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Russian classes go high tech at Kenston
Russian classes go high tech at Kenston
By TONY LANGE
Matching adjectives with nouns is much more technologically involved than using a traditional textbook during Russian class nowadays at Kenston Middle School.
Sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students who take Russian class with teacher Jennifer Subbotin have the opportunity to create their own websites on a program called Weebly, communicate with Russian students overseas through emails on a program called e-Pals and animate Russian-speaking avatars by recording their own voices using a program called Voki.
There is still a place for textbooks in the learning environment, but all the new technologies incorporated in foreign-language classes at Kenston allow Spanish, French, Russian and Chinese teachers and their students to stay involved in the education process, said Mrs. Subbotin, who has taught Russian for 22 years now.
"They were born in an age where they've had computers in their hands since they were 2 years old," she said of the students. "They're that digital age group, so they pick up the technology quickly, and there's a lot more opportunities with the listening and speaking that they can do, and then we can have that global education that everyone talks about, because we can share with our schools we're partnered with in Russia."
Through the e-Pals program, Kenston students are partnered with students who are learning English at five schools in various cities throughout Russia.
At Kenston, every sixth-grader takes a nine-week introductory course in Russian and then decides whether to continue Russian or another language in the seventh grade.
This school year, there are 54 seventh-graders divided into two year-long sections and 41 eighth-graders divided into two year-long sections for Russian class. Students who take the seventh- and eighth-grade portions earn a high school credit.
Eighth-grader Victoria Carson said she plans to continue her Russian studies next year with Ted Krejsa, who teaches high-school levels and a few middle-school classes, depending on the semester and how many students are in the program.
"I like everything. I like writing it. I like speaking it," Victoria said about Russian class with Mrs. Subbotin. "Schoology is my favorite thing, because that way you can check all your homework and all of the assignments, and it's a way to connect to all the websites too."
Schoology is a program that has a layout similar to Facebook, which allows Mrs. Subbotin to post notes, upcoming assignments, audios and videos that students can use on their personal computers while at home, she said.
Students also can take multiple-choice, free-response, true-and-false and matching quizzes with a program called Quizlet.
"What's nice is they take it, and right away they can see their feedback, what was right, what was wrong," Mrs. Subbotin said. "And what's nice is I can work with another group of students where I'm helping them with speaking or helping them with reading, and then the kids can just be doing this on their own."
Seventh-grader Dana Kapcio said she decided to continue Russian this year, because Chinese was really difficult in sixth grade, and she thought Russian was really fun to learn.
"On Quizlet, Mrs. Subbotin makes flash cards, and then we go on the website, and we study them and test on them and play different games on them," Dana said. "Doing it from home helps with learning process, because you can listen to the word, and you can test them and learn them and spell them on the website."
Mackenzie Hart, a seventh-grader, said she thought Russian would be a cool language to learn when she heard her friends speaking it and talking about it.
"We have little computer avatars, and they're cool, because we can make our voice go onto the avatars, and they speak it for us," she said. "It was pretty easy, because all you basically had to do was record your voice and then put it basically on the avatar on the website."
Eighth-grader Robby Engoglia said he and his classmates are learning more complex sentences this year, which helped him create his video assignment.
"A couple of my classmates and I made a video about our whole town, and we just took a bunch of like parks, stores and pharmacies, and we created a movie almost, and we have like a dialogue on the bottom as a voice-over and then put it into a photo story," he said.
Sometimes for students who are shyer, the different programs help them with speaking and learning the language better, Mrs. Subbotin said.
"It keeps all of them interested," she said. "It allows them to have options in what their final products looks like instead of just sentences on a piece of paper. It really becomes the vehicle for them to talk more. They're more engaged; they're speaking more; they're listening better."
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