CONNEAUTVILLE — Everyday games have taken on a whole new meaning for third-graders at Conneaut Valley Elementary School.

Twister players, for example, are familiar with the basic concept of quickly following verbal instructions to position right and left hands and feet on large dots of specified colors.

However, when the names of both body parts and colors are uttered in a foreign language, the whole game quickly becomes a horse of a different color, so to speak. Amarillo, azul, rojo and verde — the Spanish words for yellow, blue, red and green — to be exact.

Throughout the school year, students studying Spanish at Conneaut Valley High School have been making periodic trips to the nearby elementary school, introducing the school’s third-graders to one of the most widely-spoken languages in the world.

To mark their last visit of the 2005-06 school year, the high-schoolers planned a special celebration, translating familiar activities into Spanish.

Spanish Twister was just part of the program.

Marching to the cadence of a distinctly Spanish beat, third-graders circled a table surrounded by not-quite-enough chairs. When the music stopped, everyone dived for the available seating. Again, the concept of musical chairs was familiar, but the game took on a whole new level of excitement in an environment of unfamiliar rhythms and foreign-sounding lyrics.

And then there was the food. Quesadillas are basically toasted-cheese sandwiches, but when flour or ground-corn tortillas replace bread, a northern favorite transforms into an exotic adventure from the perspective of third-grade diners.

Conneaut Valley senior Kristin Smock, a student in Spanish III, served each third-grader two quesadillas — one flour and one corn. “They just have cheddar cheese inside, so they can taste the difference between the flour and the corn,” she explained.

Opinion was sharply split on which grain produced the tastiest snack.

Kari Boyce, 9, counted herself among the corn fans, while Devin Richardson, also 9, came down firmly on the flour side.

Just to keep things interesting, however, Devin observed that he liked the flour-based quesadilla “because the cheese tasted different on the other one.”

As for their in-class instruction, which consisted of five sessions this year, Kari and Devin agreed that Learning Spanish has been a lot of fun. “I liked the colors best,” Kari said, while Devin had the best time learning the names of animals.

“They always say, ‘The younger you start, the easier it is for you to learn,’ ” Smock said. So far, everything she’s seen has supported that perspective.

“I think it’s really neat,” Smock continued. “They really enjoy it, and they remember a lot more than some of the seventh-graders coming up.”

For Senora Nina Joslin, however, that’s just part of the story.

As Conneaut Valley’s high-school Spanish teacher, Joslin has had students participate in the tutoring program for several years now — and she likes what she’s been seeing.

For example, for her students, the experience is much more than an opportunity to review vocabulary and other basics.

“My students have to learn about organization, about being prepared and about actually putting together a lesson to share with someone,” she said as the elementary-school cafeteria buzzed with activity.

“They’ve gone into each classroom and taught them several different lessons. They’re learning to use their Spanish outside the classroom, which, for me, is exciting.”

Back in their high-school classroom, the tutors review their experience and build the next lesson, Joslin explained.

While neither Brandi Hamilton, a senior in Spanish III, nor Jessica Bish, a senior in Spanish IV, plan to pursue careers focusing on foreign languages, they’ve been having a great time working with the youngsters.

The pair was in charge of the Twister segment of the day’s activities, which had third-graders contorting themselves into positions that were truly a wonder to behold.

“I like working with kids — and with older people, too,” Hamilton, who looks forward to pursuing a career in nursing, said with a grin. “This is good one-on-one experience in working with others.”

Bish, whose future plans include becoming a veterinarian, agreed.

Mary Spicer can be reached at 724-6370 or by e-mail at

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