IDES Spanish with Señor Fields

Our Spanish Program at IDES

Welcome to Spanish class! I have been teaching here at IDES since 2004, first as a fourth grade teacher, then as a fifth grade teacher, and now as the Spanish teacher. I started my career as a bilingual 5th grade Spanish teacher in Houston, TX so it's fun to be back to speaking, studying and learning more Spanish. I feel so lucky to have the opportunity to work with the wonderful families in the IDES community. Below I describe my approach to teaching and assessing students. Also, take a look at your child's grade level page to see what we're learning.

How often do students receive Spanish instruction?

One time per week. Grades k and 1 receive 20 minutes/week. Grades 2-5 receive 45 minutes/week.

What kind of language program is offered?

A Foreign Language Exploratory, or FLEX program. Research indicates that for students to gain proficiency in a language, they must study the language at least three times per week for a total of at least 90 minutes. Therefore our once/week program is not considered a language learning program, rather an exploratory that offers exposure and hopefully excitement about the possibility of studying and developing proficiency in a foreign language.

What instructional approach is used?

This year I began using an approach to language instruction called TPRS--Teaching Proficiency Through Reading and Storytelling. This approach relies on huge amounts of auditory input to help students develop a comfort level with Spanish language. The auditory input is specifically designed to be comprehensible. In class students should understand everything that is being said because they'll only be hearing cognates, words that they've learned, and new words that are translated on the board. In this approach we tell stories that the students help develop and that the students act out in class. Students then read and write about our stories. Stories involve celebrities and absurdities that hopefully capture the interests and humor of the language learners.

What will students learn?

As mentioned above, our program is extremely limited in the number of minutes of instruction students receive. With field trips and special programs, it is not uncommon for students to only get Spanish one time in a month. With such minimal exposure, students will not develop proficiency. That said, read below to hear what students will be working on . . .

  • We will focus on the top seven verbs in Spanish, called the super 7: ser (to be), gustarse (to please), querer (to want), estar (another kind of "to be"), tener (to have), ir (to go), and haber (another kind of "to have"). These are the most commonly used Spanish verbs. If students can develop a comfort level with hearing and understanding these verbs in different forms, they will be in a good position to start developing greater proficiency
  • Contrary to more traditional approaches to language instruction, our units are not built around thematic sets of vocabulary, rather around stories that we tell. Each story does have focus structures--verbs or phrases that we are working on. But the structures are not discussed in grammatical terms (ie. "The indirect object is always . . . ) and they are not learned through rote practice. Words are heard and practiced in context. Students work to understanding the story as they hear it and read it.
  • It is important for parents and students to understand that learning a language is first and foremost an auditory experience. Students listen, read and understand words and structures so many times that their meaning becomes apparent without intentional processing; they know the words in an emotional way rather than an intellectual way. As such, speaking comes later. Students will understand language long before they are able to produce it. If parents are curious what their child knows, they can look at the readings that students bring home and ask their child to tell them about the story. They should not assume that a student who does not produce language isn't learning language.

What is a fiesta?

I use a point system in class to help create a positive classroom community. Classes can earn a "fiesta" by accumulating 5 class periods where students largely worked hard, participated in everything and supported one another in their learning. At a "fiesta" I serve something to students that is commonly eaten in a Spanish-speaking country and share age-appropriate music videos with students. Often I'll cook with students. Some examples of foods are: "Agua de fruta" --> fruit water, "plátanos fritos" --> fried plantains, "tortillas," "papaya,"--> "chocolate y conchas"--> hot chocolate with sweet bread. I do take pains to ensure that student food allergies are known and an alternative is offered. Please be sure to notify the nurse and classroom teacher if new allergies are identified.

What are Dance Challenges?

Dance challenges are presented to 4th and 5th grade students bi-monthly. Students are offered the opportunity to learn a dance to a popular latin song. Students practice a few times in class then are responsible for practicing on their own. They perform as a group for their class on a designated day. Students who worked hard are invited to the dance showcase where they perform for the 4th and 5th grades. To see dance challenges, click on the link "Música del Mes" --> Music of the Month (above, beside the grade level links).

Can I contact the Spanish teacher?

Yes, please! With over 500 students it’s hard for me to get to know individual students’ needs and learning styles. If you think it would be helpful to share your child’s unique needs or if you are concerned that your child’s learning and/or social-emotional needs aren’t being effectively met, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I learn so much from parents and am happy to talk either in person or on the phone. shannon.fields@acsgmail.net, (828)350-6832

How will students be graded in Spanish?

Students will be evaluated daily on their:

· effort --willingness to try new things and take risks

· participation—appropriate and full participation in activities both in whole class and small group settings

· group work—communication and work with partners and groups

**note: Students are not graded on their proficiency, as this is a FLEX language program. Also, if students or parents want to know their daily scores I will happily share them, but otherwise I will typically only present grades on progress reports at the midterm and report cards at the end of each quarter.

What is the process for giving report card grades?

Students earn a check or a check-minus for each class period:

1) = all of the above three areas are satisfactory.

2) √- = at least one of the above areas is below satisfactory.

At the end of the quarter, I consider the number of check minuses

1) S = Satisfactory (0 or 1 check-minus)

2) N = Needs improvement (2 or 3 check-minuses)

3) U = Unsatisfactory (4 or more check-minuses)

Why should children study Spanish?

There is great personal and educational value in teaching children to appreciate and honor cultural differences. Additionally, here are just a handful of the myriad reasons to study the Spanish language:

1) Spanish is the second most commonly-spoken language in the U.S. (about 1 in 9 are Spanish-speakers)

2) Learning Spanish can help students develop vocabulary in English, as many words in both English and Spanish are derived from Latin words

3) Neuroscientists have found that developing language skills develops neuropathways that aid in learning other subject areas

4) Knowing Spanish can help students make lifelong friendships with Spanish speakers

5) Learning Spanish is fun

6) Spanish gives students access to a new world of music, movies and pop culture

7) Knowing Spanish will be useful for travel and work in the 20 countries that use Spanish as their official language

8) Spanish gives job applicants in edge in finding work in their field