Communication is the Key

Occasionally I will have a parent of one of my early elementary students express concern that his child is not using grammar correctly when speaking Spanish that he/she has learned in class. Many times this comes from the student using incorrect noun-adjective agreement or incorrect verb usage or conjugation. This gives me the opportunity to remind the parent that at this early level of language learning, communication is the key.

In the first place, students are not learning any explicit grammar at this level. This is by design. Rather than teaching explicit grammar, students benefit much more from having the opportunity to hear and use the language in fun, age-appropriate activities such as singing, games, literature, drama, and art projects. This is why the Sonrisas Spanish Curriculum is based on these types of activities.

Secondly, it takes many repetitions of grammatical structures before a student is able to consistently use them correctly. This is why it is important that the teacher is using Spanish the majority of the time throughout her lesson and consistently modeling correct grammar. Students will get there; it just takes time.

Thirdly, the most important outcome of any foreign language education is that the student can communicate in that language. If a student is able to communicate, albeit with incorrect grammar, it is important that the teacher positively reinforces the communication while providing a model for the correct grammar. Many times this can be done by simply acknowledging the communication and then repeating what was said with correct grammar. Example: If a student says, “Mi casa es amarillo.” The teacher can respond, “¿Sí? ¿Tu casa es amarilla?” Or if a student says, “El sol está un círculo.” The teacher can respond, “Tienes razón. El sol es un círculo.” The last thing we want to do is thwart a child’s sincere attempts at using their second language by constantly correcting their grammar. This will only cause fear and negative connotations of the language. Young students have plenty of time to learn grammar, and they will. For now communication is the key.

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