Monday, December 3, 2012

Review: Spanish for You! ~ Fiestas

Recently, I've had the chance to use Spanish for You! in my homeschool.  Specifically, I've been working with their Fiestas set.

This is such a neat program, though it took me a bit of time to wrap my brain around it.

What you get as part of the full set:
  • A print book, which is essentially the textbook for the program.  This is a non-consumable softcover book, and is used for all grade levels.
  • Three separate files with lesson plans.  One is for grades 3-4, and contains 30 weeks of lessons. The other two, with 24 weeks of lessons, are for grades 5-6 and 7-8. 
  • Self-checking worksheets for each of the three grade levels. You can print as many as you need, at whichever grade level you need.  There are something like 200 worksheets here.  Wow, just wow.
  • mp3 files of the entire book.  The entire book is available not once, but twice.  So you have two versions -- one being a native speaker, the other by the author of the program.  I love that we can hear things slightly differently.
  • Printable flashcard pictures, which, again, you can print in whatever quantity you need.
What I love about Spanish for You! is that you can easily work with kids in grades 5-6 and grades 7-8 at the same time.  The lesson plans are very similar, with the older kids doing a little bit more on some things.  The worksheets are also incredibly similar, though the older kids do quickly move into more grammatically complex sentences, and sometimes just longer sentences.

I ended up using this with William (8th grade) and Thomas (6th grade), but opted not to try it with Richard and Trina (3rd and 1st) just yet.  I determined that since I don't know much Spanish, it was just a bit much for ME to try to work at two different paces.  I'm planning to have the two of them start, though, once we get back from our trip to the grandparents.

Now, I mentioned that I had a hard time wrapping my brain around what I was supposed to do.  There were two reasons for this.  One was that I downloaded all of the material into a single folder on my computer.  That was a mistake.  A big one.  I open that folder and am totally overwhelmed.  There are many, many files for grades 3-4 all mixed in with the files for grades 5-6 and the files for grades 7-8. I take one look, and I close it.

So then I take a look at the book.  That starts off with a lot of general information -- like amazing background history on the various Fiestas that are studied in this particular unit.  Quite a few pages into it, you get to the lessons, but I'm not exactly sure what to DO with those lessons.

It wasn't until I finally took a really deep breath and opened up the lesson plans file for grades 5-6, printed off the ONE page lesson plan for week 1, and then stared at it alongside the book that things started to fall into place.  It was easy to find the specific worksheets I needed, and once I had those printed out and in front of me, it really made sense.  And -- duh -- each "lesson" in the book is completed over a few weeks.  I didn't grasp that from the book (though I should have) and I was feeling completely overwhelmed by the quantity of information.

So my two pieces of advice are -- use folders so that you only have to look at one level at a time on your computer, and start with the lesson plans.

For William and Thomas, after I finally had just sat down with the material, I was able to easily (well, mostly) get started with that first lesson.  A week in the life, so to speak, from week 6:
  • Day 1:  Review flashcards from lessons 1 and 2.  Work on a vocabulary worksheet.  Work on learning two new verbs.  And then there was a buyer/seller game.  We love games and hands-on types of things here!
  • Day 2: Review lesson 1 flashcards.  Work on a couple of verb worksheets.  Play Simon Says.
  • Day 3: Essentially, a spelling test on the lesson 1 material.  My kids hated it, but they did pretty well.  There is a game today too.
  • Day 4: You are given eight sentences, and the task is to write a question where that sentence could be the answer.  That was fun.
You can probably tell that there is plenty of review built into this program, but for the most part it doesn't feel like review.  And unlike some other Spanish programs I have looked at, this isn't just about learning vocabulary.  There are grammatical concepts woven in throughout, and they are completely non-intimidating.

Quite often, the students are practicing asking and answering questions, which I am certain is going to lead to an ability to truly converse.

Most weeks involve listening to the audio, and many involve learning about the various Fiestas.  The audio goes at a "too fast" clip at first.  We struggled to repeat the word, and pausing after each word or phrase was a lot of work!  I have to say that the lesson 2 audio wasn't as "rushed" as the lesson 1... which probably was more that WE had already learned enough to deal with it, not that the audio is really of a different quality.

The cultural part is the favorite here!  You generally read/research the holiday during the first week of each lesson, and in the final week you get more of a chance to make decorations and FOOD.  Food is a huge motivator for my boys.

The 7th/8th grade lesson plan is quite similar.  The worksheets are a bit more complex.  And in addition to what is mentioned above, you also have an optional activity on Day Two that involves translating from Spanish to English.

The 3rd/4th grade level moves at a slower pace, and has less complex worksheets.  Looking it over, I feel confident that I can have both my 3rd and 1st graders work on this, though Trina may do less of the paperwork parts of it.  Now, I do agree with their recommendation for starting this with 3rd grade or older.  But around this house, we almost always fold in younger kids with what their older brothers are learning. 

I like that this is fairly low-key and easy on me (once I figured it out).  I love that it is possible to combine kids.  If I didn't have an 8th grader in the mix, I probably would have followed the pacing of the 3rd/4th grade program and had Thomas do the 5th/6th grade worksheets and assignments, making that a 30 week course for him.  But I thought it was important to maintain a bit faster pace for my near-high-school student.

The complete set is $64.95, but this week, if you enter the code holidaysale you get 25% off all packages, which would bring this down to less than $49.  You also can purchase a single level (grades 5-6, for instance) for $39.95.  

I like this program.  There are other themes available, and you can start with any of them.  Going through 2-3 of these really looks like it would be excellent preparation for a high school level Spanish Course.  I love programs that let me purchase once and use it for everyone, plus I can use using this with Richard and Trina again in four or five years, when they can use the 5th/6th and 7th/8th grade plans.

Disclaimer:  I received this package  in exchange for my honest review.  No other compensation was received.  All opinions expressed in this review are my own.   

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