STOP doing these 5 things in your weekly preschool Spanish class.
START doing these instead and watch your kids start speaking…
* * * * * * #1 * * * * * *
STOP teaching lists of related words.
START teaching with communication in mind.
Colors, shapes, days of week & vehicles are useful ONLY when used in real communication. Think about how kids acquire their first language. We don’t start with colors. What sticks is what’s useful.
Think, instead about words needed to make communication possible.
Teach Questions and Answers!
- Teacher: ¿Quieres agua o leche? (Do you want water or milk?)*
- Student: Quiero agua. / Quiero leche/. (I want water. / I want milk.)
*Select choices that are relevant to your real life situation. Heck, maybe transportation vehicles need to be taught because you have kids immersed in playing with trucks. Ask yourself “What do they need to know to talk to me and to each other naturally?” Teach that.
* * * * * * #2 * * * * * *
STOP worrying about conjugating verbs.
START exposing the different verb forms naturally.
Children learn the rules of grammar by noticing the patterns that occur in natural conversation. They are master decoders. There is no need to teach verb forms explicitly the way we teach middle school and up.
Just use the verb forms. naturally (but strategically!), and they will start to notice.
Continuing our example from #1:
- Student: Quiero agua.
- Teacher: Juan quiere agua. ¿Qué quiere Juan?
- Students: Juan quiere agua.
- Teacher: Sí, Juan quiere agua.
Repetition, repetition, repetition. Make it a habit to use the forms clearly, as part of a routine. They’ll pick it up.
* * * * * * #3 * * * * * *
STOP pointing out every error.
START prioritizing fluency & selectively correcting.
Children need to feel free to take risks as they learn a language. Harsh or constant interruptions to make corrections can kill the joy. Notice if there is a pattern to errors and address those that seem most common with explicit teaching. Gently correcting by modeling is also a great way to slyly point out a mistake.
- Student: Juan quiero leche.
- Teacher: Sí, Juan QUIERE leche.
* * * * * * #4 * * * * * *
STOP limiting language to instruction time.
START teaching words they can use all day.
Children remember and get comfortable with new words when they hear them in different situations.
- Teach words that help them wash hands (and do other repeating events).
- Teach them dame /toma (give me/ take it) so that you can pass things out (a repeating event) you can do it in Spanish.
- Adopt Por favor and Gracias.
- Find songs that narrate common activities (check ours out).
In short, teach words that you can use as you go about your day.
* * * * * * #5 * * * * * *
STOP expecting too much of young children.
START having realistic expectations of what weekly classes can accomplish.
We know that language is best learned through immersion. It’s how we learn our first language, and it happens slowly, over repeated exposure, over time. A weekly class is a wonderful value and boosts brains and learning. Be careful to remind yourself and the parents of your children that the goal of a weekly language class can not be instant fluency. It can open young minds, stimulate brains, provide opportunities to have an authentic accent. It’s a wonderful beginning. Kids will not be able to string together long sentences, or translate (a common request from parents and friends).
Preschool children learn language when they hear it repeatedly (so encourage home use and support), when it’s useful (teach those useful phrases!), and with a loving caregiver (keep it fun, light).
Becoming bilingual is a life choice, a journey. This is just the beginning!