French Club a Big Hit at Independence Elementary

French Club a Big Hit at Independence Elementary
Posted on 12/06/2019
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photo of two students in French Club“Répétez, s’il vous plait” greets you when you walk into the Innovation Hub at Independence Elementary School on Mondays. Why? Twenty-nine students are participating in a new after-school club led by Lakota East French teacher Tiffany Ashley 

Wanting to expose younger students to a new language, Ashley reached out to the Independence PTA to see if they would be interested - and they whole-heartedly agreed.

The hour-long sessions will run for eight weeks this semester. It’s been so popular that Ashley, with the help of some of her Lakota East advanced placement (AP) students, will start a second session next semester. Principal Greg Finke is looking forward to extending the opportunity. The club “provides an enrichment opportunity that we have not been able to offer previously,” he explained. “Anytime we can offer a club or activity to engage students in learning something new, I feel it is a tremendous benefit to them academically, socially and emotionally.” 

After mentioning the club to her AP students, senior Elena Cittadino asked Ashley if she could help. Now the club has three “high school buddies” who run small group activities each week. “It has been beneficial in so many ways,” said Ashley. “I think the younger students enjoy working with the high school kids, and the little ones really respond to them. I have even heard that one of the AP girls has achieved ‘princess status’ with one of the third-graders,” she joked.

The students have learned vocabulary words, greetings, numbers and the alphabet. For some, like fifth-grader Antonio Lizarraga, the appeal of the club was the chance to learn a new language. “If I go to Europe, I could speak a new language,” he explained.

For others, they just like learning. “It’s an extra hour of school, and I like school,” said fourth-grader George Culligan.

Each week, Ashley comes up with different lessons to teach new vocabulary words, while reinforcing what they’ve already learned. “The hardest part was deciding what vocabulary to focus on,” she reflected. “Finding fun and engaging activities was easy!” 

Ashley then reviews the lessons with her AP students who help work with small groups of students and lead activities. “I can do both large group instruction and small group instruction,” said Ashley. “The high school kids have loved this opportunity - none of them have missed a day. It has all been volunteer for them,” she continued.

Cittadino was excited to help with the club after speaking to Ashley. “She described it almost like teaching, which is a path I’m looking at,” she said of the real world learning opportunity.

Classmate Larisa Bryan was used to working with elementary students after previously helping with sixth-grade band at VanGorden. “I already knew that I liked helping kids,” she explained. “I love French and also think kids are great!”

From learning the alphabet to saying “the eggs” (les oeufs), the students smile for the full hour. “I like that we learn the alphabet and get to sing it,” said fourth-grader Aubrey Lewis. They’ve also learned other French songs like “Frère Jacques.”

And, they all have their favorite phrases that they’ve learned. “Comment ça va” (how are you) is fourth-grade student Ty Bikoko’s. “They go home and practice,” said East student Ellie Leisten. “It’s really interesting to see how excited the kids are,” she said.

Ashley’s plans for second semester include collaborating with her AP students. The high school students all plan to continue next semester, with Leisten leading the way. “It’s such a great feeling to have someone look up to you.”

29 students, including fourth-graders Madelyn Youkilis (left) and Aubrey Lewis (right), are learning French as part of an after school club at Independence Elementary.