Lincoln School hosts Los Juegos Olimpicos event for dual language students

‘This is where we find students really maximize the learning experience’

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ROCHELLE — On Friday, Nov. 3, Lincoln Elementary School hosted its Los Juegos Olimpicos event, a joint event between its first grade students and Tilton Elementary School’s fifth graders. 

Participating students on Nov. 3 are part of the Rochelle Elementary School District’s dual language program, and the festivities were conducted in Spanish. Fifth grade students are currently studying sports in their Spanish language arts unit, which has a component of the Paralympics. Fifth graders designed and provided activities for first graders to participate in on Nov. 3. 

First graders were broken into six countries for the Olympics format: Chile, Peru, Mexico, Colombia, Brazil and Argentina. The event included a parade of nations, opening dances by the Rochelle Township High School Ballet Folklorico program, Olympic games activities by each country and first grade group which were scored by judges, and closing ceremonies and awards. Two separate sessions of Los Juegos Olimpicos were held on Nov. 3. Parents attended the sessions. 

Medalists at the morning session were Peru (third place), Colombia (second place) and Mexico (first place). 

The overall dual language program has been in use for just over seven years in the elementary school district, School Board Member Javier Zepeda said Nov. 3.

“Our first group of students from this program is now at the middle school,” Zepeda said. “Within two years, they'll be at the high school. And in my position at RTHS as a counselor, we're working on how we can be prepared when those kids come to the high school. How many classes do we have in Spanish? Is it 50-50? What kind of programs do we do? We have all of these questions. Today's event has been planned and organized by the fifth grade dual language group. I think we should be really proud that they organized this whole thing in Spanish. This is what the dual language program can do for the students.”

Language and Culture Coordinator Kimberly Lumzy said the district was proud of its fifth graders for taking on the event. They’ve spent the past three months learning about “The Power of Sports” in their Spanish Language Arts class that pairs language learning with social studies topics. 

“Hosting an Olympic Games event is a large undertaking for 11 and 12-year-olds,” Lumzy said. “They spent time creating invitations, researching their countries, preparing the decorations, and designing their games. If that wasn't intimidating enough, they were then asked to present their games in front of an audience of their families, parents, and other special grownups. We were so impressed with the turnout of over 160 audience members!”

Lincoln School Principal Amy Hayden said playful learning activities are where students maximize the learning experience because they can apply curriculum to meaningful experiences.

“Play-based learning allows kids to deepen their knowledge of the content and skills we're learning while also practicing their communication skills and their social emotional learning,” Hayden said.  “Each day we give kids unstructured time to play (i.e. recess) and structured time to play (i.e. PE) but weaving play into our learning modules, it allows kids to create meaningful play activities while taking what they've learned and using it to engage with their peers.”

In the district’s dual language program, students spend half of each day in their non-native language. Lumzy said she hopes parents of first graders in the event’s audience saw the participating fifth graders as a sneak peek into their own child’s future.

“We hope that our fifth graders were filled with confidence and pride as the first graders, their former and current teachers, and their audience of loved ones cheered them on,” Lumzy said. “After the closing ceremony, a mom excitedly shared, ‘I never get to hear my child speak Spanish at home and this was truly wonderful. Thank you for showing us parents how amazing our children are.’ The future of our Rochelle Community is a future filled with these amazing bilinguals.” 

Hayden said getting different grade levels and schools involved together was her favorite part of the Nov. 3 experience. She hopes that first grade dual language students were able to see where their language skills can go in a few short years.

Each year, the dual language program focuses on evaluating one aspect of itself. This year, parent involvement & community outreach is being evaluated. Digital communication with parents and the community has increased recently and parents were involved with the Nov. 3 event. 

“The Olympic Games event took this a step further by asking parents to step up as coaches and judges for the event,” Lumzy said. “We had 18 slots to fill, and can happily report that we filled 15 of them. Our teachers proudly filled the rest. We even had two retired teachers step in to help with the setup and judging of the event! As the parent volunteers began to fill in the weeks before the event, the excitement and nerves definitely amped up for our fifth graders.  I can't tell you how many times the students caught me in the halls asking how many people they would have to present in front of.  We were blown away by the turnout, and hope it continues to grow with each event we host this year.”