Thursday, July 21, 2016

Independent Review: Spanish For You! Mi Vida Curriculum Package by Debbie Annett

I received the Spanish For You! Mi Vida Curriculum Package to review. Learning a second language is imperative in today's world especially in highly populated Spanish speaking areas. I want my daughter to appreciate and be aware of other cultures too. Learning Spanish will be an invaluable skill in her future and my hope is that she'll become bilingual. Thankfully, my daughter and I both have a strong desire to learn Spanish. 

Before I get started, I want to let you know that this review will contain many photos so give it plenty of time to load. You can also click on each picture to view a larger image. 

Product Description
Spanish For You! is a year-long complete Spanish curriculum suitable for children in 3rd through 8th grade. The unique curriculum was written by Debbie Annett who has more than 15 years teaching experience. The lessons are based on a theme or unit study approach which differs from the traditional textbook approach. Receptive language skills are taught such as listening and reading skills. Your child will also improve their expressive skills which includes both speaking and writing. 

The Mi Vida Curriculum Package is centered around the "My Life" theme. Children progress through the themed books which can be done in ANY order. 

The detailed step-by-step lessons are divided into 5 main topics: 
  1. Mi Casa (My House)
  2. Mi Cuarto (My Room)
  3. Mi Familia y Mis Amigos (My Family and Friends)
  4. Mis Actividades (My Activities)
  5. Mis Classes (My Classes)
Mi Vida covers the Spanish alphabet, colors, numbers, months of the year, days of the week, commands, and common words or phrases related to the theme. Basic grammar was addressed in addition to advanced concepts such as verbs, verb conjugations, indefinite articles, nouns, personal pronouns, possessive pronouns, irregular verbs, plural and singular forms, and adjectives. Each lesson focuses on new vocabulary and basic grammar skills.  

There are currently 5 themed curricula packages. They are Estaciones (Seasons), Mi Vida (My Life), Viajes (Travels), Fiestas (Celebrations), and Conversaciones (Conversations). I have also used Fiestas in the past with huge success.

What We Received
The Mi Vida Curriculum Package includes an abundant amount of resources to effectively teach Spanish. The digital downloads were immediately sent via e-mail, but you have 5 days to download and save them. Several PDF files will be in downloadable zip files. 
  • Differentiated Lesson Guides
  • Classroom Lesson Plans (for Teacher Use)
  • Softcover Textbook
  • Audio Files in MP3 Format
  • Printable Flashcards
  • Self-Checking Worksheets
  • Catchy Songs in MP3 Format with Printable Lyrics

Lesson Guides
I received three leveled lesson guides in PDF format which are organized by grade levels: 3-4, 5-6, and 7-8. Depending on the grade level purchased you'll receive 24-30 weeks worth of lessons. The Mi Vida 3rd-4th grade lesson guide contains 30 weeks worth of structured lessons. The 5th-6th and 7th-8th grade level guides lasts 24 weeks. One curriculum level gives you material to teach for a whole year. Lessons within each book progress in difficulty. 

The PDF worksheet files are organized by lesson numbers and the grade level is indicated. The author used bold print for pertinent information. The content grades are based on how the lessons are taught. For example, higher grade levels are more writing intensive and require the student to independently think. 

This curriculum is intended to be used 4 times per week for 10-30 minutes each day. Lessons could easily be completed once a week in a co-op setting or twice a week if desired. The curriculum was flexible allowing me to decide on the number of days to work on lessons and which activities to complete. You can tailor the lessons to meet your child's needs. 
I believe Alyssa would be able to follow these lesson plans without my guidance, but I enjoy participating and teaching.

Mi Vida Textbook

You'll receive a 47-page softcover textbook via mail after completing your order. The content gradually builds on previous lessons (spirals) within each book providing a continuous review of material. The textbook begins with information about the Spanish alphabet. Pronunciation help is given in the basic pronunciation guide. There are several Spanish letter sounds that are pronounced like the English sound. Common Words and Phrases are addressed across a two-page spread. The Spanish word, pronunciation, and English meaning are noted. The Mandatos (Commands) is the next section. These phrases tell other people what to do. These are helpful when teaching students to follow directions. The text offers a variety of ways to make and use flashcards. 

