If you have never taught Spanish to toddlers you may think that this can’t be that different from teaching preschoolers – after all, they are all young children.
Hint: if you think that you can just reuse your preschool Spanish lessons with toddlers you are doomed for disaster!
I myself learned a few things the hard way when I first started teaching Spanish to tots. For example, I quickly discovered that:
- Toddlers are not necessarily the most talkative people in the world. This should not come as a surprise – after all, these little fellows are quite new on this planet and haven’t had time to learn to speak like Shakespeare. However, for a new language teacher this can be quite puzzling and unsettling – what do you do when your audience doesn’t even speak their first language? How could you possibly teach Spanish to (apparently) non-speaking toddlers?
- Toddlers have very short attention spans – even shorter than preschoolers! They jump from thing to thing in pursuit of the next thing that grabs their attention. How in the world can experts say that they are the best language learners out there? You would think that they are not paying attention at all! Or are they? Something didn’t seem to match – if they are not paying attention, how can they learn language?
- Toddlers do not understand stories – which was too bad because I loved working around stories. Now I would have to figure out something different in order to create the rich language experiences which young children need in order to gain high levels of proficiency in Spanish.
- And on and on and on.
Truly, toddlers were not just different animals – they seemed to come from a different planet altogether!
So I immersed myself in toddler education – from emerging math to emotional development, from movement to science, and everything in between. I would read anything that would give me clues on how to teach toddlers, no matter the subject matter (this is because I believe that the best way to teach is to target the whole child, as opposed to focusing too narrowly on an specific subject, in my case Spanish).
I also experimented with many different things. All in all, I found that toddlers learn more Spanish when:
- The instruction is mainly hands-on and your toddlers get to touch, move, dance, doodle, make music, and employ all of their senses.
- You (the teacher) use whole language and don’t assume that because your students can only say a few thing that is all they understand or can learn.
- The instruction is integrated into their everyday life (you can do this by engaging the parents through parent-child classes and teaching them activities that they can replicate at home).
- There is plenty of variety but also enough cohesion to keep it all together instead of jumping from topic to topic.
- There is lots of repetition.
The Spanish for Preschoolers E-Guide contains many sections for those of you who want to teach toddlers. Among many other things, you will learn how to:
- Develop long-term lessons that will expand during several weeks – no more nail biting on Sunday nights!
- Create toddler-friendly Spanish activities that will keep your students excited about coming to your class.
- Go beyond teaching colors, numbers, animals, and other isolated lists of words – your students can do much more than this and you can help them do so!
- Engage the parents if you decide so (quite a good idea). Parents can be your best assets if you know how to do it.
And the best thing is that, since the Spanish for Preschoolers E-Guide also covers the preschool and early elementary years, you will have plenty of ideas to keep you going for a few years!
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