07 October, 2007

Spanish Lessons in session ~ Charlotte Mason style

In studying Charlotte's own writings with my friends in my metroplex, I'm working toward building a library and arsenal of CM recommendations for Foreign Language (in our case, Spanish, since it is the most common second language in our geographic part of the world); lessons which I am able to use with these families and their children.

Keep in mind that I'm no titled expert, but have had a good amount of experience learning and an ever-growing amount of teaching Spanish:

My own learning:

~ two years in the early 70's in the Chicago area school system
~ more focused since 1979 all four years of high school, having a foreign exchange student as
a sister for a year and a best friend also from Puerto Rico

~ college minor in Spanish
~ third language of German acquired during college years and living summers in Germany

Motivated to teach:

Add to that my quest for the best Foreign Language program or method to use with my own children, since homeschooling began for us in 1992, and now teaching other students on a regular basis for the last three years, from the ages of 5-18. This amounted to pulling from many of the programs I bought and gathered over the years. I have not been able to recommend just one program to people all those years until recently.

If I know one's educational philosophy, that helps me to recommend something more specifically to families, homeschooling or not. My particular enthusiasm being very much intertwined with a CM lifestyle, though, lends itself to comparing all that I've gathered and learned about language learning and acquisition with CM's methods, personal research, and recommendations for learning.

For my CM friends and for my own family and classes at co-op:

I'm keeping the activities,
stories, and songs short for the younger ones to about ten minutes per activity, then shifting gears. So, if I use a Spanish sentence sentence to say something about my cat, we then copy it in careful penmanship, then move on to a Bible song or hymn in Spanish. I might teach them the sounds of el alfebeto in Spanish, not worrying about funky, confusing phonograms and such, but teaching them orally. Daily lessons are the absolute ideal, but not practical for most of my students, unless their parents direct them to continue to practice what I've given them throughout the week.

CM writes regarding foreign language learning for children ages 6-9 in volume I:

"The daily [French] lesson is that which should not be omitted. That children should learn [French] orally, by listening to and repeating words and phrases; that they should begin so young that the difference of accent does not strike them, but they repeat the new [French] word all the same as if it were English and use it as freely; that they should learn a few––two or three, five or six––new [French] words daily, and that, at the same time, the old words should be kept in use––" pg. 80

Then I will use common communication phrases with them to teach introductions, where one is from, how old one is, and what one likes to do. Next we will go outside and point out the common things in nature that these children are spending time with already in their own yards or family nature walks. I'll just be telling them a little about it in simple Spanish sentences, giving them more familiarity with common vocabulary, not just vocabulary terms such as "sombrero," "amigo/a," "madre," "padre," or "casa." In our state, most of us, even the children, know these very basic words already! So we will be more CM (again, I'm substituting Spanish for French since that is the most common second language where we live) when she writes in volume one:

"The [French] lesson may, however, be made to fit in with the spirit of the other out-of-door occupations; the half-dozen words may be the parts––leaves, branches, bark, trunk of a tree, or the colours of the flowers, or the movements of bird, cloud, lamb, child; in fact, the new [French] words should be but another form of expression for the ideas that for the time fill the child's mind." pg. 81

I also add in some games here and there, but will share more as I pull together all the CM quotes and notes on foreign language teaching and her recommendations. I'm also taking into consideration some of her recommendations regarding the developments of habit of attention and copywork: perfect execution of one letter at a time, for instance.

It is important to note that, as with Science and Mathematics, much research has gone on in the century since she wrote, but those of you who know CM's writings realize how quite a lot of her writings are supported by newer research.

Newer linguists have furthered or expanded on the theories similar to that regarding ones about whom she wrote (M. Gouin, for instance), or those whom have expanded on those earlier writers' research.

Some of my favorite researchers/teachers in the 21st century:

The following have given me a whole new perspective, lots of ideas, not to mention an ease and confidence in my own "conversability" in the target language --

James J. Asher Ph. D. on Learning Language Through Actions: The World Famous Total Physical Response method.
Ramiro Garcia, along with Dr. Asher (Asher and Garcia research, 1969, sited most often and featured as a Citation Classic by 1986). Their research results regarding language and accent acquisition was independently confirmed in recent years by other researchers (Krashen, 1981)
Blaine Ray on TPR Storytelling. He also gives language conferences and provides class hands-on story building videos that anyone can purchase AND learn from.

I will post more (over time) on my thoughts and lesson plan developments in relation to CM methods and language learning.

