Fourth Graders Connect With High School Spanish Class

Park Forest, IL–(ENEWSPF)– Video conferencing equipment has made it possible for Park Forest-Chicago Heights School District 163’s fourth grade honors class, which is composed of students from Mohawk and Blackhawk Intermediate Centers and housed at Mohawk, to participate in an Introduction to Spanish class at Rich South High School without leaving Mohawk.

The fourth graders participate in the daily high school class via a 42-inch screen monitor that enables them to interact with the high school teacher and her class. When Mohawk teacher Laurie Colbert instructed the students to prepare for the Spanish class, one student said a quiet “yea.” Once the monitor was turned on, the fourth grade students proclaimed “hola!” in unison to the high school class. They then followed the instructions of Rich South High School teacher Juanita Southern to count to 30 in Spanish with the high schoolers and perform other tasks, such as converting the numerals into their Spanish word equivalent. While the class is under way, Mohawk teacher Aaron Courson offers Spanish support to the fourth grade students. He also provides supplemental Spanish instruction to the students for one hour after school on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday. District 163 provides transportation home for the students.

“I really like learning a new language,” said fourth grade student Tehearah Ferguson, a Blackhawk student, as the Spanish lesson was about to begin.

Remarked classmate Michael Salter, also a Blackhawk student, “I like the Spanish class because it is very cool, and I like Spanish because when you get older, it opens up a lot of jobs. Some jobs require knowing Spanish, so knowing Spanish may help you get that job.”
Christopher White, a Mohawk student, added, “I love the Spanish class. I learned new words like ‘hay,’ ‘cuando,’ ‘porque,’ ‘por que,’ ‘cual,’ and ‘donde.’ The teachers, Mr. Courson and Ms. Southern, are great teachers.”
Classmate Dareal Sykes, a Mohawk student, also is enthusiastic about the class and noted, “I think working with the high school students is a good idea, because they know more than we do and can learn from them.”
“I recently visited the class and I was impressed with the younger students’ pronunciation of the Spanish words and their enthusiasm,” said Board Member Margaret McDannel. Board President Walter Mosby agreed and added, “I thought the class was fantastic. I think it is wonderful that the students are able to interact with these high school students and observe their behavior. The high school students have the opportunity to make a favorable impression on the younger students and serve as role models.”

Karon Nolen, Mohawk principal, said, “This is a wonderful experience for our students, and it is an excellent example of how technology can be used as a teaching tool and to interface with students between schools.”

Superintendent Joyce Carmine commented, “As I observed the first class, it was clear that the students are highly motivated and attentive to the instruction of the high school Spanish teacher. Their enthusiasm and motivation were evident, indicating that they will achieve at high levels. Research in language development tells us that the earlier children are exposed to a foreign language, the more likely they are to become fluent in that language. The video-conferencing class allows our fourth grade students to interact with the high school Spanish teacher and the high school students. It is a very beneficial experience. We will monitor the class to determine how we will continue it in the future.”
Dr. Jennifer Norrell, District 227’s assistant superintendent for student learning and accountability, remarked, “This provides an instructional setting that essentially has fourth  graders and high school students learning together. It is very unique. Add the fact that the class is primarily taught in another language- that makes it even more interesting!”
Dr. Norrell went on to say, “The program will allow further communication with staff and administration at both districts. It also will expand upon the current Spanish I exposure offered to middle school students and make our students more competitive at an even earlier age.”