As educators, we have the opportunity to see the potential in each student. We are able to guide them in fun and loving ways toward learning lifelong skills. At Spanish Schoolhouse, it is our mission is to prepare children for academic excellence while exposing them to the Spanish language and culture. We do this in a positive learning environment where we inspire children to be global citizens. To achieve these lofty goals, we need a solid curriculum and engaging activities. In this post, we share what the curriculum and lesson planning process is all about. Consider this your VIP ticket with a cool SSH lanyard! Now, let’s go behind the scenes to see how the SSH teachers and staff make it all happen.
It all starts with the TEKS! Our Spanish Schoolhouse curriculum for both preschool and Kindergarten is aligned with the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) standards set by the Texas Education Agency. In this article, we will focus primarily on preschool. We take the standards and implement them through our proprietary theme-based curriculum which meets or in many cases exceeds all of the requirements for each age group. Our curriculum team consists of certified teachers with extensive experience both in the classroom and curriculum planning.
Next, we base learning around relevant monthly and weekly themes to engage curious little minds. Themes range from academic topics like science (plants and bugs!) and literature (books, plays, poems, and even tongue twisters) to culture, our families, and community service. We incorporate important skills each week including fine motor skills, Handwriting Without Tears®, gross motor skills (which we call Music & Movement), math/science, vocabulary, phrases, and Manners of the Week. Parents can follow along with the monthly curriculum through the Look What I Will Learn link in each monthly newsletter.
While the curriculum and goals are set school-wide, each classroom teacher is responsible for weekly lesson planning. An important part of the planning process is knowing where their students are academically, which skills they need to develop, and what fascinates them the most. Three times per year, teachers evaluate each student’s progress formally (and issue progress reports). This process helps teachers to identify and meet each individual student’s needs. Teachers may plan small group activities where they can focus on students at different levels in addition to class-wide activities and events.
A well-planned lesson can be described in two words: exciting and effective. These two adjectives are interlinked at Spanish Schoolhouse. We firmly believe that any lesson that’s exciting for students will have educational value and will ultimately be effective!
One Size Does Not Fit All
While our preschool program uses the same curriculum themes for all ages, the lesson plans, activities, and tools are adapted to each age group’s specific developmental needs. Most preschoolers are very tactile and active learners! Since they learn by touching and manipulating things, we fill our classrooms with hands-on learning resources which are age-appropriate and facilitate both learning and language retention.
All activities are developed according to both age and skill levels. We emphasize not skipping any steps, as every part of the process is important and serves a purpose. For example, if you walk into a two-year-old class during their morning activity, you might see the children using plastic tweezers to move colorful pompoms from a cup and place them in another. What you’re seeing is a fine motor activity to strengthen grip and finger muscles. These are precursors to holding a pencil correctly for the handwriting skills that they will begin to work on in the three-year-old class.
Learning with a Latin Flare!
We know there’s no better time for children to learn a language than when they’re in their early developmental years. That’s why our school uses the full language immersion approach, allowing students to learn the language naturally. During the first two weeks of school, teachers use both English and Spanish to help students with the transition. Routines are established, rules and boundaries are set, and students and teachers make personal connections with each other. After these two weeks are over, the teachers use only Spanish to teach in class (English may be used when comforting students, if needed.)
To ensure that students understand, teachers use visual materials and tools that stimulate different senses. This helps the children to absorb and retain the information as well as the vocabulary. We enrich our lessons with audio-visual materials and animated demonstrations to help students make connections and make sense of what we’re teaching. If you’ve ever walked by one of our classrooms, you’ve likely seen enthusiastic teachers singing and dancing or observed some dynamic plays, puppet shows, or other activities going on!
In big and small ways, we add the Latin flare! With teachers from many Latin countries, students learn about Hispanic Heritage, hear different Spanish accents, sing and dance to different traditional and folkloric Latin songs and carols, and perform for the families twice per year during our famous shows! We celebrate the Three Kings Day, Cinco de Mayo, Children’s Week (in Latin America children have their own holiday), and many other Latin holidays. We give the students a broader picture of why they are learning Spanish by providing them with a variety of experiences and demonstrating how valuable bilingualism is throughout the world. There is no better way to learn a language than to live the culture!
Reviewing and Fine Tuning our Plans
Every single lesson is a chance for teachers to improve their teaching practice. We make it a habit to analyze our lessons and see how students respond to certain activities, resources, or methods. Directors/Teacher Coordinators assist teachers by reviewing the lessons with them to see which methods were most successful for that age group, and which tools may need modification. Our review process ensures that three key components are met: First, that the curriculum is followed, second, that activities are kept age-appropriate, and lastly, that the skills are being mastered.
Dedication to Academic Success
Wow, the job of a preschool teacher is really complex, isn’t it?! They make it look so effortless, but they put their hearts and souls into planning the activities and lessons to help build a sound academic, linguistic, and cultural foundation for our students. We are proud of our amazing team of directors, teachers, and curriculum planners who create such a unique learning experience. And in this final month of the school year, we send a huge thank you to all of those who help mold and shape the next generation.