Starting a Pre-School Spanish Program
There is no better time to start learning a second language than when you are
young. Research shows that brain and language development are
ripest during the beginning years of life (Cowley 2000, Newsweek).
Learning that is approachable and fun fascinates us all, but
preschool children are especially receptive.
If you’re interested in starting a program, I would recommend
taking a look at a series like “Dora the Explorer”
for starters. These programs, while designed for the masses,
introduce general Spanish vocabulary in a very inviting way.
One website that shows examples of how to incorporate the Dora
series into daily exercises can be found at: http://nickjr.com/home/shows/dora/doras_word_of_the_day/index.jhtml
My experience with teaching native English speaking preschoolers
Spanish has been extremely positive. Playing games like “Ickity
Pickity Bumblebee Who can say ‘red’ for me in Spanish?”
help students develop the language without feeling the stress.
Even early learners like to feel successful and the best way
to instill that feeling is to use basic games that build on
what they already know about the world. In early English literacy,
we teach children to make connections to the text in order to
build schema. The same concept applies to preschoolers developing
their language skills. Once students correctly identify “rojo”
as the color for red, move onto asking them to name objects
around the room that are red. This activity can be taught in
isolation, but it is also fun to use it as a way to have children
join you for an activity on the rug, or to line-up for lunch
or a bathroom break, or even as a way to say good-bye for the
When teaching vocabulary, make it fun. Many basic English literacy
activities, designed to teach children reading in grades K and
1, can be adapted to teach the basics in Spanish to preschoolers.
Daily calendar time is a suitable place to teach numbers, weather,
logical reasoning and related vocabulary in Spanish. For ideas
on different activities you can adapt using calendar math, visit: http://faldo.atmos.uiuc.edu/CLA/LESSONS/637.html
Short songs, designed for young learners, offer students an
opportunity to learn about the sound of the new language through
repetition and rhythm. One CD that may provide you with a starting
point is called “Fiesta Songs.”
Movement activities that involve asking students to mimic the
way an animal moves and to talk about the characteristics of
that animal offers yet another way for students to use Spanish.
As a follow-up activity you can have students create masks of
a frog and describe their mask, using basic Spanish vocabulary,
in the meeting circle.
By teaching students to speak Spanish at a young age, you are
telling them that learning about different cultures and speaking
more than one language is important. In our ever-changing global
world, an early lesson like this could make a huge difference
in the opportunities that your students have in the future.
Disclaimer: Teachers Network offers resources
for teachers, but it does not endorse any of the companies or
products that it mentions in articles.
Cowley, Geoffrey. “For the Love of Language.” Newsweek Fall/Winter 2000: 12-15.
Questions or comments? E-mail Tobey.