LINDSBORG — Students at Smoky Valley High School learned a thing or two about speaking Spanish from people who know it best — third graders.
Students in Laia Dietz's Spanish 1 and 2 class at Smoky Valley High School had the opportunity to talk with third grade students from La Seu d'Urgell, Catalonia on Wednesday and Thursday this week.
In her Spanish 2 class, students reviewed present and past tense in Spanish along with future tenses so they are more familiar with forming sentences.
Laura Leis, technology integration and support specialist at SVHS, was able to help Dietz set up Skype and a webcam so her students would be able to interact with those in Spain.
"I've been trying to organize this some years ago and it was very difficult to find teachers willing to collaborate, but our technology specialist in the high school is trying to promote SVHS to have teachers use technology and introduce it to the classroom; which also makes students more interested and for better participation. So she suggested Skype for our project," Dietz explained.
With luck on her side, Dietz was able to find a teacher in Spain willing to Skype with her class.
"She was actually a former student of mine and now she's an English teacher in Northern Spain in Catalonia. I reached out to her and she told me she would love it. Her students are only in third grade, but they were still very interested," Dietz said. "It's been very interesting to see them interact and wanting to learn so much about each other. The students in Spain are already learning their third language and their English was very good."
Dietz noted teachers speak Catalan and Spanish to students from kindergarten on.
"Once they start primary school, they learn English in a classroom setting. They learn mostly vocabulary basics, such as animals, houses, family, colors and so on," she explained.
Students have been preparing their questions for quite some time. They are most interested in where they are from, what the weather is like and what types of food they eat.
"We designed it so that students from Spain will ask questions in English, so my students here will respond in English. Then my students will as questions in Spanish and students there will respond in Spanish," Dietz added.
While Spanish may not be an easy language to learn for some, Dietz tries to use fun and interactive ways to engage her students.
"I do this to motivate them when they feel it is hard to learn Spanish. Interacting with students who learn English in Spain, my students here realize that we all struggle when learning a foreign language. These communication exchanges lead to questions and discussions in class about cultural and linguistic perspectives. Students can connect with someone from far away because they understand their struggle with the language, while they learn about lifestyle, maybe current events, and they reflect about their own," she said.Overall, these foreign language and cultural experiences make us appreciate and value what we have and do, become more open-minded, and ultimately, stir our curiosity to become lifelong learners.
Dietz said her students did not know they would be talking to third graders, but noted they were very surprised at how well they spoke in English.
"The students from Spain were very impressed with my Spanish students — they thought they had been learning Spanish for a very long time," she said. "The third graders there were very excited they were getting to talk with high school students."
This isn't the only interaction SVHS students will have with those in Spain.
"I'm taking five senior students to Spain this summer to be with some host families for two weeks. The school that helped us find host families also wants to Skype with us in the future," Dietz added.
In the future, Dietz hopes to make this a permanent part of the Spanish curriculum.
"I would love to expand this and have students interact maybe on a one-on-one level with another student from a Spanish speaking country. If I end up having more schools in Spain interested with this type of exchange, I would like to expand it to where all teachers who are teaching Spanish to have the same opportunity," she said.
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