Park Avenue School Language Club
Having a buddy makes learning more fun
There were lines from a play to review, coloring to enjoy and a good old-fashioned game of Twister, all of which brought out smiles and some friendly banter.
Every Monday the Language Club meets in Andriana DiGiacomo’s classroom at Park Avenue School, where many students are in a bilingual or dual-language classroom. The younger students, who are in grades 2, 3 and 4, are joined by a group of volunteer students from nearby Port Chester High School who walk to the elementary school and serve as mentors.
Together they practice their Spanish.
As the weeks have gone by, the younger students have begun to feel more comfortable with the older students, who are also studying Spanish, and they easily talk and joke with one another.
Ms. DiGiacomo developed the idea for the club following a professional development session.
“Wouldn’t it be great if we had buddies,” she thought.
She reached out to Spanish teacher Ramon Torres at the high school, who enthusiastically agreed with her plan.
“It’s a way for them to get to know the language,” Ms. DiGiacomo said of the younger students.
In the afternoon of April 8 students were learning lines in Spanish from three different children’s plays: “The Little Red Hen,” “Little Red Riding Hood” and “The Three Little Pigs.” If students were not interested in that activity, they had the option of drawing a picture inspired by what they had done over the weekend and talking about it with their older friend.
“They like having their buddies,” Ms. DiGiacomo said. “I love it because its constant Spanish language and it gives them an opportunity to have a special relationship with a high school student and practice their Spanish.”
“I’m surprised by the success,” Mr. Torres said. “We had to break it into two groups,” he added, because attendance for the after-school program grew so much.
Students meet in Ms. DiGiacomo’s classroom as well as in the school cafeteria.
As many as 35 students who have attended the weekly gatherings.
PCHS sophomore Johan Mondenegro said he decided to work with the younger students as a way to practice his Spanish.
“We can talk to them and learn more ourselves,” he said.
“It’s important for people to know two languages,” PCHS junior Andrea Coto said. “It’s a new level of knowledge. They are still learning,” she said of the elementary students. “It’s easier for them to practice.”
Both Johan and Andrea, along with their friend, sophomore Daniela Garcia, worked with third-graders Erika Cortes and Geraldine Valeovinos.
Erika said she enjoyed practicing her Spanish.
Both young students agreed one of the most difficult parts of speaking two languages is translating one into the other.
“They are learning both at the same time,” Andrea said of English and Spanish. “It’s a skill not everyone has. It will be useful to them in the future.”
Students in the small group have gotten to know one another better and have even developed a special fist bump to greet one another.
After working in small groups or one-on-one, students came together for another fun activity. This time it was playing Twister.
“Mano derecho amarilla,” someone yelled out.
Players then attempted to put their right hand on a yellow circle.
Next came “pie izquierdo rojo,” or “left foot red.”
Each movement caused a lot of giggles as balance became an issue.
“It helps them improve their language,” PCHS sophomore Anthony Nieves said. “They don’t need to feel afraid.”
Katheryn Bizhco, a PCHS junior, said the group enables her to use her native language. She is originally from Ecuador.
“They can learn very well,” she said of the younger students.
When the announcement came that it was time to go, Katheryn received a big hug from one of her new young friends.