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Spanish for Children Primer A Program & Primer B Program Review by Kelly Burgess

Julia Kraut and Sarah Foose
Classical Academic Press
1 (866) 730-0711
515 S. 32nd Street
Camp Hill, PA 17011
https://classicalacademicpress.com

Spanish for Children Primer A is designed for students in grades three and up. Spanish for Children Primer B is designed for students in grades four and up. It’s a two-year program across Primer A and Primer B. For each level, I received the student book, the answer key, and a case containing four instructional DVD’s and one chant CD. In addition, the Primer A set included a Spanish reader called Tin Bot. Tin Bot is a clever cartoon-style detective story written in a combination of English and Spanish, weaving in the key Spanish vocabulary words from the lessons into the story. Primer A contains thirty-six weekly lessons plus an end-of-year review lesson for week thirty-seven. Primer B contains thirty-one weekly lessons plus an end-of year review lesson for week thirty-two. Both levels intersperse regular review lessons. The back of each student workbook includes a Spanish/English glossary as well as a glossary by chapter for easy reference. The student workbooks also include written instruction for each lesson to correspond with the DVD lessons so the student can easily reference the material again and again.

The program is designed for one lesson to be spread out over one week with daily practice and a workbook activity each day. While the book doesn’t give a suggested schedule, a typical week with Primer A might look something like this:

  1. Watch the DVD lesson. Practice the chant on the CD. Make flashcards for the vocabulary words. Complete section A (Translation) in the workbook. Practice the Spanish phrases.
  2. Practice the chant on the CD. Practice with the flash cards you made. Complete section B (Canto or Chant) in the workbook. Practice the Spanish phrases.
  3. Practice the chant on the CD. Practice with the flash cards you made. Complete section C (Grammar) in the workbook. Practice the Spanish phrases.
  4. Practice the chant on the CD. Practice with the flash cards you made. Complete section D (Cognados or English words that are similar to Spanish words) in the workbook. Practice the Spanish phrases.
  5. Practice the chant on the CD. Practice with the flash cards you made. Practice the Spanish phrases. Complete the Quiz in the workbook.

What I think sets this program apart from other children’s Spanish programs is that it includes grammar and conjugation instruction, which is not typically taught in children’s programs prior to high school. Most early Spanish programs focus on building vocabulary. As a result, many students can struggle with grammar in high school. So I think the aim of this unique program is to give a gentle introduction to this concept earlier so that students gradually build their understanding. In addition, it allows them to apply practical use of these skills so that they can string together complete sentences and actually engage in meaningful conversation over time.

My son is ten years old and is entering fifth grade. He really enjoyed the DVD instructional videos. His first comment to me was that he was glad the teacher wasn’t too serious! She speaks very casually, speaking directly to your child, and uses funny gestures and actions to keep his attention. I remember in the first lesson, she threw her chalkboard eraser across the room while teaching about verbs. My son erupted in laughter! We really enjoyed her lighthearted and conversational tone, and she had a way of making the lessons seem less overwhelming. Each lesson builds on the one before, and students are expected to continue practicing and reviewing past lessons while adding a new one each week.

For my son, who has ADHD and is easily distracted, the chants for the verb conjugation were too much for him to memorize. I think if we were going to use this program right now, I would probably have to slow it down for him with even more repetition, perhaps repeating one lesson over a period of two weeks rather than one. He just wasn’t very successful at memorizing the conjugation by the end of the week. The vocabulary words that were nouns were much easier for him to recall. It could be, too, that it will just take a little longer for him to catch on simply because the concept of Spanish verb conjugation is new to him, and perhaps he’d get better at it over time. He tends to remember things better when they are set to music, so this may be a program we set aside and revisit in a year or two when he’s a bit more mature.

Overall, this program is very thorough and includes many different elements through the use of the DVD lessons, CD, workbook, and reader in Primer A. Primer B is much more advanced and adds slightly longer and more varied activities in the workbook, as you would expect as children have gained more experience with the Spanish language. I actually had my adult child, who graduated last year, take a look at the program. He took four years of IB level Spanish in a charter high school, and he said he wish we’d had this program at home when he was taking his courses. Verb conjugation was new to him, as it is with most kids starting high school, and he said he really liked the way it was explained in this program. He said it really would have helped him when he was struggling with it, and the way it’s explained here was easier to understand than in his high school textbooks.

So, if you feel your child is ready to begin memorizing conjugated Spanish verbs, nouns, and simple phrases, then this program is definitely the place to start! I think that magic age is different for every child, so when to start that is best determined by you as the teacher. The small chunks of new information are broken up well in this program so students can digest just a little more each week and continue to practice and apply what they’ve learned while building practical use of the Spanish language so that they can actually begin to engage in conversation. 

-Product review by Kelly Burgess, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, July, 2018

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