Homeschool Moms’ Feedback on Excelerate SPANISH!

Now that the very first users of the Excelerate SPANISH program are wrapping up their school year, the feedback is beginning to come in!  I’m excited to share it with you, and I hope that the comments of these moms will help to answer some of your own questions.

“We have loved the program.  My children seem to retain most of what they hear in the Lessons and Dramas.  (Two of them are Drama nuts and really enjoy the skits).  My middle child is forever trying to come up with words that stump me, and sometimes he succeeds!  I love that you use a larger Spanish vocabulary that was used when I began Spanish 1 back in middle school and high school.  My 5th grader has managed to keep up with most of the workbook exercises, although sometimes I tell him he doesn’t need to do all the written translation activities, if I can hear him verbally translate.  It is good to hear them WANTING to translate the silly sentences.  Rather than the goofy sentences I had to translate back in school.  ‘Me llamo Roberta.  ¿Dónde está el gato?’

They all love the lessons and have all picked out “favorite lessons” ahead, based on lesson titles.  They were quite sad to hear we were putting away the Spanish books for the year.  But don’t worry, we will be picking them back up in July as we cruise forward in our next school year.

We really don’t have any negative criticisms about the program, I have recommended it to anyone and everyone who has voiced a need for a Spanish Curriculum.  I like how you teach the verb tenses, but I also know my 5th grader doesn’t really get the point of such exercises.  He does them, but doesn’t see the need.  Keep in mind, this is the same child who doesn’t see the need for soap in the shower…  (Just keeping it real!)…

My daughter will finish the book next year for her Spanish 1 requirement for high school.  And we both hope that there will be an Excelerate Spanish 2 in the near future.  After using the Excelerate Spanish curriculum, nothing else seems like a good fit for my kinesthetic family.  I fully intend to repeat the course for my boys once they hit high school as I am a huge fan of repetition being an excellent teacher!

Thank you for demonstrating your desire to keep your curriculum up to higher standards, by constantly looking for ways to improve it.”

-Bobbey S. in NC

“Are you going to have a next level of your Spanish course?  We absolutely love your program and would very much like to stick with you if you are doing it… I have never had so many conversations about about worms and hooks and eating worms!… We have boys 10, 12, and 14 and us adults listening to your program and we are all learning, like it or not (the boys crack up because their father will stand in the kitchen silently watching when he thinks no one is paying attention!)… Thanks for such a fantastic program!”

-Jodi O. of NC

“Our co-op class really enjoyed the Spanish class through Excelerate Spanish… We have nearly completed the book.  The children and I have had so much fun in this class… For homework, the children would write silly sentences or silly stories and they enjoyed this.  Often, they illustrated their stories and I would read some in class.”

-Jackie L. of NC

I hope to post additional comments soon.  In the meantime, please check out these Excelerate SPANISH reviews from homeschool bloggers.  Also, if you haven’t already grabbed your new 2014 Annual Print edition of The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, please do.  I’m pleased to relate that Excelerate SPANISH received positive mention in two separate articles!

Feedback on Excelerate SPANISH in TOS!

If you used Excelerate SPANISH this year, would you please take a moment to contact me with your feedback?  I’d love to hear your thoughts, questions, and suggestions!

 

 

What about GRAMMAR in our Homeschool Spanish?

What is the best way to meet your homeschool Spanish goals?  How can parents and students get the greatest “return on investment” (ROI) for their time, effort, and often, money spent on foreign language programs?

piles-of-money

A friend of mine is known for saying, “I believe in using the right tool for the right job.”  That bit of wisdom applies to many, many things we do in life, doesn’t it?  The right tools can help us to save time, save money, save materials, and save us from grief and heartache.  The right tools can bring smiles to our faces and a spring to our step!  Could your student use that in his or her school day?  Could you?

The best tools reflect thoughtful design (I can’t help but think of my Dyson here!) and require less effort from the consumer, even while yielding better performance/results.  After all, would you buy a vacuum cleaner that claimed to be heavier, or more difficult to use on stairways, or less likely to pick up household dirt with a single pass?  I don’t know about you, but I’m super-picky about that sort of thing.  When I plug in an appliance, I want for it to do more of the work, not me!  Please don’t be fooled into believing that tools that make the job harder somehow confer more knowledge to your students.  The wrong tools are simply that, bad tools.

