"Let no child be left behind"
- sounds a bit like a government slogan for a new education initiative doesn't it! But it's the phrase which first wells up in my mind when it considers how to teach children Spanish. In language teaching, you see, once key information has passed a pupil by, it is highly unlikely they will ever get it back - and worse, missing information puts them on the 'slippery slope' towards low achievement and the inevitable lack of interest in the subject.
And whose fault was that?! Clue: not the pupil's. Right. So to maximise the effect of their Spanish teaching the teacher has to keep all the pupils interested if possible. But how? Here are some of my top tips based on my 23 years as a Spanish teacher and curriculum designer:
And I'm just going to add to that: be organised and be consistent too! I'm very big on keeping lessons simple when teaching children Spanish. In fact, it drives me crazy when I see a massive jump in Spanish level which the kids obviously cannot handle. Well, of course they can't! They need to progress on a step-by-step basis, with new language carefully and thoughtfully introduced to them. I repeat again: it's not the fault of the pupil if they suddenly get left behind.
Following on from what I say above, maintaining a controlled structure is essential. That doesn't mean the pupils have to be short of creative opportunities. Indeed, quite the contrary: it's the very structure they are provided with which allows for them to express themselves further - expanding their Spanish as they do so - without ever deviating far from the curriculum's core content. When I designed the three Speekee Spanish curriculums I spent a great deal of time considering how much Spanish could be introduced and at what moments, bearing in mind too that flexibility for the learner was a constant watchword.
I always think of Repetition as something as a 'trick up the sleeve' of the Spanish teacher. The children are unlikely to notice that you are even doing it! And the reason you are doing it is that you know you are 'drilling' the language into their minds. I incorporated a Spiral Learning approach into Speekee. It's a teaching method based on the premise that a pupil learns more about a subject each time the topic is reviewed or encountered.
Of the many tools available to teachers - and something of an old 'classic' in the world of language teaching - worksheets are not to be underestimated. That's why, at the time of writing, I am designing 100s more Spanish worksheets for children learning Spanish with Speekee. You can see a huge selection of them here (many available for free). If you are creating your own, my advice is to keep them simple and with plenty of space for children to express their Spanish. You'll see in the example Speekee worksheet below how the white space has all been used up by the child - and with perfect Spanish, I should add!
I would be full of praise for video based Spanish learning wouldn't I; after all, Speekee's essence is in its videos. Videos are tremendously engaging for children and I've had great feedback over the years from teachers telling me how their pupils have 'laughed their heads off' as they watch the Spanish children in Speekee act out their Spanish lines - not always scripted - with cheeky grins of their own. I mention children watching children to learn Spanish because the positive effect of peers on child development, though widely studied, often goes unrecognised. And finally...
Sounds obvous? Children and adults alike learn best when they are having fun. You already know that so let me add a tip to help you along the way with your class: Let the experts lead. That is, use the more able children in the class to guide their fellow pupils. Not only does it save you some work, it also makes everyone feel good. And that will only serve to up the fun levels. So, have fun teachers!
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