I have had several readers ask for my impression of the Spanish Champs program, so I was thrilled when the company sent me the Level 1 materials to review. This engaging curriculum is for children 2 to 10 years old, with an emphasis on developing oral communication. The curriculum is a 32-week program that is intended to be repeated. A Level 2 curriculum is under development and will be available in the fall.
Spanish Champs offers well-structured resources based on fundamental principles of language acquisition. The complete complement of materials enables those who have little or no background in Spanish to use the program, making it ideal for both home-schooling families and classrooms. Spanish speakers will also appreciate how this easy-to-use program provides the tools they need to teach the language effectively with little preparation time.
The website demonstrates the Spanish curriculum and has detailed information about their approach and each component. These are a few of the features that impressed me most.
Highlights of the Spanish Champs Spanish Curriculum
Children understand Spanish from context.
The Spanish Champs curriculum was structured to maximize exposure to comprehensible input. Children acquire language when they understand it in context – that is, when they can deduce meaning from pictures, actions, objects and the situation.
The Spanish Champs program creates context in different ways – all of them fun for kids. Children do activities during class where they understand Spanish through gestures and props. They sing songs with actions that support the language and watch short videos where the meaning is clear from visual clues. Parents or teachers read stories with a close text-to-illustration correspondence and children use the Activity and Coloring Book which clarifies the language with drawings.
There is minimal translation into English.
With Spanish Champs, children understand the language from context, so there is minimal translation into English during class time and in the materials. The lessons do include the option of using English when vocabulary is introduced, but it is always accompanied by actions or props. I consider this an important feature of an elementary curriculum because it develops a skill essential to successful language learning – the ability to deduce meaning from context rather than expecting to hear the word in English.
The program incorporates sufficient repetition.
Children need to be exposed to structures and vocabulary over and over to truly learn them. However, this repetition has to be engaging enough to keep kids interested. Spanish Champs presents and reinforces material in many different ways. Music, stories, video, and activities all combine to provide the repetition needed for real learning.
The material is challenging but achievable.
Spanish Champs presents children with a lot of language. It also builds to hearing and producing fast Spanish. In other words, it is challenging in terms of quantity and speed. However, it is also completely achievable because the program builds in effective repetition of the material and a careful structure to ensure that children are succeeding without being overwhelmed.
The music has meaning.
If you have read much on Spanish Playground, you know that I believe songs are one of the best ways for children to begin to learn a language. The Spanish Champs songs expose children to structures and correct pronunciation, and they also reinforce the meaning of the language they are learning. Actions support the lyrics, the video gives visual clues and there are images in the song book. In other words, meaning is present at every step and in every format.. Also, many of the songs are traditional or are adaptations of traditional songs providing an important, age-appropriate cultural component to the program.
The curriculum establishes a strong home connection.
I appreciate how Spanish Champs makes it easy to involve parents in the learning process. The curriculum includes parent letters for each lesson. These letters have the vocabulary with translations, an activity to do with the children and several suggestions for reinforcing the language at home. Involving parents is one of the best ways help children succeed as language learners.
The Spanish Champs curriculum is affordable.
We all invest in our children’s education and need to make decisions about how to use our resources. If you want to introduce your children to Spanish, or start a school program, there is no question that Spanish Champs is an excellent value.
Spanish Champs is available in three different kits: Starter, Deluxe and Curriculum, or as individual components. The components – videos, CDs and books – can be purchased separately, and I understand that for many people this is an attractive alternative to one of the kits. Be aware though that the effectiveness of this program increases exponentially with the structure and repetition provided by different formats. Each product can be used alone, but it is not the same product as it is when used in combination with the other materials. If you are purchasing the CD, I would strongly encourage you consider the Songs and Activities book or the Activity and Coloring book to get even more out of the songs.
Disclosure: The company sent me a copy of this product to be able to write the article. All of the ideas and opinions are my own.