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New Canaan Teens Give a Spanish Lesson

“ Simon se dice la cabeza ?"  ("Simon says head") New Canaan High School student Andrew Gruseke said as he played Simon Says with students at Brookside Elementary School in Norwalk.

Gruseke was one of 130 junior and senior Spanish students from New Canaan High who took buses to Brookside last Thursday.  The high school students spent all morning giving the Brookside kids Spanish lessons they had prepared in advance of their visit.  In every classroom in the school, they played  games, read books, taught vocabulary and sang songs, all in Spanish.

Diane Cornwell, a Spanish teacher at New Canaan High, began the program four years ago so her students could practice Spanish. “Young kids are very forgiving, and my students are uninhibited with them,” said Cornwell. “I think the younger kids like to watch the older kids struggle a bit.” New Canaan students are required to prepare a curriculum before their visit.

Since 55 percent of Brookside students come from Spanish-speaking households, many of the children know Spanish better than the New Canaan teens, says Principal David Hay.  “Our Hispanic students really get a chance to shine. It is special for them to see that their language and culture is important.”

For New Canaan junior Peter Murphy the visit was sentimental because he is a former Brookside student. He was also placed in his old second-grade classroom with Mrs. Walker to teach his lesson.  “I totally remember this class, even where I hung my coat,” said Murphy, who still has good friends from his Brookside days.  About his Spanish lesson, he says, “I’m using actions and pictures to teach words.”

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