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Students getting taste of Spanish

The third-grade students in Lois Christensen's room at Dickinson Jefferson Elementary School practice their Spanish-speaking skills every Wednesday.

"Gracias," the students said when they received pencils for the daily assignment. They quickly learned the Spanish word for pencil is "la'piz."

The Spanish vocabulary is taught by Dickinson High School Spanish V students Grace McKirdy and John James. The 10-week course concludes in mid-December.

Wednesday was a review of words already studied: Queso is cheese, agua is water, sopa is soup and naranja is an orange.

"They focus on a certain category of words each week," said Christensen. "First of all, they did Spanish color words, Spanish days of the week, months of the year and now Spanish foods."

She said the students earn credit for teaching the class.

"You really understand the language when you teach it. They're getting practice teaching," she said.

While McKirdy and James teach at Jefferson, their classmates Kendra Hutchens and Kelli Marsh teach in Sue Bogner's third grade classroom at Dickinson's Roosevelt Elementary School.

"We try to teach the same things. We work together and give each other ideas," said McKirdy.

"We love it. It teaches us to think about what we've learned. It's a good experience," she said. "They're great kids. At first they were a little bit hesitant. 'Spanish, what's Spanish?' You can tell which ones have studied and which ones don't," she said.

The teachers stick to vocabulary and simple greetings. Students learned the accent on the word 'papa' determines the difference between 'potato' and 'father.'

"It's simple things that they can do, but the structure of a sentence is much different and harder," she said.

She said the introduction to Spanish is fostering awareness of Spanish on television and in books.

"We want to let them know that English is not the only language and America is not the only country. There's more out there," she said.

McKirdy practiced her Spanish-speaking skills with natives during a one-week trip with the Spanish Club to Peru during 2005.

"I would like to be a missionary some day. Spanish is a language spoken almost as widely as English around the world. It's a fun language," she said.