Lower Merion School District's Foreign Language in the Elementary School (FLES) program provides first through fifth grade students with comprehensive language instruction and cultural learning. The program emphasizes speaking and listening, and includes introductory instruction to the written word with an overall focus on building a sound foundation in vocabulary.
One of the highlights of Merion Elementary School's FLES programming is a special annual event known as El Mercado - which means "the market" in Spanish – providing an opportunity for students to not only celebrate Spanish culture, but also put conversational skills learned in the classroom to the test in a fun-filled and educational setting as the school lobby is transformed into an authentic Spanish-speaking market.
Spanish language countries from throughout the world were represented in various ways at this year's Mercado as students created piñatas, posters, dioramas, bulletin boards and other projects to help transform the lobby into a different world. Students traveled from country-to-country using pasaportes, just as if they were traveling outside of the United States in real life. At the different stands, fourth and fifth grade students sold souvenirs such as bookmarks, worry dolls, pocket dictionaries, bracelets, and paper flowers using conversational Spanish to complete the transactions.
World language is an essential component of the student experience in Lower Merion. The study of languages and cultures provides important preparation for living, leading, and achieving in a global community.
In the FLES program, students learn French or Spanish starting in first grade. Students are engaged in second language instruction for 20-30 minutes two to three times per week. In FLES, the main focus is on understanding and speaking. Visuals, manipulatives, and integration of cultural topics are a crucial part of the FLES classroom. A typical class includes songs, rhymes, games, play-acting, and other physical activities.