At Tilden School, Spanish is taught from Kindergarten through Fifth Grade. Our emphasis is on oral use of Spanish, as we take advantage of the strong ability of elementary age children to acquire by ear. We aim to teach our classes 80 to 95 percent of the time in Spanish.
At first, students are exposed to sentence structure, questions, intonation and sounds through listening to songs, books and dialogue. In fourth and fifth grades, the students learn to spell, read aloud, and write words that are spelled to them in Spanish. The overall goal of our program is for the students to learn basic conversational vocabulary, questions and answers for topics from everyday life. To achieve this, we try to keep the language as real and alive as possible in our classroom activities. The learning of a second language requires repetition, which can be notoriously tedious. For this reason, we do our repeating in the context of songs, games, physical movement, simulated conversations, and simple art projects to keep the students always actively engaged in learning Spanish.
Aspects of Hispanic and Mexican culture are interwoven into lessons, including Mexican celebrations such as Día de los Muertos and Cinco de Mayo. Units on artists such as Diego Rivera and Pablo Picasso are shared at appropriate times and with appropriate grades during the school year. All students learn traditional Mexican rhymes and songs throughout the six years of Spanish instruction.
In Kindergarten, we acclimate students to Spanish through playing games and singing songs. Without using English, students acquire Spanish as a native-speaking child would, situationally, through dialogue, books, songs, physical movement and games. We use props for all vocabulary and teach simple questions and answers through guessing games. Students listen to and carry out simple commands in Spanish. They learn vocabulary for numbers, days, months, seasons, the body, colors, clothing and common food items, as well as introductory phrases such as “My name is…” and “How are you?” Students’ work at this level is mostly passive and they acquire Spanish in a natural way.
First Grade Spanish, like that of Kindergarten, uses lots of movement and songs. All vocabulary from Kindergarten is reviewed and expanded upon. New vocabulary covers everyday topics such as the family, the body, the home, clothing, and feelings.
In Second Grade Spanish, the students review and further develop prior vocabulary for numbers, days of the week, months of the year, the weather, colors, the body, parts of the face, and additional clothing words. They practice conversational questions and answers such as “What is the date today?”, “How old are you?”, “Where are you from?”, “Do you have the…?”, and “Where is the…?”. They get frequent practice carrying out oral commands in Spanish, and listen to and interpret simple stories with pictures in Spanish.
We use this year of Spanish to review, reinforce, and continue to expand vocabulary and conversations from the years before. Vocabulary for numbers, the body, family and home life are further developed. New conversational areas such as school, personalities, likes and dislikes, animals and food are covered. Students learn to answer questions such as “How do you feel?”, “What are you wearing?”, and “What is your favorite food?”
The biggest change this year is that the students learn the Spanish alphabet and its sounds. They practice writing words dictated to them in Spanish and can spell them back aloud using the Spanish alphabet. We work on proper pronunciation of written words through reading and songs.
As in prior grades, students continue to build on all they have learned thus far. Vocabulary is enhanced through discussions about animals, family, and food. Questions such as “Do you like…?” and “How much is it?” are intertwined with the new vocabulary. Students take turns leading the class in presenting the calendar and weather for the day. The foundation is laid for discussions from different points of view using regular verbs and common activities. The highlight of Fourth Grade Spanish is “The Mercado” where students buy and sell their wares to each other in a classroom market setting.
This year the students’ ability to read and spell in Spanish continues to get stronger. Their oral fluency increases as they do more partner and group activities and present creative projects to the class.
New vocabulary topics for this year are everyday verbs, hobbies, telling time and asking for directions around town. Students practice conjugating verbs in the present tense. In Fifth Grade, students are inherently working to use their Spanish more actively and creatively, using the vocabulary that they learned during their six years at Tilden.