Note: This class is organized and run by David Nance, but his wife, Rachel, teaches the Monday live class. Students are welcome to attend both sections if they’d like additional practice. More information about the Nances and their teaching experiences can be found at the end of this course description.
Languages are best learned in context, and languages are inherently about community. Therefore, we take an exciting and unique approach to learning Spanish with Aim Academy.
To provide context to our Spanish class, we focus on one topic per year. The topic for 2018-2019 will be geography. Geography is much more than the study of maps. It is the study not only of the land, but of people – how people are shaped by their environment and how they shape it. It is the study of movement and interaction – commerce, migration, the spreading of ideas, the spread and control of diseases. It is the study of trends – economic and political progress, conflict and cooperation. In this class, we will use Spanish-language maps, videos, webpages, documents, and other resources to study these topics, sometimes looking at the entire world and sometimes focusing on Spanish-speaking areas. Throughout the year, students will create and share projects about each topic that we cover. In this way, students will get contextualized practice with reading, listening, speaking, and writing Spanish.
Traditionally, Spanish classes have been divided into levels 1, 2, 3, and 4. However, recognizing that each student progresses at his or her own pace, and that all students can learn from one another regardless of their own background or level of experience, all students will be enrolled in the same course regardless of previous experience. This provides a great learning experience for all students, but it is especially useful for sibling groups that would not traditionally be in the same level course. Each week, students will be given a task and resources to help them accomplish that task. Each student will be able to tailor the work to his or her own ability level, choosing resources that best meet that student’s needs. First-year students will find material that allows them to participate fully, but second-, third-, and fourth-year students will find material that challenges them in appropriate ways and helps them to continue to progress.
Each year’s theme will be different. In this way, a student can stay in the course for two, three, or four years and meet two, three, or four year state graduation or college entrance requirements that often exist. The themes will rotate as follows:
- Spanish with embedded Geography (2018-19 school year and every fourth year thereafter)
- Spanish with embedded Current Events (2019-20 school year and every fourth year thereafter)
- Spanish with embedded Health (2020-21 school year and every fourth year thereafter)
- Spanish with embedded Economics (2021-22 school year and every fourth year thereafter)
Because of the dual nature of each course, parents may want to grant their students credit for both content areas (Spanish and Geography, for instance).
By taking this contextualized approach, students will be well prepared for college-prep tests such as CLEP or AP by the end of their fourth year. Modern tests focus on interpersonal, interpretive, and presentational communication. Interpersonal communication includes such things as dialogue and written correspondence. Interpretive communication refers to understanding what a student reads or hears. Presentational communication means speaking to an audience or preparing materials for a reading audience. Weekly assignments and our weekly live class will be geared toward helping students develop these skills.
For more information about the class, Mr. Nance’s unique approach, and sample student work from past years, please visit http://davidnance8.wixsite.com/spanish/
Who Should Enroll?
- Students who wish to work toward fluency in Spanish in order to enrich themselves personally
- Students who hope to someday take CLEP, AP, or similar exams
- Students with or without previous experience with Spanish
- Students in grades 7-12
Materials and Technical Requirements
No textbooks or workbooks are required for these courses. All lectures, explanations, and supplementary materials will be available online. However, some parents and students like to have a reference book, and Mr. Nance recommends a print copy (not an electronic copy) of Ultimate Spanish Review and Practice (ISBN-13: 978-0071847582 ISBN-10: 0071847588).
High-speed internet is required for accessing course lectures, content, and assignments, as well as for participating in live class sessions if students choose to attend.
Email access for creating a course account
Microphone (can be built into the computer or a headset)
Students will be guided by a course calendar, but will be free to modify and adjust their workload according to their individual needs. However, they are responsible for turning a weekly timesheet that reports their day-to-day efforts to do things in Spanish.
Weekly live class sessions are held, except during holiday weeks or as otherwise specified on the course schedule. These sessions are not mandatory, but are strongly encouraged. Past experience has shown that students who attend regularly are much happier with the class and much more successful. Recordings will also be made available for students who are unable to attend.
Live class sessions are a mix of Spanish and English as the teacher and students discuss the subject matter, their weekly progress, and other topics of interest. Resources that students use throughout the week are almost exclusively in Spanish, so that students get lots of good exposure to authentic Spanish.
Students should expect to spend at least 45 minutes a day reading, watching videos, etc., in Spanish. Students gain fluency through exposure to meaningful content; therefore, the more a student envelopes himself or herself in the language, the more progress he or she will make. Students record these efforts on the weekly timesheet, as mentioned above.
