Including foreign language in elementary school

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In an effort to understand how the foreign-language-learning process works, I taught a series of Spanish lessons to a group of 21 fifth-grade students. Using the Total Physical Response Storytelling method, developed by James Asher and adapted by Blaine Ray, the students learned the vocabulary necessary to comprehend the story that we focused on. The method mirrors the way an infant learns their first language by immersing the child in the language and allowing them to communicate through motion before they are expected to respond verbally. In our four 40 to 60-minute lessons, the students actively participated by finding movements to represent vocabulary words that were spoken in Spanish and displayed in picture form on a SmartBoard. As I told the story, the students would follow along by using the appropriate motion when I came to particular words, saying the word along with me orally when they felt able. They were not expected to produce the language on their own until they felt ready. In the end, they were assessed on their ability to use the correct motions, without my modeling to guide them, as I told the story. They were also asked to fill out a worksheet connecting the Spanish words to associated pictures, though they had not seen the words in written form before. Finally, a group of volunteer students were asked to retell the story either individually or in small groups, using as many of the vocabulary words as possible, and demonstrate that they understood the plot of the story.
Thesis completed in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Alfred University Honors Program.
Honors thesis, Elementary education, Foreign language instruction