The Importance of Proficiency in Elementary Spanish ProgramsBrooks
Given the benefits of early language learning, world language education should be an essential part of elementary education. A Spanish program can benefit your students, but which approach is the best? When you choose an elementary Spanish curriculum, it’s important to ensure that the curriculum is focused on proficiency.
What is proficiency?
Proficiency refers to the ability to use a language to communicate effectively in real-world situations. It’s different from simply memorizing vocabulary and grammar rules. This is often the focus of traditional language learning programs. A proficiency-based curriculum emphasizes the use of language in meaningful contexts, with a focus on communication rather than memorization.
Why is proficiency important in elementary Spanish programs?
Communication in real-world situations
A proficiency-based curriculum prepares learners to use the language in real-world situations. Students who are able to communicate effectively in real-world situations will be more confident and comfortable using the language outside of the classroom. For elementary students, this begins with simple skills such as providing and requesting information and expressing basic needs.
Research has shown that learning a second language can enhance executive functioning skills such as problem-solving, critical thinking, and creativity. It can also improve academic performance in other subject areas, such as math and science. Elementary Spanish programs that focus on proficiency activate these skills by engaging students in authentic language use and communication.
Sonrisas Spanish: A Proficiency-Based Curriculum
Selecting a proficiency-based curriculum
Sonrisas Spanish is a proficiency-based curriculum that is designed specifically for elementary and middle school Spanish. Our curriculum is designed to be interactive, engaging, and fun. It focuses on communication and language use in real-world situations. The Sonrisas lessons use a variety of age-appropriate modalities to engage students in authentic language use. Music, role-play, drama, authentic literature, art, and communicative tasks all play a role.
Providing opportunities for authentic language use and communication
Sonrisas Spanish emphasizes authentic language use and communication throughout the curriculum. Students engage in interactive activities that require them to use the language in meaningful contexts, such as greeting others, exchanging personal information, talking about the weather, ordering food in a restaurant, likes and dislikes, and describing their daily routines. Our curriculum also includes authentic texts, such as children’s Spanish storybooks and songs, that expose students to real-world language use.
To ensure that students make progress towards proficiency, Sonrisas Spanish includes formative and summative assessments which align with the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines. This allows teachers to adjust instruction as needed and measure student learning.
The Sonrisas World-Readiness Standards Alignment Guide demonstrates the alignment of the Sonrisas Spanish curriculum to the World-Readiness Standards for Language Learning with a focus on the communications and cultures standards. The guide reflects the continuum of growth in communication skills, through the Novice Low and Intermediate Low proficiency levels, that learners can achieve with instruction in the Sonrisas Spanish lessons.
The guide tracks learner’s proficiency as they progress through the curriculum. Performance Indicators define the observable student outcomes that meet the standards. Can-Do Statements provide examples of what learners at different proficiency levels actually do in the lessons to demonstrate their knowledge of the standards.
Supporting teacher proficiency
Professional development opportunities
Sonrisas Spanish also provides professional development opportunities for teachers, including training webinars, curriculum best practices, and practical tips for teaching. These opportunities help teachers develop their own proficiency in Spanish instruction and learn effective strategies for teaching young learners.
Creating authentic language-learning experiences
Our curriculum provides teachers with the tools and resources they need to create authentic language-learning experiences for their students. This includes resources for incorporating real-world materials and experiences into instruction, such as songs, stories, and cultural activities.
Modeling effective language use
The Sonrisas Spanish lessons also emphasize modeling effective language use for students. Best practices for implementation include the teacher using Spanish in the classroom at least 90% of the time. We also recommend that teachers do not inhibit students by pushing for language production too early. Teachers are encouraged to help students develop a positive connotation of learning a second language by modeling the language throughout the various activities in the lessons.
Setting Students Up for Success
A proficiency-based approach to elementary Spanish is crucial for preparing students to communicate effectively in real-world situations and for developing their cognitive and academic skills. We designed Sonrisas with young learners in mind, and we provide teachers with the tools and resources they need to create authentic language-learning experiences for their students. With Sonrisas Spanish, students develop the skills they need to use Spanish confidently and effectively in the real world, setting them up for success both academically and in life.