Saturday, May 11, 2013

Review: Spanish For You!

This spring I was sent a Spanish For You! unit for review, specifically their Fiestas unit.

Foreign language studies for young kids.  I like the IDEA, but when I first started looking for a program I liked, a year ago, I wasn't having much luck.  A lot of what I was finding was either very simplistic, or complex and aimed at adults!

Which is why I was intrigued when I started to dig into my new Spanish For You! package.  The program is "meaty", but it's definitely targeting kids.  One of the things I love most about reviewing with This Old Schoolhouse is all the fun products I'm introduced to that otherwise may not have made it onto my radar!

Spanish For You! is designed to be used with children in grades 3-8, although it can be adapted for use with younger (or older!) children.  I figured it might be a good fit for Bentley because he is writing and reading well on his own already despite just heading into 2nd!  Spanish For You! was created by a long term Spanish teacher, Debbie, to address some of the shortcomings she was seeing in other programs (some of the same shortcomings I've seen, actually).  It is very affordable and can be reused within your family, it is interactive, and the units can be used in any order!  The program has been around for about 4 years and there are currently celebrations, seasons, and a soon to be available travel unit for purchase.  Debbie is busily working to create more units!

The unit we were sent includes a 30 week lesson guide (hard copy), PDF worksheets that check themselves, and audio files (digital) that correlate to the lessons in two varieties - a native and non native speaker.  I really like having two different versions to listen to, it is interesting to hear the differences in the dialect!

I also liked the immediate gratification of the digital pieces of this program.  The download was fast and painless.  Nice organization of the files and easy to find what you're looking for when you're browsing through your purchase.  You might think this goes without saying, but I've seen products with awful organization, odd file hierarchy, and naming conventions that make no sense.  Digital files are nice because you can print what you want when you want it and they don't take up any real estate in the house.  I'm always drawn to "hard copy" products but the reality is that at some point my obsession with curriculum will probably make the house collapse - so the more digital files the better!

I like the product support from the creator.  This isn't a product from a nameless big company, the author is approachable and involved.  You can follow Debbie and Spanish for You! on Facebook and get fun ideas, and check out her blog (which is updated frequently) for more ideas on how to incorporate Spanish into your day.  We saw some pictures of gorgeous festival day dresses that Genevieve was quite taken with.  I found some really cute cartoon strips that students have created from index cards.  Lots of fun and inspiring ideas!  These sites are fun resources even if you aren't using the program, I've enjoyed reading the blog and passing on fun tidbits from it to my kids.

As mentioned earlier, you can use this program with children of different ages.  You share a common lesson and then they do different worksheets based on their abilities.  I like this idea, although I haven't tried it yet.

How exactly is it used?  At whatever pace is appropriate for your kids!  4 days a week, 10 minutes a day is what I settled on.  The lessons are organized around different celebrations, from birthday time to Spanish carnivals.  First information about the celebration/holiday is provided, and then vocabulary that is tied into what you learned about is introduced.  This is a great way to learn words - you're not just seeing them out of context, but they're being put in your brain along with a reason for them to be there, which makes it more likely they'll be remembered!  All the *pesky* grammar that goes along with languages like Spanish and Latin is gently incorporated into the lessons too, so you're learning more about Spanish than just a set of vocabulary terms.  You make flashcards that are a big part of the lessons.  There are worksheets to complete, activity and game suggestions, and different "try it" type of dialogues to have together.  This program is not 100% "hands free" for the parent, you will need to be involved.

I like the handy pronunciation guide in the e-book, for people like me that forget things within minutes of saying them.  That combined with the audio files means it may be possible for me to sound authentic with Spanish, if I ever get to the point of trapping the words I learn inside my brain!  Luckily for me the kids seem to have better memories than mine.  And it's not too late for me to work on my memory.

I appreciate the flash card approach to learning.  Debbie believes that the kids should write their OWN flashcards, as the act of copying/writing is the first step of committing to memory.  I think she's right.  The more ways you can involve the senses in a new process the more likely you are to see permanent results.  She provides LOTS of ideas on how to use the flashcards with the kids - do a timed quiz with yourself, make sentences, play charades... !

It is very affordable.  It is $64.95 for the package that includes grades 3-8, or $39.95 if you simply want a grade 3-4, 5-6, or 7-8 package.  You can buy extra student books for $12.95, and the teacher's manual is sold separately for $12.95 to $14.95 depending on which unit you are using.

Check out a sample of the Fiestas product if you're interested in getting more of a feel for the flavor of the program.  You can also try out some of Debbie's free mini lessons to see if this program might be a good fit for your family.

I'm impressed with this product.  I think it's very thorough and put together quite nicely.  There is a lot of material bundled together into these units, it's much more than just a cursory introduction to Spanish.  At the same time, however, it is put together in a way that makes it seem like a very gentle/fun introduction to the language that you can ease into.  It has been enjoyable to use/review, and I'm looking forward to looking at the other Spanish For You! units that are available after we make it through this one!  If you're looking for a great Spanish program and haven't found something that suits you yet you might love this one, I'd definitely recommend checking it out!

Want to learn more about Spanish For You!?  Reviewers from This Old Schoolhouse checked out the program with the Fiestas and Seasons units, and tried it with all different ages of kids!  You can check out their reviews here.

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