By Serenity Stanton Orengo
This spring, I had the opportunity to do twice-weekly Russian language and culture lessons at Leal Elementary School in Urbana as part of their after-school program. Each Tuesday and Thursday, I worked with a group of 10-12 students ranging in age from kindergarten through fifth grade. Because some of the students were very young and still learning to write in English, we focused on oral repetition for speaking. Each day had a theme, and we would cover vocabulary or phrases related to that theme, look at a slideshow with relevant pictures or watch a video, and then do a related craft. One day, for instance, was “St. Petersburg and Moscow Day.” We looked at pictures from the two cities, found them on a map, learned basic city-related vocabulary, and the students made onion-dome cityscapes out of construction paper. Other themes included Russian Holidays Day (learning months and listening to the Russian birthday song); Colors and Numbers Day; Russian Souvenir Day (students made their own matryoshka nesting dolls); and Cheburashka Day (we watched an episode of the Soviet cartoon). By far, everyone’s favorite theme was Fabergé Egg Day. After learning the history of the eggs, viewing pictures, and guessing their worth, students made their own Fabergé eggs out of construction paper which they decorated with stickers, gems, and markers. The students look forward to continuing these language and cultural lessons once they are able to return to school.
Serenity Stanton Orengo is a PhD candidate in Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Her research focuses on medicine, women’s reproductive health, and transgressive motherhood in nineteenth-century Russian literature.