With help of technology, SM East student learn about French culture from French students

As part of the project, SM East  students put together a video tour of the school for their counterparts in France.
As part of the project, SM East students put together a video tour of the school for their counterparts in France.

A modern-day pen pal project has allowed several SM East students to learn about the French language and culture in a whole new light.

Instead of communicating through handwritten letters, the students have used their school district-issued laptops to send messages through email, Facebook, Skype and video. Throughout the exchanges, students are expected to correct each other’s prose and discover cultural differences and similarities.

The project started when the Kansas Department of Education and a French delegation formed a partnership to encourage teachers to look for ways to develop collaborative efforts to expand the classroom experience.

SM East French instructor Laure Losey quickly formed the pen pal partnership. She knew it would be a great opportunity for students to gain a new insight into French culture. Her students quickly took advantage of the opportunity.
“We learn so much more when things are not dictated,” she said.

This year her students are communicating with students in Amilly and Orleans, France.

“I think some have developed incredible friendships that will last beyond (high school),” she said. “They realize that the two cultures are very similar and they are surprised about that. What I see is the excitement when they receive a message.”

One student told Losey that she plans to meet her pen pal during an upcoming trip to Paris. Several students have found common ground during the conversations.

Claire Schreiber, 17, discovered that she and her pen pal had a mutual love for soccer. They practiced their French and English writing skills by talking about their favorite players.

The two pen pals are Facebook friends and talk to each other through Skype. It’s during those conversations when they share tidbits about family, holidays and culture through writing. It gives them a chance to correct one another’s writing.

“Usually it’s silly stuff like adjective placement,” said Schreiber, a junior from Prairie Village.

But sometimes words get lost in translation and conversations make them delve deeper into the language. That happened in October after Schreiber asked her pen pal if she went to a Halloween party.

“She said, ‘I do not make,’” Schreiber said. “We spent a good like 30 minutes trying to figure out what the other person saying.”

Schreiber said the exchanges are a lot of fun but she also recognizes that it’s serving another purpose too.

“It’s also helping me with my French,” she said. “And I hope it’s been helping her with her English.”