Tag Archives: Spanish

Toddler, Preschool and Kindergarten Spanish Classes Celebrate Spring

Toddlers take Spanish classes at Inly School

Toddlers in the Bridging class look at a book with Marisol, Spanish teacher at Inly School

Over the past few months, toddlers and younger preschoolers in our Montessori-based Toddler and Bridging classes have been immersed in language about the season. They have learned about la primavera (spring), las flores (flowers), las mariposas (butterflies), la mariquita (the ladybug) and la araña (the spider). Integrating music whenever they can, the children have also been learning a new song, la araña pequeñita (the little spider). It’s been fun watching them perform!

Learning Spanish in Preschool and Kindergarten

Three-, four- and five-year-old students in Inly’s preschool and kindergarten program have also been building their Spanish vocabularies this spring. Along with covering primavera (spring) and las flores (flowers), students have been reviewing colores, numeros and frutas.

Montessori Preschool Spanish class at Inly School in Scituate MA

Dr. Steve Hughes: Montessori and the Future of Education

Preschool Spanish class at Inly School:
Learning with the Hungry Caterpillar!

Watch this video of the “Hungry Caterpillar” sampling frutas in a Children’s House classroom at Inly to get a sense of how hands-on activities make learning languages fun.

Inly Spanish Curriculum in Toddler House, Children’s House Preschool and Kindergarten

Spanish language for toddlers and preschool at Inly School in Scituate MA

Spanish classes integrate music and movement

At Inly, the Spanish program is designed to enable students to speak and write their basic thoughts and questions in a second language. The curriculum utilizes a combination of speaking, writing, and activities that are often based on music, art or Total Physical Response. Students learn to express themselves in a second language environment that promotes confidence and creativity.

What is Total Physical Response (TPR)?

Developed by Dr. James Asher, TPR is based on the premise that the human brain has a biological program for acquiring any natural language on earth. Designed for use with languages as well as math and science, the teaching method uses hands-on, kinesthetic activities to make learning stick.

Dr. Asher based the TPR program on 30 years of laboratory research. He observed that many months before even speaking, the child develops a “language-body conversation” with the parent, internalizing the patterns and sounds of the target language—and imprinting a linguistic map of how the language works. Read more at What is Total Physical Response?

Spanish Curriculum for Toddlers through Kindergarten

Toddler and Bridging Classes: Spanish Curriculum

  • Numbers
  • Body parts
  • Songs
  • Animals

Preschool and Kindergarten Classes: Spanish Curriculum

  • Vocabulary
  • Numbers
  • Games and songs
  • Questions and answers

More Recommended Reading

Inside Inly: World Languages for Toddlers, Preschool and Beyond…

Mandarin Chinese at Inly: Global Citizenship from the Ground Up

Inside Inly: Epiphanies in Elementary Spanish Classes for First, Second and Third Grades

Inside Inly: Upper Elementary Students in Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Grades Present in Spanish About Their Pets

World Languages for Toddlers, Preschool and Beyond…

Foreign languages for babies, toddlers and children

"Hearing Bilingual," The New York Times (illustration by Joyce Hesselberth)

When is the best time to learn a second or third language?

The earlier the better, according to research. During the sensitive period for language—from birth to about age six—children learn the primary language spoken at home and school at a rapid pace. They also have a remarkable ability to learn and even fluently speak other languages.

Over the past year, articles like Why Bilinguals Are Smarter and  Hearing Bilingual: How Babies Sort Out Language in the New York Times have examined new research on the cognitive benefits of learning foreign languages early. It turns out, they say, that learning other languages improves not only linguistic skills but also cognitive abilities like executive functioning. [See more links to resources below.]

Prime times for language acquisition

From birth to age 6, the “absorbent mind” soaks up information like a sponge. The child uses all five senses to absorb and understand information about the surrounding environment at home and in school.

Within this stage, the period from age 1.5 to 3 or 4 is marked by a “language explosion” as the child rapidly expands vocabulary and develops more sophisticated use of language. It is also a prime time to learn another language.