When it comes to homeschool Spanish, you want tools that work with, not against, your student’s brain.  You want tools that take into account how language is actually acquired and what helps us to retain it.  You want tools that are known for producing positive results.

What about grammar?  Is that the tool that will deliver what we’re after, here?  Well, let’s not lose sight of what did work when we acquired our first language.  It wasn’t grammar study first, then fluency later, right?  What worked the first time, what helped us to acquire and retain?

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The best language experiences come to us naturally.

Laura Zuchovicki of Conversabooks writes this about our early language experience:

Learning “to talk” is a slow process that comprises of listening to adults around us. The adults surrounding the baby use “verbs” without explicitly explaining the grammatical rule behind it. Nonetheless, babies receive continuous repetition of certain words until they are able to use them within the appropriate context. The tangible outcome proves to be successful when the babies are officially communicating in their first language…

We simply continue the language acquisition progress until we perfect oral communication and are ready to enroll in the academic life. It is not until we are about six or seven years old that we discover the purpose of grammar within our language. The process of acquiring language is as long as running a marathon.

If the first language is predicated by pure experience, without opening a book or studying the grammar, why do we insist on reversing the process to acquire a new language? In my opinion, the standard should be as follows: “In my Spanish foreign language class, I will not teach my students about the Spanish language and its grammar. I will teach my students to speak in Spanish so that they are able to communicate with others.”

smiling-woman-with-hat

Laura is right— it is indeed backwards to flip the entire paradigm of language experience upside down!  Yet this is what foreign language classes and programs have done rather consistently for far too long.  But as homeschoolers, we don’t have to submit to a faulty model of language teaching.  We get to choose educational philosophies, practices, and resources that harmonize with our needs.  We get to choose our tools, and we choose the best!

Still worried about grammar?  Keep in mind that fluency in Spanish will always lead to greater grammatical accuracy than non-fluency ever could.  Excelerate SPANISH is not anti-grammar!  We simply choose to approach grammar naturally and in context.  In so doing, students internalize (rather than temporarily memorize) the patterns and flow— the structure— of the language.  It’s a kinder, gentler, and more effective way of doing things.

If your goal is to provide Spanish I for your high school student, fluency is the key to proficiency, including test-taking proficiency.  Excelerate SPANISH is for you.  If your goal is to become conversational so that you can be better equipped for that mission trip, special vacation, or move, then Excelerate SPANISH is for you.  And if you simply want the opportunity to connect on a deeper level with Spanish speakers, then Excelerate SPANISH is for you!

Accelerate language learning.

Unleash creativity.

Discover the Power of STORY.

Excelerate SPANISH

Your Homeschool Spanish!

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Comprehensible Input Ideas for ANY Language

As young children, we acquired our native language(s) because of relevant, personalized, compelling comprehensible input.  Unfortunately, this is what is lacking with most foreign language programs.  Fortunately, in today’s digital age, finding solutions is easier than ever, once we know what to look for.

Appropriate input can include videos, music, television, news articles, podcasts, books, conversations, sports narrations, and more.  You’ll be glad to know that it’s possible to find TONS of it for FREE!  This article explores 25 ways to access, adapt, and/or create comprehensible input…25 ways to accelerate your way to the proficiency you want!

internet-and-multimedia-sharing

Since comprehensible input is so crucial to developing fluency, you may want to seek out additional resources, too.  As you evaluate the usefulness of these resources, just make sure that the “level” is not too difficult for you (not frustrating) and the content appeals to you personally.  Also, extended contexts are highly preferable to disjointed, rapidly changing contexts— in other words, stories and other connected discourse are best.  Plus, they’re just more fun.  Win-win!

To find comprehensible input for the foreign language of your choice, simply google the words “comprehensible input” along with the name of the target language (e.g., “comprehensible input mandarin chinese”).  Then evaluate the search results according to the criteria above.  Try to spend a little time each day with a good comprehensible input resource.

Things NOT to worry about just yet:  Perfection.  Grammar (conjugating verbs, learning structures).  Translation.  Making the sounds correctly yourself.  These things have more to do with output than input…and that’s putting the cart before the horse.  You can’t give what you haven’t received, so don’t fret over spending the time you need soaking up input.  Relax and enjoy the input.

smiling

If you decide that you want to go with a curriculum, I hope you’ll consider Excelerate SPANISH.  It was created to provide relevant, personalized, compelling comprehensible input—via scenarios that resemble real-life situations, imbued with humor, and rich in content.

