Published April 28, 2022.
According to the ACTFL (American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages), learning another language provides many benefits to middle schoolers including greater understanding of cultures, enhanced problem-solving and critical thinking skills, expanded opportunities in secondary study, and improved performance in other subjects.
Stanley Middle School offers robust World Language classes in French, German, Mandarin, and Spanish. 6th-grade students who choose the WHEEL elective sample all four languages, and then 7th and 8th graders can choose a world language as one of their electives. World Language teachers reinforce vocabulary and grammar instruction through hands-on projects that also promote greater cultural awareness and appreciation for other countries around the world. These projects can include culturally specific art projects, native speakers in the classroom, and cooking, music, and games. And of course, the German and French Penpal Program!
Started in 1995 by Ms. Claudia Windfuhr, a Stanley teacher of more than three decades and a 2022-23 Lafayette Teacher of the Year, the Penpal program helps students practice reading and writing, and also brings them closer to the target languages and cultures. Ms. Windfuhr says: “In my teaching practice I have always promoted authentic experiences as they are so important to strengthening students’ learning. My students put so much thought and effort into the letters they send to their penpals and are always so excited to receive letters back.” She continues, “An added benefit is the collaboration with my colleagues in Europe. They keep me up-to-date on trends, music and art, and current language use, which helps guide my teaching.”
Ms. Windfuhr works with a school in Heidelberg, Germany and one in Voreppe/Grenoble, France. Stanley students write in German or French and the European students respond in English. The students write about subjects of interest to middle schoolers in both the US and Europe — such as what they do for school breaks, favorite classes and activities, music, movies, sports, TV, and holiday traditions — and are encouraged to ask questions in their letters to stimulate a dialogue. Based on the consideration and creativity that goes into the letters, the students find great value in this exchange.
Max, a 7th-grade French student, says that the Penpal exchange is a favorite project: “I love it because it lets us interact with people from different countries and it’s so interesting to see the differences and similarities in our cultures. My penpal is awesome and is very creative with his handmade cards. It has been great to learn about each others’ towns and how we live and what we do and eat. I love writing the letters because it is a fun way to practice my French.”
LPIE is proud to fund World Language teachers and supplies at Stanley.