La Cañada High School students in Merissa Sadler’s French classes recently put their studies to the test, turning a fairy-tale writing assignment into a crash course on book-making and public speaking at a reading for elementary school students.
A bus full of teens descended on the La Cañada Elementary School campus last Thursday morning, armed with color picture books specially made for a bilingual story-time session and a few props — colorful hats, capes, animal ears and a dragon tail — to liven up their narratives.
Sadler says that every year she asks students to write a French fairy tale, using key vocabulary words and certain parts of speech. This year, she hoped to make the lesson more dynamic by having students write and create their own picture books, using the online story-building platform storybird.com, and read them to younger students in French before translating them into English.
“It’s taking what they’ve learned in the classroom and making it relevant in the real world,” Sadler said at the start of the session. “They’re not just doing it and turning something in for the grade — they’re going to be actually using it.”
“Señora” Katherine Hurley, who teaches Spanish at the elementary level, was happy to have Sadler’s students share their linguistic talents with her third-grade Spanish students at LCE and, in the process, introduce their ears to a third language.
“I want my students to understand when they get to the middle school and high school they don’t have to take Spanish if they don’t want to. There are other languages,” said Hurley, who’s also taught French in the past.
For the event, pairs of high school students took turns reading their books for small groups of third-graders. Sophomore Wren Kawamura and junior partner Ashlyn Oh read “L’Origine des Etoiles,” an imaginative tale about how the night sky got its animalian constellations.
“We wrote it in English first together, then we translated it into French,” Kawamura explained the process, which involved choosing an illustrator’s artwork to match the story.
“It felt very legitimate,” Oh said of the finished product. “We actually made a book and it’s in French. And the pictures are so pretty.”
Sophomore Luke Rushing teamed up with LCHS junior Kylan Zhao to create “Dana,” a story about a girl who brokers a friendship between peer Francis and an intimidating ogre friend named Timmy. The two took turns reading in French and translating into English for the young estudiantes.
When the period was over, Hurley helped her students express their appreciation.
“What do we say in Spanish?” she asked.
“Gracias!” the LCE students replied.
“And high school students, how do you say, ‘gracias’ in French?”
“Merci!” they said in unison.