MSU program fills language gap in Bozeman schools

Miss Hausauer checks the childrens’ work. Photos by Juan Diaz Martos.

Irving Elementary School 2nd grade students showed their enthusiasm when Lauren Hausauer arrived at their classroom last Wednesday. Hausauer, an MSU freshman, spent the 30-minute period teaching the students basic commands in Spanish. Her students learned the Spanish words for “look,” “listen,” “sit,” “stand” and “silence please,” and applied their new vocabulary by playing a game of “Simon Says” in Spanish.

Hausauer is teaching Spanish to elementary school students through a program developed by the MSU Department of Modern Languages and Literatures. This three-credit course, officially titled “Modern Languages 492: Teaching in the Public Schools,” runs from October until May.

Seven MSU students are participating in the program, which reaches out to students from Irving Elementary and Bozeman Summit Montessori schools. It was started several years ago to fill a foreign language gap left by funding cuts in the Bozeman public school system.

Now, without the MSU program, most young students would not be exposed to a different language, explained Irving 2nd grade teacher Jackie Grey.

Grey studied Spanish in high school and college and has been able to teach her class some basic vocabulary. However, this program exposes the students to a more in-depth study of the language.

In addition to teaching students a new language, the program allows the children to better understand English as they learn rules about grammar and mechanics, Grey explained, adding that learning multiple languages enhances memory and speech.

MSU students spend 30 minutes every school week teaching Spanish to their assigned elementary classes. They are given lesson plans which were created using a grant the department received from MSU’s Teaching and Learning Committee.

Lauren Hausauer teaching children at Irving Elementary School under the program “Teaching Spanish in the Public Schools”. Photos by Juan Diaz Martos.

Bridget Kevane and Sally Sanchez, both MSU Spanish instructors, prepared the lesson plans and purchased books, music and props for students to use in the classroom. Students have the freedom to creatively build on the provided plans, allowing them to return to past activities or incorporate books and games into each lesson.

“The material is presented in a variety of ways to meet the learning styles of all students,” Grey said.

Colin McClure, a double major in land rehabilitation and Hispanic studies, is also planning to teach at Irving. He has not started yet, but is looking forward to beginning and hopes to “excite [the students] and encourage them to expand and learn about different cultures.”

This program is “one of the best ways to engage [MSU] students,” Kevane said. “They experience what it is like to have kindergarten through 5th grade students hungry for language and culture.”

Students are assigned a grade level based on their position in the Spanish program. Upper-division students are typically assigned 4th or 5th grade, while 200-level students are assigned to kindergarten through 3rd grade.

Kevane hopes that students realize “the importance of introducing students at an early age to another language and culture,” and explained it is easy for young kids to become multilingual and appreciate foreign cultures.

MSU students give the program “tremendous energy, imagination [and] partnership,” Kevane said. “It is always inspiring when students rise to the challenge.”