As the introductory piece of Seven Hills’ World Languages Program, the Lower School Spanish program has three goals:
to expose students to language development in the same order as children learning their first language
to prepare students to be culturally competent citizens of the world
to get them excited about language acquisition which begins in earnest in Middle School and, we hope, continues throughout their lives
Throughout the program, students work on:
* Listening and demonstrating comprehension – both verbally and non-verbally
* Speaking – beginning with answering simple questions, and working towards answering in sentences by arriving at needed vocabulary individually
* Reading and writing – Increasing in difficulty throughout the year and from one grade to the next, students begin reading short novels intended for beginning Spanish students in grades 4-5.
Culturally-related activities support and enhance language learning and give our students a broader perspective on the people who speak the language. In this way, the Seven Hills World Languages Program promotes an important component of the school mission, “…respect for and responsibility to our world,” and invites students to be life-long learners of language and culture.
Lower School Spanish teacher, Karen Begg, employs a methodology known as Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling (TPRS), which is based on the concept of Comprehensible Input (CI). The idea behind CI is that all students should understand every word they hear or read even though the teacher uses the language of study for 90% of class time. This is achieved through gestures, context cues, translation of the targeted vocabulary and verb structures, and repetition. In a class based on CI, students are presented with vocabulary and verb structures within the context of stories they help to create. Through questioning and reading about the events and characters of the stories, targeted vocabulary and structures are repeated until acquired. The students experience the words in novel and surprising ways to increase their interest level and acquisition of the material. The stories include the use of gestures, visuals, puppets, props, and student-created drawings. Videos, songs, games, dance and technology integration enliven the overall learning experience.
A calm, supportive atmosphere keeps anxiety to a minimum and encourages students to participate at their comfort level. At first, students’ communication may be limited to single-word answers or short phrases, but with increased exposure to the language, opportunities to communicate, and guided reading and writing activities, their command of Spanish improves. The program focuses on oral language in Kindergarten and first grade and steadily integrates reading and writing into the curriculum for second through fifth grades.