Wednesday, November 01, 2006

success with preschoolers: advice from a Spanish teacher

My colleague Annie Showalter-Gingerich, who is on her way to serve in the Peace Corps with her husband, used to teach Spanish to preschool kids. Here is what she has to say about how to make it work!

How much English do you use?
I use probably 50% English with them and most of this is discipline and explanation of activities. I probably used more than this at the beginning and way less towards the end of the [12-week] class.

How do you deal with their short attention spans?
We change activities quite a bit. During the 45-minute lesson, we always started out on the carpet in a circle and sang 3-5 songs in Spanish. We would then read a book or two and then go to the tables to do an activity and then a game or something at the end of class. All the music, books, games, and projects for a certain day had to do with the vocabulary we were learning at that time or reviewed previous lessons.

How do you deal with the fact that they can't read yet--what sorts of materials do you use?
Read to them a lot, play games, sing songs, practice writing letters (in the 4/5-year old group), practice sounding out Spanish words and working on figuring out what letter they start with. By mid-semester (week 6) both groups had learned the Spanish alphabet and the Spanish vowels.

How do you move beyond teaching nouns, colors, and numbers to helping them make sentences?
They learn phrases for things like “my name is….” “I am ___ years old” etc. We practice responding to questions I ask in a complete phrase. By the end of the class, I stress COMPREHENSION more than making them form complete sentences because at that age, complete, coherent sentences in ENGLISH are not all that common. However, they are able to respond to my questions with correct answers for things like:

Correct o incorrect: The cow says “meow.”
What color is the triangle on the table?
What shape is red?
Where is the fat cat?

Activity suggestions:
Lots of bingo games with vocabulary, lots of reading, lots of work with the alphabet and letters, LOTS OF MUSIC (they can learn multiple entire songs in Spanish and parents tell me they constantly sing them at home), etc.

Muchas gracias, Annie!

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