Una preguntita is a collection of questions that encourage kids to draw on information they know to understand Spanish. Although some words in the questions may be new, kids use their knowledge as context to understand.
With these questions, kids practice
– identifying words they know in different contexts
– recognizing word families
– recognizing cognates
– deriving meaning from context
– global listening or reading skills. In other words, they practice listening or reading for the main idea, rather than trying to understand every word.
These questions are intended to be asked orally and some of them depend on children listening rather than reading. You can also select questions for kids to read. They are perfect for quiz games, to fill a few minutes at the end of class or for family car trips.
The questions in Una preguntita are based on information children learn from preschool through early elementary school. Of course, which material your child has mastered will depend on her age, and to some extent, her life experiences and interests.
A few suggestions
– Begin with questions that you think will be easy for your class or child. This gives children an opportunity to get used to the wording of the questions and will give them confidence.
– If possible, have children work in pairs or small groups. This way, their knowledge base is expanded. They also model different strategies for understanding the questions.
– If you are asking the questions orally and your class or child does not understand, show the written question. Often seeing cognates will help children make connections they do not make listening.
– Depending on your situation, if you are playing a game you may want to give credit or partial credit for understanding the question. This could mean accepting a partial answer or letting kids answer in English.
A more complete explanation of using knowledge to provide comprehensible input
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 takes effort. 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 prior knowledge 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 mastered. Children understand the key vocabulary and concepts associated with many subjects. This information, combined with cognates and basic Spanish they have learned, enables them to understand new words in context.