Sunday, April 28, 2013

Product Review: Spanish for You! Language Curriculum

Product at a glance:
  • Product received for review: 
  • 30 Week Lesson Guides for Grades 3-4 (PDF download)
  • 24 Week Lesson Guides for Grades 5-6 (PDF download)
  • 24 Week Lesson Guides for Grades 7-8 (PDF download)
  • Dozens of Self-Checking Worksheets per grade level (PDF download) 
  • Flashcard/activity pictures (PDF download) 
  • Estaciones Audio MP3's 
  • Estaciones Native Spanish Speaker Audio MP3's
  • Publisher: Spanish for You
  • Price: $64.95 for the full program, some of the other programs (Viajes has a 4 or 6 week trial for $10-$13), this includes three different lesson plans for Grades 3-4, Grades 5-6, and Grades 7-8. If you only need a single grade, it is even less expensive. For $39.95, you can grab a single one of any of those lesson plans and the softcover text book.
  • Web-site: Spanish for You! 
  • Other Products: 
  • Ages/grades suggested for: Grades 3-8. Younger students could work through some of the material with help and older students can learn plenty in the upper level lessons
  • Who can use it? Homeschoolers, co-op teachers, classroom teachers, moms who want to enhance their child's regular education.
  • What problem does this product solve?: 
  • We had the opportunity to have a teleconference with the creator of this program, Mrs. Debbie Annett, MSEd. She talked about some of the goals that were behind her development of this curriculum:
  • Flexibility in scheduling classes or working on the language at home.
  • Ability to teach multiple levels together and to fold in students with little experience into a group who have had previous classes.
  • Simple and effective to use, but provided the opportunity to accomplish a lot of learning without spending a lot of money.  
  • Something that was easy to use and something that either students can use alone or a parent with little Spanish experience can use alone.
  • How will this product help solve that problem?: 
  • Mrs. Annett created themed units that can teach the beginner as well as a student with some Spanish experience. These units cover basics without tons of overlap by covering their themes: Estaciones (seasons), Fiestas (celebrations) and the soon to be released Viajes (travels). Her program allows new students to begin the study while still allowing experienced students to progress in their language learning. 
  • Spanish for You! includes two sets of audio files (her spoken set and a set of audios from a native Spanish speaker)
Spanish for You! Estaciones uses a mix of book lessons, audio lessons, worksheets, flashcard creation, and dozens of games (here's a link to many of them). Kids learn better when they have the opportunity to apply the new words and concepts they learn through games and speaking the language as well as listening and repeating the language of experienced speakers. This is how we learned to speak our native language as toddlers and how we will be successful learning a new language now.

I took two years of Spanish in high school. I had the most wonderful teacher; she was a thoughtful, funny, engaging woman. She really tried to engrain the language on our teenage minds. Her one flaw was that she had the most sweetest of southern twangs and try as she might, by the end of class we all had that same slow southern drawl. I still remember a good bit of the language from those classes which is a testament to how well I was taught, but I also still have that southern drawl as well. I have joked about it before, but when I started listening to the audio lessons included with Spanish for You!, it really brought to light how many of my pronunciations were more than a small bit off. I also speak it very slowly...VERY SLOWLY, in the South, there's no need to hurry, even with a language that tends to be spoken in the rapid staccato of a machine gun, right?

Some of the printable pages that can be
used for games or cut out for flashcards.

When Debbie Annett created her program, Spanish for You! she took people like me into account. I'm teaching my kids at home, without the benefit of a Spanish degree. Although I have experience with the Spanish language, I am not the best teacher of Spanish due to my crazy southern belle accent. Working through these early lessons with the kids, I quickly learned to listen to the audio lesson FIRST before I tried reading the lesson page aloud. The kids were absolutely delighting in correcting me when I did it the other way first. I have to say, the audio files are GOLD for learning. Every word on the page is read for you. She will even stop and quickly explain things like, "Did you notice how the letter 'J' is pronounced like an 'H' in Junio?"

The Spanish for You! program is open and go. After only a few minutes of figuring out which files are which pieces, it is quick to start and easy to implement. Mrs. Annett says the program is meant to take 20-30 minutes per day four days per week, we did take just a bit longer than that. Perhaps 30-40 minutes to do a full lesson. I will admit, my third grader slows things down, she's...slow, like a sloth, when it comes to writing flashcards or filling in worksheets.

Leccion 1: El calendario y el tiempo

There are some great games to play with the kids that reinforce the language being learned and they really helped my kids start to THINK in Spanish and that for me is the point. The games are fun and the kids enjoy that part of the program very much.

Example of the Grade 5-6 Lesson Plan
Example of the Grade 3-4 Lesson Plan

The lessons tend to have a pattern each week. They spiral back to review earlier vocabulary and the cover the current week's vocabulary. Each day of the week incorporates the current words being learned as well as new activities and games and ideas. Since we are studying Estaciones (Seasons), we started keeping a Daily Weather Chart, it includes a "What I Do Chart," so every day we write a sentence about what we are doing that day. Some days there are songs to sing and other fun stuff that you can download from the extensive Spanish for You! web-site (mini-lessons or curriculum activities). These you can see for yourself on the site. If you have a self-motivated child, they could easily use the Spanish for You! program with very little help from mom. I am in the process of teaching mine how to find the audio files by themselves so that they can review on their own.

Working on flashcards while listening to
our audio files.
Working on flashcards while listening to
our audio files.

Matthew's (11) Daily Weather and What I did Chart.

What did Mom think?  

Originally, my thoughts were, "This is nothing like how I learned Spanish." There were no flashy, full-color text books covered in labeled pictures. There are lots of drawings, drawings done by Debbie Annett's daughter, Amanda. She explained during out teleconference that she did this on purpose. She wanted to produce an affordable option for homeschoolers and even teachers to be able to get a full curriculum for a year at a price that anyone could afford. If she had bought tons of artwork or added in hundreds of photos, the price on the books would be drastically more expensive.

As we moved through the lessons, I have come to appreciate the simple presentation very much. The kids made their own flashcards and can remember their vocabulary better from the making those flash cards. It works better than if they were looking at the labeled photo of the sun and clouds and trees. My 8-year-old spontaneously declared her popcorn "Hace calor" just hours after our first lesson.

The video above is the kids trying out the first lesson with the audio files. They are a vital part of the curriculum are the audio files. They are so essential and so useful to learning the language, it's like having your own personal Spanish teacher hanging out in your computer. Included in the program are both non-native speaker audio files and native speaker audio files. I mostly use the non-native files, but it is great to have the option of both files so that you can expose the kids to the different sounds.

Both my third grader and my sixth grader are enjoying the program. We are several weeks in and I never have grumbling or resistance when I pull out our Spanish for You! book and notebooks. For the first time in our homeschool history, they WANT to practice and move forward in a subject rather than me pushing them forward, uphill, through a blizzard, with lead boots. They're enthused and excited! It's such a relief to find a program and a method that clicks!

What do the kids think?

Emma: "Spanish for You! es FANTASTICO! I love it! Mom, can we get a Spanish pen pal?"

Matthew: "I actually think the Spanish for You! is really cool. I like finding out new words every day and trying to find ways to say things in Spanish that I already know how to say in English."


1 comment:

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