Español para chicos y grandes: An Interactive Spanish Course for Children and Parents is great for those who want to teach Spanish to children about second grade level and above. This is a more in-depth approach than are most others targeting the early grades. While it teaches some grammatical elements, it primarily uses a conversational approach in the first level. Students practice with responses and conversations as well as by completing oral activities from the textbook. Writing, drawing, and coloring activities in the workbook reinforce knowledge. Audio CDs or free online audio files assist learning throughout each course. (Note that the publisher is gradually replacing all CDs with free online audio files.)
The Level 1 and Level 2 textbooks (second edition) are printed in full color. The workbooks for both levels (second edition) are printed in black and white.
The Level 1 textbook is used by both the teacher and the student. A parent working with one child can get by with only one textbook. However, in groups, students will each need their own textbook. Even though this is primarily a conversational approach, students are also gradually learning to read and write the language as well, so they need to follow along in the text as they listen to the teacher or one of the audio files.
The course moves rather quickly, although you could slow the pace yourself to allow more practice time between lessons. However, that leaves it to the parent or teacher to create opportunities for additional practice. If your children already have some prior exposure to Spanish, that would be very helpful.
The 24 lessons in Level 1 begin with the Spanish vowels and their pronunciation. The first lesson includes the names and pronunciation of the rest of the letters of the Spanish alphabet, the pronunciation of vowel dipthongs such as ie and ua, and the pronunciation of words with accent marks. At the end of the first lesson, children practice asking each other how to write their names. As you can see, quite a few elements are introduced even in this first lesson. Lessons continue through greetings, numbers, colors, the schoolroom, time, animals, the family, clothing, and other topics with useful vocabulary.
The textbook is written primarily in Spanish, but with occasional English translations. Instructions are generally in English.
Students are introduced to different verb forms without explanation in Level 1. Direct grammar instruction is minimal. For example, rather than explain reflexive pronouns, the textbook says, “With the verbs duele and pasa you should not use the pronouns yo, tú, él, ella. Use the pronouns me, te and le instead” (p. 47).
For Level 1, two audio files present most lesson material, so students can listen to the lesson presentation to learn correct pronunciation as well as the concepts. However, this is not a self-study course. Parents or teachers need to work with students. Students are often directed to practice conversations with a partner using their new vocabulary. A few songs are also included among the lessons.
Workbooks reinforce both grammar and vocabulary taught in the corresponding textbook lessons with drawing, coloring, crossword puzzles, matching exercises, and written work. As with the textbook, an audio CD (or audio files) walks students through each lesson. The low amount of written work in the Level 1 workbook should be very manageable for second and third graders.
A separate teacher resources book has supplemental material, tests, answer keys, and scripts for the teacher. You might be able to manage without it if you are following along with the lessons and learning with your children.
For Level 2, there are only a textbook and a workbook to buy, and as for Level 1, if you are teaching more than one student, each will need his or her own textbook. Parents and teachers receive for free the teacher resources for Level 2, which include exercises, quizzes for each chapter and the answer key. This level presents additional vocabulary along with present and past tense verbs, reflexive verbs, pronouns, and idioms. Funny cartoons provide additional reading practice relating to the grammar and vocabulary for each chapter; kids should love this feature! Short readings on Spain and Latin American countries are at the end of each chapter.
For Level 2, the workbook provides auditory and written practice. The CD or audio file has the answers to the exercises. You might have students listen to the audio on their own and self-correct their work as an additional reinforcement rather than correcting their work yourself.
Poemas para chicos y grandes is an optional coloring book with poems, all in Spanish, and there is one for each level. Lessons are loosely aligned with content in the book, but poems use vocabulary beyond what has been taught in the lessons and bring in elements of Hispanic culture. Poems are read on the audio CD at a pace too rapid for children just learning Spanish to follow. Still, these books and CDs are useful since having children listen to the poems and color the pictures exposes them to both familiar and unfamiliar vocabulary as well as some knowledge of other cultures. The book of poems for Level 2 includes some comprehension activities related to the poems.
All Bilingual Press also publishes Español para los chiquitos: Spanish for Young Children that is best for children ages four to seven. This level is very introductory. While it teaches some word recognition, it assumes that children might be just developing their reading and writing skills. It uses more songs than does Español para chicos y grandes, and it also has pages in the activity book for creating flash cards and bingo games. A parent-teacher guide offers even more activity ideas. My First Poems in Spanish is similar to the other coloring books of poetry.
All of these courses are easy to use for parents or teachers who don’t speak Spanish themselves. Little to no lesson prep is required. However, to help children be successful, parents or teachers should continue to practice new vocabulary outside of the lessons.