¡Practicamos Español!: Let’s Practice Spanish

Oral proficiency is emphasized at all levels of Middle School Spanish—Novice-beginning, Novice-Mid, Intermediate, and Intermediate-Mid—along with listening comprehension, reading, writing, and other aspects of culture. As they strengthen their speaking skills, students also build confidence in three areas of communication: interpersonal, interpretative, and presentational. 

“In language we have a pretty clear outline of benchmarks--where we want students to be,” said Spanish faculty member Rachel Gassner. “It’s about building on complexity. With my Novice-beginning students, students can talk about themselves and others while primarily using memorized phrases. My Novice-Mid students can talk in the present tense about several  topics--they start to create with the language and not just memorize. Students in the Intermediate classes start to really work on the past tense. They should be able to tell you what happened yesterday, to tell a story. By Intermediate-Mid, students should be able to switch easily from that to the present and the future tenses. At each level, students are expected to push themselves to add detail and complexity to their ideas.” 

In the Intermediate class, students are beginning to use reflexive verbs and speaking in the past and future tense during a unit on healthy living. Using their target language, students describe what they do to stay healthy, including nutrition, diet, mental health, as well as daily hygiene activities like washing their hair and brushing their teeth.  Later this month, students will create PSAs about how to stay healthy, a project created by Upper School faculty member Rick Gamp. 

Since returning from Winter Break, students in Mrs.Gassner’s novice classes have been learning to describe their families, as well as individual family members, in Spanish. 

“Our first unit of the year was all about teaching students to talk about themselves, and the second unit is about describing others,” said Mrs. Gassner. “We’ll do a lot of ‘guess who’ activities where a student describes a person in class, or a popular celebrity, and their classmates guess the person’s name.” 

Mrs. Gassner uses FlipGrid, a video response platform, with beginning level students to hear their Spanish speaking. Students create videos based on a specific prompt—their family, favorite foods, hobbies, etc. This resource has been invaluable as an opportunity to connect with virtual and in-person students. She also incorporates current events, art, music, and culture into the curriculum.

“In addition to teaching students to speak Spanish, I like to inspire curiosity,” said Gassner. “Our students are already really good about having a global perspective. Especially for those students who are non-native speakers, through constant exposure to the Spanish language and the culture of Spanish-speaking countries they will be able to use Spanish in spoken conversation,” said Gassner.

Faculty member Rachel Gassner teaching a Middle School Spanish class