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Spanish is taught twice a week to children in Kindergarten and up. The 5-Day Preschoolers have Spanish weekly and the 3-Day preschoolers enjoy activities with the Spanish teacher about twice a month. A progressive approach is used to capture the interest of all learners and excite students about learning a second language. Music, movement, drama and games are used as learning tools across age levels. Older children are introduced to developmentally appropriate grammatical structures both verbally and in written work. The Spanish teacher also introduces all students to aspects of culture of various Spanish-speaking countries, and Spanish is integrated into the curriculum in Language Arts, Math, Art and Music.
Learning a new language can be frustrating, humbling; and can evoke feelings of vulnerability. During Spanish classes at SRV, teachers stress the importance of a supportive learning community and environment, in which is it safe to take risks. At all age levels, teachers encourage the children to listen well, learn to laugh at themselves, accept mistakes (theirs and others’), and always try their best.
At every level, the Spanish teacher uses singing, drumming and chants to help the children feel comfortable as they seamlessly develop vocabulary and fluency. Songs are fun and help teach pronunciation and memorization through repetition. Some songs are sung daily in all Spanish classes, and a few have become part of the school’s repertoire for all-school Sings and Assemblies. Play-dough, blocks, puppets and stuffed animals also support the interactive and hands-on approach of SRV’s Spanish program.
Preschool – Spanish classes with preschoolers are active and fun. The children sing songs and do chants. Playing games such as “Cabeza, hombros, rodillas, y pies!” (head, shoulders, knees, and toes) and Spanish “Simon Says” are favorites. The preschoolers also count and learn simple conversational exchanges such as how to respond to “Como estas?” These young children’s first exposure to learning a new language is in an atmosphere where learning is relaxed, fun, and sometimes downright silly.
Kindergarten – In Kindergarten, classroom teachers begin to integrate some of the Spanish they and the children are learning into everyday routines and activities. In Kindergarten there is a Spanish “helper of the day,” and Spanish counting and vocabulary are routinely practiced during meeting times and at lunch. During Spanish classes, a favorite activity at this age is to follow the teacher’s directions to move around the classroom, touching the object named, and obeying when they hear “Para!” (“Stop!”) They also enjoy practicing their colors, differentiating between left and right, and following simple commands by playing Twister. They love to jump to “círculos con colores diferentes.”
Primary Years – Spanish classes for the primary children continue to be active and engaging, but begin to include more complex language. Children of this age are beginning to gain confidence and to become more fluent, so simple conversations can be held. They learn specific vocabulary that relates to what they are studying at the time. They might learn about different foods and money when playing store, or directions and place names by creating maps of real or imaginary places. Of course, songs and games continue to be popular and useful at this age. A favorite of theirs is Spanish Charades.
Middle Years – The children at this age are both more competent and more self-conscious, a challenge for all teachers. In Spanish classes, the loved songs and games from earlier years continue to be popular, and help the children feel engaged and confident. The middle and oldest children also use puppets such as “Flaco el elefante” (Skinny the elephant), as humorously named by a preschooler, to create their own puppet shows in Spanish. Children who are usually hesitant to practice speaking Spanish in front of the group suddenly have no problem using Flaco or one of his friends to let the Spanish they have acquired (unbeknownst to them) seemingly flow out of them.
Older Years – The oldest students at SRV continue to enjoy the songs, games, and puppet shows and skits. They are also hungry for more “serious” study, and welcome the opportunity to learn vocabulary and grammar in a slightly more formal way. The Oldest Group students keep a Spanish notebook in which they record vocabulary, verb conjugations, lyrics to songs and phonetic spelling to help with memorization of phrases and words. They are fascinated with the similarities between words in English and Spanish, and connect both to the Latin word origins they study in the classroom.