One of the biggest challenges for Spanish teachers and parents teaching Spanish to their children is providing sufficient input at the appropriate level. Exposing a child to Spanish is not difficult, but exposing a child to Spanish at the right level and in a way that promotes learning is time consuming and a lot of work. Working with familiar information is one way to make the process easier.
Children acquire language when there is comprehensible input at a slightly higher level than what they understand. Language teachers refer to this as i + 1, meaning comprehensible input + 1. In other words, when the learner hears or reads language that is supported in ways that make meaning clear and that language is slightly more difficult what she understands, she will acquire new language. If the language is at a much higher level, children do not learn. Likewise, if the language is not supported in a way that gives it meaning, children do not learn.
We use visual support such as actions, gestures, or pictures to clarify the meaning of new language and create comprehensible input. However, once you move beyond concrete nouns and common actions and begin to deal with more abstract language, it can become difficult to provide visual support for new language in a systematic way.
Using a child’s knowledge of a subject is another way to provide comprehensible input. If a child is familiar with certain information, she can draw on what she already knows to understand Spanish. She will understand relationships between words and be able to predict what she will hear. Using a child’s knowledge of a subject also allows teachers and parents to move beyond what can be easily represented visually.
One way to tap into a child’s knowledge base as a tool for learning Spanish is to link language learning to material that you know your child has covered in school. Children understand the key vocabulary and concepts associated with topics such as the water cycle, the solar system, and basic geography. Although children will not understand every word, books and activities related to topics like these are one way to provide your child with exposure to comprehensible Spanish at a level that will promote learning.
As an example, here are a variety of resources that deal with water and the water cycle.
Click the link for a site that explains the water cycle in Spanish with simple activities. This site from Paraguay has clear audio and excellent graphics. There are three buttons- conocer, completar and actividades. Done in order, these three steps provide repetion and the chance to interact with the subject matter and the language.
Click this link for a site with a graphic of the water cycle in Spanish. As you mouse over the terms for the parts of the water cycle, the graphic changes to show that part of the cycle. Click on the button Ejercicios for exercises where you match a description of a process to the term.
These videos explain the water cycle, presenting new Spanish vocabulary and structures with information that is already familiar to children.
Click the link for a video of the water cycle in Spanish. The most important content appears as text on the screen.
These are printable materials in Spanish about the water cycle.
Click this link for a printable diagram of the water cycle with brief descriptions in Spanish.
Click the link for an illustration of the water cycle with the parts of the cycle labeled in Spanish. The graphic can be printed and colored.
These picture books in Spanish deal with water and the water cycle.
Soy el agua – a very simple book about the different uses and states of water.
El agua – arriba, abajo y en todos lados – a simple explanation of the water cycle with a glossary and activities.
El agua – simple text with lots of repetition and excellent photographs.