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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Teaching English in a Spanish Classroom

All of the students at the school that I am placed at are learning English in their classrooms. My CT is the only teacher in the 2nd grade who knows English, therefore she teachers about 40 minutes of English to each of the three classes in the third grade twice a week. While she is teaching English in one of the other classrooms, another teacher comes into her classroom and teaches. My CT explained to me at the beginning that she is having a hard time with the curriculum being set by the school. She told me that she worked hard over the past two years to create the curriculum that she did, and now the school is suddenly switching to a program that is much more regimented, and she doesn't think it will be beneficial next year but there is nothing that she can do. She believes that the best way to learn English is through complete immersion, therefore once the time period for English starts she only speaks English, even if the students don't quite understand. I definitely think that this is a positive thing, however I think that the students do not have enough of the basic understanding of common vocabulary and questions in order to really benefit from English-only teaching. Sometimes they seem very confused or lost, and often just try to repeat what the teacher has been saying if they don't know what to do. My CT also often has me read or speak to them, because she recognizes that she doesn't have a good accent for the students to listen too. However, the students have found me very hard to understand since I don't pronouce a lot of the letter sounds like Spaniards do!
The way they teach English at my school is through science (the science lessons are completed in English) which is meant to teach the students two things at once. The students learn mostly vocabulary and practice a lot using songs. I think that there is too much of a focus on vocabulary, because it merely involves students memorizing certain words with certain pictures. I think that the songs are helpful because they help students remember certain vocabulary and concepts, but some of the students struggle to convert the song lyrics into written or verbally spoken responses to questions. Over the course of my time in the classroom, I have seen a unit on the sun and moon. They compare day and night, learn characteristics of the sun, and about animals that are nocturnal. It is difficult because although I see the importance of learning new words, the students seem to be constantly just repeating or copying. It's a tricky situation, but I don't think that the students should be learning ¨nocturnal¨ and ¨headgehog¨ before they know how to understand and answer, how are you or what did you do today.  Overall, I have found that teaching English is extremely hard but I think it would be more beneficial to focus less on vocabulary and more on conversational English. In this case, it may be better to separate teaching English and science. I am glad however, that they the students at this school start learning English in the earliest grades. Over the course of the semester, I have learned a lot about how important learning different languages are and how useful they can be. It is so important to start learning a new language at a young age. In the US, students often begin learning Spanish or French in middle school or high school. I met some Spanish students in high school here and their English was a lot better than my Spanish was in high school. 

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