Lower School Spanish
A Peek Into The Spanish Classroom with a Taste From Chile
By Pilar Arias
In these first months of the year, it’s been a gratifying experience to teach my native language and culture to the LS students. They have been enthusiastic and creative in their individual or group projects and more than anything, I see most of them curious about learning about other countries and cultures. It makes me glad when some groups inquire more about my country of origin; I see it as an avenue to share with them anecdotes from my school years and childhood, which they seem to enjoy. I share with them things like the fact all students in Chile from private and public schools wear school uniforms. It’s an opportunity for them to compare their own culture with another to gain a deeper understanding about the world. This is why using Venn Diagrams for comparing and contrasting is key in the Spanish classroom. On one occasion when I was showing a presentation on Chile’s Independence Day a 4th grader said to me “I think it’s interesting to learn about Chile because I don’t think I knew anything about Chile before” and later he added that he wanted to know more. I celebrate their interest and curiosity in exploring another Spanish-speaking country and culture. To learn a second language at a younger age is a rewarding and enriching experience that will add benefits and new opportunities to the outstanding education they are already receiving at Catlin Gabel.
Each time we meet, there is a significant amount of time dedicated to speaking and expressing themselves in the Spanish classroom. My goal for them is to develop and enhance skills they have learned previously and use them to communicate with others, ask for information, and be able to engage in casual conversations. This learning is supported with songs and cultural rhymes from Chile that carry new traditions and customs. Back in my country when I learned English it was mainly about translating and writing. I don’t remember speaking a single sentence or answering a question in English in my schooling days. For language acquisition to be effective, it has to be taught through a holistic approach trying to include as many experiential activities as possible that appeal to the senses and are concrete. At the same time, these learning experiences have to support the development of the four language skills (listening, speaking, reading and writing) to create retention, which allows students to make connections with the new information they are learning.
At the beginning of each class, starting in 2nd grade, students answer four or five questions from a list of questions written on a poster called “Questions You Know”. These are questions that came up from the different contexts we have explored so far. Children’s names are written on popsicle sticks and I select names at random during the week, so each child has an opportunity to answer these questions. The classroom walls are full of posters with hints and expressions that help children build up their answers. To reinforce their answers, the latest poster is “The Most Common Errors When Speaking Spanish”, which shows sentences and expressions with students’ most common mistakes. The sentence with the mistake is circled, and next to it, the statement is written in the correct way. These lists of errors are being built from the students’ feedback from different grade levels. This poster is used as a reference, and as scaffolding for all grade levels.
To highlight some of the activities students have done so far, I would like to mention that first graders have been creating casual dialogues. In these dialogues they start greeting each other properly. The rug area, where we all meet, has many classroom items spread out that students can use and touch during these conversations. Then each child requests classroom items politely. The student uses the expression “por favor” (please) and makes the request saying the number, color, and the name of the object in Spanish. These are rather complex sentences for younger children, but first graders are doing a terrific job here. The best advantage they have, as being young children, is that they can mimic exactly what they hear and can produce new dialogues related to what they see around them.
Second graders have been studying the forest, its living things and habitats with the advantage that they are learning the same topic in their homeroom. The Spanish book “Quien vive Aqui?” (Who lives here?) written by Rozanne Lanczak was the starting point for this unit. This fun book describes different animals and their habitats. This was complemented with a song about varied animals from the forest and the jungle named “Esta es la Historia de un Cocodrilo” (This is the story of a crocodile). Then, they created a poster called “my forest” where they chose favorite animals, added rivers, trees, and plants. Later they shared their posters with the rest of the class. In addition to that, we also had a walk to the school vegetable garden to draw a real tomato plant and its main parts to make it more experiential. They drew detailed pictures and later they labeled all the parts of a plant. All theses approaches help them retain the new Spanish vocabulary they are acquiring.
3rd graders have been working on a book about the four seasons of the year. Here they have described characteristics of each season including the weather. They have also played a game with the months of the year for each season. During the process of working on these little books they have had opportunities to share with others orally and in writing what characterizes each season with very good results. To add meaning to their learning, they have also completed Venn Diagrams comparing two seasons of the year using words and pictures.
Fun visit from Guatemalan MS student
An exchange student from Guatemala visited our fourth grade class on Friday November 19th, 2010.
We learned about the Geography of Central America and about the "capiruchos", a toy the Mayans used to play with thousands of years ago. Then we got to make our own "capirucho"!
