Home School Life Journal

Home School Life Journal ........... painting by Katie Bergenholtz
"Let us strive to make each moment beautiful."
Saint Francis DeSales

Learning a Foreign Language

"The daily French lesson is that which should not be omitted. That children should learn French orally, by listening to and repeating French words and phrases...that they should learn a few -two or three, five or six -new French words daily, and that , at the same time, the old words should be kept in use -aree points to be considered more fully..."
-Charlotte Mason, Home Education, Vol. 1, p. 80

Using the Montessori method (which, interestingly enough, is just like the discrete trials of ABA) can be a very effective way of teaching foreign language to young learners because it keeps the stress low and insures success. Miss Montessori encouraged the use of something she called the "Three-period lesson." During the first period the child was taught some piece of information. Often this method was used to teach phonics, so, in this case, the child would be shown a letter and told its sound. The student would be taught three or four letter sounds this way. During the second period, the child would be required to tell back what each of the letter sounds were by responding to the requests from the teacher, "Which is the ___?" or "Point to the ___." The third period consisted of the child being able to say what each letter sound was when the teacher pointed to it.

Charlotte Mason began teaching a foreign language with vocabulary, adding about six words a day until the child could begin to read some simple books in the foreign language. They memorized verbs but they were learned in the context of sentences. Then grammar and new vocabulary were learned just as they were in English.
Powerglide's Foreign Language program seems to combine these approaches. Its goal is to simulate natural language immersion, enabling students to pick up the new language in much the same way they picked up their primary language. "Like a puzzle, learners fit together unfamiliar words and phrases with those that are familiar. In this way, they begin to think in the foreign language by understanding the underlying rules for composing sentences." (Powerglide)
How does this work in a practical sense? Beginning with one vocabulary word, place a picture of it on the table. Then ask the child to point to this word. (For example, if the vocabulary word is roca or rock, put a picture of a rock on the table (or a real rock) and say, "point to roca.") Obviously, since there is no possibility of error, he answers this first request correctly. Now, building on this, teach a second word, and place pictures of both words on the table. There is a small margin for error now, and will most likely get this one right as well. You can teach the six vocabulary words in this way, always going back to what they have already gotten correctly or eliminating choices if you begin getting incorrect answers. The goal is having them memorize the words by the excitement of success. You then can begin incorporating them into tiny little stories, substituting the new vocabulary words for the English equivalents. If the story has some words that they have not learned yet, those remain in English. The stories then are a weaving of English and Spanish, building on previously learned vocabulary with each story.

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