Lower School Spanish Classes Infuse Culture Into Language Learning

Lower School Spanish Classes Infuse Culture Into Language Learning
With a swift kick, the goal is scored. Immediately the crowd roars, “Goooooooal!” Students sing out traditional soccer chants, all in Spanish.

What’s going on is more than an average soccer game; it is a lesson in language learning. And it’s just one example of how Lower School Spanish teacher Sara Broussard provides authentic experiences to infuse language and culture into her lesson plans, even for the youngest learners in St. Martin’s language program, on a daily basis.

Throughout the year, Broussard gives students an introduction to the different cultures and traditions of the Spanish-speaking world in a variety of ways. This week she organized a multi-grade-level exploration of soccer via a soccer tournament and viewing of El Clásico, the soccer match between rivals Real Madrid and Barcelona. Upper School Spanish students helped their Lower School counterparts learn popular chants. Then the Lower and Upper School groups cheered on the teams as they watched the highlights of the actual game.

“Teaching language through culture provides context, thus the Spanish language structures which we study are more memorable to students,” said Broussard. “They feel invested in learning a second language when they have knowledge of its cultural influence in the world as well as in our local community.”

Broussard’s exploration of culture went far beyond soccer. For Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs Sept. 15 - Oct. 15 each year, Broussard invited Hispanic students and their families into the classroom to share bits of their culture -- from food and music to stories of their homeland -- with their classmates. The exchange was powerful and eye-opening for many. Broussard says it is an important lesson that not only enables her to introduce vocabulary in an authentic and natural way, but also helps students celebrate their classmates and the world around them.

“Our Latino families really embraced Hispanic Heritage Month through their presentations,” said Broussard. “These presentations from StM families about their culture provide beautiful, rich experiences for our students. Since language and culture are intertwined, we cannot learn about one without the other.”

And third and fourth graders will be able to explore the origins of Día de los Muertos on Nov. 2, when a guest expert will visit Broussard’s classes. Jocelyne Ponce, a Guatemalan archeologist from the Stone Center for Latin American Studies, will present to students on the Day of the Dead. Ponce is a Ph.D. student at Tulane who specializes in Maya archaeology, ancient Maya political and socioeconomic organization, ritual practices, and archaeological field methods.

For Broussard, it is yet another way to make the language and culture relevant to her students.

“There are many cultures within our school, and I think language classes give us space to recognize and celebrate that richness,” said Broussard. “I want to help students understand that we are influenced by a variety of cultures and that understanding others makes us all better people.”

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