East Liverpool: Living Language grant program equips students for a bilingual tomorrow

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at ccat.sas.upenn.edu
Sat Sep 22 14:06:25 UTC 2007

Saying Hola to the future, Living Language grant program equips students
for a bilingual tomorrow

By REBEKAH POTTER, rpotter at reviewonline.com

EAST LIVERPOOL North Elementary students may be temporarily squeezed into
rooms at Westgate Middle School, but out ahead their prospects are
broadening. Buenos dias, Yolanda Coleta greets a second-grade class as she
enters the room. The students light up, showing her pictures and asking
how to say things in Spanish. Today Coleta diverges from her normal
practice of speaking only in Spanish to the children, since she has to
explain the instructions for a pre-test.  But normally when it comes to
English, her policy is not a word, she says.

Coleta is from Madrid, Spain. She is living in East Liverpool and teaching
at North Elementary as part of a federally-funded program called Living
Language. The $524,471 grant program aims to prepare East Liverpool
children to succeed in a world where speaking a second language is
becoming more and more an essential skill. This week the students in
Phyllis Wises class are having their third Spanish session. Coleta teaches
at North Elementary each morning, visiting different classes every day to
spend 30 minutes with them. That means each class in grades one to four
gets a Spanish lesson once a week.

The pre-test the students are taking this Friday covers the months of the
year, colors and numbers. It will be given again at the end of the school
year to see how much students have learned. Right now, the children are
concerned that they dont know all the answers.  Coleta answers their
questions in Spanish, gesturing to help students match the words with
their meanings. Numero cuatro es rosa, she says, holding up four fingers.

She then transitions to English, assuring them that it doesnt matter if
they get some wrong. You know what, at the end of the year youre going to
know all the words, plus some more, she tells them. The three-year grant
is part of a larger National Security Language Initiative. Fifty-two such
grants were distributed nationwide, four in Ohio. The goal of the program
is to eventually develop a seamless K-12 Spanish curriculum for East
Liverpool City Schools. It follows a 2005-2006 pilot program involving
North Elementary teacher Cathy Talbert and her kindergarten class. They
made weekly video-conferencing connections with a Spanish teacher at Avon
High School and an English teacher at the Instituto Thomas Jefferson near
Mexico City.

Next week North kindergarten and first grade students will begin
videoconferencing with Avon, and then with the school in Mexico the second
week of October. Second through fourth grades will be added to the
videoconferencing portion of the program next year. Coleta and her
husband, a graphic designer, will stay in East Liverpool for three years.
She spent four years teaching high school Spanish in eastern Kentucky and
then a year in Dayton prior to coming here. Coleta has a masters degree in
education and worked as a translator in Spain, which she plans to do when
she returns.

She said she had not taught young children much before, but it is going
well. I really enjoy the little ones, she said. They are really
enthusiastic. They are really excited about it. The Spanish lessons are
designed to mirror the content students learn in English. In the afternoon
Coleta goes to the Columbiana County Educational Service Center to work on
developing activities and materials for the program. Designing their own
materials and reproducing them instead of purchasing many copies from
publishers saves money. She said one project is a pictorial dictionary,
which should be done by Christmas.

Every single thing you do for them, they thank you, she said of her
students. The children rarely get frustrated and quickly pick up on
Spanish words, she said, explaining things to each other as they grasp
something new. The younger they are, the more quickly they pick up the
language. Theyre really smart kids, she said. And armed with language
skills, these kids will be well-prepared to succeed in the world beyond
their classroom walls.



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