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Evansville eighth-graders share Spanish lessons via books

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GINA R. HEINE
May 26, 2012
— More than 100 eighth-graders spread across the playground outside Levi Leonard Elementary School on Friday to present a handmade beginning Spanish book to their first-grade partners.

After first-grader Olivia Christensen read her book a couple of times to J.C. McKenna middle-schooler Kayleigh Jimenez, the eighth-grader started quizzing her young partner.


“What does ‘gerbo’ mean?” Kayleigh asked, smiling and squirming until Olivia turned the book around to reveal a drawing of a gerbil.


Similar scenes unfolded around the playground as 122 first-graders received their custom-made Spanish book to keep.


“It’s fantastic,” Kayleigh said of her book.


This marks the third year McKenna Middle School Spanish teacher Kelly Fanta Stroik has conducted the project.


Three weeks ago, eighth-graders met their first-grade partners and filled out questionnaires to help tailor the book to the students’ interests, she said. Then it was up to the eighth-graders to turn a white hardcover book filled with blank pages into a Spanish vocabulary book based on themes such as animals or colors.


One set of partners, for example, participates in karate at the same place, Fanta Stroik said. Their book centered on that common interest.


Seventh- and eighth-graders are required to take Spanish, so by now the eighth-graders have completed Spanish 1, Fanta Stroik said. The goal is to get younger students excited about the language and introduce them to Spanish earlier, she said.


First-grader Brianna Grover was eager to receive her “Mi libro de espanol” book from her partner, Heather Messling.


“Since she really likes Dr. Seuss, so I put in ‘Cat in the Hat,’” Heather explained.


Heather also cut pieces of felt in the shape of clothing items so Brianna could dress up the Cat in the Hat as she learned the Spanish word for each item.


“Falda” is the word for skirt, Heather told Brianna as she found an orange-shaped skirt in the pile of felt clothes.


“It was a lot of fun,” Heather said. “It meant a lot to us knowing that we were going to make books for the first-graders and help them learn stuff.”



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