Thursday, October 1, 2015

Middlebury Languages {Schoolhouse Crew Review}

Last year, my older daughter Addison used Middlebury Interactive Languages to learn Chinese. To this day one of her favorite high school memories is the story of getting to interact with several young Chinese girls after one of her chorus concerts in China. The three girls were impressed because Addison had learned to write her name in Chinese characters and the girls could actually read it. Thanks Middlebury!

This year Lauren wanted a turn to learn a language. She picked Spanish and used Middlebury's Elementary Spanish 1 course, for grades 3-5.

Prior to starting this online class, Lauren did not know much Spanish at all. She says she knew how to count up to eight, perhaps because she remembers all the episodes of Dora the Explorer she watched when she was three.

The first semester of Middlebury's Elementary Spanish course has 14 instructional units with six lessons in each unit. There are also two review units spaced in the middle and at the end of the course. Each lesson is short, but gives Lauren plenty of time to practice her new vocabulary. The activities range from stories (told entirely in Spanish) to games to matching activities and opportunities for her to practice speaking in Spanish. My best guess is that she spends about 15-20 minutes per day working with the program.

After showing her how to log-in, Lauren was able to work with the program independently. I sometimes overheard her lessons, but I did not have to help her either while she was on the computer or with extra practice between her lesson times on the computer.

In the first four lessons, Lauren has learned about family members, numbers, greetings, and adjectives (or feelings). After the first lesson, she was correctly labeling people in our family according to their relationship to her -- aunt, uncle, grandmother, etc, using the correct Spanish words. The lessons also include cultural topics such as Hispanic families, quinceanera celebrations, and the running of the bulls. Later lessons include foods, animals, colors, clothes, weather, and community helpers (professions). Interestingly, Lauren has studied adjectives before in our English grammar materials, but seemed to finally grasp the concept when she was talking about happy, sad, fast, and small animals in her Spanish lesson today.

Many of her lessons include a story that is told entirely in Spanish. I was amazed at how much Lauren could understand from them. I realized that she is actually picking out familiar words from the sentences and trying to determine the meaning, not just looking at the pictures.

Lauren won't be able to speak fluent Spanish after finishing this class, but that was never my goal, though. At her age, I'm thrilled that we've found a program that introduces Spanish words and culture in a format that she enjoys.

Middlebury Interactive Languages offers classes in Spanish, French, German, and Chinese for students in all grades (elementary, middle school, and high school). Each semester long course costs $119, and the classes also give parents the option of having a teacher support the student during the semester for an additional $175.

 Middlebury Interactive Languages Review

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