The textbook also offers many fun and engaging game suggestions including but not limited to Listen and Draw, Hangman, Bingo, Frío y Caliente (Hot/Cold), Word Scrambles, Cuál Falta, and Memory. We could easily substitute a different game if we didn't have enough players for the planned game or if Alyssa was eager to play a different one. She definitely had a few favorite games. For instance, Alyssa really liked the ¿Cuál Falta game. I arranged 4-6 flashcards in a row. She studied the words and their meanings. She closed her eyes while I removed one card. Then, she needed to guess which card was missing. Once she figured out which card was missing, she told me the Spanish word and the English meaning to earn a point. One skittle was given as a treat for each correct answer. We took turns playing this game. My daughter LOVED trying to trick me!
¿Cuál Falta?
(What's Missing)
There are more than 200 self-checking worksheets included in this package. Answer keys are provided immediately after the worksheet to make grading a more simplified process. Children can check their own work. The worksheets are available in PDF format. You can print all in one sitting or print as you go. The worksheet exercises may include fill-in-the blank, circle the correct answer, matching, written translations, short answer responses to questions, and more. Alyssa completed 1-3 worksheets each week. 

Flashcard Pictures
You can print flashcard illustrations in PDF format on cardstock or copy paper of any color. Each lesson contains 2 pages of flashcards. Each lesson unit can be printed on different colored paper for organizational purposes. The pictures are organized by lesson number. The simple black and white illustrations are hand-drawn. This format helps keep the curriculum costs down. The same images are used in the textbook and other resources. You also have the option of having your child draw and color the pictures to match the words introduced. 

Audio Files
The audio files for the ENTIRE book are narrated by the author, Debbie Annett. You listen to the audios when indicated in the lesson plans. The audio can be fast at times so younger learners may get frustrated. The files are also available and recorded in a second file by a native Spanish speaker from Mexico which allows any student to hear a clear and correct pronunciation and a different dialect at a much faster pace. This pace was a little too fast for my daughter right now, but I still want to expose her to the differences. The files are compatible with and can be played on most computers, iPods, and MP3 devices. The audios arrive in zipped files. 
Repeating and Learning Verbs
Classroom Teacher Lesson Plans 
I also reviewed the classroom teacher lesson plans which are perfect for schools and co-op use. These lesson plans are designed to be used during a 1-hour weekly class session. Debbie Annett offers a bulleted list of suggested helpful materials to keep on hand at the beginning of the lesson plans. Most of these are items you will find in your home.

The grade level and lesson number are indicated at the top of the page. The lessons are organized in a chart or grid format with 3 columns labeled with the following titles: Activity, Instructions, and Materials. The lessons consist of 1-5 pages which includes the game and activity templates with instructions. The instructions for each activity are clearly given as a bulleted step-by-step list. Reminders about classroom materials such as game materials and flashcards are stated in the lesson plans. 

The session began with a warm-up including greetings and a name game called, ¿Como te illamas? Vocabulary words are gradually introduced. The set of words is broken up throughout the lesson. Children learn better when they are presented with only a few words at a time. The core lesson consists of games and activities to get your students interacting, speaking, and involved. Teaching vocabulary with gestures reinforces the word meaning. Vocabulary and game play are alternated. The lesson concludes with a goodbye after a game is played. Useful teacher tips and suggestions are occasionally provided at the top of the grid. 

Teachers utilize the weekly lesson plans and then assign the corresponding week of the lesson guide for homework.  For instance, you would teach week 2 from the weekly teacher lesson plans and assign week 2 of the lesson guide for homework. You MUST assign the lesson guide work between classes as homework otherwise the teacher lesson plans won't make any sense to the students. 

The author did an excellent job setting you up for classroom success if you follow the lesson plan guides with these teacher classroom lesson plans in order. I am thoroughly impressed with her dedication to helping others teach Spanish. You have the flexibility to decide what games and activities you want to do. You can add activities if you have time or eliminate one if too much is planned. All of the planning is done for you. The teacher must simply listen to the audio prior to class, especially if they are non-Spanish speaking individuals, and prepare classroom game and activity materials. The only problem I can see is that you may have too much to do in an hour, but that's why you have the power to adapt. The lessons can be modified with ease. Debbie lays out everything you need to complete lessons and what you must do. Print it out and you're ready to go. 
Grid Close-Up: Week 1
Classroom Teacher Lesson Plans: Week 2
Supplies To Have On Hand
  • Computer and Printer
  • Compatible MP3 File Program
  • Unzipping Software Such As WinZip or StuffIt
  • Cardstock and Copy Paper (White and Colored)
  • Adobe Reader for PDF files
  • Lined Paper
  • Pencils and Erasers
  • Markers, Crayons, Dry Erase Marker, or Colored Pencils
  • 3x5 Index Cards
  • Scissors
  • Bubbles (optional)
  • 1-2 Flyswatters (optional)
  • Bingo Game Markers (optional)
How We Used Spanish For You!
I used Spanish For You! with my 8-year-old daughter, Alyssa, who works at a 3rd-5th grade level. She has some experience and knowledge with the Spanish language. I decided to start with the 3rd-4th grade material which contains 30 weeks worth of lesson content.  