I hope this post helps with your personal quest.  If you find some really great free resources and think we should all know about them, please pass on the good news!

 

Bring More SPANISH Practice into Your Homeschool

The key to becoming really proficient in Spanish is practice, practice, practice…but how is a homeschool family to accomplish this goal most advantageously?

Obviously, choosing the most effective curriculum is an important first step.  Make sure that your program’s approach is based on sound principles.  Many common practices are not best practices, and a little research up front can keep you from wasting valuable time and/or money in the long run.

Then, find additional “comprehensible input” to further familiarize yourself with the patterns and flow of the Spanish language.  Here are some guidelines to help you select the most practical resources:

  1. Pick those options that are interesting, appealing, and enjoyable for you.  There’s just no need to settle for tedious or dry material.  Speaking another language is fun, and your activities should be, too.
  2. Use audio, reading, and visual materials that are at an appropriate level for you.  The bulk of the language should be comprehensible to you, with just enough element of challenge to keep you progressing.
  3. Speakers (live or recorded) who are willing to enunciate, speak slowly, repeat, etc. are ideal!  Of course, there are also benefits to hearing Spanish spoken at a natural pace, so that you won’t be thrown for a loop when you face native speakers in real-life interactions.
  4. Remember that when you learned your first language, fluency came first, then grammar study— not the other way around.
  5. Sometimes, the best things in life really are free.  That’s also true when it comes to “comprehensible input.”

free

For conversation practice with native speakers and/or other students of Spanish:

  1. Shared Talk is a little-known but wonderful treasure offered for free by Rosetta Stone.  You do not have to own or use the Rosetta Stone program to access Shared Talk!  Click here for more details or to sign up.  (Parents, remember to always monitor internet use by your children!)
  2. English-Spanish Chat is another such resource.  There are fewer members, but I have heard positive feedback about this site.
  3. The Mixxer allows for language learners to find a conversation partner to talk to via Skype.
talk

¿Hablas español?

For authentic comprehensible input:

  1. Notes in Spanish offers free podcasts at various levels.  If you like, there are also worksheets you can download and use.
  2. Here is a Children’s Digital Library you can access for free!
  3. These sites offer videos and/or TV shows in Spanish: Argentina’s Public TV, TV al Vivo, TVN, Nicaragua’s Canal 15, Spain’s Tele MadridANTV, and Univision.
  4. To listen to music in Spanish, visit this site featuring over 600 stations!  I also liked the music videos here.
  5. For news, see Telemundo‘s site or Madrid’s ABC (or google, of course).
  6. BBC Languages is no longer updating their site, but it is still functional and well worth exploring!

If you find other sites that you’d like to recommend to homeschool families, please tell us!  Also, feel free to let us know which resources were most beneficial to you.

Gracias, y buena suerte con su práctica.  :)

Su segura servidora,

caryn hommel

 

 

Total Physical Response (TPR) and Foreign Language SUCCESS

What is Total Physical Response and how can it help you with foreign language acquisition?

This awesome introduction to Total Physical Response reveals tremendous advantages for language learners.  Summarizing, TPR has been demonstrated to:

  1. Reduce student inhibitions
  2. Facilitate long-term retention
  3. Reduce anxiety and stress
  4. Help academically weaker students
  5. Train students to guess from context
  6. Increase student confidence
  7. Offer a refreshingly different style of teaching/learning
  8. Provide more effective, comprehensible input
  9. Encourage active listening
  10. Access and capitalize on the strengths of the right brain
  11. Offer easy ways to review
  12. Keep the class in the target language more
  13. Promote goodwill between student and teacher
  14. Incorporate humor
  15. Increase interest and enjoyment

That is quite a list of benefits, isn’t it?  What great news for language learners of all ages!  And it’s important food for thought for parents and teachers as we select our curricula.  After all, couldn’t we all use ways to work smarter, not harder?

