Early years explore languages in a digital world


​St Anthony’s students engage with ELLA as they learn a new language 

​EVERY chance Year 1 students at St Anthony's Primary School, Alexandra Hills get they plead with teacher Olivia Petkofski to play with ELLA. 

But ELLA's not the class pet, it's more of a well-loved, digital exchange student, who is helping instil an appreciation and awareness of languages in young learners. 

ELLA(Early Learning Languages Australia), is a free, digital, play-based language learning program that provides access to language education for young students. 

St Anthony's is one of four Brisbane Catholic Education schools taking part in a three-year trial of ELLA for Prep to Year 2 students. 

Funded by the Australian Government and managed by Education Services Australia, the program aims to help Early Years students develop an interest in different languages and cultures. 

Each school chooses one of 13 languages in the program which has a series of seven apps relating to topics young children enjoy. 

These apps immerse students in the chosen language through a variety of interactive experiences, activities and songs led by charming characters called 'the Polyglots'. 

St Anthony's chose Japanese as their language. 

Oliva said she uses ELLA in the classroom to promote the BCE curriculum using digital technology as a writing stimulus, in mathematics lessons, for developing fine-motor activities, and much more. 

“By using ELLA to make cross-curricular connections in this way, I have found that my students are far more engaged and enthusiastic about learning and are able to make meaningful connections between content areas," Olivia said.  

“In an ELLA app activity favoured by my class, the students feed sushi to the Polyglots characters. 

“We have learned about the origins of sushi, written a recipe as a procedural text and spent an afternoon making sushi rolls. 

“It has been amazing to see my students' writing improve, as well as to hear them express their love for sushi in the Japanese language! 

“As my students' appreciation and knowledge of Japanese language and culture grows, they want to share their excitement with the community around them," she said. 

Since introducing ELLA into the classroom in 2019, Olivia said they had hosted several groups of Japanese exchange students before COVID-19 hit.  

“These exciting opportunity allowed our students to communicate with and learn from native Japanese speakers! 

“Not only were my students excited to practise what they had learned, but their world was greatly expanded." 

Students are not the only ones engaging in the ELLA program. 

Since its implementation at St Anthony's School, families have expressed great interest and enthusiasm in their child's involvement in ELLA. 

Olivia said some families had reported their children come home using Japanese words in conversation – and insist on teaching their family members too. 

“It has been truly amazing to see my students' excitement at learning and watch their confidence and curiosity about the world around them grow. 

“ELLA is helping us achieve this without any need to travel to Japan or even step outside our classroom," she said. 

Check out how ELLA is helping St Anthony's students learn Japanese at https://bit.ly/3CbUMrp  

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