PUTNEY, Vt. – When the Grammar School French teacher, Johanna Gardner, came up with the idea of Foreign Language Night almost 10 years ago, she was looking for a way for students to share what they had learned about the French language and culture. Spanish teacher Paqui Arroyo has been equally enthusiastic about showcasing the Spanish-speaking world, and Foreign Language Night at TGS has became an annual celebration.
The evening program was held at the school in late February. Inspired by riddles and stories, the language teachers helped students adapt their own scripts to use vocabulary appropriate to their class levels. Other classes followed with French or Spanish games, videos, songs, and autobiographical poems. The teachers noted that the students seemed to love being on stage and having their moment in the spotlight to perform in another language.
Comments from the students reflected their commitment to the process. “Being the main character made me nervous, but it still was really fun to act in our Spanish play, especially in front of a crowd,” and sixth graders commented how proud they were to come up with a humorous plot for a movie that the audience could understand without speaking French.
A fifth grader said, “I really liked how everyone made awesome plays that were good for learning. All of them were funny and it was fun to watch other people performing them!” A fourth grader chimed in, “I liked being the crocodile,” and he cheerfully recited his French lines from memory: “J’ai faim. Je veux manger le panther noir,” meaning “I am hungry. I want to eat the black panther.”
The evening culminated with a sampling of French and Spanish foods, including crêpes, country style bread made by students at school, cheese, salami, and fruit.
Teachers emphasized how invested all the students were in their performances, and a parent reiterated that language program at TGS is one of the baselines of the school. One eighth grader echoed others’ comments when she said that the most rewarding part of the evening was “seeing all the hard work that everyone put into wonderful presentations and working together to make that happen,” and another spoke for many in the community when he wrote in his poem, “…Vermont es mi casa /Esta escuela es mi /Y construye una comunidad de confianza, /Y una, que yo siempre recordare…”
“Vermont is my home/ This school is my home/It builds a community based on trust,/ And one that I will always remember…”
Foreign language has been an integral component of the Grammar School since its founding in 1960. French lessons begin in kindergarten and in fifth grade, students have the option of focusing on either French or Spanish. The language program helps students develop an awareness and understanding of non-English speakers and other cultures, and Foreign Language Night extends that message to the broader school community.