Making a deep and lasting connection to Spanish is Señora Andrade’s goal when she teaches any student. She believes students need to use a process that encourages them to engage deeply in what they are learning — deeply enough to be willing to take risks. When it comes to language acquisition, her goal is to get students to try to say what they want to say without worry or fear of “getting it wrong.” “Kids stumble over their words and it can sound messy when they learn their first language. Their second or third language is no different.” Focusing on self-expression first provides this “sticky” foundation for becoming a lifelong language lover.
One of her favorite vehicles to use to develop proficiency in Spanish is called a “Movie Talk.” She shows a short video, stopping and starting along the way. “¿Qué ves? (What do you see?)” she asks them. The students use a variety of techniques to get the vocabulary they need. If they can’t remember how to ask in Spanish, they can look in their notes, act it out, draw it out, or any other technique they can think of. “Being silly acts as a foil for worry in the classroom. We laugh a lot and celebrate every phrase and every sentence.” Señora Andrade embraces the fact that learning follows joy and so there is almost never a class without laughter. It could take several class periods to get through one short video, but as they do, they are organically building their vocabulary with high-frequency words and practical speaking skills that include emotions, expression, and lots of vocabulary – important building blocks to true language acquisition. Once a class has gone through the whole movie, they go back and retell the story in Spanish. It won’t be perfect but they are connected to the story, its characters, and have the confidence and willingness to self-express.
If students choose to continue with Spanish in 7th grade (they spend half of their 6th-grade year in Spanish and half in Latin) they will certainly dive into more traditional grammar in preparation for high school. But even with the addition of grammar, Señora Andrade keeps the conversation going with projects that get kids talking about the things they love enabling them to be active users of language rather than passive absorbers. “If a student can learn that their language is only limited to their own resourcefulness, then they are much more likely to stick with it for a lifetime and reap the benefits of being a polyglot in their lives, their careers and as a global citizen.”