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My time in Sancerre, France

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

As many of you know, I just got back from a two week excursion in Sancerre, France. It was for the Teacher Screen Shot 2014-01-24 at 1.20.45 PMOpportunity grant that I was awarded in August, and I thought that I should go before I have my first baby in April! I had two objectives on this trip. One, I wanted to increase my own language skills/proficiency level in French. Two, I wanted to bring back authentic materials, games, and songs, and knowledge of culture for my students to provide a more real-life context for learning another language. I attended language classes every day (with homework each night!) and had an additional private one hour classes each day specifically focused on teaching French.

Coeur de FranceScreen Shot 2014-01-24 at 1.42.03 PM was located in Sancerre, which is two hours south of Paris by train in the Loire Valley. The area is know for their (unpasteurized) goat cheese and wine. Good one, Janet…go there while pregnant so you can’t enjoy either… pregnant women can’t have unpasteurized cheese and well, you know about the wine thing…

Anyway, Sancerre is a  small, medieval town located at the top of la colline. Technically, this translates to a hill, but it was more like a mountain. I know this because I had to walk up it from my apartment to attend my language school everyday. My favorite part about the town, even though I was clearly there in the off-season due to the fact that it was winter and the holidays, is that people did not speak English. I literally had to rely on my French to communicate. As someone continually trying to improve my French, this was truly an invaluable experience. Also, since there weren’t any tourists, I felt like I got a true sense of the town and culture. Sometimes I would pass someone walking the narrow streets and think to myself, “Wow, here is this person who has had a different life than me. There are definitely many similarities in the culture (I was in Europe after all) but it’s also really different. This person grew up speaking French (while I’m trying so hard to improve mine) and experiencing a culture that I’m trying to learn and understand. This is this person’s everyday life. I’m just getting a glimpse.”

Traveling is just such a perspective shift, and I love that. I want to model tolerance, understanding, and learning about others to my students. Learning about differences and similarities makes me feel closer to humanity. A line from one of my favorite movies, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, goes “In the end, we’re all fruit.” I get that sense when I travel.

Here’s info on the school if you ever want to go and learn French!

Learner, Thinker, Writer: Janet Parks serves the Trinity School community as a World Languages Teacher. 

How to “expand” your child’s language learning

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

Unit 2: Family Photos (Food, Family, and Fun)

The French and Spanish speaking students finished their first unit of the year called “Getting to Know You.” They ALL learned so much in such a short period time and I know we (teachers and students) are all excited to share what we have learned.

Unit two has focused on food and family and has given us a great opportunity to study the different cultures around the world that speak both Spanish and French.

The French students will be focusing on two countries during unit two, France and Morocco. The students will be learning what foods are traditionally eaten for breakfast, lunch, and dinner in both of these countries and we will be comparing and contrasting this to what we typically eat for these meals.

The Spanish students will be centering their study on a famous painting and book called “Cuadros de Familia.” This painting is a great stepping-stone to talk about all aspect of Spanish culture.

Living in Atlanta we are lucky to be surrounding by culture and there are many way you can expand your child’s language learning by exploring what our city has to offer. One way that you can do this is by eating at French or Spanish restaurants and this will tie in to our unit 2 studies! Here are a few French or Spanish restaurants you can visit here in Atlanta:



Spanish/Latin American:

Que aproveche       Bon appetit

Unit 2, Holidays, and PD in WL

Thursday, December 12th, 2013

We have learned a great deal about our Trinity families lately.  As part of the Family Pictures Unit in World Languages, our students indulge us with little tid bits about their families.  We are well versed in their parents’ hair color, eye color, height, and general disposition. J  Beyond learning more about each other’s families, I am noticing an increase in confidence and language production every day.  Our students look for opportunities to share their thoughts, and I love to see them playing with language.  

On a personal note, I have enjoyed awesome opportunities for professional development over the past month.  Westminster School hosted the Unconference on World Language Education where more than 100 language teachers and administrators from the Atlanta area gathered to discuss assessment, share materials, and exchanged some ideas for curriculum.  Before Thanksgiving break, I also attended the NADSFL meeting and ACTFL  (@actfl) convention with Janet Parks.  What an experience!  Along with teachers and administrators from all over the nation, we attended hundreds sessions that varied on content from language portfolios to cultural awareness in Haiti.  The experience was both inspiring and humbling as we were in the company of so many language experts.

