Learning English through the arts

Alexia Garcia, Sonia Procopio, Michelle McCormick, Patty Gallardo, Marta Benitez, Cleusa Ewald, Lorena Garcia, and Magda Ramirez
he women on stage, from left to right: Alexia Garcia, Sonia Procopio, Michelle McCormick, Patty Gallardo, Marta Benitez, Cleusa Ewald, Lorena Garcia, and Magda Ramirez. Photos by Lynn Christoffers

Posted April 12, 2007

With just six classes under its belt, Lynn Ditchfield's conversational English for advanced learners class put on a 30-minute performance, "Nightmares" and Dreams: Immigrant Voices, which was made up of songs, skits, and dialogue.

The class was a South American melting pot of women 15 to 60 years old. Having immigrated from Brazil, Guatemala, Chile, Uruguay, and Equador, the all-women group debuted its English-speaking talents last Thursday at the Nathan Mayhew Seminars.

The teaching method Ms. Ditchfield used, along with her co-teacher, Michelle McCormick, was based around voicing personal stories. The students were taught how to tell their stories in English, and the dialogue was made into skits.

"I strongly believe teachers have to teach with their passion," Ms. Ditchfield said. "By telling their own life stories, that's how my brave actresses learned English."

Sonia Procopio
Sonia Procopio receives kudos after her performance last Thursday.

As the event drew to a close, the students spoke a montage about what they hoped for the future.

"I'm looking forward to my children graduating," began one woman.

"To getting permanent residence," continued the next.

"To getting my green card to go back and forth to my country."

"To staying here with family and friends."

"To seeing my two boys, one two years old and this one," as she pointed to her pregnant stomach.

The performance was choreographed by Kathy Costanza, who helped the women move fluidly about the small space, weaving in circles, singing part of James Taylor's "Country Road."

The program was partially funded by a grant from Martha's Vineyard Cultural Council, part of the Massachusetts Cultural Council.