Mercer Island’s elementary Spanish program is only in its second year, but teachers are already starting to see improvement, and opportunities for collaboration.
On Nov. 27, students from Kyla Keeler’s Spanish class at Mercer Island High School walked to the brand new and nearby Northwood Elementary to read books to third graders in Ashley Joseph’s classroom.
The elementary school students sent a list of their favorite things — from dogs and flowers to cats and football — to the sophomores and juniors studying Spanish at MIHS, who created custom stories to read aloud to them.
Keeler said that the exercise gave her students a realistic audience, and provided a different learning experience than creating a children’s book just for their teacher to read. Joseph said the activity gave her students a chance to learn more vocabulary and see a path of foreign language study past elementary school.
Mercer Island schools introduced the new elementary world language program last fall. Spanish is now taught to all students in grades K-5, in a 40-minute instructional segment in a rotation with P.E. and music. Funding for the program came from a state allocation to enhance the number of elementary teachers beginning in 2016-17.
Keeler said she’s excited to see at what level students enter their high school Spanish courses, after being exposed to it at a younger age.
“I think that’s the biggest part: being open to how everybody else lives, different perspectives, being empathetic towards others and understanding things from other points of view,” she said.