Inside a kindergarten classroom with Augustana students

Spanish, Spanglish, what’s the difference?

Hello all you loyal blog readers! Today, again, was a bit different than the normal Friday schedule. We decided that the same students were getting to use the computer over and over again so we changed the rotation up a bit. We moved the Wednesday students to Friday and took the Friday students on Wednesday. This way many different students are able to experience the computer.

Since I am doing a summer research project on how English Language Learners comprehend math content, I spent more time with my two Spanish-speaking groups today. I usually teach them the whole time in Spanish and use English only when necessary. I believe that I have seen results from this approach and I feel as though these students are progressing at a more rapid rate. However, I have not thoroughly reviewed my data and this is only a personal affirmation. This morning I worked with Raquel and Maria. They are advancing quickly through addition concepts. On the game, what makes ten; they showed me that they could count by twos. Also, they knew what numbers were needed to create the whole box of ten. That was obviously too easy a task for them so we moved on to basic addition facts on the number line. They did not even need to use the number line icon. They have both realized that they can add problems under ten by using their fingers as manipulatives. This may seem like a very basic understanding, but for kindergarteners it is actually a leap. They are visually able to understand the components of addition. In reality, addition is an abstract concept and this is important for them. I think the Spanish is able to support their learning and have them feel more comfortable to speak up. I code switch often with them and this creates an environment where they feel like they can partake in switching in between the two languages as well. They are not given many opportunities to express themselves freely in Spanish and providing them with this opportunity may be a large contributor to their success.

My second Spanish-speaking group gave me a whole new perspective of the term Spanglish. This term signifies that the speaker mixes Spanish and English words together in the same sentence. It was interesting how they were using Spanglish. I was teaching them the lesson in all Spanish instruction. Then I asked them to press the number seis for me (six in English) they pressed the incorrect number. I know that something went awry because their number recognition skills are at a much higher level than what they had just demonstrated. So, the next time I finished the instruction in English and wanted them to press a number, I said the number’s name in English. This time they pressed the correct number key on the computer. It is intriguing that they cannot connect the word in Spanish with the visual representation of the number on the computer. Instead, they must have the number spoken aloud for them in English. I believe that this is due to the fact that English has extremely odd names for numbers. They do not follow a logical pattern. In kindergarten, number recognition and the names that correlate with the visual representation of the numbers is stressed over and over again. These girls have spent almost the whole year in an English kindergarten class. All they know is the English name that correlates with the number. My theory is that they do not realize that “Spanish” numbers look the same as the English ones! They have never practiced number recognition in the Spanish language and therefore think that only English words are used for numbers.

It is amazing how teaching in the student’s native language can affect them. One student today talked to me in Spanish for about five minutes, continually explaining to me what was going on in her life. She has never narrated a story about her life to that extent in English. I can see that the instruction in their native language really allows the students to express themselves and have a higher level of comfort with the teacher. It is extremely interesting how English plays a role in Spanish instruction and how students code switch and mix the two languages together.

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