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Spanish in the Middle School

January 31, 2023 | Tania Oro-Hahn

Research says that the best way to develop a new language is to read.  It is not to memorize charts or learn conjugations out of context or in isolation.  Contextualizing the learning is key.  We try to make it real, fun, and active.  You learn what you practice doing, not what you memorize.  And I assess what is learned through doing, through practice, through reading, through writing.  I provide feedback and many second chances.  Many attempts are always welcome.  

In our Spanish program, oral proficiency, and reading reign supreme, and we develop fluency one sentence at a time.  Our methodology is called TPRS (teaching proficiency through reading and storytelling).  It provides students with high visual information that supports the written content on a screen.  Then participants are flooded with questions for each sentence.   TPRS provides students a constant stream of questions and responses.  As a teacher it also gives me oral assessment opportunities.  The demand for choral responses to questions I ask allows for informal assessment.  I can hear when most of the group gets an answer right and some do not.  I can go faster or slower. 

I use those TPRS sessions as pre-reading activities and give students the opportunity to act out scenes, clap for great work, count the number of questions we ask in a 10 minute time limit.  We assess immediately so students get feedback.  What did I get?  What did I miss?  We spend a lot of time reading, speaking, responding, and writing.  I encourage kids to work with a partner and discuss what they think happened in each of the chapters we read.  As kids move up in grades, students move toward greater independence in reading, writing, comprehension, and oral fluency.  

This week, Seventh and Eighth grade did an on-demand partner activity.  Each partner took turns reading a page to each other, pausing for comprehension, then completing an assignment where they wrote out the most salient sequence of events to understand and discuss the chapter.  They have confidence and skill. 

Students read with each other and write as means to understand and articulate their understanding.  Below is a snapshot from the 7th and 8th grade book.  

Students in grades 6th-8th are also preparing for the National Spanish Challenge and the National Spanish Examination.  Along with with their usually reading and writing expectations, they are also practicing grammar skills as conjugation of verbs and expanding vocabulary.  They are using a fantastic website called Lingco which also hosts the exam.  The exam will happen in March! 

Tania Oro-Hahn

Spanish, Grades Two through Eight; Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging

Señora Oro-Hahn was drawn to Mustard Seed School because of its mission to serve an economically and racially diverse community. Teaching students has been a part of Sr. Oro-Hahn’s life for the past 30 years. Prior to working at Mustard Seed School, she worked with college students through InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. She has a passion for helping students grow spiritually and linguistically. Sr. Oro-Hahn’s goals as a teacher are to create a loving classroom community so that students will understand the perspective of other cultures, be brave, and take a risk in speaking Spanish, realizing how fun it is to use language. As a language teacher, Sr. Oro-Hahn strives to make work seem more like play, and so she often uses games, skits, and group activity in the classroom. She loves to mentor students.

Sr. Oro-Hahn uses her art background to help students illustrate poetry, and develop creative dramatic ways to communicate in Spanish.

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