“They are all excited now. When I pass by, they say hi to me,” junior Ivan Nova said about the partnership the class has with Avery fourth-graders.
Other projects have included reading children’s books out loud in Spanish then translating them with the help of the younger students.
“This class is more about culture than regular [Spanish] classes, more about presentation, spelling, research projects, and what they take from this will give them a huge advantage,” reilley said.
It’s the additional challenge that Arango and the others want to capitalize on.
Karen Rivera is a sophomore and began speaking English at age 7. She speaks both languages at home but said she’s never focused on writing or reading in Spanish — a large component of her class at Dedham High.
“I’ve always spoken Spanish, but that doesn’t mean I know how to spell or where to put the accents, and I’d like to learn to read it a little better,” Rivera said.
It’s a benefit that, according to the Center for Applied Linguistics, couples with the fact that many native speakers, like Reilley’s students, speak varieties of Spanish that are considered “non-standard.”
“Some students may already use oral Spanish in familiar context but need to develop their academic Spanish and reading and writing skills,” a pamphlet from the linguistics center said.
Some critics of programs like the one in Dedham say that the students would do even better learning more English but, according to McCarthy, there’s a chance for them to do that here, too.
“The students are able to not only speak their native language in a classroom setting for a year, it helps with those speaking skills and learning English,” he said.
Looking forward, Reilley is hopeful that next year will bring more students and more opportunities.
Students will read the book “La Travesía de Enrique” by Sonia Nazrio and discuss their own journeys while trying to disprove common misconceptions about Spanish-speaking countries and immigrants.
“I want them to be proud of their native cultures and customs,” she said.
Natalie Feulner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.