By Danielle Woodward
Mason Times staff writer
MASON—Just when it seemed students could not be learning foreign language any younger, Mason School Board raised the bar, implementing a second grade Spanish class into Alaiedon Elementary School that runs 40 minutes a week for 10 weeks.
The students, taught by Elementary Spanish teacher Jessica Curtis, were able to present their progress at the school board’s meeting March 11.
“She comes very well qualified, she has only been able to teach Spanish and it shows. If I could describe it, she’s happy when she teaches and she wants everybody else to feel just as happy about learning Spanish,” said Alaiedon Principal Lisa Francisco
Curtis first presented a slide show featuring advantages of learning a second language, the curriculum outline, and how students’ progress would be assessed.
“Students are able to improve their cognitive development, their ideas, and their communication skills when learning a second language,” said Curtis.
Topics in the curriculum include: Greetings, alphabet, numbers, colors, animals, family, food, body parts, clothing and weather.
Curtis said she uses methods such as TPR, Total Physical Response, as well as songs, books, games and props to teach the children.
“As far as assessment goes, a lot of it is based on TPR, peer observations, interviewing each student, participation in games and skits, questionnaires, group performances, and negotiation of meaning,” said Curtis
Students presented what they had learned, including introductions, their “Buenos Dias” warmup and weather songs, counting from 1-20, and a TPR assessment.
Curtis explained that this class, new this year, was an exploratory class meant to prepare students for third grade Spanish.
Mason School Superintendent Mark Dillingham said,“We’ve always had Spanish in grades 3-5 for the last four years but this year we had some time freed up so we met with our principle and decided that we could add an enrichment for grade 2”.
“If there’s extra time in a teacher’s schedule and we can maximize the time that we are paying them for, then we will have it, however next year we can’t guarantee that.”
Serena VandenBussche, parent of second grade Spanish student Holly, noted that her daughter loves the program and comes home eager to show the family songs and skits she learns in class.
“I think teaching them at a younger age will help solidify a better foundation for them when they do start to learn more in depth parts of the language.”
Francisco noted it is easier for children to learn a second language when they are younger because they can still create connections in the brain to learn on a Spanish pathway all its own rather than through English.
Curtis, going on her fifth year teaching Spanish, said she gained interest in the language during a high school trip abroad, and always knew during college that she wanted to teach younger children.
Her favorite part of teaching children is their ability to pick up the language so fast.
“They are not afraid to use it or make mistakes so they really are unfiltered in their use of the language. They thrive on it, they love the games, the pronunciation, the activities, and it is great to watch.”