As the author of Spanish for Children points out, young kids are particularly suited for absorbing foreign languages. Their minds aren't artificially systematized the way adult minds are, and yet children have an immense capacity for receiving and storing information, both essential for the acquisition of a new language.
Author Julia Kraut approaches the study of Spanish in a way that will appeal to youngsters without setting aside the foundations of fluency: grammar study, sentence construction, vocabulary skills, and accurate pronunciation. Like all products from Classical Academic Press, these are well thought out, fun, and highly educational.
How Do These Work?
Before you jump into the main course, you may want to prep students with SongSchool Spanish. This brief program consists of a student book with song CD, and a teacher's edition. In 31 chapters, young students (PreK-1) encounter the Spanish alphabet, pronunciation, phrases, and vocabulary through exercises, games, folk-style ditties, handwriting exercises, and more.
The purpose of SongSchool Spanish isn't to bring kids to proficiency, but to get them ready to study Spanish more thoroughly. The layout is non-threatening, with lots of black and white cartoon-y illustrations, not-too-difficult exercises, and easy-to-accomplish goals that will help kids see their own progress and not get burned out. ASpanish Amigo Matchcard game helps kids master vocabulary in a fun format.
SongSchool Spanish focuses on vocabulary and basic phrases that form the building blocks of Spanish fluency. The songs are guitar-based, utilize recognizable tunes, and help kids learn pronunciation while reinforcing and cementing the content they've learned in the books and through the exercises. The teacher's edition provides answers to all exercises on reduced student pages, as well as a variety of reproducible exercises with answers.
For slightly older students, Spanish for Children presents a more thorough course of study. Currently consisting of Primer A and Primer B (a Primer C is in the works), each level is a 1-year program for grades 2-6; despite the name, however, 9th grade students can complete both levels in a single year to fulfill high school language credits.
This is a multimedia approach. Each level includes a student text, an answer key, a DVD set, a music CD with chants, and a Spliced Story reader. Kids combine verbal activities, listening and viewing, and written work to be inundated with Spanish at its most basic yet essential level.
Unlike some language courses, the DVD element of Spanish for Children is not optional. In it, Julia Kraut walks kids through each chapter, covering the main text, the vocabulary sections, and the exercises. There's a lot of repetition and song-singing, so that kids become well-versed in pronunciation and retain information.
The DVDs are visually engaging with hundreds of full-color photographs, lectures delivered by Kraut, and occasional puppet dramas that are actually pretty funny (even for adults). There's a DVD lesson for each chapter in the student book (37 chapters in Primer A, 32 chapters in Primer B), and each lesson is about 20 minutes long.
Just because this course is for children doesn't mean Kraut ignores the hard stuff. Kids will learn from very early on what an infinitive verb is, the concepts of gender and number, and other essential elements of grammar; what makes this Spanish for Children is the thoroughness and clarity of Kraut's instruction.
Exercises are centered around vocabulary work, translation, verb conjugations and noun declensions, and grammar. None of the exercises are particularly long, so kids shouldn't get too worn out or intimidated. Along with the song CD and DVD lectures, they should be very well equipped to complete everything without too much headache.
Each student book has a vocabulary glossary in the back for ready reference. Chapters should be completed in about one week apiece, unless you're trying to complete both volumes in one year (unadvised unless you're working with older kids). The answer keys simply provide answers to all student exercises and quizzes.
The Spliced Story readers present fun mystery/noir stories that combine Spanish and English to helpincrease students' comprehension and vocabulary skills. Each one is increasingly more difficult, and relies less and less on English to convey the meaning and content of the story.
A website hosted by Classical Academic Press called Headventurelandprovides numerous online educational games that offer an exciting and visually stimulating forum for practice, review, and reinforcement. While all the subjects covered by Classical Academic Press are included on the site, there are many games specifically devoted toSpanish for Children.
This is not a student-directed course. Parents who aren't familiar with Spanish will probably have to work alongside their kids, or keep one or two lessons ahead of them; parents who do know Spanish can simply teach from the texts. Kraut's instruction is thorough, but she doesn't cover all the difficult topics in the books, and most kids will need more clarification.
Our Honest Opinion
This is one of the better Spanish programs for kids available. It's good enough that, while it's intended for elementary students, high school students and even adults will find it very useful for beginning their study of Spanish. Don't think we're just enthusing, either: the layout is definitely oriented toward younger kids, but the content is challenging and thorough.
If there's anything to complain about it's Julia Kraut's enthusiasm. In the lectures, her exaggerated teaching style can get a bit annoying, and some kids will find it condescending, but she imparts concepts and information very well, and the idiosyncratic presentation shouldn't deter you from an otherwise flawless course.
Spanish is one of the most useful languages for anyone to learn, especially anyone in the Western Hemisphere, and because Spanish for Children goes well beyond mere conversational survival skills and establishes a foundation for fluency, we think it's one of the best choices you can make for a Spanish program.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur.Read more of his reviews here.
Did you find this review helpful?