Now, that was a fun class!
Our exceptional MS exchange student quizzed our fourth graders on Central America and Caribbean geography
Third graders visited by MS Guatemala exchange student
On Thursday November 18th, our third graders had a pleasant surprise. One of our MS exchange students from Guatemala visited us and taught us about the "quetzal", the national bird of Guatemala. Then we got to build our own quetzal and we also got Guaemalan bookmarks and friendship bracelets! How fun!
What a fun adventure it is to learn new languages!
Welcome to our first grade Spanish class.
Our first grade students are starting to build their arsenal of vocabulary words and expressions in Spanish with games, songs and projects. Classroom objects, greetings, colors, numbers, weather expressions and clothing... ask your kid about them! More information on curriculum contents coming up in our Moodle page.
Please visit the link below to play with some fun review activities!
Click here to visit our Moodle page (log in required)
Bienvenidos - Welcome
Click here to play fun games and review everything we learn in class!
Bienvenidos - Welcome
Bienvenidos - Welcome
We have recently added expressions of permission to our game boards ("Can I...?", "May we...?") and students are learning how to build sentences that have more than one verb.
Revels Song 2012
Here's the Spanish song (half in Spanish and half in Catalonian). Please listen to it (mp3 format) and practice it at home (lyrics included in PDF format). Revels is next week!
All files are at the bottom of this page. Have fun!
Lower School Spanish
"Learning to speak another language means taking one’s place in the human community. It means reaching out to others across cultural and linguistic boundaries. Language is far more than a system to be explained. It is our most important link to the world around us. Language is culture in motion. It is people interacting with people."
Sandra Savignon Communicative Competence: Theory and Classroom Practice. Reading, MA Addison Wesley, 1983, p. 187 .
Are there different programs for modern languages?
Which language program does Catlin Gabel offer?
How often do students meet for language class?
What are the goals for language learning?
What is the curricular foundation?
Communication: Communicate in Languages Other Than English
Cultures: Gain Knowledge and Understanding of Other Cultures
Connections: Connect with Other Disciplines and Acquire Information
Comparisons: Develop Insight into the Nature of Language and Culture
Communities: Participate in Multilingual Communities at Home and Around the World
Why learning a foreign language?
- Enjoy learning a foreign language
- Are curious about strange sounds and secret codes
- Are curious about customs in other countries
- Are excellent mimics and are less self-conscious about using authentic pronunciation than adolescents or adults
- Enjoy correlating the study of a foreign language with other areas of the school curriculum
- Begin to master the sound system of the foreign language and develop a feeling of “at-homeness” with the language
- Begin to comprehend that knowing a second language may help them in their future careers
Foreign language exposure
- Helps them develop openness to other people, cultures and ways of life
- Helps them attain greater academic achievement in other areas of study
- Develops clearer understanding of the English language and greater sensitivity to structure, vocabulary and syntax
- Improves knowledge of Geography
- Improves their SATs (especially in the verbal area)
- Fosters a sense of humanity and friendship
- Increases students’ adaptability to different environments and modes of acting and thinking
- Provides insights into the human mind and language itself
- Develops the skills and habits essential to the learning process, creative inquiry and critical thinking
- Leads the students to discover and examine their own personal values and civic responsibilities
The Lower School Philosophy of Modern Language Instruction
We believe that:
*Acquiring a second language emerges slowly and naturally, and at different rates for different children.
*Words and expressions must be taught in context, not in isolation. Children strive to MAKE SENSE out of new language instruction.
*Children go through several predictable stages as they acquire a second language.
*Children acquire a second language through active engagement.
*The teacher's role is to encourage and guide the student to produce language but should never force performance.
*Language is culture.
*The second language experience can contribute directly to the mastery of first language concepts in the curriculum.
*Elementary students who study another language gain insight and appreciate for other peoples and cultures and a better understanding of their own language and culture.
*Vocabulary should be taught in context, never in lists. Many repetitions of vocabulary are necessary, in the same lesson and in subsequent lessons. We believe this repetition should involve different modalities of learning to assist youngsters with different learning styles.
*Using a "deductive" approach is more natural and holistic than teaching grammar for grammar's sake.
*Using a variety of approaches, methods, materials, and strategies helps students acquire a second language and helps keep interest high.
*Students who study another language show greater cognitive development in such areas as mental flexibility, creativity, divergent thinking, and higher order thinking skills.
*Our students will have a better chance at any job in the future if they have knowledge of another language.