Thursday, October 27, 2016

Middlebury Interactive Languages {a Homeschool Review Crew review}

I think that learning a foreign language is hugely important, but it is something that I struggle to work into our schooling.  I need a few things in a program:
  1. I do not have time to do much (if any) teacher prep.
  2. Teacher cannot need to know the language already.
  3. It has to really teach my kids to speak that language.
  4. They have to enjoy it enough that I don't have to fight to get them to do it.
  5. Did I mention that I don't have time to learn a language ahead of them?
Middlebury Interactive Languages actually does a great job of meeting all of these requirements.  We chose to focus on their Spanish Courses, and Trina has really been enjoying Elementary Spanish 1 (Grades 3-5)
Spanish, French, German or Chinese {Middlebury Interactive Languages}

Middlebury's approach to elementary languages is to teach in a "unit study" type of an environment.  There are 14 units (plus two review units) to work through.  Each unit is centered on a theme, and it includes a story, a song, 10-12 vocabulary words, and some activities to complete.  Themes include:
  • Family (words for parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts/uncles, etc.)
  • Numbers (numbers 0-10, plus the word number)
  • Greetings (basic hello, goodbye, how are you?, good afternoon phrases)
  • Feelings (words like happy, sad, and scared)
  • Food (foods like milk, meat and corn, plus meal names)
  • Community/Professions (professions such as firefighter and doctor, plus places like the library and park)
  • Body (words such as face, ears and arms)
  • Animals (basic animal names like dog, monkey, and fish)
  • Colors (vbasic color names)
  • Clothes (words like pants, shoes and sweater)
  • Weather/Seasons (names of the seasons, plus sentences like "It is windy.")
  • School/Classroom (words like teacher, desk, and notebook)
  • Calendar (names of the days, plus day, week, and month)
  • Months (all the month names)

How we are using it:

Below is a photo of all the printouts I did for their current unit, (Greetings, Unit 3).  It isn't necessary to print it out, and you certainly can print in grey scale.  But learning Spanish is important, and I decided the color made it a bit more fun.  This is taken before Trina puts the pages in her fancy notebook. 
As you can see, the vocabulary list is pretty short, which makes it easy to actually learn it all over the two weeks you spend in the unit (six lessons per unit, intended to be done three days per week).

The story is an authentic tale from one of the dozens of Spanish-speaking countries.  During the course of the unit, you listen/watch the story a few times.  Through the images and the words you have learned, you are able to grasp the main plot, but the printout summarizes that as well.  It also walks through what is being said in the story, with the words the students should know being in green. 

In this unit, it is a tale of how the rabbit got his long ears, and it involves the rabbit going around to multiple creatures to try to collect various items.  That involves a lot of greetings in the conversation.  So the rabbit has many opportunities to say things like hello, good morning, how are you, please, thank you and good-bye.

The first time through, you are usually just listening to the story.  Subsequent trips have you listening for specific things, like all the greetings:

There are a lot of other words in the story too, with translations on the printout, so Trina can easily go in and add some additional vocabulary learning when she wants to.

What we think:

This Spanish program does so much for us.  It is fun and interactive.  At this level, there is NO writing or typing required.  I truly love that part.  I think learning to read and speak another language at elementary ages is fantastic, but I just don't care if they can spell correctly.  Instead of writing, they do activities like this:

My daughter enjoys Spanish and doesn't argue when I tell her to do it.  That's really a huge deal to me.  And she's using it in normal daily life, which tells me she truly is learning it.

Having some experience with the upper levels of Middlebury's language programs, my big fear was sending kids into the Middle School or High School levels and having them feel completely overwhelmed.  I think a year of the elementary Spanish is going to put her in good shape to take on Middle School Spanish 1.  The Greetings lesson in Middle School, intended to be covered over two weeks, includes all of the vocabulary above, plus another 23 words/phrases, and she'll need to be able to type them out, including accents and all.  Already being familiar with saying at least a third of the vocabulary will put her in good shape to take on the rigors of middle school Spanish.

I am pleased with this course.

Go see what others had to say about Spanish, and also about German, French and Chinese.  Crew Members used various levels with kids from K-12!

Spanish, French, German or Chinese {Middlebury Interactive Languages}

Social Media Links:
Twitter:   @middinteractive

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