Stay tuned!


p.s. I have re-edited this multiple times to make the most sense. My apologies!!

p.p.s. Programs I have used for one to two years and do NOT recommend alone (for they are simply not complete, and may be quite frankly on the Twaddly side):
Powerglide, The Learnables, El Español Fácil, and even Rosetta Stone (not a bad program...good for accent building and vocab building, but that is only part of language learning). When I asked a linguist who teaches High School Spanish at my hubby's school (who is an ambassador's son and is a native of Spain) he said he didn't like Rosetta Stone either (in fact, he rolled his eyes when I first mentioned it). One needs REAL life conversation, idiomatic, practical phrases, and actual conversational interaction. Music and fun short stories are good. Appropriate news notes in Spanish are helpful.

Spanish is Fun by Amsco publishing was alright, and usable for Jr. High students, even. It had problems with confusing directions and too many errors in the answer keys and sometimes even errors in the vocab sections. I liked how it groups sections together thematically, but it could have taken the information along with useful phrases so much farther.

Please don't waste the children's time and brain capacity with twaddly worksheets, twaddly stories or watered down activities that don't pack a lot of efficient learning punch. Charlotte says one lesson must build, however incrementally, upon the last. They shouldn't just be chopped up bits of facts or stories that don't build or relate to one another. That is what happens too often in many programs. Other programs dwell on the same characters too much, don't progress well enough, stay too simplistic, or use a mix of Spanglish...not really ideal.

The other problem is that some programs are just grammar heavy. I liked Bob Jones high school Spanish, it was incredibly thorough. However...it was too much information without strong guidance for some. The CD's and TM are easy to follow, but there could have been more practical practice exercises for class time, and less of the need to memorize grammar steps and terms in order to complete the homework lesson.

One of my assistants last year is from a native Spanish-speaking family and she (but especially her mother) just could not believe this program was "teaching" Spanish in such a difficult way to her grandson! That was a good, trustworthy response and review, in my opinion. They are teaching him something different for Spanish II this year ;-).

I personally love words and grammar but remember, I've been exposed to foreign languages since I was 8 or 9 and am a sort of linguistic geek. Young children are not geared to learn the grammar of a foreign language right away. They love the sound of the words (foreign languages are musical!) and we can capitalize on different learning methods with young children, little songs, The Bible, finger or other plays, simple poetry, simple "commands," descriptive words in nature. How very CM.


Donna-Jean said...

JavaMom, this was very timely for me.

I've taught my children French over the years - Bethany can still understand some things I tell her if we need to say something the younger kids shouldn't know :-) -

but I had some difficulty with French for these younger two of my kids. Hannah (now 11) learned some New Testament Greek last year (not a 'spoken' thing, so it's a different category) - but I haven't continued that yet this year.

I decided to try Spanish with the kids. (My own language knowledge is 7 years of French in school, so that's pretty solid, then I taught myself German one summer - enough to chat with a high school friend from Germany that year but it's very very rusty, and a little of Spanish self-taught also, but not a lot. Bethany and I went over an old copy of a Berlitz Self-Teacher of Spanish - Grosset & Dunlap 1949).

(I have an uncle who was a missionary in Spanish-speaking countries - Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, and Spain, and my English grandmother used to be a German teacher. No clue why I chose French in school :-)

I'm using that same old Berlitz Self-Teacher book. We've just gone through lesson one and started lesson two this year, after breakfast each morning. It's not a lot - just a little, but trying for consistency and vocabulary, and it's got some questions for 'conversation' right away even in the early lessons.

Rosetta Stone is out of our budget right now, though I was hoping for it maybe in the future, for better accent on things. We have people in our church from several countries (Germany, Slovakia, Jamaica, Philippines, India, etc.) but none Spanish right now. Maybe that will change, I'd like for a real-life person to keep us accountable :-)

Thank you for your suggestions on this. I was meaning to ask you your advice! I will closely follow your writing on this.

I think I'll go to biblegateway.com and get something like John 1:1 (which we've read and discussed a lot lately) in Spanish for copywork.

Again, thanks for your writing on this. I highly value your opinion.

Mama Squirrel said...

Danke, Javamom.

Are you planning on sending this to the next CM Carnival?

Mama Squirrel said...

Forgot to say--I've linked.

(Happy Thanksgiving! It's about 80 degrees here...)

Birdie said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the subject! The information is quite helpful and I appreciate that you took the time to do so.

Javamom said...

Wow! You're welcome, ladies, and thank YOU for the encouragement. I'm working on part two even as I type.

It's really been a blessing to have a CM group to study with, but also for the implementing (and experimentation) of CM and foreign language learning with others besides my own children. I'm navigating the amount of time I actually have the attention of the younger ones, and able to fine tune and discuss with others based on this wide variety of hands-on experience that I'm getting!

I will definitely try to post to the carnival!

Joanne said...

Been reading intently and concluded that Cuentame is the curriculum to start with. With no Spanish background though...I'm concerned about my ability. Husband is fluent though. Maybe he'll help. Anyway, thanks for all this posting. I'll be combing through it many more times. I'm calling it a day for now though. Head hurts.