Spanish for Elementary Schoolers

Homeschooling Spanish with Elementary School Kids ~ Our Cozy Den

As you may know, I have four kids, who are currently 3, 5, 7, and 9 years old. I’ve been homeschooling since my oldest was in preschool, going on six years now. One of the things I really wanted to pass onto my kids in our homeschool is my love and knowledge of languages. I thought it would be easy, because hey — I took Spanish in high school and I speak it pretty decently myself!

But my idealistic notions were quickly put in place once I started teaching. I realized that it’s hard to teach a little kid another language outside of immersion. Yes, I speak some Spanish, but we don’t speak it in our home. If a child isn’t hearing it on a regular basis in regular conversation, it’s an uphill battle to get them to learn much!

After several years of tweaking our curriculum, I have finally found a great system of teaching our kids Spanish, so I wanted to share it with you today!

Tip #1: Variety

Kids need continuous exposure to the target language. If you have just one thing that you are doing, it will get old fast. So we use a HUGE assortment of books, CDs, movies, games, and other materials to give them a variety of exposure methods. {Scroll down to find out some of my favorites.}

Tip #2: Use transition times

Who says Spanish learning has to happen during “Spanish class”? Yes, we do have Spanish class twice a week, but I try to sneak it in during other times as well. About once a week I’ll put on a movie and turn on the Spanish language track. We listen to Spanish music in the car. We’ll go to the library and read a stack of books, one of which is in Spanish. We’ll dance around to Spanish classics while we’re cleaning (like La Cucaracha or Cielito Lindo).

Tip #3: Make new friends

Most towns in the US have a Latin American community. Get involved! They are known for being friendly and welcoming people, and most love to speak in Spanish and talk about their cultures.

Tip #4: Practice, practice, practice

Sometimes we’ll do a spontaneous “Spanish hour” where you can only speak Spanish (start with 15 minutes if an hour is too hard). We also love Mexican food, so we visit a local Mexican restaurant and force encourage the kids to order their meals in Spanish. The waitstaff loves it!

Tip #5: Make it fun!

There are a lot of games you can play in Spanish, with only limited vocabulary. Play color-based games, like Candyland or Uno. Keep a dictionary nearby to look up things like “Skip” or “Reverse”. Look through your game cabinet and see what other games you can play in Spanish!

My Favorite Spanish Curriculum Choices:

First and foremost: the library. I love saving money, and most libraries have a great selection of Spanish materials, both instructional and those intended for Spanish speakers. We use a mix of the two. Check out what they have in various formats: DVDs, CDs, audiobooks, books, magazines, and others! They also have a free language-learning app called Mango through many libraries!

Song School Spanish: This curriculum contains a teacher’s guide, a student book (of which I make copies for the kids), and an audio CD. It’s a bit on the pricey side, but it has a great setup and great music to help learn.

Little Pim: I love Little Pim for several reasons — 1) it’s a video, so it’s great for days when I am pressed for time, 2) it’s immersion — no English,  3) it’s audio so they can hear the pronunciation over and over again, and 4) it’s free on Amazon Prime! (They do have other languages as well, and my library has several DVDs so you can check there too if you are not Prime members.)

Twin Sisters Productions Spanish: This workbook-and-CD combo is full of great colors, great music, and is a great introductory-level resource. It teaches numbers, colors, letters, weather, etc. My kids love to listen to this CD in the car!

My First 1000 Words in Spanish: This book is wonderful for vocabulary acquisition. We read through a few pages each time we have Spanish class and the amount they retain is growing more and more each week!


My Recommended Curriculum Plan:

Your plan will vary greatly, based on your own knowledge, your schedule, your kids’ learning styles, etc. But this is what worked well for us and for some other families I know!

Year 1: Focus on vocabulary acquisition (mostly nouns), and hearing it, either via video or audio, so they are familiar with how it sounds and how the letters are pronounced. Do a Spanish word-of-the-day/week.

Year 2: {Year 1 things plus} Add in greetings and basic conversation (how are you, what is your name, etc).

Year 3: {Years 1 & 2 things, plus} introduce regular verbs and conjugations — I talk, you talk, he talks, etc. Do a Spanish verb-of-the-week, act them out, and give the student rewards for using them in conversation.

Years 4+: With more and more frequency, speak using the words you know, and practice using tips #3 and #4 above. Continually add to your growing vocabulary, and you will all be speaking Spanish in no time!


Tell me!

Are you teaching your kids a foreign language? What are your favorite resources and tips to do so?

Homeschooling Spanish with Elementary School Kids ~ Our Cozy Den
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