The most exciting take away from the ACTFL convention was the “Can Do” statements that some of the leaders in the language education field determined after years of research and development.  Having these learning goals helps us as language educators to target our instruction, and it helps parents and students to have appropriate expectations as they progress in the journey of language learning.  Something I would like to suggest to parents is the book Raising Global Children by Stacie Nevadomski Berdan and Marshall S. Berdan.   Here is the description of the book from the ACTFL website:

Today’s children need to develop a global mindset — an indispensable tool for success.

Together, as parents and educators, we must instill in our children an interest to learn about the world early on. Raising Global Children provides the rationale and concrete steps you can take to open up the world to young people. Packed with practical information, hundreds of tips and dozens of real-life stories, this comprehensive book has something for every parent and teacher. It is a combination parenting-advocacy book that is the first of its kind to detail why global awareness is important, what raising global children means, and how to develop a global mindset.

Raising global children doesn’t have to cost much money, and it’s for every family. The authors make a strong case for the importance of both small and big ways that adults can influence and shape the development of a global mindset in children, including:

  • Encouraging curiosity, empathy, flexibility and independence
  • Supporting foreign language learning as early as possible
  • Exploring culture through books, food, music and friends
  • Expanding a child’s world through travel at home and abroad
  • Helping teens hone their global mindedness
  • Advocating for teaching global education in schools

Enthusiastically praised by parents and professionals, the down-to-earth, inspiring advice makes raising global children a fun and engaging experience for the whole family.

Stacie Nevadomski Berdan is an international careers expert and award-winning author. Based on her work in more than 50 countries, she counsels companies on global issues, and speaks frequently on college campuses.

Marshall S. Berdan is a freelance travel writer who has traveled to more than 70 countries. He is a former high school English teacher and business journalist who has lived and worked in Stockholm and Hong Kong.

Coming up in Spanish class, we have some fun cultural traditions to consider.  Our students will learn about La leyenda de la flor de la noche buena (The legend of the Poinsettia) as well as the Las uvas de suerte (The lucky grapes).  Both traditions are very fun, but I personally am looking forward to eating the 12 grapes (in one minute) to represent the 12 months of the year as part of the New Years celebration.

Please see the WL December Newsletter for more from our department.


Julia Kuipers, Spanish Teacher


A Good Way to Increase Your Language Skills

Wednesday, December 4th, 2013

One way to increase your language skills and cultural knowledge is to read authentic texts. For example, magazines, newspapers, etc. found online are great resources to do this. Don’t worry if you don’t know every word. Try to pick out cognates, words that you do know, and graphics to form meaning of the text. Finally, an added plus to reading texts in other languages is that it helps your reading skills in your native language by utilizing strategies such as previewing and pre-reading.

Check out this website about cognates:





The Power of the Bilingual Brain

Thursday, November 7th, 2013

According to a Time Magazine article, learning a second language can produce a nimbler mind.  Research is increasingly showing that the brains of people who know two or more languages are different from those who know just one – and those differences are all for the better.  Studies show multilingual people are better at reasoning, at multitasking, at grasping and reconciling conflicting ideas.  They work faster and expend less energy doing so, and as they age, they retain their cognitive faculties longer, delaying the onset of dementia and even full-blown Alzheimer’s disease.

Día de los Muertos

Monday, October 21st, 2013

We are coming to a VERY fun time of celebration and cultural education in World Languages class.  Spanish students will learn about Día de los Muertos and the related festivities.

Don’t be afraid of El Día de los Muertos – the Day of the Dead.  This is a happy holiday.

It is celebrated on November 1st and 2nd in Mexico and parts of Central America. This ancient holiday began as a day of thanks for the harvest. It later became a time put aside to remember our ancestors and people we love who have died.

On the first day, relatives clean and prepare the graves of their loved ones.  Flowers are placed on the graves or in vases with cards.  The special flower for the Day of the Dead is the marigold. Then they create an altar somewhere in the house. These altars are not places of worship. They serve the same purpose as a scrapbook or a photo album. Pictures of the departed, along with favorite loved objects and other mementos are placed on the altar. The rest of this day is spent making the favorite foods of this person (or persons.)

