La práctica hace mejor!

Classroom partnership forges friendships, language skills

Lowell High students in Sarah Ellis’ Spanish 4 class are ‘pen pals’ this year with peers in Blanca, Murcia, Spain

When Sarah Ellis returned to Lowell High School this year from a year-long sabbatical teaching in Spain, she brought back something pretty special for her Spanish 4 students: the chance to forge relationships with the students she taught at a high school in Blanca, Murcia, on the European country’s southeastern coast.

Teacher Sarah Ellis explains a recent pen-pal assignment

Lowell students have been practicing their Spanish — and conversely, Spanish students their English — by sending videos in groups and communicating one-on-one via email and social media.

For a recent assignment, Ellis instructed her students to introduce their Spanish peers to their daily life in Lowell, asking them to make observations on a deeper, cultural level than they typically might otherwise. Elements of the graded video assignment called for 8 to 10 sentences that demonstrated proper Spanish grammar, spoken and written.

Junior Autumn Serylo said she connected right away with José in Blanca, and that the video assignment called for the use of “more complex grammar” than she’s used to using, so it challenged her skills.

Added classmate Hannah Schmidt: “I think the most important thing is this has given us a chance to practice our speaking. We can be very self-conscious about sounding dumb. I think we’re more afraid of making mistakes than they are.”

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Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema is a Grand Rapids native and a product of Grand Rapids Public Schools, including Brookside and West Leonard elementaries, City Middle/High School and Ottawa Hills. She found her tribe in journalism in 1997 and has never wanted to do anything but write. For 15 years she was a freelance journalist for The Grand Rapids Press, covering local schools and government, religion, business, home & garden and lifestyles. She and her husband, John, think even those without kiddos should be invested in their local schools and made to feel a part of them. Read Morgan's full bio or email Morgan.

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