Spanish in the Classroom

The Spanish language can be heard in three FMS classrooms as naturally as we hear words and phrases being said in English. Two of our Primary classrooms and one of our Lower Elementary classrooms deliver their lessons in English and Spanish. P1040065In the Primary rooms, the lessons mirror the work shown to the children in English. If a child has done a math lesson using the small bead stair, they will also be given the same lesson using Spanish nomenclature.

“One” becomes “uno” and “two” becomes “dos.” In the process of using the Spanish language to respond to the teacher; the students are reinforcing their core lessons, while at the same time, they are utilizing their second language skills in a practical and useful way.

Lower Elementary students in E3 have the extra benefit of doing math, grammar and word studies in Spanish. They also read books in both English and Spanish, and are asked to apply their written skills in the Spanish language. By the time a student has gone through Primary and Lower Elementary Spanish immersion classes at FMS, they will have had 6 years of actively learning and using the Spanish language. Research confirms that immersion in a second language when a child is young, often makes it easier for the child to acquire the fundamentals of using the second language.P1040072

Author Ronald Kotulak observes, “During the first three years of life, the foundations for thinking, language, vision, attitudes, aptitudes, and other characteristics are laid down.” He states in Inside the Brain, “Consequently, it would be a waste not to use a child’s natural ability to learn during his or her most vital years, when learning a second language is as easy as learning the first.”

Picking up the Spanish language comes naturally in our primary aged classrooms and is further refined as our students move into their lower elementary classrooms. P1040070All students on campus are given the chance to learn Spanish even if they are not enrolled in our Spanish immersion classes.All other classes are visited on a weekly basis from our Spanish speaking teachers and are taught the fundamentals of the language. This time spent learning the Spanish language in a primary and elementary setting lays the groundwork for all of our students who elect to take Spanish in high school. FMS graduates report that having the chance to learn Spanish, while here on campus enhanced their ability to further their skills in high school.

Benefits of Spanish Immersion

Let’s take a look into the window of P1, one of our Spanish Immersion classrooms.

“Hola, como estas?” (Hi, how are you?) “Por favor” (Please), “Gracias” (Thank you) are a few of the common Spanish phrases heard in our classroom as we begin our day together. “Uno, dos, tres” (one, two, three) can be heard as the children count in Spanish. “Por favor, venga al circulo, no mas trabajo,” (please come to circle, no more work) is an example of the daily instructions our students hear as they experience the Spanish language in a natural and routine manner.

We have found that singing in Spanish is also an easy and enjoyable way for the children to hear the rhythm of the language. The children work with exclusive Spanish language materials in learning how to identify objects and pictures in Spanish. They do this by learning how to pronounce, spell and associate the concepts in the Spanish language. The Montessori math materials are also taught in Spanish, once the concepts are learned in English. — From the P1 Blog

Spanish Immersion is an optional program for ages 3 through third grade that is designed to provide students with a solid foundation for bilingualism. Half of all lessons are given in Spanish and one classroom support teacher speaks only in Spanish, creating a native-like environment. Conversing, singing and doing works in Spanish is a fun and natural way to acquire bilingual fluency and cultural understanding. Research suggests that learning languages at earlier ages and over longer periods of time supports second-language acquisition (Tochon, 2009). Benefits include:

  • Increased ability to control attention and keep information in memory, better awareness of language structure and vocabulary, and improved skills in creative thinking and problem solving (Adesope, Lavin, Thompson, and Ungerleider, 2010).
  • Bilingual students attain higher levels of achievement on standardized tests in reading, writing, social studies, and math, and report higher levels of self-confidence (Tochon, 2009).
  • Students in “50-50” language-immersion schools, in which students spend half of their day learning in a nonnative language, perform as well as, or better than, students in monolingual schools on standardized tests, and these benefits extend to English-language learners as well as native English speakers (Gómez, Freeman, and Freeman, 2005; Palmer, 2009; Thomas and Collier, 2002).
  • Learning a second language not only has cognitive and academic benefits, it also supports a greater sense of openness to — and appreciation for — other cultures and improves opportunities for cross-cultural friendships and employment (Tochon, 2009).