Teaching an Ancient Language in the Newest Way

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Kayla Desroches/KMXT

A teacher in Old Harbor is using video chat to lead Alutiiq language classes in several villages around Kodiak. Peggy Azuyak is a master’s student in Applied Linguistics at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and presented her project at the Alutiiq Language Summit yesterday afternoon at Kodiak College.

She says she uses a program much like Skype to connect with classrooms in different communities, and that she is striving to improve her distance classes to keep her elementary aged distance-delivery students as interested as her face-to-face students. 

“The goal of my project was to get the students learning and interacting with each other using the language more and being more engaged in the process and really sparking that interest for them so that by the time they get to high school, maybe they try to take the high school language class.”

Azuyak says she started this project in September and is currently working with distance students in Chiniak and Ouzinkie, teaching for 45 minutes twice a week. She says she will work to involve students through goal setting, shared reading, and digital storytelling, and explains that she tries not to spend too much time on any one activity.

“The direct instruction portion maybe lasted 10- to 15-minutes and then we would practice and play and they like to sing, so we would do songs and play games, and do different activities that would keep them interested and engaged.”

For instance, Azuyak planned an assignment where children record themselves talking about their families in Alutiiq using an iPad video app. She also says short, repetitive stories are useful for teaching elementary-age students.

The language summit was organized by Kodiak College and the Alutiiq Museum and continues Tuesday at Kodiak College in the morning and the KANA-Koniag Building on Near Island after lunch.

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