Excelerate SPANISH incorporates TPR into every. single. lesson.  All students can enjoy this fabulous “brain-switching” approach and the feeling of success it provides!  Nothing breeds success like success, after all.

success

Whether your student is a visual, auditory, or kinesthetic learner–or has special needs or is gifted or is average–Total Physical Response can empower, motivate, and achieve the success you want for your foreign language program!

Accelerate Language Acquisition.

Unleash Creativity.

Promote Excellence.

Discover the Power of Story.

Excelerate SPANISH

guarantee

The Best Way to Learn a Foreign Language

I taught Spanish in the public school classroom for 10 years, mostly at the high school level, then to homeschooled students (mine and others) for about 8 years. I am not a fan of traditional, formal curricula for foreign language learning. Some students will learn in spite of them… but many more inevitably wind up complaining, “I took x number of years and can’t speak a word.”The long-term retention (even short-term retention, in many cases) just isn’t there.

Fortunately, there are brilliant and talented professionals who have analyzed how the brain works and how we human beings acquire language. If you want to be sure that your curriculum choice aligns with how your child’s brain works, check out the following articles by Dr. Stephen Krashen and Dr. James Asher.

Dr. Asher’s article “Language By Command: The Total Physical Response Approach to Learning Language” explains his effective TPR method and describes the results. The claim is phenomenal:

“In study after study for 25 years, laboratory experiments and classroom observations have demonstrated results that were extremely positive. When the instructor skillfully uses the target language to direct the student’s behavior, understanding of the utterance is transparent, often in only one exposure. Also, the understanding is achieved without stress and then retained for weeks, months, and even years.”

My personal experiences as a language learner AND as a teacher of foreign language completely agree with Dr. Asher’s studies and observations!  Don’t we all want those positive results, transparent understanding, accelerated learning, and long-term retention??

A fascinating article by Dr. Stephen Krashen highlights the advantages of natural approaches that offer students comprehensible input or CI.  He indicates that “communicative situations” help students to acquire the language:

“Students in classes that provide lots of comprehensible input (e.g. methods such as TPRS) consistently do better than students in traditional grammar-based classes on tests that involve real communication and do just as well, and often better, on grammar tests. These students have acquired the grammar and vocabulary of the language naturally, and can use what they have acquired in real communicative situations. They are also more likely to continue foreign language study.”

The value of CI and “communicative situations” is confirmed as Dr. Krashen explores the intriguing success story of a Hebrew learner named Armando.  Armando became so fluent that he actually fooled native speakers, prompting Krashen to consider the implications for optimal foreign language acquisition. His conclusions:

“Armando’s case…shows us that one can do quite well in second language acquisition without living in the country in which the language is spoken and without formal instruction. The crucial variables appear to be comprehensible input and having a good relationship with speakers of the language.”

Dr. Krashen also believes that a complete absence of formal grammar instruction appears to be irrelevant as it relates to the successful acquisition of a second language!  Yet what is the focus of so many foreign language programs?  Isolated grammar!

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Why do we keep doing this??

Putting the research into my own words, this is how I would describe effective foreign language curricula:
1. Lessons mimic real-life situations using as MANY senses as possible… sight, taste, touch, etc.
2. Vocabulary words and structures are embedded in meaningful contexts (no rote drills).
3. Interest level is high–topics or situations are appealing to students.
4. Low–preferably zero–frustration for the student. Foreign language learning should be pleasant!

Excelerate Lesson 1

Excelerate SPANISH combines TPR with comprehensible input (CI) and realistic “communicative situations,” and further adds humor and suspense in order to fulfill each of the criteria above.  The TPR element appeals to visual and kinesthetic learners and activates the motor cortices of our brains, accessing more of the brain than so-called “traditional” methods.  Exciting action sequences, fun stories, and stimulating reading material draw upon the retaining power of the limbic system.  24 full-length lesson videos on 4 DVDs provide all of the necessary instruction for the program, and the coordinating lesson book and workbook furnish students with practice opportunities, activity suggestions, and more.  And of course, the answer keys take any guesswork out of the equation!  It’s comprehensive and easy to use.

excelerate-spanish-review

Reviewers agree!  Click the photo above and here for reviews.

Try Excelerate SPANISH at no risk!

Accelerate Acquisition.

Unleash Creativity.

Promote Excellence.

Discover the POWER OF Story.

Excelerate SPANISH.