Students are also expected to use the free language-learning program Duolingo at least five days a week. This provides them with a quick and fun way to get practice with the same types of grammar and vocabulary that they would get in a more traditional class. Mr. and Mrs. Nance have used Duolingo themselves for several years to study various languages including Portuguese, Chinese, German, and others, and their own children also use it to practice Spanish.
Notes About Fluency and Proficiency
It takes a long time to attain fluency or a sufficient proficiency to pass CLEP or AP exams. Students will learn a lot in each course, and even if they do not take later courses, they will have a solid foundation in Spanish that will help them throughout their lives. However, if they hope to approach fluency or to pass the proficiency tests, students need to plan to spend four years in these courses, and dedicate daily time to doing meaningful things in the language.
Anyone can learn a second language. It is not particularly difficult, but it does require motivation, time, and effort. It can and should be a very enjoyable journey, not a stressful experience.
Different people have different expectations about learning a language. In this class, we will focus on practical skills and on what students can do, not on their shortcomings or deficiencies. Confidence plays a large part in learning a language, and students will get constant positive reinforcement for making an effort to get their point across, rather than having their every mistake pointed out to them.
Not all students will advance at the same rate in terms of proficiency. Some will approach or even surpass the stated proficiency goals, while others may not quite get there. That is natural and acceptable. Students will largely determine their own skill level by tracking their progress with the Can-Do Statements published by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL), and Mr. Nance will evaluate them based on the standards published by ACTFL. It is important to understand that these are informal, unofficial, evaluations of student skill level. If students continue with Spanish, they may at some point be interested in contacting an official ACTFL evaluator to be tested for their official proficiency level, but that is beyond the scope of this course.
There is an important difference between language learning and language acquisition. In short, language learning is learning about the language, while language acquisition is gaining the ability to use the language. Foreign language classes have historically focused on language learning, with activities such as grammar drills, vocabulary lists, and rehearsed speaking scenarios. Those activities tend to lead to quick but shallow progress, which is often forgotten not long after a student leaves the class. Acquisition-based classes, however, focus on learning to make meaning from “compelling comprehensible input” (in the words of Stephen Krashen), and do not focus on grammar instruction or vocabulary memorization. The progress from this approach is less visible at first, but is longer lasting, because it develops a skill (meaning-making) that is transferable to any scenario, and it respects the natural order of language acquisition. For more about Mr. Nance’s philosophy of language learning, please see his short ebook, Teach Yourself a Language.
About the Teachers
David and Rachel Nance have extensive experience living and traveling in Spanish-speaking areas. Together, they have visited Panama, Chile, Peru, and Puerto Rico. David lived in Uruguay for two years, and has also set foot in Argentina and Mexico. Rachel spent well over a year in Bolivia, and has also traveled to Mexico and El Salvador. They plan a return trip to Panama this fall to look for an area to relocate their family, and plan to broadcast one or two classes from Panama while on this exploratory trip.
Mr. Nance has a bachelor’s degree in Spanish Teaching and master of education degree in Curriculum and Instruction. He has taught distance-learning Spanish courses in a variety of formats since 2007. Mrs. Nance has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education, with an emphasis in early childhood education.
Mr. and Mrs. Nance have five young children, and take a learning-by-doing approach to homeschooling them. They love the possibilities and adventures that homeschooling presents.
In addition to teaching, Mr. Nance has also created several popular resources to help people of all ages learn Spanish, including the following:
mySpanishgames.com – a site with Flash-based games, stories, and songs to help students learn and practice Spanish; the site regularly has more than 10,000 monthly visitors. As Flash technology is being replaced, David and Rachel are now working to create new types of games for the site, including virtual reality experiences, board games, card games, and a new mystery-by-mail program called Misterreos.
iTunes U Spanish courses – three self-guided courses available through iTunes U, focused on Spanish grammar; the Spanish I course has spent more than four years on the iTunes U top ten list for courses, and has more than 600,000 people enrolled from around the world.
Spanish I textbook for iPad – an interactive Spanish textbook; this book has spent more than four years on the top ten list for free textbooks on iTunes, and has been downloaded more than 130,000 times.
Spanish for Travelers course on Udemy – a paid, conversation-based approach to Spanish; free access included for students and their parents, upon request; published in 2014, the course has more than 6,600 students enrolled from more than 120 countries.