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Which Elementary Spanish Curriculum Is Right for My School?

Let me be the first to congratulate you. If you are reading this, then we can assume that you have made the decision to pursue a Spanish program for your elementary school. This is worthy of congratulations because the benefits of early language learning are proven and profound. Now you must make the important decision about which elementary Spanish curriculum is right for your school. Consider the following information when you conduct your search.

The Big Publishers

These are the big players, the same publishers that you get your math, ELA, and other content curricula from. You may know them. You may trust them. You see their booths at every conference you attend. Some of them publish Spanish curriculum for the elementary level, some don’t.

Elementary Spanish curriculum from the big publishers has plenty of positives. It is going to be research based. It will align to the standards, and no doubt include lots of content. The familiarity of these companies is reassuring.

Most Spanish curriculum from these companies includes lots of bells and whistles. Herein lies one of the major drawbacks—the bells and whistles are unnecessary. Teachers end up not using them. We know from experience that sidebars, interactive online links, flashcards, and color-coded guides tend to overwhelm teachers. Teachers end up using just the basic parts of the curriculum and eschewing the extras. Practically speaking, you end up paying for these unused extras.

The biggest concern with elementary Spanish curriculum from the big publishers is that it is simply not a focus for them. Their focus is on the major markets in secondary and higher ed. In many instances, their curriculum adopts the same type of design, format, and methodology as their secondary offerings. So, while they offer a flashy product, they miss the mark on providing an effective and developmentally appropriate tool for young language learners.

Online Language Learning

This is a huge category. It includes everything from language learning apps to curricula that are based in an interactive online environment. Advantages to these types of programs include: affordability, ease-of-use, uniformity of implementation, and the potential lack of need for a Spanish instructor. About ten years ago, most world language curriculum companies started charging down this path with gusto.

We have always been big proponents of the need for in-person instruction in language learning—especially at the elementary level. Our views were bolstered by ACTFL’s position statement on the role of technology in language learning. ACTFL concluded that:

  • The sole use of tech for language instruction is not appropriate.
  • A language educator should be responsible for the planning, instruction,assessment, and facilitation of any language course.
  • Language instruction is best guided by language educators rather than solely delivered via a computer program or by a non-content specialist.

Technology can no doubt support and enhance language learning, but most online language learning programs go beyond this support role and aim to supplant world language professionals. This is not a developmentally appropriate approach.

Elementary Spanish Curriculum

Curriculum in this category is designed specifically for early language learners and elementary Spanish teachers. It is developmentally appropriate for young learners and has an articulated approach for elementary Spanish education through the grades.

One of the biggest elements that separates elementary language learning from middle and secondary language education is young learner’s developmental capability to acquire a second language, much as they would their first language, through the use of comprehensible input and communication in a variety of age-appropriate modalities.

This means that your elementary Spanish curriculum needs to include modalities such as music, play, storytelling, art, and role-play. It also means that your Spanish lessons need to create an immersion environment with lots of opportunity for interpersonal communication in the target language. It looks like play in Spanish, but there is intention and methodology behind the play. This is what it means to be developmentally appropriate for elementary world language education. This is what Sonrisas Spanish offers.

When elementary Spanish curriculum is developmentally appropriate, learners connect with the language. They establish a positive connotation with learning a second language, they become effective Spanish communicators and lifelong language learners, and they develop a strong foundation in Spanish which prepares them for higher level courses in middle and high school. This is the type of curriculum that is right for your school.




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