Hola, hallo, hello: say hello to Talawanda’s after-school elementary foreign language program
Primary students in the Talawanda School District can learn new languages through the after-school foreign language program. Registration for this spring is closed, but applications are sent out each fall.
Third, fourth and fifth graders from the three elementary schools in the district – Bogan, Kramer and Marshall – can participate in the program. Each building has a lead teacher, while Kate Bowers, a fourth-grade teacher at Bogan Elementary and district coordinator for the program, oversees everything.
Bowers said the program took place virtually last spring due to the pandemic, and was open to students in kindergarten through eighth grade, which proved to be a challenge.
“I liked it because I like exposing more kids to that kind of experience,” Bowers said. “But there were just too many technical difficulties. You know, everything is on and the kids don’t know how to access Zoom. It was too much.”
This spring, vaccinated program volunteers will be admitted to school buildings. They will return to teaching in grades three through five.
The volunteers are made up of University of Miami education students who are studying to become language teachers or other non-educational language majors, and they create lesson plans for the students.
Martha Castañeda, a Miami foreign language teacher, helps coordinate the volunteers. In an email to The Miami Student, Castañeda wrote that there was a wide variety in the types of lessons involved.
“I have seen Latin lessons comparing houses in [ancient] Rome to today’s modern homes, Spanish about Costa Rica’s environmental efforts, Chinese cuisine for the Chinese New Year celebration, French with puppets and singing German songs,” Castañeda wrote.
Castañeda wrote that the program provides Miami students with lesson planning experience while allowing elementary students to be exposed to another language.
“We know that learning a language has many benefits, including better academic achievement, better cognitive development, as well as a more positive attitude towards other languages and cultures,” Castañeda wrote. “The earlier students are exposed to the different languages spoken around the world, the more the student benefits.”
Benjamin Drake, a 2019 Miami graduate, first became involved with the program as an elementary school student in Talawanda and then again as a teacher in his senior year in Miami.
As one of the teachers, he focused on vacations in Valencia, Spain, and used them to teach related vocabulary and grammar. Drake’s participation in the program led him to become a Spanish teacher.
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“I was really touched when I did it [as an elementary student]“, Drake said. “I just loved this whole cultural aspect of learning about someone totally across the world. It was just very interesting to me.
Hunter Bishop, a junior dual major in Spanish Education and Spanish, began teaching with the program in its first year in Sprint 2020. It was, however, canceled due to the pandemic. This year, Bishop will participate again.
Bishop said he likes the program because of the work experience it gives him.
“I think my favorite thing is just having the opportunity as an education specialist to be alone in the classroom and lead my own class,” Bishop said. “It’s a little different when you’re observing or teaching students, because you’re just there to watch, or you’re there when the classroom parameters have already been established.”
Bishop said he was excited to participate once again.
“It’s probably the best experience I’ve had in my life,” Bishop said. “So I’m happy to be able to do it again.”