During the spring 2015 webinar we talked about why language immersion camps are a great way to get a program for young children started and how to use stories and story-based techniques and activities as a foundation for curriculum. We also showed a story as well as three related activities from a teaching unit for preschoolers.
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Here are the attendees’ questions after the webinar:
1) How many lessons are in a unit? Do you use a lesson a day?
Ana: The Teaching Unit included in each set has 12 lesson plans (e.g. the Teaching Unit in The Little Red Hen curriculum set has 12 lesson plans). All the sets have 12 lesson plans.
The lesson plans can be used in two ways:
- Most people use one lesson per WEEK. This means that one Teaching Unit will help you cover three months of instruction (12 weeks = 3 months). This can be done through a longer class that meets once a week or with multiple shorter classes that meet throughout the week.
- Other people choose to teach the lessons in intensive consecutive sessions. In that case, you could have an intensive 8 to 12 day camp. This is ideal for holiday breaks or summer camps.
2) What is the appropriate time/duration for each class?
Ana: That depends on you. The 10 activities in each lesson plan are very rich. You can spend as little as 7 to 10 minutes on each activity or as long as you want, since they include many ideas that can be unfolded and expanded quite easily. You can also skip some activities if you are short on time. This means that you can use the lessons for short sessions or for full-day camps.
My goal when creating this curriculum was to offer a springboard to your own creativity and imagination. All the activities are called “samples.” You can use them like that, or you can modify them and take from them.
Having the solidly engineered structure of a house frees you to change the windows, the doors, etc., to your own taste. It’s the same idea with the lesson plans. You are free to create right away – or you can do this at your own pace.
3) How many classes per week?
Ana: You can create an intensive camp putting all the lesson plans in a Teaching Unit together, or alternatively expand the lessons throughout three months.
Regarding this latter option, it’s important to take into account that frequency of use is a factor. Therefore, from the point of view of learning, it is preferable to offer (let’s say) 20-minute classes three times a week, than a very intensive long session that only meets once a week. [Note: I don’t recommend classes shorter than 20 minutes.]
Ideally then, you would offer longer sessions more frequently, but that’s not always possible. However, you can be very successful with 1 hour once-a-week classes too! The secret here is to engage the parents. If the parents read the stories and play the games that you send home with their children, then the children will have the frequency and repetition that is ideal for language acquisition.
As a matter of fact, your once-a-week groups can do BETTER than the other groups as long as you get highly committed parents.
This is the reason that nothing beats parents in the language-learning department! Get a committed parent who uses the language at home with the child (i.e. reading stories together, playing, singing, etc.), and that child will learn by leaps and bounds. It doesn’t matter that the parent is a total beginner.
Kids who come to class once a week and have support at home learn much more than those who come more frequently but do not have that support. The difference is actually quite noticeable.
If only parents knew! I’ll take a parent as my co-educator any day.
4) How many kids should I have in the classes?
Ana: It will vary, but I would generally target somewhere between 8-16 kids in a class. You do not want to have too few students in your class because it may be difficult to keep it fun – children benefit from having the option to interact with various children in the classroom.
On the other hand, having too many students poses other challenges. For example, it will be difficult to dedicate time and attention to individual children.
The two extremes can lead to problems regarding classroom behavior, either because the class gets too boring with so few students or because it gets too crazy with too many.
There is a happy medium that will make your class more manageable and amenable for everyone, over time you decide what is that “just right” size for you.
Of course, if you are a teacher in a school, you don’t have the benefit of testing what size class will be optimal for you. In this case, I highly recommend that you request an aid for larger classes. Regular classes for young children typically have the teacher and one aid. That’s in place for a reason! You can request that the aid stays during your class. If that doesn’t work, you can see if parents would like to volunteer (but try not to assign them to their kid’s class because that will create another set of problems).
5) How do you divide the ages? How many sets do you have per age group?
Ana: I divide my curriculum in this way: Toddlers (ages 1 to 3), Preschoolers (3 to 5), Early Elementary (5 to 7), and Late Elementary (7 to 10).
There are four curriculum sets per age group. Each set has 12 lesson plans. Together, the four plans can help you cover nine months of instruction or you can create intensive camps as explained above.
6) When I finish the Red Hen, do you have other units?
Ana: After finishing The Little Red Hen, I have other sets for the preschool group available, including The Three Little Pigs, Thumbelina, and The Ugly Duckling. (There are four sets for each of the age groups.)
[A note about the first edition versus the second edition: We are in the process of updating our 12 story-based curriculum sets (i.e. all except for the “Toddler” sets, which are not based on stories). The Little Red Hen is our pilot set for the second edition.]
