Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Middlebury Interactive Languages Spanish (TOS review)

This year my kids are being offered a couple different foreign language options at co-op, and my 3rd grader is taking Spanish the first semester.  I want him to have a lot of experience and reinforcement with the language, so I was thrilled to be offered another review opportunity from Middlebury Interactive Languages.  This year we're reviewing Elementary Spanish 1:  Grades 3-5 and I was interested to see how it would compare to our experience last year.

What is Middlebury?
Middlebury Interactive Languages offers online, immersion style courses for students of all ages, in a variety of languages.  Last year we reviewed the first semester of Elementary Spanish for K-2, and I had the option of continuing with the second semester, or bumping him up to the more advanced course.  After discussing it with Elliott, we decided we wanted to try the 3rd-5th grade course.  It appeared the upper level course would have similar material, so the familiarity would boost confidence, but it would take it to a deeper level, and I knew it would challenge him more.

For the purpose of the review, I was given six months of access in order to review the first semester of the course, using it approximately three times per week.  This is a good pace, and I've found 3-4 days a week perfect for our needs.  The website is easy to navigate, and Elliott goes through the course while I'm nearby. I like to be within hearing distance so I can work with him on pronunciation if necessary.

The first semester covers vocabulary and basic sentence structure for common topics, such as family, numbers and greetings and other topics that would be of use and interest to elementary age children.  There is an authentic story/tale in Spanish, and a cultural lesson for each unit so this course would also compliment a geography study of Spanish-speaking countries very well.  You can access PDF files with translations for the vocabulary, stories, and songs, so if you want to go over the context of the story and songs first, you can use these with your students.  I find that Elliott likes a brief overview of the stories that are told in Spanish.  He said otherwise he is only able to pick out the vocabulary at first, and he wants to follow the whole story.

There is an option to buy the course with a teacher, who will grade the speaking labs and speaking quizzes.  I don't think that's necessary unless we were taking this course in high school for transcripts, or if we were in an area where Spanish is a predominate language and we wanted to be more fluent, but I like that the option is available.  Since we don't have the teacher, the speaking exercises sit ungraded in the gradebook, but this is not an issue for us.  (Husband and I are not fluent, but have high school/college Spanish and can help him with pronunciation.)

We still find the course fun and interesting!  The graphics are cute, the stories are interesting, and the activities are varied.  Sometimes he works independently on the computer, but sometimes we cast the lessons to the TV and the little kids follow along for fun.

How Do K-2 and 3-5 Courses Compare?
Both Spanish K-2 and Spanish 3-5 are Introductory courses, which means they require no prior knowledge or experience with the language.  I wanted to share how the two compare, in case you have children of different ages or you have have a student working somewhere between a 2nd/3rd grade level and aren't sure where to place them.  In K-2 Spanish, it is basically vocabulary acquisition.  In the upper level course, students are not only taught the vocabulary, but are asked to put it into practice in a way that applies to the student.  For the topic of Family, older students are expected to learn a few additional vocabulary words, as well as to speak full sentences, ending with a quiz that has them recording a sentence in Spanish that states who lives in their casa.

The unit on Numbers for younger students is basically just counting 1-10 in Spanish, while older students also learn the vocabulary for zero and numbers, how to count backwards from 10-1 and practice their phone number in Spanish.  So yes, some of the vocabulary is the same, but the 3rd-5th grade does dig a little deeper into the material.  This has been a great review for Elliott, as well as giving him new material, and I love seeing him put to practice what he knows in a meaningful way.

While the units in the two grade levels are similar, they do not line up, so you could not put a child in K-2 and a child in 3-5 and have them working on the same material/vocabulary at the same time.  I know as a parent with children in different grades who like to cover the same topics, it would be nice to have them doing comparable vocabulary, at their own level, but it wouldn't necessarily work out that way with this program.  What I like about this course is that the online/audio/video nature of this course allows my 1st grader to tag-along and learn a little with his older brother.  However, the program only allows for the grading of one student, so siblings can follow along and learn too, but their progress isn't tracked, unless you purchase for multiple students.

Final Thoughts
I think this program is great.  It teaches through repetition and immersion, using stories, songs and simple computer activities.  It is interesting for my son, and we're learning the basics of speaking Spanish and the Spanish culture together.  I definitely plan to look into this program for high school to meet foreign language requirements, when that time comes.

Middlebury Interactive Languages offers online language learning for elementary, middle, and high school levels in Spanish, French, Chinese and German, and even offer AP courses for some languages.  You can check out their website for more information, and be sure to read more crew reviews, as everyone reviewed a variety of grade levels for all four languages.

 Middlebury Interactive Languages Review

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