Guest authors: Lisette Geib and Sarah Hulls, RBHS
As the sun sinks below the horizon, darkness finally settles in around 10:00 p.m. But this town is far from going to sleep. Soon a collective “awe” can be heard as the historic Plaza Mayor is illuminated with a breath-taking panoramic display of lights. At this time people of all ages gather in the center of town to listen to live music, dance, spend time with family and friends, eat a snack, watch a soccer match, or just sit and enjoy the unique atmosphere. This unforgettable scene is the nightly norm in Salamanca, Spain.
Ten high school students had the opportunity to experience this enchanting culture while they lived in Salamanca for 3 weeks this summer. The students not only toured parts of Spain and Portugal, but also attended Spanish language classes each morning. Some even lived with a Spanish host family. These students received a full-immersion experience, accompanying their language learning with living the Spanish culture, from ordering tapas or churros con chocolate to dancing salsa.
All of the students embraced stepping out of their comfort zones to not only grow their vocabulary and grammatical accuracy, but to also enrich their knowledge and appreciation of a different culture. During their stay in Spain, each student chose one aspect of culture to compare and contrast between the United States and Spain. Through research, interviews, and observations, the students developed a final product that represented their findings and demonstrated how they had personally changed as a result of the trip. Their creativity shined through with products like “How to” Guides and ceramic versus paper coffee mugs. But even more impressive than their creativity or how well they dissected cultural similarities and differences, was their undeniable respect for a lifestyle distinct from their own. As senior Evan Dawkins commented, “The differences in the day-to-day life in these nations do not hinder them, but make the countries great.”
Center picture taken by the Roman bridge with the cathedrals of Salamanca, Spain in the background
Surrounding pictures: Students with their final products
We all know the first day jitters...the moment the students actually step into our rooms, and all of the planning we've done finally gets put into practice. As I have visited WL classrooms all over Lexington One this week I've seen teachers doing all the right things to help students eliminate those first day jitters. Students have been practicing routines, greeting and getting to know each other, and building classroom community. Teachers have been teaching and modeling expectations, communicating with parents, and encouraging a climate of respect and risk-taking in the language. I have also seen classrooms that are set up to provide language support for language learners.
Why does all of this preparation matter? Here is the difference between my son's attitude when we first arrived to drop him off versus when we were about to actually leave him on his first day of French immersion kindergarten. The reality hit him that he was going to be left in a room full of strangers, speaking a language that he doesn't know yet. But he has had a successful week so far because his French teacher knows how to make the language accessible. Remember, all of our students probably feel this way to a certain extent when they step into a world language classroom. Therefore, the more we can do to make them comfortable, the better!
So, as you finish up this first week of school, ask yourself the following questions:
Stay tuned for an update on Riverbluff's summer Spain trip. Coming up next!
World Language Teacher Support Specialist (and Language Enthusiast)