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Birchwood Elementary School’s Spanish Language Program

Spanish is taught to students in grades 2-5 by a certificated Spanish teacher 30 minutes per week.

Why teach foreign languages in elementary school?

The benefits of offering world language at the elementary level are many.  Learning a second language has been shown to increase scores on standardized tests.  It improves students’ understanding of their own native language (whether English, Spanish, or another language), increases cognitive development, and improves self concepts and sense of achievement.

Children are most receptive and able to learn language before the age of 10, when the ability to learn a second language is the highest.  The earlier start to learning a second language gives students the best opportunity to achieve fluency.

Language learning also fosters tolerance and appreciation of different cultures; bilingual skills support their ability to engage as global citizens.

Finally, our Spanish speaking parents are able to volunteer in the classroom because of our Spanish language classes, which supports the program and increasing their involvement.


Philosophy:  The Language Program at Birchwood is philosophically aligned with that of the American Council of Teachers of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) and recognizes that language and communication are central to human existence.  The program also stresses the importance of developing proficiency in the mother tongue and at least one other language.  Learning an additional language involves much more than the ability to simply speak and converse with others.  Students must also develop cross-cultural understanding, apply varied language skills across cultures and disciplines, and integrate languages within their communities.

Curriculum: Curriculum standards are those established by the American Council of Teachers of Foreign Languages: communications, cultures, connections, comparisons, and community.  Students engage in learning experiences that develop knowledge and skills in each of these five standards.  Instructional outcomes align with the Common Core State Standards for Spanish language instruction, specific to each grade level.

Instruction:  A certificated Spanish teacher provides instruction, conversational practice, and cultural immersion.  Latino community and parent volunteers provide additional opportunities for practice and practical application of language skills within the community.  Content is delivered through direct instruction, and can be extended using online curriculum in a language lab.  Opportunities for students to listen, speak, read, write, and engage in projects using Spanish are embedded during language instructional time and throughout the school day.  Classroom environment also reflects Spanish language learning through posted vocabulary, cultural artifacts, and available literature.


Instructional Resources:

The main program used for classroom instruction is Risas y Sonrisas Spanish Program for grades 2-5.  Classroom lessons integrate visual materials and photos with oral/aural instruction.  Supplemental resources include the Risas y Sonrisas Online Program, the AIMS Spanish Program and Online Portal , Teach Them Spanish, and the Benchmark  Reader’s Theatre in Spanish.

In addition, Club de Lectura is offered for one hour per week as an after-school Spanish literacy program for students with Spanish as their primary language.  This program promotes literacy development by building on the students’ primary language to assist in the transfer of skills and strategies when learning to read English in their classrooms.


Parents may access the following online sites to support and encourage children at home:

Risas y Sonrisas

User ID: Josephine.Estrada-bellingham

Password:  mariposa 22

Class Aim Language Learning

User ID:  josephine.estrada@bellinghamschools.org

Password: Birchwood