Mundo de Pepita

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LAST YEAR I DECIDED TO TEACH MY KINDERGARTNERS 100% in Spanish, without any English AND I pretended that I didn't UNDERSTAND English either (that was the real game changer!). This year I continued with this dynamic as they moved into First Grade and, of course, did the same with my new Kindergartners. (Here is my reflection from last year) YEAR 2 of this immersion style approach had its challenges, surprises, and AMAZING moments that kept me on my toes! Like last year, I learned so much, and along the way saw incredible language growth in my students. Here are some things I discovered as I worked to continue their acquisition in First Grade, building on the year before:

Teaching Immersion to Elementary Spanish Students FLES

*GROWING OUTPUT FROM SINGLE WORDS/CHUNKS TO LONGER CHUNKS & SENTENCES: This was an interesting revelation I had in the late fall... as the amount of individual vocabulary words and chunks grew, it became important to help them grow those utterances so they didn't stagnate at the same level endlessly. This also meant helping them move past the gesture and mime phase to more language based output. (see my post here on 3 non verbal strategies I use with my kiddos). One way I achieved this was to increase the expectations I had for them when communicating with me; in other words, if they used a single word with me, I would support them in making that a longer utterance by guiding them in adding to what they were saying, "spoon feeding" where necessary. Non verbal communication became an opportunity for me to do the same-if they gave me the bathroom sign, I would expect them to tell me in Spanish what their request was (we have been practicing that since September of Kindergarten), or if they held up three fingers, I would guide them to say 'tres'. and so on.

*THEY SPOKE LESS & LESS ENGLISH TO EACH OTHER: Don't get me wrong, they still used English with one another for all kinds of things ... playground playdates, lunch commentary, 'hey, you knocked into me!', and so on, but unless I allowed significant down time (which I typically do not), they didn't have a lot of opportunities to interact in English with one another about these things-we were too busy with class. However, I didn't discourage them from helping one another understand what was going on- this is a phenomenon I've noticed across all my immersion style classes- they band together as a community to help one another understand AND speak Spanish. It's actually really cute! Unless I noticed a kiddo stomping on someone else's turn, or not allowing wait time while a kid formulated what he/she wanted to say, etc, I pretended like I had no idea what they were saying and just ignored it. As the year went on, (and I noticed this last year when they were Kindergarteners, too, as well as my current Kinders), they used more and more Spanish to communicate with one another- and to crack jokes (that they thought were HILARIOUS!) in Spanish on a regular basis. Pointing to their bum and saying 'la colita chiquitito' was a particular favorite in class during the month of June.. end of the year sillies! (I never put those words together, they came up with that one on their own-goofballs!). The concept of using Spanish to communicate was significantly strengthened.

*AUTOMATICITY: Last year I read a post by Gianfranco Conti about developing automaticity in students and was so grateful to finally have the word I was looking for! The more students use vocabulary, and the more they speak in the target language, the more automatic it becomes. Seems so obvious, right? The key, in my opinion, though is in therefore keeping the "word count" down to a certain extent so they have the opportunity to use a core set over and over again to develop that automaticity. This doesn't mean curtailing your vocabulary set to a scant number, but being intentional and conscious about being sure that practice happens regularly. I found the level of automaticity in my students to grow significantly this year, noticing little to no processing time when answering / interacting with me with certain words & phrases, which set also grew over the course of the year.

*I CONTINUED TO MODEL STRATEGIES: Strategies that I had taught them in Kindergarten, like the non verbal ones mentioned above, and a whole series I use with all my classes (see my posts on teaching 90% + in the target language) continued to be integral to class. Whether it was ensuring they were all looking at me before I started delivering content, demonstrating an activity or action, using synonyms to add vocabulary, keeping redirects concise and to the point, etc, these strategies continued to support my students in their learning.

I will be continuing this immersion style next year, meaning my 2nd graders will be in their third year of 100% in Spanish. Along with them, my current Kinders will continue in 1st grade 100% in Spanish, and my new incoming K's will also be 100%. I must confess, I prefer these classes to even my 90% + classes, as it is so much easier to just conduct the entire class in Spanish. I don't have to think about how much English to use, I don't have to parcel out the minutes, I don't stress about whether I've used too much English.

NOTE: One area that I do feel does not always get it's full measure is in processing some behaviors. Their language skills are not sufficient enough for me to process with them in significant depth, which at times I know would greater facilitate some of the more difficult moments. I've been identifying in my head some of these situations and will be brainstorming this summer to figure out ways I can make this happen in the target language, or at least, more so!

Tell me about your experiences teaching in the language!

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