Speaking a new language

September 19, 2005|by KAREN HANNA

In Lisa Idol's new class at Bester Elementary School, vocabulary lists for the youngest students to the oldest include phrases such as "How are you?" and words such as "hello" and "goodbye."

For 30 minutes every eight days, Idol regales her students with Spanish.

"They can't wait for me to come in - 'When are you coming?'" Idol said, echoing students' reaction to the new Spanish-introduction program at Bester.

The beginning of a new school year often includes new teachers but new programs, such as the implementation of foreign language programs in Washington County Public Schools, also greet students reporting back to class.


Thirty-one freshmen have committed to attending Clear Spring High School's first magnet program, a science- and math-based academy that launches in the spring with a biotechnology class, science teacher Sue Lowery said.

Students may pursue one of three tracks - horticulture, environmental sciences or agricultural sciences - as they matriculate through the program, Lowery said.

"If you look at the careers in agriculture, there's almost more careers in agriculture than anything else," Lowery said.

At Greencastle-Antrim High School in Pennsylvania, students may take advantage of science programs offered through the district's second-year partnership with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

The school also is starting a new peer leadership program, Principal Jack Appleby said.

So is South Hagerstown High School.

According to Carl Brindley, the adviser of the school's new Diversity Achievement Council, about 35 students were invited to a lunchtime session last week to discuss ways they might help their at-risk classmates.

"We have a list of students that we want to try to reach out to," Brindley said.

Idol already has found the key - and a few notes - to grab her students' attention across the language divide. Her "jam-packed" short sessions include music.

"I go in singing, and I leave singing," Idol said.

A longtime kindergarten teacher, Idol said she enjoys teaching Spanish, just as her students love learning it. She splits her time between Bester and Paramount elementary schools and spends 30-minutes periods in each classroom every eight days.

"What has surprised me is I love the fourth- and fifth-graders in both schools because they have been so responsive," Idol said.

According to Gloria Grimsley, supervisor of world and classical languages, Washington County has expanded its exploratory languages to four elementary schools, including Bester and Paramount. Language offerings also have expanded in the county's middle schools and high schools, Grimsley said.

Teachers who specialize in other fields have offered to share their knowledge of languages such as French, Russian and Japanese, Grimsley said.

"Elementary schools have been clamoring for after-school for language programs - they want them, the parents want them, the kids want them," Grimsley said.

According to Idol, research shows students exposed to foreign language at an early age enjoy benefits in other academic areas, just as they would by playing an instrument.

Early music opportunities are expanding, too, according to Rob Hovermale, director of visual and performing arts. As of this year, just five Washington County elementary schools have neither band nor orchestra programs.

According to information provided by Hovermale, the county's re-implementation of elementary music programs could be completed next year.

For Idol, that's probably bueno.

"Children who learn music, or who learn another language, it aids them, it aids them in other sections, you know, in other areas of their education," she said.

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