- Reviewed on Tuesday, July 22, 2008
- Grades Used: 2nd-5th
- Dates used: 2007-2008
I have looked for a Spanish program I could use with elementary grades, for several years. With my third grader, I got a Spanish picture dictionary and we went through it very slowly, staying on the same page for many days until the vocabulary (all nouns) was learned. This was enjoyable, but after doing this for a year she was ready for learning more than just nouns. So in fourth grade, we tried Power Glide’s Junior Spanish program. We listened to CD lessons and followed along with some workbook activities (most did not involve writing). There was a lot of Spanish to listen to with a few English words tossed in, too, in stories (they called this a “diglot weave”, and it is supposed to be a transition between all English and all Spanish). I made flashcards for vocabulary used in the stories and we frequently practiced with these before listening to the CD. My child did not learn as much as I had hoped for with this course, and I will probably not use it again with my younger child. But she did enjoy doing Spanish as a school subject, and so I went in search of another approach.
When I found The Easy Spanish on a website, I was excited. This is a course developed by a homeschool mom which is designed to be used at a variety of grade levels, and can be started in elementary grades. Unlike many Spanish courses I have seen, the vocabulary is not focused on being a tourist. There are lots of everyday words, and even some common sayings and idioms, introduced.
This course comes in a huge, spiral-bound book, and has two computer CD’s. One CD has material that can be printed from your computer, the other has audio material (which can be played on any CD player). There are 36 lessons—one for each week of the school year. Each lesson has a dialog (printed in the book and recorded on the CD) that consists of two or more people talking—sometimes in English and sometimes in Spanish. Enough English is spoken that you can follow the story line of the dialog, especially if you listen to it all week. There is grammar information in the book, and some cultural information. And for each lesson, there are suggestions for activities that you can choose from. Some of these require workpages that you can print from the computer CD. Every two weeks, a new Spanish Bible verse is introduced. There is also a section of recorded “Everyday Vocabulary” words on the CD, that you can listen to, with a printed version available in the book. After each lesson’s dialog there is always a recorded review of vocabulary used in that dialog.
How has this worked in our homeschool? This year, I used it with my fifth grade daughter and my second grade son, together. We have used only parts of the program—we chose to use the dialogs and dialog vocabulary, and the Bible verses, along with some of the suggested activities.
A typical day’s study looks like this: I hold up a page that has the Bible verse written on it in Spanish, and read it, having the kids repeat portions of it after me. Then we go through some flashcards. This was not suggested in the book; we added it, because the kids were not learning much vocabulary just by listening to the recordings. I made a group of 12 flashcards for various topics—fruit and vegetables, common objects, animals, etc. and we used one group at a time, practicing until the kids could say each Spanish word when they saw its picture. After flashcards, we listen to the dialog and to the vocabulary section after it. I do not require the kids to sit still for this, as it is fairly long—they generally play or set up some toys while they listen. The dialogs would probably be of even more benefit to a junior high age or older child, but I think it is good for the elementary kids to hear what Spanish sounds like, even if they understand and retain only a small part of what they hear.
I discovered, about half-way through the year, that my older child liked doing the workpage activities, but didn’t really like the non-workpage activities. So, because this course doesn’t have enough print-out workpages to do one every day, I began making some of my own. The ones I “filled in” with were for writing number words and for writing the months of the year.
Both of my kids have a three-ring Spanish notebook that they have four sections in: one is Soy Yo, for activity pages the child completes that are about himself (these are provided by the course), the second section is Bible Verses—whenever we have a new verse, they write it out and put it in their notebooks. The third section is Miscellaneous, for any workpages that don’t fit in the other sections, and the fourth section is Dialog Pictures, where they put pictures they draw each week that go along with the dialog’s storyline. This activity is suggested in the book; they call it “narration.” I usually have the kids write a few Spanish words on their pictures, either in dialog balloons, or just somewhere on the page. We always do dialog pictures on Fridays, instead of any other workpage. We also skip listening to the vocabulary section that follows the dialog on this day.
After figuring out what works best for us, I am very happy with this program. The dialogs are fairly interesting, and finding a series of recorded dialogs that use both English and Spanish is not easy. In most courses the dialogs are entirely in Spanish.
The Easy Spanish is supposed to be a three-year course, when you are using it starting at elementary ages. The second and third years, you go over the same dialogs and learn more details of grammar, taking two weeks for each lesson. Even though we did like the dialogs, I feel that my children would not be very enthusiastic about going over the same dialogs again next year. Also, there are very few grammar workpages available with the course, so it is totally up to the teacher to present the grammar material and figure out ways for the kids to learn and practice it. So we are not planning to continue with this course past one year, but I do think it is a good one-year course for elementary ages.
We are going to continue our studies next year with Discovering Languages (AMSCO) by Elaine Robbins and Kathryn Ashworth, and Play and Learn Spanish (McGraw Hill), by Ana Lomba and Marcela Summerville.