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Part 1: Can Excelerate SPANISH be used for Spanish I? Homeschool Moms Want to Know

As the author of Excelerate SPANISH, I’d like to say, first of all, that teaching high school Spanish is what I did professionally for ten years.  I’ve seen what works… and I’ve seen what doesn’t.  When I started homeschooling my own children in 2003, it was fun trying out several foreign language curricula that were popular among homeschoolers.  Some were pleasant enough– even downright cute– but we made very little headway with them.  Others bored or frustrated us.  Enter my experimentation phase!

Over the summer of 2007, I researched harder than ever for solutions.  That fall, I offered a Total Physical Response (TPR) Spanish class to the local homeschool community.  What we found over the course of that school year was that students who used TPR felt confident and successful.  I had never seen such smiley foreign language students!  The following year, most of them came back for more, but they also seemed to be itching to do more.  Enter the story phase!

When my group of (mostly) high school boys were given a lesson that employed both TPR and storytelling/dramatization, they beamed with satisfaction and rewarded me by speaking in paragraphs!  Though I didn’t realize it at the time, we were actually employing Charlotte Mason‘s idea of “narration” in our foreign language study.

Children learning from parents

The students were using whole language to express what they had seen and heard.  And they did so in ways that were neither contrived nor merely memorized, but spontaneous, accurate, and totally internalized.  Finally, the perfect fit.

After a happy, productive year of unprecedented results in my private classes, I began to feel badly for students and teachers all across America who were struggling– and suffering– their way through dry, rote, ineffective foreign language programs.  If only there were a way I could videotape our lessons and make them available to others, I thought.

The first step towards making this vision a reality was writing an original curriculum based upon the sound teaching principles I had discovered to work best.  To be efficient, it would have to feature high-frequency expressions (those used most often by native Spanish speakers).  To be compelling, the material would have to appeal to the students in personal ways and through interesting and varied contexts.  To enhance retention, lessons would need to capitalize on our human traits of empathy, appreciation for humor, etc.  I believe that Excelerate SPANISH balances these needs and interests adeptly.

caryn close-upA terrible candid shot of the author, caught working during a child’s birthday party! :)

The second step was piloting the lessons with real students, revising, etc.  The addition of a preface explains the approach, provides some instruction for co-op teachers/tutors, and gives homeschool parents and students ideas for homework assignments, review activities, and more.  A coordinating workbook provides additional practice opportunities.  The answer key takes all of the guesswork out of the equation for homeschool parents who don’t speak the language.

excelerate-spanish-review

Next, I hired professional videographer Jeremy Russell to record each of the 24 lessons in the Excelerate SPANISH lesson book.  I gathered a nice group of volunteer subjects (most of whom had had little to no previous exposure to Spanish), and the taping began.  We were amazed at how smoothly it all went!  For, though I absolutely created this program for high school students, the video class was composed of multiple ages, with students ranging in age from 7 to 17– and they all got it.  Since the language is taught using brain-friendly methods, and because the process mirrors early language acquisition, it simply works better for most age groups.  I think you’ll see that in the faces of the video students.  You’ll see it in the ear-to-ear grins of the younger (perhaps less self-conscious) kiddos in the videos.  And you’ll see it in the mature and composed demeanor (sometimes referred to as “too cool for school”) in the middle and high school students.

Excelerate lesson 9

Smiling and Successful!

I am pleased to relate that private tutors and co-op teachers in multiple states are now enjoying– and reporting– the same success using the Excelerate SPANISH books in their live classes that we have enjoyed in ours.  I am happy to provide training and support for parents and teachers who would like to use Excelerate to teach the material themselves, without using the lesson videos.  But I believe that my main goal, the goal of offering a kinder, gentler, “golden rule” way of teaching Spanish to anyone, anywhere, has been uniquely realized in the production of the DVD lessons.  I invite you to “transport” your student(s) to my quaint and quirky schoolroom– vicariously, that is– to join us.  At your convenience, on your schedule, and from the comfort of your living room.

Accelerate Acquisition.

Unleash Creativity.

Promote Excellence.

Discover the Power of Story.

Excelerate Spanish

guarantee

 

Need Help Finding a Homeschool Spanish Curriculum?

