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elementary school Spanish curriculum

Teaching Spanish To Young Students Through Immersion

Many have experienced difficulty when trying to learn a second language as an adult. This is because it is easier to learn a language when you are young, which is the case for most skills or knowledge. A young student’s mind is adaptable and malleable, and learning a second language will provide them significant benefits in the future.

Introducing Spanish To Students at a Young Age

According to a recent study, it is most advantageous to begin learning a second language when you are about 10 years old, especially if you want to reach the proficiency of a native speaker. At this age, students will learn a foreign language faster and even pick up an accent more naturally.

There is a lot of research suggesting that children find it much easier to learn a second language than adults, but researchers were unsure of what the critical age period is. Researchers at MIT discovered that the window for learning begins to close when you are about 10 years old, although ages up to 17 or 18 still learn a second language faster than adults. Regardless, if you begin learning later than age 10, it is nearly impossible to attain the proficiency of a native speaker.

Many countries require schools by law to introduce a foreign language before the age of 8. Although the United States often waits until junior or senior year of high school to introduce students to a Spanish curriculum. In this case, students only have four years of study as opposed to 10 or 12.

Experts agree that immersion is the most effective way to learn a language, but this is not plausible for many young students who are not living in a Spanish-speaking country. It is impossible to achieve immersion if students are immersed in another language the vast majority of the day. This is a challenge faced by many Spanish language instructors for young students. Here are a few tips and methods to incorporate immersion into your Spanish curriculum.

Writing in Spanish

Writing in Spanish for as little as 5 to 10 minutes a day can be a highly effective learning exercise for the mind. This can be an excellent exercise to begin every class with, recommend for preschool Spanish or elementary Spanish. During this time, instruct students to journal about interesting experiences or experiences they would like to remember. This exercise is best completed without relying on translators or dictionaries.

Thinking in Spanish

Encouraging students to think in Spanish may be a difficult feat, especially when teaching Spanish to elementary students, but it can be accomplished gradually. Instruct students to think in Spanish for 30 seconds to a minute every day. One easy technique is to ask yourself an open-ended question and then answer it in Spanish, such as “What am I doing right now?” With practice, you can engage in this exercise for longer periods of time and eventually think spontaneously in Spanish. This exercise can work wonders as a part of a Spanish language immersion program.

For those students who may have a difficult time learning a traditional Spanish curriculum in a classroom setting, there are some alternative methods for teaching Spanish:

  • Games (Scattergories, Bingo)
  • Movies and Television shows (Spanish-speaking with English subtitles)
  • Music

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