Thursday, October 27, 2016

Homeschool Review Crew: Elementary Spanish 1 (Grades 3-5) from Middlebury Interactive Languages

Spanish, French, German or Chinese {Middlebury Interactive Languages}

Alyssa is having a blast with our new review product Elementary Spanish 1 (Grades 3-5) from Middlebury Interactive Languages. No background knowledge or prerequisites are needed to take this course. Middlebury Interactive Languages offers digital world language courses for four main languages including Spanish, French, Chinese, and German. We received access to the comprehensive course for a year. Their courses are semester-based and this specific course contains two semesters of content.
Spanish, French, German or Chinese {Middlebury Interactive Languages}

I chose to review one of the introductory Spanish Courses, because I wanted Alyssa to be able to communicate with people in our community. I also believe it is important for her to become bilingual, because it opens many opportunities and doors in the future. Furthermore, there are many other positive benefits to learning a second language. We both enjoy learning Spanish so it was easily added to our homeschool schedule. As you read this review, please click on the graphics to enlarge small images.

Middlebury Interactive Languages is an online foreign language learning program suitable for children in K-12th grade. The company implements an immersive learner-centered approach while exposing children to both language and culture. Their courses are divided into grade-based group ranges such as K-2nd, 3rd-5th, 6th-8th, 9th-12th with 11th-12th grade containing AP+ courses. The company emphasizes what they call the Five C's into their courses: Communication, Cultures, Connections, Comparisons, and Community.

Children will improve their reading, writing (typing), speaking, and listening skills with this course. The lessons are taught using authentic stories based on culture, fun songs, educational games, and interactive activities. I was thoroughly impressed with the fact that a cultural component was added and that speaking was integrated into the curriculum. These two features are often rarely both found in an online course. Icons or symbols will be seen throughout the program. The orange audio icon allowed her to listen to the directions for each activity. The green audio symbol allowed her to listen to the Spanish word, phrase, or sentence. The red record icon button was available when recording activities were offered. In the screenshot below, she was practiced discussing foods she liked and didn't like using complete sentences. She would first listen to the sentence, and then record herself saying it. In the beginning, I would watch your children and make sure they are listening to the helpful audios first to improve pronunciation.

There are 16 units in the 3rd-5th grade Spanish Course two of which are built-in review units. Each review unit is divided into three units. Each review unit covers material from 1-3 units. Reminders are given to review content from specific units in preparation for a lesson. The other units cover basic theme-based vocabulary terms and simple expressions. Each unit consists of 6 lessons which are further broken down into 5-9 engaging activities. Look at the left-side of the screenshot below.

Unit Themes Covered
  • Family
  • Numbers
  • Greetings
  • Adjectives and Feelings
  • Food 
  • Community and Professions
  • Body 
  • Review
  • Animals
  • Colors
  • Clothes
  • Weather and Seasons
  • School 
  • Calendar
  • Months
  • Review
You will need a computer with a reliable Internet connection. Chrome is recommended as one of the preferred browsers. A headset with a mic is also recommended for the speaking lab portion of the course. Read about the Technical and System Requirements before making a purchase. The FAQ section may contain answers to your questions too. you will also need Adobe Reader and a printer if you want to print any of the unit materials provided to supplement the content.

How We Used Middlebury Interactive Languages
I used the Elementary Spanish 1 course designed for students in 3rd-5th grade from Middlebury Interactive Languages with my 8-year-old daughter, Alyssa. It was her core foreign language program. My daughter begged to use the Spanish course every day. However, we utilized it 3-5 times per week. Middlebury Interactive Languages recommends that a 3rd-5th grader work through the material at least 2-3 days per week. Alyssa usually covered 1-4 lessons per session. The lessons were quick. The amount of time for each learning session varied. I carved out 10-30 minutes for each daily session. She is moving through the course at her own individualized pace. She recently started Unit 6 and will most likely finish it later today. Alyssa is currently learning about the Community and different Professions. She called her father a "bombero" on a phone call the other day which brought a smile to my face. I'm glad that she shared words she learned with him and that it was related to his career.
Speaking Test: Community Professions

After receiving my password information, we logged into the program. We used Chrome as our preferred browser on a Mac OS X 10.9.5 which has a built-in microphone. We did NOT purchase a headset and didn't have any issues during recording labs. Even though my daughter could speak normally into the computer she constantly felt the need to sit on top of the screen. Kids are so funny! We authorized the use of the microphone during our class sessions which we was a very simple process beginning with a reminder prompt.

