Foreign Language in Elementary School

There are a wide variety of Foreign Language in Elementary School programs. The best programs have frequent lessons – 4-5 times per week. After spending over 15 years developing elementary school world language programs, I highly recommend developing a conversation based French or Spanish curriculum, for K-6. Children have an aptitude for speaking and hearing foreign language, which they lose as they get older. It is much more important to focus on conversation skills in the early grades. Students are learning to read their native language and trying to read a foreign language at the same time can be confusing. There will be plenty of time to learn to read and do all the grammar, in the upper grades ie middle school and beyond.



Developing Curriculum

The National Standards for Foreign Language Education, is quite helpful in curriculum development. The standards focus on communication, culture, connections, comparisons and communities. Many states have also developed their own standards, often based on national standards.

Make your curriculum age-appropriate. Thematic units provide context for a well developed program, with themes such as school, the home, the family, foods, travel etc. You can coordinate with what is being taught in other subjects, at school. For example, if the class is studying the weather in science, then they would learn about the weather in the target language.

Continuously review and add on. Use words and phrase in different contexts, so that the students develop a growing working vocabulary.

Encourage students to speak, by using games and dramatic play. Study culture with the language. It is fun to prepare foods, celebrate holidays and learn songs and dances. Here are some interesting Spanish songs, French songs and Spanish and French recipes.



What language should you choose?

In order to achieve proficiency, a long period of study in the same language is needed. I know of schools that rotate languages every quarter. Although, it is useful to have the exposure, it does not accomplish building a foundation for language acquisition.

The majority of US schools , which have foreign language in Elementary school, offer Spanish, while a few offer French and even fewer offer other languages.Middle and high schools offer more choices and children are often able to study a few languages. Once there is some proficiency in one language, it is easy to add a second or third language in high school.

Depending on your budget, and the availability of staff, it is beneficial to offer a choice.



Keep It Fun and Relevant

Our philosophy extends into the classroom. Foreign language in elementary school should be fun. The best programs use dramatic play, games, props, stories, dances, movement and songs, which create context and make it memorable. When languages are actively learned from these techniques, children are more likely to retain the information and it makes it easy to learn.



Language Teachers.

Language teachers need to have an excellent or native pronunciation. We have developed curriculum which can be used by language teachers, and also a complete program on audio CD, Classroom Spanish or French , which can be taught by the classroom teacher. We use native speakers through out our program and make it come alive with puppets, picnics, dances, stories and songs.



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