Hampton Lutheran K-6 Students Learn Spanish in the Classroom

image of third through sixth grade students in front of screen with projected Zoom video of mary Carnoali. text: k-6 students learn spanish in the classroom

At Hampton Lutheran, kindergarten through sixth grade students have the opportunity to learn Spanish in the classroom.

Mary Carnoali teaches Spanish lessons to students on Wednesdays through the online video platform Zoom. Last year, Mary taught the Spanish classes in person, but this year, she conducts the classes long distance from Lincoln.

Mary teaches third through sixth grade for half an hour, then teaches kindergarten through second grade for half an hour. This lets her tailor the classes to the grade and learning levels of each group. Although the two groups often learn the same concepts, Mary uses more kinesthetic and auditory activities with the lower levels because not all the students can read and because Spanish and English phonetics aren’t the same.

Most elementary school students have not had much—if any—contact with a foreign language. That’s why Mary focuses on basic things that could apply to any foreign language.

For example, students are now starting to realize that going between English and Spanish won’t be a direct word-for-word translation. If Mary says, “No hay un gato blanco” in Spanish, it actually comes out to say something like “Not there is a cat white,” which isn’t how we’d say it in English. “There is not a white cat” sounds much better even though it’s not a direct translation.

Mary is also teaching the students colors, numbers, types of food, and weather. This year, the kids have learned the verbs tengo (I have), quiero (I want), me gusta (I like), and estoy (I am). These are great words to start with as kids can use them over and over again in many different ways.

Mary was surprised how much Spanish the students retained over summer break. She didn’t have to do much review before starting new topics in August.

The kids are starting to put together different concepts to create some more complex sentences. There’s a lot to remember such as word order, subject-verb agreement, verb-object agreement, adjectives going after the noun, and, of course, how to pronounce all the new words! It’s a lot to learn, but Mary says, “The kids are doing great! I’m very proud of them.”

Getting a head start on learning Spanish in the classroom means that Hampton Lutheran students will be well-prepared for foreign language classes in middle school and high school. And learning a new language is beneficial for kids in many ways.

Mary has a bachelor’s degree in secondary education with an emphasis in Spanish education. She has been studying Spanish since middle school. Mary student taught at a middle school and high school Spanish class in Houston, Texas, her senior year and studied abroad for four weeks in Granada, Spain, in the summer of 2017.

She currently teaches English as a Foreign Language classes online and even helped Hampton Lutheran students connect with one of her Chinese students. Even though she graduated and is teaching, Mary is still working to retain and improve her own Spanish skills.

“It’s exciting to see these kids just starting, because I know how much of a lifelong journey learning a language is,” Mary says. “It’s exciting to see them get a leg up on language learning that my classmates and I didn’t have before starting middle school. There’s always more to learn!”

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