Presidio Hill School begins teaching Spanish in first grade. The program is an engaging one, with students participating in creative hands-on projects and activities with a goal of developing immediate language skills and equipping students with lifelong language acquisition strategies.
In Middle School, we focus on developing immediate language skills and equipping students with useful, lifelong language acquisition strategies. The objectives are to develop, reinforce and refine communicative competency in listening, speaking, reading, writing, and culture. The curriculum used in 7th and 8th grade makes possible differentiation through participation and collaboration of all skill levels in one classroom.
Spanish at Presidio Hill is an integrated experience drawing on students' art and drama abilities as well as writing, speaking, and presentational skills. Students read and listen to a story in Spanish and—using the target vocabulary they have learned and utilizing TPRS (Teaching Proficiency Through Reading and Storytelling) techniques (see below)—write their own story. Students bring their stories' characters to life by drawing or modeling them in different materials. Comics, children’s books, puppet shows, and animations in the app Toontastic.
Through an inductive approach, students gain an intuitive understanding of how language is acquired and how they can use this knowledge to express themselves linguistically. Differentiation of language instruction takes place by adapting the contents and techniques to the differing abilities and needs of the students. The various methodologies employed take into consideration different learning styles.
Among the methodologies incorporated are the Natural Approach, Total Physical Response (TPR), and Teaching Proficiency Through Reading and Storytelling (TPRS). These methods presuppose that world-language instruction should meet students' communicative needs. Students begin by acquiring the vocabulary, phrases, structures, and eventually the grammatical and written skills appropriate to and useful in their everyday environment.
Students learn how to communicate in class using the target language from day one. They are encouraged to speak Spanish with teachers and classmates to create a more real Spanish Language experience.
In 7th grade, for example, students read a book called “Los Baker van a Perú”. The book utilizes the vocabulary they are learning in the short stories. Students have the assignment to research the history, geography, and culture of ‘Perú’. They create presentations and share them with classmates.
The class reads the entire book together and often follow the reading with an audio lesson in small groups or as a whole class. Next, students have a "Reader’s Theater" wherein they select and act out a significant scene. For example, in one scene from the book, the family flies from Perú and the students and teacher set up the classroom as an airplane and assign characters and narrators to individuals. Students complete activities for the chapters such as character maps, interviews with a character, timeline, comic, summary, movie poster, and more. At the end of the book, each student creates a short story and presents it in a comic-book form. Later in the year, for a different book, students create an animation based on the story.
A project in 8th grade is one of the realistic scenarios in which many language learners must be able to participate. Students study commands to give directions and learn vocabulary for places in the city or town. Each student gets a list of over 24 places and parts of the city and chooses one theme to create their own city map. They can choose any topic of their interest, such as music, sports, books, video games, etc. After finishing their maps, they give a few sets of directions without indicating the arrival location. The audience will follow their instructions and an indication of success will be arriving at the correct place. In addition to this practice–and once students show they can give and follow directions–they go in groups of three into our neighborhood and follow specific directions and activities to perform each step of the directions given. They use iPads to record the activities during the neighborhood walk.