From Payson To Torgau Students Are Learning

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The German students who were exchanging letters for a couple of years with students at Julia Randall Elementary School are still having fun, as they master English.

They sent a homemade DVD, "Greetings from Torgau, Germany to Payson," in June of 2006, just before school ended.

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Freshman English students at Payson High School are corresponding via letters with students from Torgau, Germany.

The six-minute movie opens at 7:25 a.m. with music and speeded-up frames of students entering their green, blue, white and glass, several-storied school building.

"Christopher," "Mike" and "Tim" introduce themselves, and talk about their hobbies -- bicycling, "futbul" aka soccer and model trains.

In the movie they show off several historic sights of their town, such as the 900-year-old castle where the Princess of Saxony made her home, a statue of Neptune, and a view from the top of the castle of red-roofed homes and the river that flows through their city.

"This year they wanted to write to an older group of students," Ines Kuperberg said. She was an aide at the high school, when she initiated the program.

"Your responsibility is to be English teachers," she told freshman students, with an admonition to watch writing and grammar mistakes.

Lindsay Smith's freshman English students at Payson High School have read their first letters from the German students.

They are enthusiastic about the letter exchange.

"We should do this all through high school," Skylar Dineen-Johnson said.

The American students have already noted spelling differences such as "colour," "favourite" and the different meaning, as well as spelling of "futbul."

Clint Godac's penpal "Bey" wrote that she liked to go to the "discotheque" and dance.

The sentence sparked a discussion about the age German teens were allowed to go out to a club.

PHS students have written their responses as a class assignment and Smith will check them for proper English, before she and Kuperberg send them across the Atlantic.

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Lindsay Smith teaches yearbook, freshman English, English recovery 1, 2 and 3 at Payson High School.

"There is so much slang in America, we don't want the students to write back and say, ‘What up dog?'," Smith said.

The writing assignment has an element of history as the freshmen question what they know of the Berlin Wall that came down almost 20 years ago.

"The Wall was built because of Communism?" Shawnee Murray asked. (Her younger brother Jake is involved in the letter exchange at JRE.)

Kuperberg grew up on the East German side of the Wall where Russian was the second language schoolchildren were taught.

On a trip to visit her nephews in Torgau several years ago, Kuperberg ran into one of her former teachers, Anita Richter, and the two started the pen pal program.

Richter teaches one first grade and two eight grade classes at Mittelschule Nordwest.

She wrote an e-mail to the Roundup:

"The students don't have the possibility to speak English. They can only use it at school. So the letters from the American students force our students to read English and to answer the letters in English.

"They learn a lot of new words and they are better now at using their dictionaries. At our English lessons in form 8, we learn about the USA and we learn about the differences between British and American English. So the letters are very helpful for the students. They also learn a lot about the people in your country, about the nature and American lifestyle. It is very interesting for them."

There are 80 German students and five classes of Payson students writing missives back and forth.

Twenty-two of the Torgau students dream of coming to Payson for a couple of weeks and meeting their pen pals.

Smith said she could not, of course, speak for the school district, but will investigate the possibility.

The PHS students have written a letter to their parents asking if they might be a host family for a few days, so Smith can get the information to the appropriate people.

The Payson freshmen are in the early planning stages of making a return DVD.

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