On the second day, families have big celebrations at their homes. They serve the food they made the day before. They decorate and eat candies shaped like skulls. Friends stop by and people dance, sing and share stories to remember the good times spent with their loved ones.

The holiday also expands to the town. There may be parades and floats and costumed characters in the streets. Coffins are carried with dressed-up fake skeletons inside. It is quite a celebration for everyone – young and old!

Many superstitions have been added over the years, but for the most part, this ancient holiday is as it always was – a time of remembrance and love. So, don’t be afraid of the El Día de los Muertos. This is a happy holiday!

By participating in traditions such as making chocolate caliente with el molinillo, eating Pan de Muerto, and creating an alter of marigolds, students will understand both the practices and perspectives associated with this holiday.  (Click here for additional information about teaching culture in the langauge classroom).  At the same time, through comparisons of Halloween traditions and Día de los Muertos traditions, I hope we come to a better understanding of what it looks like to celebrate and remember our loved ones.

As we celebrate along with the Latino community, students will learn traditional poems and songs from different countries, such as Los Esqueletos and Triqui, Triqui Halloween.  To deepen your understanding of this custom, you may enjoy a two part BBC series found in the links below:

For those of you in the Atlanta area, consider visiting the FREE Day of the Dead Festival at the Atlanta History Center on October 27th from noon-5PM.  This would be a great experience for student learners and your whole family!

Images from:


Julia Kuipers, UED Spanish Teacher

Modes of communication

Friday, October 11th, 2013

World Languages students have just concluded their first unit, “Getting to know each other.”  To assess learning, students had to demonstrate three modes of communication. (where developmentally appropriate i.e. there was not as much of an emphasis on writing with younger students) The three modes of communication are interpersonal (speaking with someone else), interpretive (in this case, reading a text), and presentational (in this case, writing a paragragh or for the younger grades, presenting a scripted project).

To the right is a picture of an “I can” stamp sheet that helped students keep track of what they could do at any given time in the unit. Once they demonstrated that they could consistently say one of the “I can” statements, they received a stamp!

The World Languages team has been very pleased with the growth of the students’ communication skills thus far! Looking forward to Unit 2!


Madame Parks

World Languages

French K-6

Hispanic Heritage Month

Sunday, September 22nd, 2013

Celebrating Hispanic Heritage

September 15 to October 15 is National Hispanic Heritage Month


From mid-September through mid-October, Trinity students recognize the contributions, culture, and heritage of Hispanic Americans.

See the numbers behind the country’s Hispanic population:

53 million: The Hispanic population of the United States as of July 1, 2012. Hispanic Americans make up 17 percent of the U.S.’s total population—the largest minority group in the country. Only Mexico has a larger Hispanic population than the U.S.

11.6 million: The number of Hispanic family households in the United States in 2012

65 percent: The percentage of Hispanic-origin people in the United States that have a Mexican background.

47 percent: The percentage of New Mexico’s Hispanic population as of 2012, the highest of any state.

2.3 million: The number of Hispanic-owned businesses in 2007, which generated $350.7 billion.

37.6 million: The number of U.S. residents, age 5 and older, who spoke Spanish at home in 2011.

• 22.5 percent: The percentage of elementary and high school students that were Hispanic in 2011.

3.7 million: The number of Hispanic Americans who had at least a bachelor’s degree in 2011.

1.2 million: The number of Hispanic/Latino Americans who are veterans of the U.S. armed forces.


Posted by Carrie Peralta

The power of Music and Movement

Monday, September 16th, 2013

The UED and EED French and Spanish students are learning so much so quickly this year!! I am constantly amazed how rapidly their brains can absorb and retain information, especially when it is introduced with a song or movement. I hear my students singing the “bonjour” song in the hallways and the “Hola a todos” song in the lunch room. Music and movement is such an effective way to learn a new language!


Below is a few of links to some of the songs we use in class that you can also explore: There are many more!






Get to singing and moving to get to learning!