We received the Spanish Course without teacher support. My daughter has prior background knowledge and experience with the Spanish language and I have a degree in Spanish. Several units contained vocabulary that she already knew so we basically reviewed some of the material in more depth with this course. I was available and nearby to help her with pronunciation if needed. If I heard her say a Spanish word incorrectly, I would say the word in Spanish and encourage her to listen to the pronunciation again. I wanted Alyssa to have more exposure to the Spanish language which was met with this course. She'll work on mastery of the content this year.

I used the Gradebook feature to track Alyssa's scores and progress. Several activities such as quizzes and tests were automatically graded providing Alyssa with immediate feedback. One thing she had to remember to do at the end of each activity was to submit her answers in the top-right corner for credit.

Food 1and 2 Quiz

My daughter immediately started the program. I watched the first few activities while jotting down a few notes about the course. She completed the course independently. I was always nearby if she had any questions. She first clicked on the Welcome lesson which explained how to use the program features such as how to drag and drop, highlight, work in steps, and record. She also watched a welcome video. We had one problem during the review period. My account closed for some odd reason. I contacted customer service and they immediately resolved the issue. My daughter's scores and work was not lost.
Welcome Activities

There are three other features mentioned including Authentic Stories, Course Vocabulary, and Songs and Translations. The company offers access to English song translations for all of the songs, links to the traditional songs heard, and vocabulary lists with English translations in printable PDF format. I printed the vocabulary term lists for Alyssa so that she could create flash cards and play games using the unit vocabulary.

There was a new story for every unit and the material presented was related to the concept being taught. The first story we listened to completely in Spanish was called Heart of a Butterfly. Family words were seamlessly integrated throughout the story as characters. Alyssa would listen to the story and try to translate the story in her own words. During additional viewings she recognized key vocabulary words. Related story activities were provided to explore, practice, review, and test on vocabulary. The words were highlighted in red so that they would stand out yet still be in the context of a sentence.

One story we enjoyed was the Deer and the Turtle. My daughter made connections to the fable titled, The Hare and the Turtle. In this story, an arrogant Deer challenges the smaller forest animals to a race. Turtle was the only animal confident enough to stand up to Deer who laughed at her after accepting the challenge. Turtle outsmarted the Deer by waiting at the finish line and crossing over it when she heard Deer approaching. She tells Deer that she outsmarted him and didn't have to run the race. Deer learns a lesson and never teases the animals again. The stories captured her attention. She used contextual and visual clues to figure out the meaning of the story. After hearing the story for the last time, I asked Alyssa to narrate the story. Then, I opened up the English translation to compare her understanding to the meaning. Her translations were on target for the most part which amazes me. She understood the story better and with repeated viewings she clarified her understanding.

It became habit for us to watch the immersive story and song videos together. We both appreciated hearing the fascinating folktales, myths, and legends revealing aspects of the Spanish culture. The Legend of the Corn was my favorite so far. My daughter constantly called me in to hear her sing the catchy songs. I loved hearing her sing the Spanish songs while doing chores. The song, Los Diez Perritos, reinforced the Spanish numbers through 10. Pictures were utilized to facilitate learning. The song, Buenos Dias Su Señoría, reviews the profession vocabulary. Alyssa has the task of sequencing the professions based on the song presentation.

Sequencing Song Verses

The objectives were clearly stated as "I Can Statements" on a separate slide at the beginning of the unit. This let her know what was going to be covered and what to expect. I asked her to read the objectives aloud.

The course consists of a variety of activities including but NOT limited to matching, sequencing, highlighting, color pages, and multiple choice. The highlighting colors varied. In the screenshot below, "I like" or "I want" were highlighted green. This activity reminded Alyssa of another online highlighting program she uses. She enjoys searching for the key words.
Highlight Activity
Coloring Page
Multiple Choice Test: Numbers

Mini grammar lessons were scattered throughout the units. They were presented when you click on the light bulb. A speaking bubble pops up with a grammar teaching point such as masculine and feminine nouns as seen below. She read them aloud too.

