Sunday, May 12, 2013

REVIEW: Fiestas Grades 3-8 Package by Spanish for You!

I recently received the new Fiestas Grades 3-8 Package by Spanish for You! to review with my 8-year old daughter, Haylee.

 

WHAT IS IT?:

Spanish for You! is a Spanish curriculum for children in grades 3-8 that is designed for self-study, family, or classroom use.  You can purchase one curriculum package and teach multiple children in different grade levels at the same time!  You simply teach from the same material but have the students practice with assignments that are age-appropriate for them.  The concepts center around a theme, which in this case is Fiestas.  Take a look at the product sample here.

Spanish for You! packages include:

  • a softcover guide book, 24-30 weeks of lesson guides (.pdf)
  • self-checking worksheets (.pdf)
  • audio files of the entire book in the author’s voice and also a native speaker’s voice (.mp3)
  • flashcard/activity pictures (.pdf)

The cost for these items to teach all of your students in grades 3-8 is just $64.95.

If you don’t need to teach such a broad span of grade levels at once, you can purchase a package just for grades 3-4 or 5-6 or 7-8 for $39.95.

There are also teacher lesson plans available for an additional cost, but those are only needed for classroom use.

 

OUR EXPERIENCE:

With this program, I received a thin softcover book that contained a potpourri of information.  It had a basic introduction to the program and how it works, vocabulary word lists, grammar instruction, and games and activities.  I also received printable weekly lesson plans and worksheets (grades 3-4, 5-6, or 7-8) and audio files in the author’s voice as well as in the voice of a native speaker. 

The first thing I did was organize the files, because they were in no particular order in the download, and even the grade levels were mixed together.  I started by separating the files into folders by grade level (the files were labeled with this information), and thenDSCF0480 I accessed just the files for Grades 3-4 for Haylee to use.  I initially tried printing a few lessons and worksheets and then trying to re-order the printed papers, but the worksheet titles don’t always identically match the file names, so this was difficult.  I gave up on that and next printed all the lesson plans first.  Then I visually scanned each lesson plan for which worksheets were required.  Then I located the corresponding files and added numbers to beginnings of their names so they’d be in the order they were needed for the whole year.  Then I printed them one at a time so I could align the worksheets with each week’s lesson plan in the right order.  Once all the printing and organizing was complete, I punched the pages with my binding machine, bound them with plastic comb binding, and laminated the covers to create a nice printed workbook, which you can see Haylee holding in the picture.

While I found the disorganization of the downloadable files very frustrating, the author informed us during the review period that she has now better organized the downloadable files for new purchasers from this point on, so I wanted to be sure to mention that.  I can’t vouch for just how organized they are because I didn’t have access to the new download, but it has to be better than the way I received it!  Once I finished the printing and binding, I was ready to dig in and see how this program works.

The lesson plans reference certain pages in the softcover book that are the basis of the learning for the week, as well as optional games and ideas for activities that are also described in the softcover book.  Most of the lessons involve the making and using of flashcards to aid in the learning of vocabulary words for the week.  Although there are online programs that assist you in making printed flashcards, the author suggests that having the student hand-write the flashcards actually aids in solidifying the learning in their minds.  She also suggests using index cards for the flashcards, so you’ll want to have a large pack of those handy when using this program.

I remembered that when my oldest was about this age, I got him a Leap Frog Crammer that had a DSCF0481Spanish-English translator built in, and it had the ability to show digital flashcards and also speak the words in Spanish.  He used it a lot for his Spanish studies at that time, so I decided to pull it out for Haylee to use with this program.  I quickly set up files on the Crammer with the vocabulary words for the first few weeks, each in separate files, and also transferred the corresponding audio files that came with the program.  This turned out to be a great way for Haylee to practice her vocabulary words for Spanish for You!, so if you still have an old Crammer lying around your house, I highly recommend it as a study tool with this program.

Each day for 4 days/week, Haylee was able to sit with me and easily follow the lesson plans.  The assignments are bulleted under Days 1-4.  We generally studied new vocabulary words in the softcover book, listened to the recommended audio files to aid in pronunciation of the words and phrases, played games, reviewed, and did a couple of worksheets over the course of each week.  The content of the worksheets is varied, so she never got bored with them.  The audio files had pauses built in to give the student time to repeat the pronunciation before moving on to the next word, so there was no need to manually pause the audio file unless you really needed extra time.  I liked that there was audio from a native speaker included so you had the opportunity to hear the words the way you might hear them spoken in the world with an authentic accent. 

The lessons have a Fiestas theme, so the vocabulary words are about celebrations and have verbs that would pertain to things taking place at a celebration.  To me, that makes this program unique.  In learning language around a theme, the student gets to learn vocabulary that could be used in everyday situations pertaining to the theme, and everything in each lesson can be tied together in conversation.  The company offers several different themes, so if you stick with this program, you can cover a wide variety of vocabulary over time.

Haylee loved the combination of the oral practice, the written exercises, the games, the flashcards, and the regular review.  She was so happy to have such variety, and she really looked forward to working on it each day.  I was actually impressed with the amount of recall of the material that she developed during the review period. 

The bottom line for me is that this is a great program that my daughter is really enjoying. We do plan to continue it throughout her 4th grade year.  With 30 weekly lessons included for her grade level, it will cover most of the school year.

I would even consider purchasing another theme the following year, provided that the issue of the scattered files has been adequately updated.  If I could make a suggestion to the vendor, it would be to put the files and lesson plans for each grade level in a single downloadable file with all of the plans and worksheets in the order that you will use them.  Then you could just hit print, and the prep work would be finished and totally organized in short order.

Something else I’ll be considering is repeating the program in 5th grade, using the worksheets and lesson plans for Grades 5-6 next time around.  I did peek at the other grade levels, and the written work is definitely more challenging in the upper grade levels.  I could definitely see the benefit of repeating the program with the same theme and just upping the level of difficulty in this way.  If you chose to use the program that way, then your best value would definitely be to get the multi-package that I received.

If you are looking for a language program that is unique, not dry, and offers a lot of variety in terms of activities, then you really should consider investigating this further! 

Check out what other Crew members had to say about this and other Spanish for You! packages by clicking the banner below.

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