WL Status Updates

Thursday, September 5th, 2013

At the beginning of the year, I like to check in with students using a “WL Status Update,” which may resemble a certain social media platform.  Even though I have known some of them for years, students are constantly changing and I am constantly learning more about who they are as language students and who they are as people.

Below I included some responses from my Sixth Grade students and a brief reflection.



What’s on your mind?

Student Response:

  • “My mind is wondering if Spanish is going to be hard this year.”
  • “The ¿Cómo estás? song”

My Reflection:

It turns out that at any given moment my students could be thinking about food or sleep or gym class.  Maybe they are thinking about their friend who’s moving or a soccer game this weekend.  Maybe they are excited for Spanish or worried about homework.  This is a good reminder to me that students bring their experiences and emotions into the classroom.  I am ready for Spanish teaching, but maybe they are not ready for Spanish learning.  As a teacher, my goal is to help them to get in the proper mindset, while extending grace and respect when they need a little break.



What do you like best about learning a language or culture?

Student Response:

  • “That I can communicate with people in other countries.”
  • “My favorite thing about learning a different language is speaking in it.”
  • “The best thing is that if I go to a Spanish speaking country, I will be able to have a conversation.”
  • “The best thing about learning a language is when you visit a different country, and you notice your understanding and speaking!  The payoff is AMAZING!”

My Reflection:

Kids get it.  Languages are not about grammar rules or vocabulary.  A language is a way to communicate, and that’s something to get excited about!  Students are not concerned with what they KNOW about Spanish; they are concerned with how they can USE Spanish. 



What are you most excited for in World Languages? What are you nervous about?

Student Response:

  • “I’m excited about all of the activities, but nervous about remembering.”
  • “I’m excited about learning a new language.  I’m scared about forgetting the new words I learn.”

My Reflection:

The students consistently shared a passion for speaking and using the language.  This is more than another subject to study; the students recognize that Spanish is an important skillset to harness.  At the same time, many Sixth Graders expressed nervousness about forgetting words, especially in conversation situations.  I love this honesty and vulnerability.  This is a great cue to me as a teacher.  My students are both excited and scared to speak.  They want to use the language, but they are anxious about failure.  It’s my job to create a safe space to practice conversational skills, while at the same time this is a great teachable moment for the process of language growth and expectation that at times we will forget words, and that’s totally fine!  It’s our responsibility to push ourselves in each and every class.




What would you like your language teacher to know?

Student Response:

  • “I understand a lot.  I always forget what to say in a conversation.  I understand, but I can’t think of the word, which is frustrating.”
  • “I really want to become fluent in Spanish.”
  • “I often get frustrated at myself when what I’m doing isn’t perfect.”
  • “I would prefer homework to be kept to a minimum.”
  • “I am committed to learning my language.”

My Reflection:

I love this open-ended question.  The responses varied from wishes to concerns to requests.  I think this is a great way to check in with students time to time.  I love giving them a voice to share something that maybe isn’t natural to bring up in class.  Again, it’s a small glimpse into who they are and what they are about.



Explain how you would divide the responsibility of learning between you, your parents, and your teacher.

Student Response:

  • “I have the most [responsibility] because in order to learn a language you have to be willing to learn…My teacher has the second biggest part because teachers help and push me.
  • “…Teachers have the second most responsibility for your learning because they have to teach you the language.  The teachers have to make up a lesson plan that would make sense to you.”
  • “You have to take in what the teachers teach you, [you] have to study, you have to remember to study, you have to remember to do your homework and so on.  You definitely have the most responsibility.  Your parents and teachers just have to help and teach, and I have more responsibility this year because I am older and more mature.”
  • “I am most responsible for my language learning skills.  For example, I can choose to listen to Mrs. Kuipers or not.  I can choose to follow directions or not.”

My Reflection:

The majority of Sixth Graders said that the student holds the most responsibility (in comparison to teachers and parents) for their learning.  I love starting the year with the understanding that they hold the power to learn.  Many people see language as a natural ability.  You know it or you don’t.  You have an affinity for language or you don’t.  I see language as a skill that can be learned.  With time and commitment to their own language learning, they will be successful.


Julia Kuipers, UED WL Teacher- Spanish

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