What We Liked
  • Gradebook Feature
  • Interesting Stories Based on Spanish Culture
  • Structured Layout with Well-Organized Slide Format
  • Individualized Work Pace
  • Built-In Review
  • Course Independently Completed
  • Variety of Interactive Exercise and Engaging Activities
  • Effectively Teaches Spanish
  • Kid and User-Friendly Navigation
  • Age Appropriate Content
  • Native Speaker Recordings
  • Repetitive Nature and Exposure to Language
  • Learning to Speak Phrases and Sentences
  • Speaking Lab Sessions (Alyssa's Favorite Part)
Speaking Lab: Recording Location Phrases

Possible Vendor Suggestions
  1. Separate Parent Dashboard
  2. More Affordable Price for Yearly Subscriptions 
  3. Option for Parent to Grade the Speaking Portions (not just leave comments)
Overall Thoughts and Results
This is an exceptional online foreign language course that I HIGHLY recommend for children in the elementary age range. My daughter absolutely LOVES her Spanish course! She took 130 screenshots to mark her favorite features or activities to share with me which I had to later delete off the computer.

She is retaining the course content in her long term memory and becoming more proficient as she progress through the sequenced lessons. Her confidence is soaring with this digitally-formatted program. She is also communicating in Spanish more frequently in real life and attempting to utilize the language in public. We were recently at a Mexican restaurant with our pastor and his family for Pastor Appreciation Day. My daughter was looking at the menu and was ecstatic when she recognized several of the Spanish words on the menu such as "almuerzo" and "desayuno." She started telling the words and their meanings to the other children at the table.

The Calendar in the top-left corner of the screen also allowed me to see Alyssa's progress through the course. The material that is completed is check marked or colored in green. The Calendar provides a daily sequence through the material, but your child can work at their own pace. Alyssa is currently ahead of that schedule and will mostly likely finish early. However, she will take time off during her Fall and Winter breaks. My daughter has no intentions of slowing down. Alyssa worked through the first 6 units with outstanding success. She looked forward to seeing her scores and participation grades after submitting her answers. We will continue using the Spanish course until it is completed or our subscription expires. If she completes the course early, then I will have her review the material.

I  wish we could afford to use the next course, but unfortunately as a single mom on a super tight budget this won't be possible. This was wonderful addition to our homeschool. It makes me sad, because I know there is no way we can continue using it in the future even though it was a perfect fit. I just can't justify the cost for an online yearly program especially when our CORE subject curricula costs less. Thankfully, your budget may differ and you can take advantage of this complete and comprehensive course!

Alyssa's Thoughts
"This was my favorite subject to do every day. I look forward to the lessons at the end of the day, because they are like a surprise or a mystery. I don't know what topic I am learning unless I peek ahead. I am learning Spanish in a fun way. I enjoyed recording myself during speaking lab and taking the quizzes. Sometimes I would act silly or tell my mom I love her during a recording, but the program lets me delete it and record the correct word or phrase up to 3 times. Recording was a neat feature! I felt like I was teaching the words to someone online. The stories were my top favorite and they have a new story for every unit. The songs about the ten dogs and the ducklings were funny too. My favorite unit was about the Community and Professions. I loved learning how to say the places in our community and the jobs in Spanish. I also learned about the Spanish culture like bull racing, Quinceañeras, and making tortillas. I want to continue using Middlebury Interactive Languages if possible."

I definitely recommend the Elementary Spanish 1 course for children in 3rd-5th grade to ALL homeschool families who can afford it. This program would also be beneficial to public school students in the classroom or as an at home course. This would be a great course for a child to work on after school as an independent study.

It effectively and successfully teaches Spanish using an immersive approach. Many learning styles are addressed, but the program will be especially useful for individuals with an audio or visual learning style preference. Children who prefer computer-based learning will appreciate this online homeschool foreign language study as well.

Elementary Spanish 1 (Grades 3-5) costs $238 WITHOUT teacher support for BOTH semesters and $588 WITH teacher support for BOTH Semesters. One semester is 6 months and both semesters equals a year's worth of content. Visit the Grades 3-5 Collection to view other language courses suitable for children in 3rd-5th grade.

Note: All prices are subject to change without notice.

Social Media
Twitter @MiddInteractive

Homeschool Review Crew reviewed several homeschool foreign language programs from Middlebury Interactive Languages. Visit the previous link to read about their varied experiences with different languages and grade levels.
Crew Disclaimer
Spanish, French, German or Chinese {Middlebury Interactive Languages}

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