Spanish is taught to K-8 students twice a week, totaling 80 minutes of Spanish per week, per grade level. While the content and type of instruction varies drastically from grade level to grade level, the teaching philosophy is the same. A second language should be taught in a similar fashion to that of the home language, where through intentional, comprehensible input and authentic sources, language is gradually acquired. A first language is not taught through flashcards, nor should a second. Rather, language should be taught through modeling, repetitive exposure, and negotiation of meaning through spoken discourse.
In Kindergarten, students begin by learning simple greetings and introductions, such as “What is your name?” and “My name is”. From there, we move to colors, fruits, numbers, animals, and locations. At this age, the focus is on learning a foundation of nouns, adjectives, and simple phrases that will allow them to later form complete sentences as they progress through the Spanish program. At this grade, vocabulary is taught through the use of games, songs, short stories, rhymes, and lots of repetition.
In 1st and 2nd grade, we review introductions and common phrases and continue to build on the foundation of nouns and adjectives, while slowly introducing the most commonly used verbs. New units include topics such as clothing, food, and weather. By the end of the year, students will be able to form complete sentences, such as “He wears the yellow shirt”, “I do not like onions”, and “It is raining today”.
Grades 3rd, 4th, and 5th now having a strong foundation of basic vocabulary, will begin to expand on their Spanish knowledge and demonstrate it through reading, writing, listening, and speaking. By the end of the year, they will be able to read, write, speak and understand novice-level Spanish. Units include the verb “to be”, with locations and feelings, body parts and expressing pain, telling time, and family members/relationships.
By middle school, students have had enough exposure to the language that they are prepared to be taught in the target language. Much of the class itself is conducted in Spanish, with English being the secondary language, used primarily for clarification purposes. Middle school students use SOMOS curriculum, a wonderful curriculum created by Martina Bex, a Spanish teacher herself. This curriculum moves away from the memorization of vocabulary onto actual comprehension of the language itself. Students learn about events, customs, and beliefs around the world, such as La Carrera de San Silvestre and El encierro de San Fermín, but through the target language, all the while increasing their vocabulary and their ability to comprehend complex texts and verbal instruction.
Throughout the school year, students in every grade will be exposed to cultures and customs different from their own. During September, students will participate in Hispanic Heritage Month, where contributions from notable Hispanic persons are recognized. By the end of October, students begin learning about Día de Los Muertos, a traditionally Mexican holiday where the memories of the deceased are celebrated and honored. In December, students investigate how Christmas is celebrated in Hispanic countries. For the month of February, students participate in Black History Month by researching famous Afro-Latinos, coming to understand what intersectionality means. In May, students will celebrate Cinco de Mayo (despite it not being a widely celebrated holiday in Mexico) and learn about the common misconceptions around it, as well as how to be culturally sensitive and avoid cultural appropriation.
The coupling of language and culture is an essential part of reaching our overarching goal of making every student a more globally aware citizen.