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P.E. students trade helmets for thinking caps
From staff reports
Kindergarten through fifth-grade students at Vickery Elementary (Vickery) don't need a helmet to play games when the go to Neetz Lach's physical education (P.E.) class twice a week. They need their thinking caps. That's because at Vickery, P.E. isn't just about getting physical exercise, the class integrates linguistic differential language instruction, so it's about learning too.
"Due to the diversity of cultures at Vickery, I found it important to expose all students to linguistic differences in language and cultures," Lach said. "There are 14 different languages represented by Vickery students. I plan to cover each language for two weeks. Using this schedule, we will be able to cover all 14 languages by the end of the school year."
Lach engages students when she introduces a new language by showing a video of a person speaking the numbers one through 10 from the country they are learning about. This allows them to hear how the numbers are spoken in that language. To help enforce the language introduced in the video, large posters decorate the walls of the gym for reference. Additionally, the flag of the country and a map showing where it is located is posted.
"I ask each class if there is anyone that has come from the country we are studying and, if so, they model counting from one to 10 in their home language," Lach said. "Each day, when students come to P.E., they do their warm-ups counting in the language we are currently studying. And, anytime we do an activity inside the gym, or jog outside, students count in the language we are learning."
Taking the learning one-step further, every student is given a card that includes the languages they have learned. This allows them to study and independently master. At the end of each six weeks, students will be quizzed on the new languages they learned. In addition learning about fitness, these students covered English, Spanish and Thai during the first six weeks of school.
"Students come back to P.E. so excited to share stories about how they showed their parents that they can count in three languages," Lach said. "They are delighted to accomplish something that even their parents cannot do. I have noticed they are eager to learn and speak in different languages. When they come to P.E., instead of students asking what we are going to do, they ask what is our new language. I love sharing this experience with them. The smiles on their faces make it all worth while."