Which Pre-Teaching Strategies Work Best for Students Learning Spanish?
What is pre-teaching? Pre-teaching refers to teaching the vocabulary that learners need to know before a lesson or activity.
Pre-teaching is a useful technique to help students draw on their previous knowledge and lay the foundation for future learning. It activates and primes students for the new Spanish vocabulary (or any subject) they’re learning.
Young children have an incredible ability to pronounce sounds that are foreign and unfamiliar. They’re also capable of understanding complex grammar rules. The earlier they begin, the easier it will be for them to learn—although any age is a great time to start!
Currently, Spanish ranks among the top five most commonly spoken languages in the world! Due to its popularity, there’s a strong chance your child will encounter people who speak the language at school, on the playground, or around the community. With even a basic understanding, they can start and carry conversations that enrich their lives.
Spanish is a primary subject that most students begin studying when they’re still in elementary school. When they reach high school, they’ll find that Spanish is available as both an Advanced Placement (AP) test, as well as an SAT II subject test.
It’s infinitely easier when they already enter the course with a strong knowledge of the language. Learning to speak Spanish at an early age can make these courses less stressful, more enjoyable, and ultimately, more rewarding.
Lastly, learning Spanish opens your child’s eyes to a world beyond their front door. It encourages conversations around diversity, culture, and respecting others. It also opens the door to a gold mine of Spanish music, film, and literature!
The Importance of Pre-teaching
Pre-learning is a key introduction to a lesson that involves brainstorming and making connections to previously taught material. It helps make new material not feel so “foreign,” even when it is in a world language class!
Pre-learning helps teachers gauge students’ grasp of previous material and lay the groundwork on which future learning will be constructed. Although it is most often used in language arts classes, pre-teaching activities are also helpful in math classes and other subject areas.
Many teachers find that effective pre-teaching is a valuable attention grabber. Ideally, it motivates students to want to learn the new content. Some teachers even see it as a trailer or hook that gets young minds excited to learn. Activating personal connections or background knowledge to engage learners is key.
8 Pre-teaching Strategies to Improve Student Learning
Pre-teaching is a priming activity that involves implicit exposure to new material. To do it, a teacher introduces their students to keywords from a text before the students read (or hear) it. Check out these handy strategies for pre-teaching Spanish vocab!
1. Select Essential Vocabulary
The teacher needs to read through the text in advance and select keywords that are essential to understanding the text.
Focus on words that appear repeatedly in the text. Without knowing what these words mean, students may have difficulty understanding it.
The number of words selected depends on the length of the text and the student’s level of Spanish. It’s best to limit your selection to just five or six words to avoid overwhelming your students.
How well do your students know the key vocabulary they’ll come across in the text you’re about to read in class? Pretesting can provide the answer.
After selecting the essential words, give your students a quick pretest to assess their current knowledge of the selected words. Keep it simple—using matching or multiple choice questions—so you can score your pretests quickly. The students’ scores indicate which words you need to focus on teaching.
3. Present Each Word
Explicitly present essential vocabulary to your students, using PowerPoint, Word, or old-fashioned posters. When choosing images to present with the new vocabulary, remember that photographs are generally more powerful than illustrations.
- Write the vocabulary word in large, bold print
- Include a brief, age-appropriate definition
- Add a large visual that clearly represents the word
- Provide an example sentence using the word in context
Ask students to repeat the word and meaning after you. Engage your students in a discussion about the word. Allow them to share their personal experiences and connections to the keyword.
Reinforce the meaning of new vocabulary words by teaching a specific gesture along with each word you introduce!
For example, for the word el techo (roof), the gesture may be touching the tips of the fingers on both of their hands together to create the shape of a roof. Kinesthetic approaches such as this are effective in helping language learners remember new words.
4. Word Study
Incorporate word study strategies when you present each word.
For younger students, point out blends, digraphs, and vowel patterns. Ask your students to break each word into syllables and clap once per syllable.
For older students, point out prefixes and suffixes connected to root words and demonstrate how their individual meanings help us determine the meaning of the word as a whole.
For more ideas, check out 200+ Beginner Spanish Vocabulary Words PDF.
5. Practice Frequently
According to scientific research, students need 10-15 exposures to a word before it becomes a permanent part of their word bank. To help them retain new words, provide them with many opportunities to actively use their new words in cooperative activities as well as independently.
Make sure to integrate speaking, listening, reading, and writing skills. To ensure that their sentences are grammatically correct, model oral and written sentences using the new vocabulary and provide your learners with Spanish sentence starters.
6. Vocab Maps
Visual organizers are great tools for helping Spanish students learn, retain, and review new vocabulary!
Encourage students to use a language journal to fill in for each new word they learn. They should write the keyword, as well as its definition—in their own words. Include an illustration and a sentence using the word. For beginner students, provide sentence starters.
Challenge higher-level students with word maps that also include a synonym, antonym, part of speech, root word, prefix, and suffix.
After you’ve taught the essential words—and your students have had numerous opportunities to apply them—give them a post-test identical to the pretest.
Compare each student’s post-test score to their pretest score. Students can be encouraged to record their own scores on bar graphs to track their improvement. This usually serves as a strong incentive for them to continue learning new words.
8. Word Walls
To help keep new vocabulary words fresh in your students’ minds after you’ve presented them, print out and post your word presentations on a word wall.
Post words in the general order in which they appear in the text. This makes it easy to locate them on the word wall if you choose to review them as you read the text. Sort words by parts of speech, such as nouns, adjectives, and verbs.
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