You’ve heard it repeated so many times: “Learning Spanish is so much easier as a child”. Well, that’s only partially true. There are many more factors at play than just your age and one of the biggest elements to consider is the way a child is introduced to a language. If you’re thinking about teaching Spanish to preschoolers, you’ll need to be doing more than just put on Dora The Explorer on television.
The good news is the fact that this statement is partially true. Preschoolers have an excellent disposition towards learning and they do pick up on things incredibly quickly. That means your job, whether or a parent, a language teacher, or a preschool teacher, is to make sure these kids have the right opportunities to learn the language.
With that in mind, let’s go over the best practices for teaching Spanish to preschoolers.
1.Incorporate movement into the classroom
Movement is a very effective way of improving children’s comprehension of language. It helps give the words they learn meaning, so this way they’re not just learning sounds. This type of methodology is great for children as it’s helping them form a deeper understanding of the lesson and also, it’s engaging!
There are many educational activities you can do here. You can play things like Simon Says (Simón dice), movement songs, daily activity games (like hand washing, putting away toys, etc). Your options are limitless here, you just have to think a little bit out of the box.
2.Change activities often
This suggestion probably applies to many types of methodologies for teaching preschoolers. They don’t usually have a very long attention span, so it’s important to change activities often. This will keep them motivated and prevent them from getting frustrated if they don’t understand what you’re saying.
Using large Spanish-language picture books is a great way to introduce the language to them in context. The photos help give them context clues so it aids in comprehension and the stories are typically very fun and engaging for them!
You can clarify more difficult sections with gestures and intonation in your voice. You’d be surprised what preschoolers can understand even with just a few hand gestures! Afterwards, you can do comprehension checks by asking them simple questions in Spanish, as well.
4.Encourage them to speak and sing
One of the most important parts of language acquisition is language production. In simple words, this means you need to get your preschoolers to use the language, not just hear it. There are plenty of activities and games you can be playing to encourage them to use the language.
For example, they can play games where they must ask their classmates questions. This also ends up helping with social interactions. Another good idea is to have many Spanish attention-getters. For example, when the class gets a bit too rowdy, you can sing a song in Spanish and expect them to respond (in Spanish) to the next line. Repetitive songs and games are a great way to teach Spanish to preschoolers.
The goal is to have your preschoolers learn the language as a means of communication. That’s why it is absolutely vital to be consistent. If your class should always be in Spanish, then stay in Spanish constantly. If you only have a certain part of the day in Spanish, you need to erase English from your mind during that time.
Now of course, this is more difficult. It’s much harder for the teacher and at first, it’s tiring for everyone. However, it’s the most effective and efficient way to learn a language. This is because as soon as the students learn that it’s “okay” to break out of Spanish and go back to English, you’ll never hear them say a word in Spanish again.
For example, when giving instructions, speak clearly, slowly, and completely in Spanish. If they don’t understand, repeat it. There will be confusion, but that’s part of the learning process.
So be consistent and push through it. No one ever said being a teacher was easy.
6.Use the language in context
Like we said, we want to teach Spanish to preschoolers as a means of communication. So, just like in English, you should be using complete sentences. Of course, it’s completely normal to speak more slowly and use more simple structures. However, they should be full-length structures nonetheless.
For example, when you’re telling a story or just talking about activities, you should be using full sentences. Of course you may need to repeat things again, but it’s vital to use complete sentences so that they start learning the complexity of the language. They’ll catch on pretty quick and they’ll slowly start learning more advanced topics than just random vocabulary words.
7.Use native speakers
If you’re not a native Spanish speaker, don’t let this frighten you! Just like you learned the language, your preschoolers will, too! But it’s a good idea to throw in native Spanish, as well. This will help them acquire the sounds that they need to learn. So you can watch educational videos, invite guest speakers to come in, and play Spanish music.
In fact, even if you are a native speaker, this is still a good idea since you want your preschoolers to understand a variety of accents. Spanish is a rich language with a lot of variety, so mix it up!
8.Use your intuition
If you’re a preschool teacher, then you are an expert on these children. Do what you notice your children love and keep them interested. If you think something isn’t working, then change it up or reconsider your lesson plan.
And finally – remember that each child is different. If you think some of your kiddos are having a more difficult time than others, consider adjusting the amount of time you spend with them individually.
That’s it! Starting early is a great way to introduce a language to a child and teaching Spanish to preschoolers is no different. But just like everything in education, some ways tend to be more effective than others.
So get out there and have some fun! Remember to follow our best practices and your preschoolers will be speaking Spanish faster than you know it.