The goal of Swift Elementary School's English Language Learners program is to help students who hail from another country or who predominantly speak a foreign language in their home make a smooth transition to American culture.

But while the enrolled students are quickly becoming acclimated to their adopted country, Swift ELL teacher Kristin Sardinas makes sure they don't do so at the expense of knowing their native culture. On May 31, 15 of Sardinas' ELL students in first to third grade gave presentations on their countries and origins to classmates and parents in the school's cafetorium.

Sardinas said the presentation is valuable because it gives her students a chance to flex their English chops and learn about where they came from.

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"They're reading, they're writing, they're listening, they're, especially, speaking, which is a big deal to them," Sardinas said. "They're doing all these things, but they're learning about something that's important from their native country."

Prior the start of the presentation, the 15 presenters - most of them dressed in traditional garb of their homeland - sat at tables at the head of the cafetorium behind signs indicating their countries of origin. China, Honduras, Vietnam, Liberia and others were represented.

When all guests had arrived, the students got up on stage and each recited a few lines from a poem on the importance of celebrating each other's cultures before joining together to sing a song about the seven continents. Following this performance, the kids dispersed, and each came up individually to present a speech discussing their native culture.

After the speeches, the students again united to sing another song, before dismissing the audience with thanks in their native tongues.

Sonia Lino, who moved to the United States from Mexico 10 years ago, visited the school May 31 to watch her 7-year-old daughter, Sonia Castro, and others give presentations on their cultures. Lino said she enjoyed the presentation because she likes the idea of her daughter learning Mexican culture.

"I want to teach her to know my country too, because over here, we're in America, everything she learns is about here," Lino said. "I want her to learn my culture, what we have in Mexico."

Sardinas first had her students do the presentation four years ago, and has held it each year since - with the exception of last year, when she was out on maternity leave.

The students started working on the projects about three weeks prior to the presentation, researching their home countries in books and online and asking their parents for information. Seeing the students' pride in sharing their cultures with others in the weeks leading up to event day was gratifying, Sardinas said.

"It's just so enjoyable to watch them be excited about learning," Sardinas said. "That's what they're doing - they're in their books, they're printing pictures, they're learning, and they're so excited."

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