the students could use the target language in a creative way to describe their school to a new student, make plans with a friend after school or the teach something to a younger student.

The concept was a fantastic way to excite the younger students and a way of the secondary students to give back to their community and encourage students to consider taking a language come next year.

Thus, World Language students from Burncoat and Doherty High are involved in finding ways to make learning language fun by working with sixth grade students.   Over a six week period groups of students in Spanish, French and Latin have been presenting lessons they developed to grade six classes at Thorndike and Midland Elementary schools.

Ms. Huaman stated that her goal of the thirty minute lessons was to give the elementary students a taste of what it will be like when they are learning a language and to expose them to what World Language is all about.

Here are some of the ideas used by the World Language students… One group at Thorndike Elementary had lessons prepared on the Roman Gods and Godesses in Latin.  The Latin students had a great time interacting with the students.    Then, in the Spanish Class, the students taught the elementary class a fun song to learn colors and the French students, not be to outdone, played games with numbers, days of the week and the months of the year.

Needless to say the sixth graders loved it.  Quotes such as “Having Burncoat students come in inspired me to learn a new language. “  Another student stated, “It was an amazing experience and I can’t wait to learn a new language in middle school.”

On the other hand, the high school students, (the teachers) loved the idea of working with the elementary students.  Jonathan Rezidor, an 11th grader in Latin III declared “We prepared for many weeks to teach Latin to elementary students.  I was quite nervous, but because of our preparation our lessons went very well.”

Similar comments were made from other students as well… Avery Kasten, Latin III, grade 11 spoke about how happy she was to see the excitement of the students learning Latin and said, “It was cool to experience what it is like to be a teacher.”   Now, Avery could be a future teacher in Worcester in the years to come.   

The same could be said for Parker Switzer, grade 12 in Latin IV for his experience made him appreciate the efforts teachers put into their lessons each day. Perhaps Judy Ha, Latin IV, senior summed up the teaching of Latin best, “I’m glad we were able to expose Latin to 6th graders.  Who said Latin’s dead?”

At Midland Street Elementary it was a similar story with elementary and high school students being excited about working with one another.  One of the elementary students who seemed to have a great handle on the project affirmed that she learned to break down the words in Latin and found the meaning of words using Latin roots. “We were able to learn new things every day.”  Wow, not bad for a sixth grader!

The Doherty High 10th grade Spanish student, Jewel Kiser, a former student at Midland Elementary, was most articulate in her explanation of the project. She acknowledged, “I know kids like to talk a lot!  By learning another language they get to talk to other people who might not know English.  I think this sixth grade can handle learning a language. Even though we only had two lessons thus far, they are catching on quickly.”

Needless to say Ms. Huaman was delighted to see the enthusiasm of each group and see language being used in meaningful ways.  She was happy to see the project go so well for it gave the elementary students a taste of the wonderful language opportunities for them to consider come next year.  She went on to say that the service learning project worked so well because of the cooperation of the high school and elementary teachers working together.


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