The "Aha" Series: 'Me gusta la sandía!' and Other Epiphanies in Elementary Spanish

This week, we asked Lynda Jackson, our Lower and Upper Elementary Spanish instructor to share some of her favorite stories that illustrate those moments of joyful discovery when an idea really clicks for a student and the “aha!” epiphany brings new life to learning.

Lynda’s “Me gusta la sandía” Story

In Lower Elementary Spanish, the children have spent time this year learning how to respond to basic greetings and commands in the language. I love it when I walk around the school and hear so many of these young students greet me in Spanish with the usual “Hola!” They seem to enjoy the opportunities they get to practice Spanish and show pride in their ability to communicate in a second language. One recent morning, one of my first-year students greeted me with confidence but went even further to say “Me gusta la sandía!” They have been learning about fruits and she wanted to let me know that she likes watermelon! How cool is that? This is one of the many aha moments I experience every week, and they make my day!

In Upper Elementary Spanish, the students have spent months creating funny stories with the vocabulary acquired thus far. We have spent time writing and acting out stories, but in order to assess their comprehension, I devote a substantial amount of class time to a series of questions about the stories. I always ask them to respond in full sentences so that they can practice the language even further.

When I think of an “aha moment” my mind focuses on a particular 5th grade student who at the beginning of the year seemed so anxious about Spanish and overwhelmed with the vocabulary. Back then, he would always ask “what does that mean?” or stare at me with a puzzled expression any time I asked him a question about a story. Over the past few months I have noticed a big difference. He is raising his hand more in class, wanting to participate, and is answering my questions in complete sentences. Now, if I ask him “¿Dónde vive el muchacho?” he will respond, “El muchacho vive en la casa.” I look at him now and can’t help but think, “Aha, Spanish is clicking for him.” He is so much more comfortable and relaxed, and I can see that he is gaining confidence in the language and comprehending the vocabulary. I am excited for him and for all of my students who, with perseverance and practice, are grasping the complexities of the language. It makes it all worthwhile!

[This post originally appeared in Rhythm & News, the Inly School newsletter, on May 1, 2009.]

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