I spent a weekend at the Southeast Homeschool Expo in Atlanta this past summer, and it wasn’t long before I noticed that the number of curriculum choices for Spanish is, in a word, puzzling. How is a homeschool mom to narrow down her search?

By Wikimedia Foundation (File:Licensing tutorial en.svg) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Among the hundreds of exhibitors at the Expo, there were representatives of Discover Spanish, La Clase Divertida, Homeschool Spanish Academy, Risas y Sonrisas, and Rosetta Stone, plus our own Excelerate SPANISH. Rosetta had a huge showing with distributors like My Father’s World, Rainbow Resources, and Sonlight. Add options provided by A Beka, Alpha Omega, BJU, and Classical Conversations, and our “homeschool Spanish” cup runneth over.

To add to the confusion, most companies claim that their way of teaching the language is “natural” and “the way you learned English as a child,” yet they’re all a bit different. So who’s to know for sure?

Well, I have GOOD NEWS! Even if you don’t speak Spanish yourself, you CAN test these claims. You just have to ask the right questions:

1. Does the program emphasize (or worse, force) production early on? In other words, are students pressured to speak? If so, this aspect of the curriculum does NOT resemble natural language acquisition and differs from how you learned as a child.  And forcing production is almost guaranteed to cause stress!

By GRPH3B18 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsSpanish lessons shouldn’t make you feel like this!

2. To what extent does the program make use of the five senses? Does the sense of touch, or the “bodily/kinesthetic intelligence” take a back seat to the visual/spatial and auditory/musical intelligences? If so, chances are good that your students will learn in a way that’s more passive than active. They’ll be observers, not participants.

3. Do realistic scenarios in the program elicit students’ emotional responses? As a child learning your first language, your responses to your environment were far from academic. When you were nurtured by caregivers, you felt safe and comforted. When your needs went unmet (even for a moment!), you cried. When you saw or heard something amusing or felt pleased or got tickled, you laughed. These responses were commonplace in your experience. The norm, not the exception. What about the program you are considering? How will it touch your student(s) emotionally? “What we learn with pleasure, we never forget.” (Alfred Mercier) Will the material be memorable, or forgettable?

Excelerate Lesson 1Excelerate Spanish: Learning with Pleasure

4. How often does the program capitalize on the power of storytelling? Stories helped the young you to learn much more than just English vocabulary, grammar, syntax, and style. They also conveyed concepts and ideas and passions! Stories invited your emotional response, and in turn, they became part of you… along with the language that communicated them. Will the program you use tap into this incredible, creative resource?

Excelerate lesson 7Humor in Every Skit!

I welcome everyone to test the Excelerate SPANISH program on each of these essential points. Excelerate is different because it was designed by a homeschool mom for homeschoolers. It’s not immersion (immersion can frustrate students), but it is content-rich. The focus is on proficiency, which means real-world value and excellence, and lower stress. You can read more about Excelerate on the Raising Real Men blog and see reviews on Amazon.  In addition, you’ll find that Excelerate SPANISH is mentioned positively in two separate articles in the 2014 Print Edition of The Old Schoolhouse Magazine!

Please comment with your thoughts, questions, and feedback. Inquiring minds want to know!

:)
caryn hommel

Disclosure:  This post contains an affiliate link.

FREE High School Transcript Template for Your Homeschool

Need a high school transcript?  No need for a panic attack!  Here’s a fantastic, FREE template that I used with both of my recent graduates (thanks to Wendy McMillian, the creator of this time-saver, and to Heather of PEAH!)  You’ll be impressed with the clean, organized look– but even better, you’ll love the way it performs your calculations for you!  And while a grading scale is included, you can easily customize this amazing “living” document to make it work for your family.

A few tips to keep in mind as you prepare your student’s transcript:

1.  Don’t include too much information.  Textbook titles and the like may be kept in a separate record (which you may or may not need later).  Sometimes over-explaining things encourages the asking of unnecessary questions.  ;)

2. Give courses official-sounding titles modeled after similar courses in (dare I say it?) public schools.  For example, don’t name a science course “Apologia Biology;” instead, type in “Biology with Labs.”  Don’t write “Excelerate SPANISH;” write “Spanish I.”  Don’t put down “Tae Kwon Do;” call it “Health and P.E.” etc.

