This year I picked up some early childhood Spanish to free up some time for our K-8 teacher to increase his instruction in our grades 6-8. So I teach 3-year-olds through 1st grade. I get 10 minutes per week with 3-year-olds, 15 minutes with 4-year-olds, and 20 minutes with kindergarten and 1st grade.
The first reaction I get from language teachers at this is laughter. What can you do in 15 minutes per week? Nothing.
I laugh back. Not nothing. Something big, or so I have found. It’s not earth-shattering, but it’s a breakthrough for me.
A little more background–the private school where I teach is connected to a church with a very strong emphasis on adoption, and we have a lot of internationally adopted
students in our school. This year in my younger classes I have, for example, two four-year-old Russians and a 1st-grader also from Russia. I had a few questions at the beginning of the year, people asking me if I thought them taking Spanish would hinder their English acquisition. I told them, bah, absolutely not. Bring on the languages, right?
All–and I mean 100%–of my training is in secondary education. So I started this blind. I knew it needed to be immersion. I knew it needed to include stories and questions. Songs. I knew last year they learned a few words of vocabulary and did a color sheet and I knew that wasn’t the route I wanted to take. But the format? Clueless. After my first day in preschool I sent a shout-out for help to @PreKlanguages who called me and gave me a 30-minute crash course in teaching preschool Spanish.
So, we’re building a story. There’s a red house on a green hill. The yellow chick lives in the red house (Los pollitos dicen pío pío pío). One day he takes a walk and finds a blue lake. He drinks the water. He sees his friend the brown frog. The brown frog jumps 10 times and sings “Cucú.” And so on. It’s crazy fun.
For 10 weeks I’ve been asking, ¿Quién vive en la casa? Providing options. Superman? No. ¿Tú? No. Your teacher (name)? No. ¡El pollito vive en la casa! Waiting for someone to answer. So far, nothing. Which doesn’t bother me, it’s natural acquisition and you just wait for it to take its course.
Until yesterday. I’m in one of my four-year-old classes and telling the story. Here’s the red house. ¿Quién vive en la casa?
And there it is. One of the little boys pipes up in all seriousness, “Pollito.” Like “pozhito” with a rasp on the ll and all. I jumped up and high-fived him and nearly went through the roof.
And the winner is…
One of the Russian adopted boys.
Oh and today? In a three-year-old class I asked, ¿De qué color es la casa? And a little girl answers,
She flipped the vowel to feminine. They have never done that before.
That’s what 15 minutes a week can give you.