En Español

Thursday, October 28, 2010

8 a.m.

The 19 third graders in Pat Frank’s class rush to their desks and take out their spelling pre-test booklets. They settle down and begin.

“Dinero, joyas, propiedades…” she says.

“Wealth,” they say in unison.

“Esto es un símbolo, en Español se dice símbolo,” Frank says holding a small replica of the Statue of Liberty. “How do you say this in English?”

“Symbol,” they respond.

8:13 a.m.

The children finish their tests, turn them in and begin copying the day’s homework assignments that have been projected onto the dry erase board.

A girl with pigtails walks in late. She hurries to put her things away to catch up.

Meanwhile, Frank begins grading the spelling pre-tests. A few booklets in, Frank looks up at a student and smiles.

“Good job,” she says. “We have come a long way since the beginning, remember?”

A long way and two languages. In kindergarten and first grade, students receive instruction in Spanish and are spoken to in English. In second grade students are taught in Spanish for the fall semester, and in the spring they are transitioned to English. As third graders, the students split into three classes based on language level. Frank teaches the beginners in mostly English.

8:20 a.m.

The children gather in the carpeted area of the room and sit on pillows.

Frank uses Spanish to help students make a faster transition into English.

“Today we are practicing questions,” Frank says. “So, you all had questions for me about what is happening tomorrow. Let’s practice with your questions.”

One boy raises his hand and Frank nods.

“Tomorrow is the Halloween parade?” he asks.

“Is the Halloween parade tomorrow?” Frank corrects.

He repeats the question correctly and Frank answers yes.

Students continue practicing, but Frank encourages them to ask more interesting questions. She refers to a poster with questions listed that hangs on the wall. She points to one, and the children read out loud:

“¿De qué estamos hechos?”

She asks the class if they know what humans are made of.

“De carne,” one girl shouts excitedly.

Frank points to the next question: “¿Cómo se hizo la tierra?”

“Dios,” a soft-spoken boy says.

“Okay, that’s an answer,” Frank confirms. “Ahora, van a escribir preguntas para una entrevista…and then we’re going to pair up,” she says. “Let’s practice!”

8:32 a.m.

The students are now at their seats and waiting for Frank to give them their interview sheet.

The instructions are read out loud—write three questions and use them to interview a classmate. The children begin.

8:37 a.m.

“Jose already has three questions already,” Frank challenges.

“Ooohhh,” they chant in defeat.

One-by-one they raise their hands as they finish so that Frank can randomly pair them up to interview each other.

“Okay, Jordan and…Kevin…you’re ready,” Frank says. The two friends exchange smiles of triumph. It’s always better when you’re matched with a good friend.

The children walk over to the carpeted area with their partners and begin the interviews.

“Are you a boy or a girl?” A boy asks his partner. She giggles, and they move on.

One boy, still at his desk, struggles to write his questions in English. Frank sits with him to help.

Most of the children in Frank’s class have been at Moscone since kindergarten. Spanish is the language that is spoken at home.

“These are good questions,” she says.

Over on the carpeted area, the interviews are still going strong.

“Okay…where do…boogers come from?” A boy jokingly asks his interviewee.

Frank claps her hands to settle the children down. Time to get serious.

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Patty Espinosa, from the border town of Mission, Texas, feels at home with the Mission's Latino culture, humming along to the mariachi songs playing during her lunch break. Hearing workers at a taqueria shouting "gritos" convinced her the Mission is unlike any other neighborhood in San Francisco.

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