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World Language Comes Home in Montville

Lazar students presented 'Mi Casa, Mi Vida' project to the BOE.

Montville BOE President, Dr. Karen Cortellino, examines one of the model houses that was created by sixth grade Robert R. Lazar Middle School students for the Mi Casa, Mi Vida World Language project.
Montville BOE President, Dr. Karen Cortellino, examines one of the model houses that was created by sixth grade Robert R. Lazar Middle School students for the Mi Casa, Mi Vida World Language project.

Mi Casa, Mi Vida, [My House, My Life] is the newest assignment from World Language teacher, Señora Jamie Novak. The passionate Spanish teacher, from Robert R. Lazar Middle School, recently introduced eleven of her students and their Mi Casa, Mi Vida projects to the members of the Montville Township Board of Education [BOE].

The sixth grade students explained the elaborate model houses they had brought with them, and asked board members to participate in a Spanish scavenger hunt throughout the model homes.

Before embarking on the activity, Novak said that she often hears from friends and others how difficult it is for students to retain a second language.

“So I was thinking, ‘What can I do? How can I make it more meaningful? How can I find a way to make it stick?’” Novak explained.

From those examining questions, an idea struck, “You’re surrounded by your house every day,” she said. “I’ll tie [Spanish] to the house, and then maybe they will remember.”

Mi Casa, Mi Vida is the result.

Working in teams, students had three weeks to create a house. They developed themes, such as jungle, Olympics or tree house, for their houses and built models for each room. The rooms were joined together to make houses. Every item in the house is labeled with its Spanish name. The students then explored each other’s houses. During these explorations Spanish is the only language spoken in the classroom.

Members of the Montville Township Board of Education then joined the middle school students in a similar exploration. During the activity, the participants did find speaking only Spanish challenging at times, but the students assisted the board in identifying common household items such as la mesa [table], el tocador [dressing table], and la cama [bed].

“I can tell you the board members don’t want to leave,” said Montville BOE President, Dr. Karen Cortellino, as she and other BOE members pulled themselves away from the model houses and back to the dais.

Superintendent Dr. Paul R. Fried thanked the students and Señora Novak for sharing the innovative project idea with the board and community.

“This is a wonderful example of project based learning, hands-on learning,” said Fried. “It is a wonderful example of trying to have the learning ‘stick,’ if you will, as Ms. Novak said, so the students can move on and build upon their knowledge.”

The Montville Township Public Schools offer World Language instruction in curriculums from elementary through high school. At the district’s middle school, sixth and seventh grade students are introduced to Spanish, French, Italian and Mandarin classes for ten weeks each. They then choose a language of concentration which can be continued at Montville Township High School.

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