I printed six weeks out at a time to make it easier for us to get started immediately. The lessons were stored in a 3-pronged and pocketed folder. I plan on moving everything to a tabbed binder for easier access and to prevent worksheets from accidentally creasing. I highlighted each week once completed to help me track and monitor our progress. There is room to write dates you completed or will complete the lesson if desired.    

We used the curriculum 3-5 times per week for 20-30 minutes a day. Occasionally, we would double up one lesson and some days we would expand it out to five days to reinforce what was being taught using the games and activities. Lessons were completed IN ORDER, because the content was systematically taught. 

The curriculum downloads were downloaded on my MAC OS X 10.9.5 computer using Safari 9.1 as my preferred Internet browser. You'll also need to have an updated version of Adobe Reader to print all of the worksheets and PDF formatted files. A program that reads MP3 audio files must be installed on your computer. We used iTunes to listen to the MP3 audio files. I paused lessons when needed and repeated audio for extra practice. 

Beginning each new lesson unit, Alyssa cuts index cards in half. We copied the flashcard images on regular white or colored copy paper. She glued them to the index card. Next, she wrote the English word on one side and the Spanish translation on the other side. Making flashcards helped build her writing skills. We frequently used these flashcards during game time or interactive activities. She had the opportunity to color her flashcards, but she didn't have any interest in coloring. I love having access to these flashcard printables, because they saved us time. The flashcard illustrations connected meaning to the words being learned.  

Next, she listened to the audio while following along in her textbook pointing at each word. After the word was narrated, she repeated it correcting any pronunciation errors. She would often ask me to repeat the audio after completing a lesson for additional support. 

I didn't require Alyssa to master the verb conjugations. I wanted her to learn them at an age-appropriate pace. She did recognize and begin to memorize the verb patterns. All vocabulary, verb, and grammar lessons follow a learn, use, and interactive use sequence over the lesson unit. First, she was introduced to new vocabulary, verbs, or grammar concepts in the Learn section of the textbook with audio. This was followed by a flashcard activity of her choice from the Making Flashcards page. Then as part of the Use section, Alyssa would listen to another audio related to the textbook. This section may involve writing exercises on lined paper. Listening activities were incorporated into this section. She would first listen to the vocabulary words in Spanish. Next, she wrote them in Spanish and then checked her spelling. The Interactive Use section offered a wide selection of Games and Activities to complete. Practice and mastery was encouraged through worksheets and language usage.
Lesson Sequence: Learn, Use, Interactive Use
Lesson 1: Mi Casa (My House)
Listen and Write Activity
Then, she completed a worksheet if it was noted as an assignment for that particular daily lesson. After completing each worksheet, she checked her work with my supervision. I had her check her work using a pen (color of her choice) so I could identify which errors she made quickly. 

Games and activities were last on our agenda. I liked closing lessons with a fun and interactive review of what we learned. Modifications or substitutes will be needed for families homeschooling an only child. You'll need to choose a different game if more than two players are required and no one else is available to help.
¿Qué Tienes? (What Do You Have)
and Bingo
One of my favorite aspects is the Curriculum Activities For You! website which is password protected. Click on the link for a sneak peek, but curriculum users can access ALL of the resources with their password. A conglomeration of additional games and activities with printable instructions requiring minimal prep are provided. 

We enjoyed playing so many of the games and activities listed. Our next game to play is the Color Spoon Race Game to review Spanish color words. There are also dialog sheets which gives children the opportunity to have a conversation in Spanish with a partner. The Blast from the Past worksheets review previously learned concepts. They could also be utilized as a unit test. We will start using the verb conjugation help sheet in August. Check out the photos below for more games and activities. 
Matamoscas (Swat the Flies)
(Bubble Pop Verb Conjugation Game)
Conjugate a verb before all bubbles pop.
Envelope Game
The entire lesson unit concluded with a Let's Put It All Together activity. A 4x2 grid contained 8 boxes. Each box had an illustration with two sentences. Alyssa chose and wrote which sentence BEST described the picture. Answers can be checked using the audio. 

Another one of my favorite components from this curriculum are the valuable audio files which are included in the package. The audio files allow children to hear Spanish spoken clearly without error and also by a Native Spanish speaking individual which builds fluency. It is the perfect curriculum component and what seems to be missing from others currently on the market. You can repeat vocabulary words before and after the audio. I have Alyssa look and point at the vocabulary as she states them aloud.   

