The Spanish program at Atrium School begins in PreK and goes all the way through Grade 8. PreK and K have Spanish class once a week, and grades 1–8 have Spanish class twice a week.
Theoretical Background of the Spanish Program
The Spanish program is influenced by a combination of different approaches and techniques to language teaching and learning, including the Natural Approach, Total Physical Response, and Task-Based Language Teaching.
The lessons and activities are practical. They relate to children’s daily activities both at home and in school, and reflect the joy of learning a foreign language. A significant amount of time is devoted to conversation in both large and small group formats. In all grades, lessons are hands-on, playful, and integrate cultural aspects. In agreement with a constructivist approach to teaching and learning, students are encouraged to take risks, to make mistakes, and to invent and find creative ways to express themselves in Spanish as they are constructing and re-constructing their understanding of the language. Trust, fun, and enjoyment in the learning process are central in the learning environment.
Goals of the Spanish Program
1. To help children develop basic communicative competence in Spanish so that they can use the language appropriately according to the circumstance.
2. To instill confidence and pride in the children, for being Spanish speakers.
3. To create a Spanish learning culture that is joyful and exciting.
4. To acquire an understanding and appreciation of other cultures.
Specific Learning Goals
The Spanish program has a structure and flow of its own, with each grade learning more complex vocabulary, phrases, listening, speaking, and writing skills. In addition, the lessons feed into the curriculum as much as possible, in grades Pre-K through 5th.
For instance, when the kindergartners study the Charles River in Spanish class, they also learn about language related to the river and its uses; when first graders work on mapping the school, in Spanish class they learn about the “landmarks” of their school and label places and objects in Spanish.
In PreK and K, children are exposed to foundational skills and vocabulary, common Spanish phrases and basic conversational elements. During these first years, listening comprehension skills are developed and receptive language is stronger than expressive language. Music, movement, simple stories, art, rhymes, repetition, props, and sensory activities are central to the curriculum. The aim is to have our youngest students have a positive first exposure to Spanish within an academic setting.
Grades 1–5 are focused on the expansion of vocabulary and conversation skills. Children further develop their listening comprehension and oral expression skills and they become progressively adept at using Spanish in every day interactions. Music, movement, stories and props continue to be a central part of the curriculum. Cultural traditions, songs and/or games from Spanish speaking countries are introduced.
Middle School, Grades 6–8, students build on the Spanish skills learned throughout the PreK through 5th grade years. Each semester, students engage in project work, in which they learn about cultural aspects in different Spanish-speaking countries, while they get progressively comfortable with communicating in Spanish. Listening and speaking skills are emphasized, as is an understanding and appreciation of other cultures.