3.  Remember to include classes that were brief in nature if it is reasonable to award some credit (semester-long courses, internships, etc. might be awarded 1/2 credit hours, for example, as opposed to a year-long course earning the student a full credit hour).

4.  List any middle school courses that are normally taken in high school so that the reviewer will know that these have been completed.  (I placed the names of a couple of classes underneath the freshman classes, denoted them as “middle school,” etc).  These do not count towards the student’s GPA but often need to be entered.

5.  Include awards, sports activities, clubs, participation in scouting, rank advancements, part-time work, internships, service projects, and similar items under “extracurricular activities.”  Be as specific as possible and provide dates (or approximations) where possible.

6.  Your transcript will flow better if you order the courses consistently (English, then math, then science, etc.) for each year the student was in high school.  By repeating the same pattern, a reviewer can more easily note the number and kind of courses for each subject area.

I hope the free transcript template is helpful to you and your family.

Enjoy!

caryn hommel

 

How Stories Work With Your Brain to Help You Learn SPANISH

Are we “Wired for Story?”  A recent blog post by MaryAnn Diorio highlights author Lisa Cron’s research into this fascinating question.  The article outlines the brain-story connection and postulates that a strong cognitive response to stories is pre-programmed in our psyches.  The implications of this discovery are far-reaching and should inform our teaching in virtually every subject area!

When I first began using Comprehensible Input approaches (including storytelling, dramatization, action sequences, and gestures) to teach Spanish, the students’ performance and euphoria amazed me.  I have since observed that many programs and curricula– spanning all kinds of subject areas– owe their success to the power of stories.  We use several such programs in our own homeschool- Life of Fred, Story of the World, Memorize in Minutes: The Times Tables, I Laid an Egg on Aunt Ruth’s Head, and Themes to Remember, to name a few.  Their stories make learning (math, history, grammar, music) so enjoyable and effective!

Of course, Ms. Cron’s research aptly reveals how storytelling taps into “cognitive secrets” that explain these programs’ advances.  Her observations make perfect sense to me, in light of the response I see from my students during each of our Excelerate SPANISH lessons.  The stories and skits are their favorite part, and they help to increase retention like nothing else I’ve ever implemented in the whole of my foreign language teaching career.

Excelerate Lesson 1

The key points in Ms. Diorio’s post harmonize with my experience in many ways:

1.  Since “the brain thinks in stories” and students naturally “[want] to know what will happen next,” students who get caught up in the Excelerate SPANISH stories/skits momentarily forget that: this is all part of a foreign language class, and the words being used to tell the stories are vocabulary words, and the structures used are grammar, and this is supposed to be tedious (or at least, that’s how it generally seems in a foreign language class).  Instead, their brains are going:  I wonder what he’s going to do about that crazy guy eating his fishing worms!  Meanwhile, we’re sneaking tons of Spanish into their unsuspecting brains!

excelerate book

2.  Because “the brain is goal-oriented,” students identify with the goal(s) of the protagonist in the stories.  When this happens, students are literally buying into the scenarios!  That, my friends, is magic No “drill and kill” approach to teaching Spanish is ever going to compete with that.

Excelerate lesson 7

3.  Due to the way “the brain thinks in specifics,” the gestures that we tie into each story become a useful element of concreteness, aiding students’ comprehension.

Excelerate Lesson 11

4.  Cron says that “the brain resists change.”  In foreign language teacher-speak we call the brain’s subconscious resistance to unfamiliar language the “affective filter.”  Excelerate SPANISH stories distract the subconscious brain, keeping students so interested in the stories themselves that the affective filter falls flat.

5.  Cron points out the tendency of the brain to “continually [make] cause-and-effect relationships.”  Our short, compelling stories and skits make cause-and-effect clear.  When the story is clearly understood, the student perceives that he has an excellent grasp of it… and consequently also feels confident of his grasp of the words and structures that convey the story.  What a win-win scenario!

In the final analysis, our predilection for stories is a gift– one to treasure and one from which we may all benefit!  We are incredibly fortunate to have options that provide our homeschools with lovely, stimulating, and/or intriguing contexts to aid in our teaching, to accelerate our students’ progress, and to bring memorable delights to these precious days with our children.  I hope that Excelerate Spanish will become a favored option for your homeschool.  If you do decide to try it, please let us hear your stories!  :)

Thank you, and many blessings to you and your family!