7) Do the sets include songs?
Ana: The sets include some references to songs, but they do not include the songs themselves. Most are typically available on iTunes or other online venues for about a dollar.
The main focus of the curriculum is on helping your students speak and have conversations. That being said, music is a fabulous way to enhance the curriculum, and this could be an area for you to bring your own creativity and interests.
8) Do you offer the stories as paperbacks? (We don’t use any tech with little children, just books and songs.)
Ana: The sets include the illustrations as well as the text of the stories in the target language as well as in English, so you can customize your own book or storyboard for use in your class. Of course, the online books are still available for parents at home for a nominal monthly subscription fee or as apps.
I also have two stories (Little Red Riding Hood and Goldilocks) published as hard cover books by McGraw-Hill that are available on Amazon or other venues.
9) Are the stories in the present or past tense?
Ana: The stories are written in authentic language. That is, they mix the tenses and the modes and anything else like any story for native children would do. This is so because children learning a second language are perfectly able to acquire the entire ‘package’ of language and this is actually better for them.
What is different in my stories is the pace and the presentation. With native children, you can present more content at once and you don’t need to be as intent with things such as visual support, repetition, etc., because a lot of the vocabulary has already been acquired. However, even native children benefit from these techniques.
10) Can I be a Spanish language educator for young children (< 7yrs) if I have just a bit over high school understanding of Spanish? Would I be suitable to start a language school? How does one gain the confidence of parents, as one who isn’t fluent?
Ana: Let me tell you a story. I am from Spain and my teacher from pre-k to high school was British, we called her “la teacher.” In high school, however, our teacher was Spanish – but guess who was the better English teacher?
For as native as she was, I never learned any English from “la teacher” because she wasn’t consistent. She would jump around without any sense or method teaching this grammar rule this week and this old British song the next and, frankly, it was all so boring! Being the young child that I was, I just couldn’t concentrate (oh, but I still remember “My Bonnie Is Over the Ocean” pretty well – not that I ever understood the lyrics or that knowing this song helped me in any way!)
Things changed when we started high school. For all his thick accent and probably less than accurate performance, the Spanish teacher was a million times a better English teacher! He was more systematic and amenable. His approach was about speaking like British people, not just about learning grammar rules, old fashion songs, or cultural trivia. I began to actually enjoy my English class!
This is to say that you should not feel discouraged because you are not a native speaker. You can always improve your proficiency.
That being said, there are many ways to be an educator. It is true that having less proficiency than some of the parents will present a challenge. You can either present an argument like the one I just told you, or you can choose the other route to be an educator, and that is to not be in the classroom, but to hire others to do the teaching.
This latter route is actually going to allow you to grow faster if your intent is to have your own program. It will also equip you with some skills that you will never acquire if you are always in the classroom – and it is fun to be an entrepreneur!
11) If I purchase your curriculum, can I use the Ana Lomba logo and mention we are using your curriculum on our website?
Ana: This will be viewed on a case by case basis, and will require advance explicit approval by me. I am generally open to the idea of Mpressarias referencing the fact that they are using my curriculum. However, I need to understand the specific situation and see how my name is referenced. For example, if your program is solely based on my curriculum, this will more than likely be approved. However, if your program also uses other approaches that do not match my teaching philosophy, then approval is not likely.
12) Does your package also include a certificate of completion?
Ana: I do not provide certificates of completion. Some programs create their own certificates – kids and parents sometimes like this.
13) I have a problem in my class. I read stories to my students in English and then in Spanish and when I’m in Spanish my students don’t pay attention. What should I do?
Ana: I would really try to focus on the target language as much as possible. Therefore, minimize the English. Your students will not invest the effort in Spanish if they know they can just wait a few moments for the English.
Naturally, focusing more on the target language will be more challenging at first, but you can greatly improve your success rate and overall proficiency level of your students by using tons of visual cues (e.g., ToonFlips©, Storyboards, illustrations, gestures, etc.), verbal cues (e.g., changing voices to sound more like the characters in the story), targeted repetition, and extension activities in the classroom (e.g., arts, crafts, songs, pretend play, etc.) and beyond the classroom (e.g., getting the parents involved reading the stories and listening to music, and playing with the kids at home).
This will greatly increase your chances for success as well as make the class much more fun for the kids (and you).
Let me know if you have more questions. Happy teaching!
P. S. The Spring Offer has been extended until May 25th. Use the coupon code “MEMORIALDAY2015” in the cart when purchasing.