In honor of last night’s #langchat topic, I want to share something that happened in one of my kindergarten classes this week.
At my school, we have mandatory Spanish from age 3 in preschool through 10th grade. Until 2nd grade, however, students only receive between 15 and 20 minutes of instruction per week. I’ve been told many times that this is a waste of my time, and I know there’s very little you can do in that amount of time, but as I’ve said before, that time compounded year after year as students stay at our school could produce some significant acquisition.
In preschool, I teach a story in the fall and a story in the spring. @PreKlanguages gave me a crash-course in teaching preschool that rocked my world: start with a character and a color. Add an action. Add a song. Repeat every week. So that’s what we do. It takes us an entire semester to go through our fall story: there’s the grass, and it’s green. On the grass there’s a house. It’s red. Who lives in the house? Elmo? No, the pollito. He’s yellow (song: “Los pollitos”). One day he takes a walk. He walks fast. He walks slow.It continues from there but you get the idea.Fast forward to kindergarten. At this point the kids come to me and I can use my projector, so we have a powerpoint story and a lot of YouTube videos and playing online games, etc. In late winter – this week – the bear in our story takes a walk to the park where he finds a dad and girl, and a mom and boy. So I start telling the story and doing the action –el oso camina– and that word barely gets out of my mouth when I hear a little guy up front say “espacio” (despacio).
It almost took my breath away, and you have to understand why. This boy was in my preschool last year and hasn’t heard that word from me in almost a year (and I know he doesn’t receive any Spanish input outside my class). He has behavior problems. He has attention problems. Sometimes it seems he has processing problems. And he produced a comprehensible word in an appropriate context when I hadn’t used it with the bear and actually didn’t intend to.Children learn language because people are constantly telling them stories. Why wouldn’t this work in SLA as well?
photo credit: ucumari via photopin cc