And the winner is…
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.
HOw wonderful! I love how you are doing complete immersion even with the little time you have! The young kids learn so fast that way! Congrats on a job well done 🙂
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Oh my heavens, THANK YOU!! I have a degree in Spanish and have taught high school Spanish for the last 7 years. This year, I made the switch to Elementary Spanish, where I see KT – 5th grade three times a week, for 20 minutes each time.
It’s a tricky switch to navigate. I loathe the worksheet thing too, so we do a lot of games, songs, movement, play, etc. This idea of building the content through a story that they learn and memorize along the way is FANTASTIC! I love the way they are reviewing previously mastered material, and building gradually on it.
PS – one of my first students to automatically match the adjective gender to the noun genderwas one of my German kindergarteners. 😉
Thanks for the feedback! Don’t forget to check out this post also, for more on how some great colleagues helped me get better with elementary kids. 🙂 Good luck!