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Acquisition and the Sonrisas Spanish Curriculum

At Sonrisas Spanish, we created the Acquire, Develop, Learn® methodology to guide how the different levels of our curriculum work together. This begins with Sonrisas Level I and acquisition. Language acquisition is the process by which humans acquire the capacity to perceive and comprehend language, as well as to produce and use words and sentences to  communicate. Children do this naturally without having to “learn” language. Developmentally, children have the natural ability to do this with a second language, too. The foremost expert on second language acquisition, Dr. Stephen Krashen, explains that acquisition requires meaningful interaction in the target language—natural communication—in which speakers are concerned not with the form of their utterances but with the communicative act. Sonrisas Level I provides lots of opportunity for natural communication through the variety of activities that are presented in Circle Time, Story Time, and Art Time. Students engage in varied and frequent communication through songs, games, lesson activities, stories, and art projects. All of these activities are focused on providing fun and meaningful interactions in Spanish.

Krashen stresses that comprehensible input (CI) is the crucial and necessary ingredient for the acquisition of language. CI is nothing more than language that can be understood by learners even when they don’t understand all the words and structures. In the Sonrisas lessons, CI is present in every segment. In Circle Time students get CI through the movement and gesture that accompany the songs and the routines of the games that are played. In Story Time students get CI from the context of the story—the illustrations, the text, and the teacher’s telling of the story with fluency, tone, and expression. In Art Time students get CI from the physical product they are making—allowing teachers to engage them in meaningful interactions about what they are working on. All of it adds up to messages being conveyed and understood. This is when acquisition begins.

Acquisition continues when the learner improves and progresses by receiving second language input that is one step beyond his or her current stage of linguistic competence. This describes Krashen’s “Input Hypothesis”. For example, if a learner is at a stage “i”, then acquisition takes place when he or she is exposed to CI that belongs to a level of “i + 1”. Teachers can provide this kind of CI through their natural communication with students—adjusting their level of communication to differentiate for learners at varying levels of proficiency. This also explains how the Sonrisas lessons develop learner’s acquired Spanish in Sonrisas Level II. More on this in the next post.

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