Spanish for toddlers, preschool and kindergarten

At Inly School, world language instruction begins in Toddler House. Spanish classes are integrated into the curriculum in the Toddler, Bridging, Preschool and Kindergarten classes, and in Lower Elementary (grades 1 – 3), Upper Elementary (grades 4 – 6) and Middle School (grades 7 – 8). Mandarin Chinese is taught in Full-Day Kindergarten and in the After-School Program.

Developing an ear and getting a head start

“Starting to learn a second language early on gives children a huge head start,” says Lynda Jackson, Director of World Languages at Inly. “Children are able to pick it up quickly and with enthusiasm. They are not inhibited and are willing to speak it without fear. It provides them with a better ear for the language. They pick up the sounds and can duplicate them naturally, and the younger they start the more likely they will develop a native-like accent.

“Also, all the basic vocabulary they learn early on gives them a leg up as they enter the upper grades. They will be better prepared to take advanced classes in middle school and high school.”

Montessori philosophy and the Inly language program

“World languages have always been part of our curriculum, at all levels,” explains Julie Kelly-Detwiler, Inly Curriculum Director. “It’s part of our Montessori philosophy to teach children when they’re developmentally ready and to take full advantage of these ‘sensitive periods’ of intellectual development. We teach material when children are most receptive to learning it.”

Research supporting PreK-12 foreign language instruction

The ACTFL (American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages) has a whole section of its website arguing for an earlier start to language instruction—and it has the research to back it up. Here are some excerpts from its Q & A section:

[Link]: What does research show about the cognitive and academic benefits of early language learning?

“Every piece of research in the field points to the benefits of starting a second language as early as three years of age. The other key to becoming proficient in another language is a long, continuous contact with the language.”

“It is critical that foreign language instruction be available to all students throughout their PK-12 academic experience. Knowing other languages and understanding other cultures is a 21st Century skill set for American students as they prepare to live and work in a global society….”

“Additionally, foreign language learning is much more a cognitive problem solving activity than a linguistic activity, overall. Studies have shown repeatedly that foreign language learning increases critical thinking skills, creativity, and flexibility of mind in young children….This relationship between foreign language study and increased mathematical skill development, particularly in the area of problem solving, points once again to the fact that second language learning is more of a cognitive than linguistic activity.”

The "Aha" Series: The Final Reckoning in Middle School Spanish

This week, we asked Lynda Jackson, our Middle School Spanish instructor, to share a favorite story that illustrates a moment of joyful discovery when an idea really clicks and the “aha!” epiphany brings new life to learning.


Lynda’s Final Exam Story

As the end of the school year approaches, I think of many Aha moments I encountered with the middle school students in Spanish class this year. I can recall the occasions when I heard some of them say; “Aha, I understand what the story is about. I get it now.” Or “Aha, I am beginning to understand when to use the verb “es” instead of “está.”  These are gratifying moments when I see that some of the complexities of the language are beginning to make sense to the students. Most encouraging of all is to see how much students have improved with their language aptitude by the end of the year.

The students recently took their final exam in Spanish. It was cumulative so they were able to show me all that they had retained from the year’s learning. In one section of the exam, the 8th grade students were given a list of vocabulary words and asked to write a short story using all of them. After reading each of the stories, I could not help but think: “These are awesome. Aha, they have learned more than they realize!” These students were able to use the vocabulary in context very effectively and to express themselves clearly in Spanish. The spelling and the use of articles, tense agreements, and prepositions were, for the most part, used properly. These students had no hesitation expressing their thoughts and ideas in a second language, and they did it well. Not to mention the stories were creative and quite funny!

Towards the end of the year, I start to feel like there is not enough time to teach them everything I want to, but then when I look at what they have accomplished, I am encouraged and feel fortunate to work with such a talented and motivated group of students.

[This post originally appeared in Rhythm & News, the Inly School newsletter, on May 22, 2009.]

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.]