A pony-tailed third-grader faces her classmates. They fidget as
they wait for her instructions.
"Simon dice . . . essere un porco!" she says.
The children wrinkle their noses and oink.
"Essere un penguino!"
One little boy puts his arms to his side, waddles in place and
"You're out; I didn't say `Simon,' " squeals the leader, with
her ponytail bobbing in triumph.
The familiar children's game is one tool used by juniors from
Thomas Jefferson School to teach Italian and French to gifted
Jefferson, at 4100 South Lindbergh Boulevard, is a private
college-preparatory school with about 70 students and a rigorous
curriculum. Literature classes emphasize the classics, and students
study Greek, Latin, French and Italian. In addition, several
students are fluent in more than one language, spokesman Tamara
The grade-school students are in PEGS, the Program for
Exceptionally Gifted Students. Their classes are at Truman
Elementary School at 12225 Eddie and Park Road, in the Lindbergh
School District. PEGS students are typically in the top 1 percent
academically of third- , fourth- and fifth-graders in St. Louis
and in St. Louis and Jefferson counties.
The full-day program at Truman offers accelerated classes and
enrichment courses to challenge the youngsters. Thanks to the
Thomas Jefferson students, says PEGS teacher Dusty Thomas, it also
offers language classes.
When PEGS started four years ago, Jefferson headmaster Lawrence
Morgan thought it would be an ideal service opportunity for his
"One of our missions is to encourage our students to become
involved in community service," Coursey said. "Our headmaster
called and offered volunteers."
Since then, Jefferson students have taught weekly classes in
either French or Italian. This year, juniors Naty Sakdisri, Jon
Pesek and Lindsey Luscri are teaching Italian.
They meet with PEGS teachers and their own Italian teacher for
suggestions on what to teach, but Naty, Jon and Lindsey develop
their own curriculum and lesson plans for the classes. Their
approach is to have the PEGS students use Italian in everyday
situations, while making learning fun.
Another lesson becomes apparent as soon as you step into the
PEGS classroom. Virtually every fixture and piece of equipment
bears an Italian label. Students look up words in Webster's