Frequently Asked Questions:
Our Frequently Asked Questions:
Isabella & Ferdinand Academia de Español provides excellent after-school Spanish language instruction in a rich, communicative, and meaningful environment. Unlike other language programs, we focus on Spanish exclusively—we believe in doing one thing and one thing right. It is our passion!
Q: What is so special about thematic-based learning?
A: Isabella & Ferdinand provides thematic instruction and planning in the classroom. Each session will be designed around a central theme related to the culture of Spain and Latin America. These themes are taught in each class implementing specific learning techniques and taking into account many styles of learners, ages and proficiency levels. Research has repeatedly shown that this is the most effective way to teach children language. In the fall session, our central cultural theme is the Golden Age of Spain. We will begin with the country of Spain, learning about flamenco, the letter “Ñ”, paella, and Don Quixote and his molinos (windmills). We set sail on the famous voyage of Christopher Columbus to the Americas at the behest of Queen Isabella &amp; King Ferdinand of Spain. We will arrive in the Dominican Republic, where we will encounter the Taíno Indians and learn about the discoveries Spanish explorers made on the island. Our voyage continues to Mexico with Hernán Cortés and children will experience Aztec culture in an Aztec market. Our adventures then take us back to Spain and the age of knights in shining armor, princes and princesses, and the beautiful, courtly paintings of Diego Velazquez such as the iconic “Las Meninas”. In the winter we will travel to South America with Isabella &amp; Ferdinand passports in hand and climb the Inca Trail, experience emeralds and coffee in Colombia, explore the music of Celia Cruz in Cuba and learn about the sugar cane refinement process, just to name a few stops on our voyage. In the spring we celebrate the “Cultural Heroes” of the Spanish- speaking world including artists such as Pablo Picasso, Diego Rivera and Frida Khalo, and writers such as Miguel Cervantes, Ruben Dario and Rafael Pombo.
Our themes are organized around meaningful experiences with the Spanish language and theme-related tasks. These experiences prepare students to use the Spanish language for a variety of purposes beyond the classroom. Brain research has demonstrated that manipulation of vocabulary and grammar in a drill setting is less efficient than the meaningful use of language in rich contexts. In our classroom, for example, children will learn by singing songs in Spanish, playing a game involving catching the letter “Ñ”, learning how to use castanets and exploring the magic trunk of painter Diego Velazquez. Through these types of activities, rather than through rote drills, learning occurs at various levels in a variety of ways – always building upon previous lessons.
Q: My child is exhausted after a long morning at school. Isn’t your program too academic?
A: No! We make even learning about 16th century Spain fun and engaging. We are very hands on and bring music, role-playing, games and singing to each class. We seek to take children to another world by truly immersing their minds in the beauty and richness of Spanish and Latin American culture, all the while practicing sentence structure, oral grammar and building to conversation.
Q: Can you really teach Spanish to a 4 year old?
A: Absolutely. Young children are natural language learners. Learning a language at any age is incredibly beneficial. Studies have shown that the human brain is more open to linguistic development during the years between birth and pre-adolescence and that children who learn a language before the onset of adolescence are more likely to develop native-like pronunciation (e.g., Strozer, 1994). When children have an early start to a long sequence of language instruction that continues through high school and college, they will be able to achieve levels of fluency that have not been possible in the past due to the late start of most language programs. Children at this age learn the language viscerally. Our teachers are well-trained in our methods and bring a love of language and culture to every classroom. We focus primarily on conversation and correct grammatical expression and pronunciation. We use no translated materials and only Spanish is spoken in the classroom –it is pure immersion. For those children who have not previously studied or exposed to Spanish, we ask them simply relax and have fun, absorbing the language and its sounds. We communicate through visuals, gestures, music and expression and find that first-time learners quickly grow comfortable with the immersion classroom and begin commanding and understanding words in Spanish.
Q: Your program sounds great, but isn’t it a little expensive?
A: We believe that we have priced our classes competitively with other programs in the DC/Miami area. There is really no other language program like ours that teaches Spanish through an original curriculum which focuses on linguistic excellence and cultural proficiency. Every class is taught by not one, but two, native Spanish speaking teachers (we never make an exception to this standard), one of whom is a conservatory-trained musician. We limit class sizes to maintain a 1:5-6 teacher student ratio. We also assure that our teachers are culturally knowledgeable and are able to carry out our curriculum to our standards. If a teacher doesn’t share our passion for Rafael Pombo, Pablo Picasso or Don Quixote – they cannot teach our classes! We strive to maintain an excellent standard of the language that is taught and we believe our pricing fairly reflects this caliber of instruction. Teachers get to know each child as an individual language learner and work very hard to make children feel safe and known so they may have the confidence when they are ready to speak!
As an additional benefit to our in-class instruction, we organize private cultural and educational events for our children and their families to attend. Our special cultural events provide children and their families with additional opportunities to hear Spanish and to learn about the culture of the Spanish-speaking world, as well as provide reinforcement of cultural topics covered in class. Our families love this component of our program and some past events have included the following:
Attending Cervantes’ seminal work “Don Quixote” including a backstage tour in English and Spanish led by Washington Ballet artistic director Septime Webre. Children and their families were seated in center orchestra seats and met some of the company dancers at intermission. Prior to attending the performance, children studied “Don Quixote” in class and learned a song about the literary characters Don Quixote and Sancho Panza.
Attending a private concert by Cellist Aaron Merritt from Miami’s New World Symphony at the Coral Gables Museum, featuring the music of illustrious Spanish cellist Pablo Casals as well as other Spanish composers such as Manuel de Falla. Prior to attending the concert students learned about Casals, his music and explored the cello and other instruments in class.
A private visit to the Mexican Cultural Institute to visit their beautifully handcrafted “Day of the Dead” (Dia de los Muertos) altar. Prior to the visit, children learned about the celebration of Dia de los Muertos in Mexico, met “Catrina” (a papier maché skeleton representing a famous character in Day of the Dead celebrations on loan to Isabella &amp; Ferdinand from the Embassy of Mexico), read a story and learned a song about the holiday and created a special papel picado craft.
We hope this answers some of the questions you may have about Isabella & Ferdinand Academia de Español and are happy to answer any others. Simply contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We hope to see you soon!