In the Fall of 2013, Madison Simis Elementary School implemented the Calico Spanish Program. Calico Spanish is a complete Spanish Program that uses music, visual aids, and fun activities to introduce young students to Spanish. All students in first through fourth grade receive two 30-minute Spanish classes in a 6 day rotational cycle with a full-time Spanish instructor. Kindergarten students are introduced to Spanish with one 30-minute class in a six day rotational cycle for one semester.
The Calico Spanish Program exposes students to the language through visual aids, activities, songs, and mini-dramatizations.
The program is based on the “natural approach” described by Tracy Terrell and Stephen Krashen. This approach is based on the philosophy that students learn language only when they are exposed to messages in that language that they can decipher and understand. The teacher regularly uses new words with the students along with visual cues, hand signals, repetition, and dramatizations to help students grasp the meaning of the communication.
The Calico Spanish Program’s primary goal is to develop students’ receptive language skills. In other words, to grow their ability to understand messages spoken in Spanish. Once students have a basic framework for understanding the language, they build confidence in creating their own messages in the language. This method of language comprehension precedes formal grammar instruction. Once students complete Levels 1 and 2 of Calico Spanish they will be prepared to formally study Spanish Grammar.
Comprehension is the focus of the program, leading teachers to maximize their use of Spanish, while still allowing students to ask questions in English. This allows the instructor to encourage students to use Spanish to their level of ability without creating frustration through an expectation of immediate fluency. The emphasis is on understanding and pronunciation of the new language through songs, activities, recitation and repetition of words from the calendar, and questions requiring simple answers.
The Spanish Program will be implemented at Simis over a four year timeline. The program will begin with students in grades 1-4 learning the first year material during year 1, then advancing in the curriculum each year. After four years each grade level will be studying the Spanish language content appropriate to their grade level. The Calico Spanish program timeline can be viewed here.