Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Learning Spanish with Spanish for You! Fiestas


 A Review for Mosaic Reviews
Spanish For You! Fiestas


Spanish for You! is written by Debbie Annett, MSEd. She is a certified teacher with many years of experience teaching Spanish at all levels and different classroom settings. She created Spanish for You! to address needs that she saw in Spanish educational programs. Some of these needs were for a program which would help a child to transition to any high school Spanish program, something that was simple and engaging enough to provide a lot of learning without being too difficult to use or implement or overly expensive and provide an audio resource for the entire course.

Spanish For You! is an easy to use Spanish instruction program for students in grades 3 through 8. It is designed to be flexible and easy to adapt for all students. The purchase of a Spanish For You! curriculum theme package provides lesson plans and worksheets for students in all 6 grade levels. Lesson plans and worksheets are written for grades 3-4, 5-6 and 7-8. The lesson plans can be used for different grade levels at the same time. Thus allowing for all students to easily participate and learn no matter their prior exposure or proficiency.

Spanish for You! Fiestas contains 5 lessons, each on a different festival or celebration. Each lesson contains  4-7 weekly lesson plans which all have the theme of the same festival. Events included are birthday parties, Day of the Dead, Carnival, Holy Week and April Fair. There are 30 weeks worth of lessons for 3-6 grades and 24 for 7 & 8. The book contains extensive descriptions of the lesser known Fiestas.

To give students a broad view of Spanish and make learning useful, Spanish for You! students learn by reading, speaking, conversing and understanding.The lessons in Fiestas teach nouns, verbs, phrases, conjugating verbs, and translation around the theme of the celebration event. The students also practice writing both English and Spanish in all of the lessons. All of the activities and practice in each lesson work together to teach students how the language works and begin to build fluency in the new language as well as helping the student to communicate in Spanish. Each of the lessons contains the same components and order, yet there is variety in the presentation and activities. Spanish for You! is a blend of the Spanish spoken in Mexico and Spain.

Fiestas also teaches common words and phrases, commands, colors, and numbers and the alphabet. A written pronunciation chart is also found among this useful information. Students learn Happy Birthday Songs in both Mexican Spanish and Spain Spanish.

The book and worksheets are black and white, illustrated by the authors daughter in simple line drawings. Debbie choose this style of illustration to keep costs low, so the entire curriculum could be sold at its low cost. Very similar pictures are used in the book, on the worksheets, and for flashcards which the student makes as part of their lessons.

In addition to the Fiestas theme book, a curriculum about seasons, Estaciones is available. A 4 week trial of the upcoming book, Viajes or travel can also be purchased. Each book stand son its own, thus it's possible to start with any book in the series. The material in each book spirals, but the individual books do not spiral. There is some overlap in material between books.

In addition to the curriculum packages, there are many activities and games, mini lessons, and worksheets available at the website. Debbie maintains a blog containing useful teaching information and fun ideas as well as links to other websites with supplementary information. While I have been using Spanish for You! Debbie posted a link to a website containing information about April Fair.

Purchasing Spanish for You!

A purchase of Spanish For You! includes a soft cover text book and downloadable worksheets and audio files of the text book featuring both the author and a native Spanish Speaker. The Fiestas package can be purchased for $64.95. Dual grade levels packages are available $39.95 and individual books are $12.95 Classroom teacher lesson plans are coming soon. All Spanish for You! materials have been used in a classroom setting. The 4 week trial package of Viajes is available for grades 5-8 for $9.99 and grades 3-4 for $12.99.

My Thoughts

Both of my children and I have really enjoyed using Spanish for You!. I like how it is a well rounded approach to teaching the language. With the various activities it appeals to different learners and keeps learning and practice interesting and exciting. The activities are also short enough that they are not fatiguing or trying. I also feel that the variety of activities and approaches help keep the lessons from dragging on since several weeks are spent on the same celebration.

I really like the theme based approach to the instruction and how quickly my children were able to use and apply the materiel of the lessons. Both of my children had birthdays during the review time so the first lesson about birthdays was especially timely for them. My 9 year old son used his newly acquired Spanish to tell me what items were needed for his birthday celebration. Like la vela (the candle) and la pastel (the cake). He was disappointed that ice cream was left out of the vocabulary list!

Both of my children enjoyed the games and activities suggested in the lessons and available from the Spanish for You! website. We usually ended Spanish lesson time with one of these games. Many of them work better with more than two participants.

I liked the simple design of the illustrations. They make the point, but are not distracting. My 12 year old daughter really liked making her own flashcards. She is artistic and creative and chose to draw her own illustrations for her set of flashcards. She drew and colored some examples to show you. They are drawn freehand by looking at the Fiestas book. She colored them so they would show up better in the picture. My son was not as enthusiastic about drawing and choose to use the ready made pictures which he just glued onto the index cards.

I really liked the structure and length of each days lessons. There is natural review built into the lessons as well as new material each day. I think this really helped to keep the lessons interesting and engaging. The variety of activities and approaches helps to keep interest in the material and make it 'stick'. We generally completed each days lesson in 30 minutes and then I gave my children 15 minutes for a game or to make their flashcards and play with them.

For someone who is learning the language along with her children I really appreciated the audios. In my opinion this is essential for learning a foreign language. We listened to both the native speaker audios and Debbie and found we learned more from Debbie's as there was better timing and phrasing. Thus we generally used her recordings along with the lessons. We did benefit from listening to the native speakers recordings as well.

The biggest challenge I encountered with Spanish For You! was navigating the large file of worksheets. This file was confusing to me and it took quite a while to find the pages I was looking for. I am not sure if it is possible to organize these worksheets in another way, but for me it would have been easier to have all of the worksheets for one lesson and grade level in one file with a separate corresponding answer key file. Essentially a file of worksheets for lesson 1 grades 3-4, lesson 2 grades 3-4, etc for each of the lessons and grade levels.

**UPDATE**  After I published this review I learned from Debbie  that she has reorganized the worksheet files into folders for each grade level. So that change should eliminate the challenge which I described above. Debbie was prompted to reorganize the files after reading several reviews from Mosaic Team members. I am impressed with her customer service in this matter.

I have also checked out a couple books written in Spanish about birthdays and parties to have my children read using what they have learned in Spanish for You!. Unfortunately I was just able to get them from the library the other day so they have not been able to do this yet.

My 9 year old had this to say, " I liked it. It was a lot of fun."

My 12 year olds thoughts. " I really liked the pictures for the vocabulary words. Younger kids might also learn the words with these flashcards."

Both of them have asked to continue with Fiestas after we are done reviewing it. They have not asked this about other Spanish programs we have reviewed, so I am confident in saying they like the materials. I know they are learning the vocabulary as they use it in everyday interactions.

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