The Rio Grande School’s Spanish Program is a conversational approach that integrates the Spanish language with other school subject areas. It is based on the processes of first language acquisition. For example, by learning that hola is an informal greeting, instead of “the Spanish for hello,” children achieve greater retention and a greater ability to create new and meaningful messages. Students learn Spanish through activities that target all of the multiple intelligences, such as singing, dancing, drawing, coloring, playing games, listening, and repeating—a lot of repeating!
During the first few years in a conversational Spanish program, children become aware of other people and cultures as they are exposed to Spanish through songs, storybooks, and play. The pre-school programs have a Spanish lesson once a week, and kindergarten Spanish is three times a week. The children learn by listening, seeing, and imitating. They associate the spoken word with a picture and gesture. 1st and 2nd grade students have Spanish four times a week for 30 minutes. 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th grade students have Spanish three times a week for 30 to 45 minutes. The students listen to commands, and they practice action verbs, numbers, counting, vocabulary, songs, and movement.
Spanish instruction aims to make language learning a fun and meaningful experience while instilling an awareness of, and an interest in, other cultures. A variety of teaching approaches address all learning styles while actively involving students as much as possible. There is a strong emphasis on oral communication. New vocabulary is introduced without reference to the written word, using only Spanish in conjunction with movements, pictures, props, and role-play. Students discover grammatical patterns and the meanings of new words by matching visual clues with what they hear and experience. They work with written Spanish only after they have become comfortable with the spoken word. Culture, geography, and the history of Spanish-speaking countries are frequently integrated into lessons. Grades 1–6 use individual Spanish lesson books, which, like portfolios, show the students’ work through drawing and writing. The lesson books are an important part of classroom participation.
Foreign Language Assessment
Spanish conversation is assessed in a three-step process: Input, Output, and Recall. Input is when students receive large amounts of vocabulary through songs, games, stories, and instruction from the educator. Output is when students show signs of understanding the language with gestures or one-word answers and with prompts from the educator. Recall is when the student is able to recall the Spanish vocabulary verbally without a prompt from the educator.
To monitor student progress, verbal assessments will be given twice a year, in January and May. The Spanish Instructor will use the three-step process, explained above, to evaluate the progress of each child. The assessment gives the student a sense of responsibility and ownership of learning a foreign language while giving the educator feedback to their progress. Individual assessment results will be available by request.