Introducing Our Contributors: Susan

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Photo by Nir Nussbaum

Photo by Nir Nussbaum

As we mentioned yesterday, this week we’ll be introducing you to our five regular contributors – one each day. We hope you had a chance to meet Chelsea yesterday. If not, we suggest you go here. Today, we’d like you to meet Susan who, together with her husband is raising her kids trilingual. Welcome to our ever-growing SpanglishBaby familia!

Susan O. Stephan is a credentialed Spanish Teacher in the state of California who earned her Master’s degree in Educational Linguistics from the University of Pennsylvania. She has taught in Spain, Japan and the United States.  Although currently on leave from her job, she continues to use her teaching skills with her sons and in her Spanish speaking play groups. Her blog-

Learning Language by Having Fun

Morado (purple) I call out and watch as Luke and Andrés excitedly use their fly swatters to hit the purple construction paper.  The boys start laughing and eagerly look to me to say another word.  Little do they know that the fun they are having while playing is also teaching them their colors in Spanish.  Although they are laughing and playing a game, they are learning at the same time.

For over fifteen years I have worked as a Spanish instructor, teaching kids of all ages.  Through the years, I have attended conferences, worked collaboratively with other teachers, and even earned a Master’s degree in Educational Linguistics seeking to learn the best way to teach my students.  By far, the best way to teach a language is to make it interactive and entertaining, so in my classroom I would use, games, dancing, chants and music to make the learning process enjoyable.  I would enjoy the class, and from the smiles and laughter of my students, I knew they were having fun as well.

Just a little over two years ago, my son was born, and although, I love teaching, I took an extended leave from my job to be home with him.  Long before his birth my husband and I had decided that we would raise our children to be trilingual.  I speak to our son in Spanish, and my husband speaks to him in German.  Our son’s language was doing well, but being at home, I began to miss teaching.  One day I realized that I still was a teacher and my son, and now sons, are my students.  Using all that I had learned in the classroom, would greatly enhance their language skills.  It has been fun adapting many of the activities and games that I formerly used in my classroom to teach my own children.  Active learning worked well in my classroom, and I find that it is boosting my children’s language development

One such game that can be adapted for any age or ability is Mata Moscas.  In my classroom, we would often play this game before a test.  I would write the vocabulary words that the kids would need to know all over the board.  The class would be divided into two teams, and a member of each team would step up to the board and each kid would be given a fly swatter.  I would give the definition of one of the words in English, and the kids would compete to see who could find the corresponding Spanish word.  The first to find it, would swat it with their fly swatter, gaining a point for their team.  This game re-enforces the understanding and learning of vocabulary words.

This game can easily be adapted for any age and Spanish ability.  With my two year old, I have used it by taping up construction paper in a variety of different colors.  To enhance the learning, I would write out the vocabulary word on the corresponding colored paper, spelling the word as my son looked on.  Although my son cannot read, as I spell out the words for him, he learns that the letters form words that have meaning.   Once the construction paper was taped to the wall, I would say the color, and he would excitedly run to hit the corresponding colored paper with his fly swatter.  At this young age, you don’t even need competition.  Children are just excited to play and please mom.  We have used this game to learn and practice letters, numbers, colors and shapes.  All the while we had fun playing and learning together.  I find that the more that I play with my son in Spanish, the more that I motivate him to learn.  I realize that his six-month-old brother is learning too as he attentively watches as his brother plays.

Language learning occurs through human interaction.  Games such as Mata Moscas do help teach vocabulary, but they are also a great way to just have fun with your child.   Playing with your child provides lots of opportunities to interact in Spanish, enhancing language development.  The journey to becoming bilingual can be rewarding and enjoyable for both you and your child.

We hope you’re enjoying meeting our regular contributors.We are so happy to have them! Come back tomorrow to meet the rest of our familia!  Go ahead and subscribe either by email or RSS so you don’t miss out on all the exciting changes.

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