What I Liked
  • Fosters Independence
  • Individualized Pace
  • Repetition and Constant Language Usage
  • Reading, Writing, Speaking, and Listening Skills Addressed
  • Easy-to-Implement
  • Short Lessons
  • All Learning Styles Addressed
  • Adaptable and Flexible Lesson Plans
  • Complete and Comprehensive 
  • Saves Planning and Prep Time
  • No Background Knowledge or Experience Needed
  • Teaches Basic and Contextual Grammar
Personal Pronouns
Indefinite Article Memory/Concentration Game
Are you looking for a Spanish curriculum that requires no Spanish background? Spanish For You! is an affordable curriculum compared to those on the market. It's reasonably-priced and definitely worth its value. It is $64.95 for teaching children across all grade levels including 3rd-8th grade in one package or you can purchase individual specific grade levels as needed 3-4, 5-6, or 7-8. 

30-day money back guarantee is offered with your purchase. You can try one of the FREE Spanish worksheets or free mini-lessons to see if the curriculum will work for your family. The classroom/teacher lesson plans for those of you teaching a Spanish class or co-op class are available in the online store as part of co-op or teacher packages.

There is a limited time July special offered this month. Subscribe to their newsletter and you'll receive a code that will give you a FREE song with a $12.95 purchase, $5 off $39.95 purchase, or $10 off a $100 order.

I also noticed that there is Online Conversation Practice with Mariana available now if you want your child to practice speaking with a Native Spanish speaker familiar with the curriculum. Her 30-minute sessions are currently priced at $15.

Note: All prices are subject to change without notice. 

If you are looking for a user-friendly Spanish curriculum, then I HIGHLY recommend Spanish for You! It is comprehensive and incorporates the use of a variety of teaching methods such as flashcards, interactive games, hands-on activities, audio, songs, worksheets, and more.

This product can be used with homeschool families who have no background knowledge of the language. You do NOT need to speak Spanish to use this curriculum. In fact, it can be used with children in 3rd-8th grade as a self-study or independent study with older grade levels. The audio files provide the parent and child with the correct pronunciation so they can work together. This curriculum can be implemented in private or public classrooms, in a tutoring setting, after school care, or co-op groups. Larger families teaching multiple ages or grade levels at one time will appreciate this curriculum. 

Home educators implementing an Eclectic, Charlotte Mason, Theme-Based, or Unit Study educational approach may find this curriculum appealing and useful. Short lessons centered around themed topics are features to be appreciated.

Overall Results and Experience
Overall, this well-written curriculum effectively teaches Spanish to multiple-aged groups of students working at different levels. The flexible lessons are presented in an easy to understand format. My daughter constantly sang the bonus Alphabet song. Her goal is to have it memorized soon. 

Alyssa was thoroughly engaged and enjoyed playing the games the most. We made up our own version of a game that is similar to Vocabulary Bingo, Three-in-a-Row, and Tic-Tac-Toe. We used the flashcards. I said a Spanish word aloud and Alyssa covered the English meaning with a centimeter block. If she got three-in-a-row or tic-tac-toe (across, down, or diagonal) then she yelled, "Bingo." We played this game several times. Winner gets a treat of their choice. The game in the textbook is different. First, you draw a tic-tac-toe board on paper and take turns drawing vocab flashcards. During your turn you must correctly state the Spanish word to mark an "x" or "o." The author challenges the student by encouraging them to write the Spanish word on the board too. 

Her knowledge of the Spanish language has increased and her vocabulary is expanding. The repetitive nature of the curriculum and its built-in review enabled Alyssa to retain the information better and over longer periods of time. She has more confidence when speaking Spanish in public settings and practices the language more often with friends. She is also becoming more aware of and recognizing the verb patterns as you can see in the array layout below. 

Possible Vendor Suggestions
  • PowerPoint Flashcards
  • Offer More Individual and Partner Games (Own Category Online)
  • Offer a Print All at Once Option for Worksheets 
  • More Cultural and Holiday Components
  • Book List Suggestions Supporting Theme or Concept
  • Add More Craft Projects and/or Recipes
  • Organize Lesson Audio & Worksheets by Page Number in Numerical Order for Easier Accessibility - I had a difficult time tracking down the worksheet because they were alphabetized by worksheet titles. This was the only issue I faced when using this curriculum.   

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You Tube

I received a complimentary, free copy of this curriculum from the author and publisher in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions I have  expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this information in accordance with the FTC Regulations. 

All photos are copyright protected and may not be used without my permission.

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