Many world language programs rely on textbooks and learning vocabulary and grammar chapter by chapter. That’s not how we do things here at AltSchool. Through engaging projects and by building social-emotional strength, our students learn to articulate themselves and the world around them through the Spanish language. Our hands-on, immersive approach makes learning Spanish fun.
Watch to learn more about our inaugural Spanish Immersion class
An immersive language environment
¡Bienvenidos a nuestra clase de español!
As you walk around our classroom, you’ll see posters, books, and the daily schedule all in Spanish. That’s because 90% of the day is in Spanish, while 10% is in English. We create a rich, immersive environment that’s not just about teaching isolated vocabulary. Through hands-on projects, children connect Spanish vocabulary to its real world application. In our school, we’re not learning Spanish, we’re learning in Spanish.
Every day starts and ends with a community circle, where we share how we’re feeling, what we’ve accomplished, and what our favorite part of the day was. We also have weekly community meetings where we discuss topics such as mindfulness and empathy. These are opportunities to learn social-emotional skills and express appreciation for friends and the community. Social-emotional learning is core to our approach, and regular class reflections help students check in with their emotions and feelings, and express them to teachers and the class.
A personalized approach to language acquisition
Children have autonomy in our classes to study topics they find fascinating. This builds intrinsic motivation, as students can’t wait to learn the vocabulary of their favorite topic, whether that’s about animals, sports cars, or a particular musician.
To reinforce their independence, every Friday students have “choice time,” where they can choose a core skill they’d like to practice that is part of their personal growth plan. This could be reading a book, practicing math, or writing. Teachers have curated specific activities for each students, but it is up to students as to which they’d like to tackle first — which gives them agency in their own learning journey.
Going into the community: project-based learning
This year, students are studying the elements of our local community. Students divided themselves into three groups based on what they wanted to study: the people, flora and fauna, and structures of Dogpatch. For the people group, students learned skills to interview local shop owners and community workers. For their final project they created videos of their conversations, as well as made models of the places where they conducted the interviews. The flora and fauna group studied the plants and animals in our parks, which include giant sequoias and lots of dogs! They interviewed dog owners to gather information on the dogs and studied the neighborhood environment with a local ecologist. For their final projects they created a museum with hands-on exhibits and infographics based on the data they collected. The structures group learned about buildings, architecture, and vehicles in our neighborhoods. They were fascinated by the different-sized wheels on vehicles and decided to measure the circumferences of 5 different vehicle wheels. For their final project they created a xylophone in which the unique bar sounds corresponded to the different-sized wheels; the bigger the wheel, the deeper the sound. They then composed songs to emulate the sounds of our neighborhood.
Field trips and studies of cultures around the world
From the Museum of African Diaspora to Mexican bakeries and the murals in the Mission, our class explores diverse cultures and communities throughout our city. During the fall and winter months we study international “celebrations of light,” like Dia de los Muertos, Hanukkah and Diwali. We learn about unique cultures’ traditions and compare and contrast them to our own. Through these experiences, students value the diversity and arts of different vibrant cultures.