Columbia College students teach Ridgeway Elementary students about different cultures

Wednesday, November 13, 2013 | 6:22 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — Rebecca Alves and Andressa Frohlich came to the U.S. from Brazil three months ago. They had never spoken English until they arrived at Columbia College.

On Wednesday, Alves and Frohlich stood in front of the Brazilian flag as they told fourth- and fifth-graders at Ridgeway Elementary School about music and dance from their home country — in English.

The students' eyes were glued to the screen as Alves and Frohlich displayed videos of five popular dances in Brazil. The students even learned a song in Portuguese.

"Repeat after me," Alves said.

The whole class sang back the Portuguese lyrics to Alves and Frohlich. Then, it was time to sing along with the music video. This really tested their skills, as it was a little faster than they had practiced.

Alves and Frohlich, along with other students in Columbia College's English for Speakers of Other Languages, or ESOL, Program, came to Ridgeway to practice their English speaking skills as part of the Conversation Partners Program.

The collaboration between the ESOL Program and the education department at Columbia College is an effort to create beneficial learning opportunities for all students involved.

The ESOL students have not only been learning English in the classroom, but also in an informal environment with their conversation partner. Partners have spent time with one another cooking, getting coffee and watching sports and movies to develop their English-speaking skills and deepen cultural awareness and understanding.

They had the opportunity to practice what they've learned in a practical setting in front of students at Ridgeway as part of International Education Week this week. The ESOL students provided all of the content for the presentations, while the education students were there to guide them through.

Ridgeway students learned about the cultures in Brazil, Chile, China, Japan, Libya, Saudi Arabia and South Korea. The presentations were about music and dance, arts and crafts, language and holidays.

A favorite among many of the students was learning a dance to a popular children's song in Japan called "Maru Maru Mori Mori".

The students got out of their seats and showed off their dance moves. The ESOL student in charge of the presentation taught students the dance step by step, and eventually, the students had learned a 45-second dance.

"That was fun," Maggie Campbell, 11, said. "Let's do that at recess!"

Crafts and languages

After learning about Brazilian and Japanese music, the children traveled to South Korea and Japan to learn about arts and crafts.

A popular craft in Japan is origami: ori meaning to fold and gami meaning paper, students learned how to fold a piece of paper into paper planes. After perfecting their planes, students stood in line to see whose paper plane would fly the farthest.

Learning new dances and making paper planes was too easy for some of the students. However, learning different languages proved to be more difficult to remember. Students learned Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Arabic and Portuguese.

The students practiced the Arabic alphabet, greetings in Portuguese, letters in Japanese and numbers in Korean and Chinese.

The ESOL students played a short game with the students about numbers. Some students struggled to remember the numbers in a different language, but those who did were given a cookie or piece of candy from one of the countries.

Nine-year-old Olivia Bader's favorite part of the day was learning about Brazil and its language, Portuguese. She remembered from the presentation that olá means hello.

Holidays and traditions

The last stop for students was learning about holidays and traditions in China and Saudi Arabia.

The Dragon Boat Festival is a significant holiday in China and the one with the longest history. Teams race in boats that are in the shape of a dragon to the finish line. Zongzi, rice dumplings wrapped in bamboo leaves, is a popular food at the festival.

Saudi Arabia celebrates a holiday similar to Halloween in which the children sing for candy at their neighbors' doors instead of saying "trick-or-treat."

The class received small envelopes filled with candy and currency from a different country. Of course, the students play-fought over the money.

Ridgeway-Columbia College partnership

Ridgeway and Columbia College began a professional development partnership at the beginning of the school year. It gives the college students hands-on experience in the classroom.

Elaine Buschjost, an instructional coach at Ridgeway, provides feedback and guidance for those students who are either student-teaching or those who are getting field experience at school. 

She said the ESOL presentations are one of the many reasons the partnership is beneficial for all students involved.

Miranda Wilkerson, an assistant professor and coordinator of ESOL at Columbia College, said this also provided a unique opportunity for the ESOL students to experience a public school in the U.S.

"They've been begging to take a tour of the schools," she said. "Being at Ridgeway allows them to be out of their everyday college element."

Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.

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