We Believe: In Spanish Education
At Blacksburg New School, we believe in Spanish education. Starting in the Red Room (kindergarten), our students are exposed to a rich foreign language curriculum. Often, this culminates with BNS 8th graders graduating with high school Spanish 1 and 2 credits.
Studies have shown that kids can learn a second language more easily when started at an early age. Learning a new language is beneficial across the board. Kids become better at problem-solving, and their English speaking, writing, and reading improves, while improving other cognitive skills increase as well (1). A project at the Cornell Language Acquisition Lab (CLAL), showed that children who learn a second language can better maintain attention despite outside stimuli when compared to children who know only one language (2). Additionally, being exposed to a foreign language early in education increases listening and memory skills (3).
In kindergarten through fourth grades Spanish is introduced slowly and purposefully, focusing on instilling an enthusiasm for the language, culture, and music of Spanish-speaking countries. Strains of Los Colores song (“Red is rojo, blue azul…”) can often be heard emanating from classrooms. Colorful posters line the halls on the Spanish bulletin board. Our Spanish teachers come in during Spanish class time, but the language use often overflows into other subjects as well, as students make connections with the world around them and the new words they are learning.
Spanish class continues to be a priority in the Purple (middle school) program. New students who have not been exposed to the language through elementary school are assisted through additional practice in an “Afternoon Spanish” course, or through the assistance of classroom instructional aides. Favorite class projects include creating a family tree (in Spanish) and making videos as “news reporters.” Besides the typical coursework of written and spoken instruction, projects, and assessments, Spanish is also highlighted during an annual field trip to a local Mexican restaurant. On this trip, Purple Roomers walk a mile to the bus stop, then take a bus to downtown Blacksburg, where they have lunch at a El Rodeo. There, students order their meals only using Spanish. Each year, on Día de Muertos, students watch Coco or The Book of Life in Spanish (with English subtitles). By eighth grade, most of Spanish class is taught exclusively in Spanish, with students encouraged to also avoid English in their responses.
High School Spanish 1 and 2 are each spread across two grade levels of instruction. Blue Roomers (fifth grade) take the first half of Spanish 1, which is then completed in sixth grade. Spanish 2 is then spread across the seventh and eighth grade curriculums. These two high school level credits then transfer over to the high school, where students enter Spanish 3 as freshmen. High school Spanish teachers are consistently impressed with the Spanish knowledge of our BNS graduates, as well as their pronunciation and comfort with speaking. The students themselves often find that much of the Spanish 3 curriculum is a review of concepts they learned in middle school.
As a school community we celebrate our enthusiasm for the Spanish language through all-school events, such as Dia Cultural (or Noche Cultural) - a celebration of history, traditions, and folklore of Spanish-speaking countries. Families come together at BNS and listen to songs and presentations by the students, appreciate dance and music by local community groups, and enjoy a hispanic potluck meal.
Spanish is the second largest language in the world, and Hispanic and Latino Americans are the largest ethnic minority group in our country, most of whom are Spanish speakers. Giving students the gift of knowing a second language will help them become more engaged and empathetic members of the global community. At BNS we believe in Spanish education.