The most important step in any construction project is to lay a solid foundation. And before the project can even begin, you have to first gather all the necessary tools and materials. In the same way, I am using the next few months before school "officially" starts in August to gather materials and resources, and to lay a language foundation that we can further build upon.
Anyone who has a desire to learn a second language has no excuse related to lack of resources. I know there are plenty of other excuses, and I could come up with a thousand myself, but lack of resources or cost of resources is not one! Most public libraries have language learning software that you can either use in the library or access online by signing up at the library. The internet has thousands of free sites dedicated to language learning--sites that focus on reading skills, others that focus on listening, sites that have flashcards, videos, games, podcasts, e-books, and the list goes on and on. In my next post, I'll share a list of some of the best resources for kids to learn Spanish that I've found.
Once I was satisfied that I had gathered plenty of resources of varying media types, I got to work on the foundation part.
Step one, the most basic foundation for language learning, is desire/motivation. Let's face it, unless we're forced into doing something, it's not going to happen without a desire to accomplish it. This is true for adults and children, alike. So my very first goal was to motivate my kids to want to learn Spanish. I started by presenting them with 2 to 4 vocab words a day. I would try to use those words as much as I possibly could throughout the day, and then praise them profusely when they used those words. Then I also began talking about all the different places that speak Spanish. It helps too, that there are so many Spanish speakers around Las Vegas, so my kids hear it being used and can see how it is useful. It didn't take long (maybe a week) and my kids were asking what the new Spanish words for the day were going to be. By then we were getting real close to being able to dust off some of the Spanish children's book and break into them!
Step two to building a foundation is well, the rest of it. This part will be ongoing until August. I'd like for the kids to have a basic understanding of the language so that when we actually begin immersion schooling they are at least somewhat comfortable. We read at least one book in Spanish everyday, try to expand our vocabulary words, practice flash cards, watch videos, and play computer games. I also labeled nearly everything in the house bilingually (which drives darling husband batty, but that's ok!). In addition to being a literacy aid, the labels help me remember to refer to objects in Spanish (because it's real easy to forget, especially when your brain is tired). When I first put them up, the boys got very excited, running all through the house to see what else had words on it.
After gathering materials and laying a foundation, the final parts to my preparations are to address any questions/concerns, to not allow all those negative thoughts regarding failure to creep into my head, and to actually create lessons. I've gotten as far as making a list of questions/concerns. Overcoming negative thoughts is a bit more of challenge. And I feel like both of those obstacles need to be overcome before I can begin building lessons.
1. Can I be disciplined enough to set aside time each day to 1. Prepare the lessons and 2. Do the lessons?
Big question considering 1. I'm not very disciplined. 2. We usually have several social engagements planned in the morning each week. 3. My kids aren't used to having to sit and do schoolwork for longer than 15 or 20 minutes.
2. Which topics do we cover in Spanish/English or do we do reading in English one day and then in Spanish the next?
3. Will we do a 50/50 immersion model? If so, will I divide up over the day or over the week?
4. How do I divide time/effort between reading in Spanish and reading in English for both my 5 year old (reading in English already) and my 3 year old (knows most letter sounds, not reading in English)?
I'll keep you posted as I figure out these questions.