by Maria Sanz, Spanish Teacher
The perfect time to begin learning a language happens most easily during early childhood. Dr. Montessori identified a “Sensitive Period” for language acquisition in children from birth to age six. Sensitive Periods are developmental windows of opportunity when children can learn specific concepts more naturally than at any other time in their lives.
At Arbor, we begin introducing Spanish lessons one-on-one in the Primary classroom. Once a week, children have the freedom to choose different themed lessons they want to learn. The lessons begin with basic vocabulary and expressions such as greetings, commands, colors, numbers, animals, family, and other basic topics. Acquiring vocabulary represents one of the most important skills necessary for learning a second language. The vocabulary is generally presented with pictures and objects to show meaning, helping the children to identify words through visualization.
While children are absorbing the vocabulary, they name and repeat words as many times as they want, to understand and use language with confidence when exploring objects and pictures. Over time, the child recognizes the vocabulary and makes connections between the object or picture with the verbal word. Eventually, some children begin to work with three-part cards; where the child recognizes the object or picture and can label it accordingly.
Singing is another fun way we introduce a second language; it is a part of the routines of the classroom. Singing helps the children recognize and practice new vocabulary.
Language learning continues in Lower Elementary, where children explore and learn Spanish in small groups once a week. At this level, children develop skills that help them acquire more vocabulary as well as the skills necessary for writing and reading a second language. At this level, learning a second language helps the children develop and achieve better pronunciation and fluency later in life. It also gives children insight into other cultures, as they experience lessons about a variety of Spanish-speaking countries.
As we live in a multicultural world, exposing children to a foreign language at an early age helps them to speak fluently and confidently. The Spanish program at Primary and Lower Elementary aims to create a smooth transition to the Upper Elementary Program, and beyond!