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Sixth-graders teach younger learners in language program

Third-graders Erica Moos, right, and Ashlan Alicea, left, work on Spanish lessons with middle school student Tatum Sear at Strawberry Park Elementary School last week.
John F. Russell

The way Ty Coughlan explained the Spanish-language story he was reading to Sven Tate and Fischer Matthews made sense to them. As 12-year-old Coughlan read the story about Doctor Jen to his 8-year-old reading partners Wednesday, he stopped to give tips and hints for how to remember the Spanish words.

That is just the effect the teachers at Steamboat Springs Middle School and Strawberry Park Elementary School had in mind when they arranged a monthly meeting between sixth-grade and third-grade students.

Middle school Spanish teacher Cathy Girard said the sixth-grade students created a booklet with a story in Spanish during class, and translated and colored it as homework.



From there, she turned the lesson over to the older students.

“I said to them, ‘You’re the teacher; it’s up to you,'” Girard said.



Each of the students found his or her own way to help the younger children. Ty taught his partners ways he had learned to remember the words.

For “estómago,” the word for stomach, Ty explained that he remembered the word by taking off the top and bottom, leaving a stomach in the middle.

Sven said he liked the lessons, as well, because it included some material the third graders had not seen before.

“It’s kind of fun, because you get to learn new words,” he said.

Although the reading partners can change each time the sixth graders visit, Sven said he chose to find Ty again, “because he’s a really good teacher.”

Sixth-grader Malia Fraioli, 12, taught by going through her book like a lesson plan, ensuring Zoe Walsh and Jack Strotbeck, both 8, understood every word. But even though the story was advanced, she said her partners caught on quick.

“It’s interesting working with the younger kids and to see there are lots of times they understand what I’m saying,” she said.

Third-grade teachers Alohi Madrigal and Matt Carter worked with Girard to arrange the meetings.

Carter said he was impressed by the interaction, but he joked that the sixth graders got a better response from his class than he does.

“It’s amazing how much better the third graders listen to them,” Carter said.


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