News Post

Fifth Grade Spanish Students Communicate Across Divisions
Fifth Grade Spanish Students Communicate Across Divisions
sorfanakis
The fifth grade Spanish students have been studying scheduling and events. They have learned to talk about when events occur: television programs, parties, classes, etc. They have learned to ask about events: time, date, and location. They have consulted sample schedules and talked amongst themselves about the classes offered at the Middle School. Now, drawing together three of the five goal areas for language learning – communication, connections, and communities – the students sought the advice of current Middle School students to get the inside scoop on what to expect next year.
When the fifth grade students arrived to class on the first day of school, they were elated to be members of the Lower School upper echelon. As the year goes by, it starts to dawn on them that, while they are on top of the pile this year, they are preparing for the next big step: joining the Middle School community. Increasing responsibility, such as projects and homework assignments, visits from Middle School teachers, and tours of the Middle School cast glimpses into the future. Many students look forward to the changes that await them. In the 2013-14 yearbook survey about Middle School, fifth graders voiced their anticipation about new uniforms, bigger lockers, lunch, more choices in class scheduling, etc. The excitement about class scheduling turned into the perfect touchstone for fifth grade Spanish studies.

The fifth grade Spanish students have been studying scheduling and events. They have learned to talk about when events occur: television programs, parties, classes, etc. They have learned to ask about events: time, date, and location. They have consulted sample schedules and talked amongst themselves about the classes offered at the Middle School. Now, drawing together three of the five goal areas for language learning – communication, connections, and communities – the students sought the advice of current Middle School students to get the inside scoop on what to expect next year.

Working in collaboration with Middle School Spanish teacher, Bill Shann, Lower School Spanish teacher, Abby Bacon facilitated hand-written communication between current Middle School students and the Middle School students-to-be. The fifth grade students used what they have learned in Spanish class to initiate the conversation. They wrote letters expressing their own interests, asking questions, and seeking guidance from the Middle School expert. It is an opportunity to put to use their Spanish skills to find out about something that matters to them. It is also a chance to see that Spanish can transcend the classroom walls and course content.

The intended outcomes of the project are numerous. Communication and collaboration are at the helm of the project. Students had an opportunity to see that using language can be messy – misunderstandings can occur and opinions can differ – but that communication is at the heart of language learning. Their communication skills benefit from taking Spanish out of the safety of the classroom, where skits can be rehearsed and texts can be edited, by considering, "Who is my intended audience?"  They have to consider, "How do I say or express what I mean?" And there are also clear implications for developing persistence and resilience: "How will I know if I have been understood?" "What do I learn from my mistakes?" All of these are questions that students have explored (and will continue to investigate) in their language studies.

In the end, the students learned about their own Middle School interests, and they realized that they are able to communicate in Spanish with their peers. They learned the real-world skill of what language educators call negotiating for meaning, which involves asking follow-up questions for clarification, using circumlocution, inferring meaning from context, and recognizing cognates. The project is a powerful experience for the budding linguists. They are not fluent in Spanish, but they are developing the skills to become lifelong language learners.