Early Start Spanish 2
6: El alfabeto - The alphabet
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What you will learn in section 6

Oscar spells his name - Spelling in class
Marta reads out letters at the opticians

This section is marked "optional" because the alphabet is obviously of use primarily for reading and writing Spanish words. If you have decided to concentrate on speaking and listening activities, there will be little need for children to spell out words.

If you feel that your class is ready to learn the Spanish alphabet and practise a small amount of reading and writing, this chapter suggests activities to do this in measured, gentle steps.

It also suggests how to introduce some basic dictionary skills.

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Finding a dictionary for young beginners

What kind of dictionary?
Which is more suited to young beginners: a bilingual dictionary? ..or a picture dictionary?

A simple bilingual dictionary arranges words in each language's alphabetical order (so they are easy to find), and introduces children to the dictionary skills they need to develop as they mature as language students - but beginners may run into problems by using Spanish words in the wrong context, and by confusing English homonyms - "false friends"..

A picture dictionary arranges words according to themes, which could make it less obvious where a particular word would be found. Some words may be difficult to illustrate unambiguously. For these reasons, "grown-up" dictionaries don't use this format - but neither matter so much for beginners, who have a small vocabulary - mainly words with concrete meanings.

We suggest having both available in your classroom

A picture dictionary:
Beginner's Spanish Dictionary
by Helen Davies, John Shackell (Illustrator)
Publisher : London: Usborne. Glasgow:
(Distributor: HarperCollins)
Paperback - 128 pages Reissue (January 1992)
ISBN: 0746000200

Labeled drawings provide the Spanish equivalent for about 2000 everyday words and phrases, arranged thematically with humorous illustrations to present the words in context.

It also includes a simple grammar section, a 'phrase explainer' and an English/Spanish alphabetical wordlist.

Review: "Very helpful and full of useful and practical stuff"

"Beginner's Spanish Dictionary is a really useful, handy dictionary, especially for beginners, and kids. It includes many very practical, everyday words and phrases, and I found that it was easy to use and read, because of its cartoons and also because of the way it had been written. I recommend it whether you are just beginning, or even if you have a knowledge of some Spanish already. It's also very good for use as a teaching tool/supplement."

Usborne beginners Dictionary
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A bilingual dictionary:
Spanish Easy Learning Dictionary
Publisher: Collins, London
Paperback - 672 pages (8 May, 2001)
ISBN: 0004724178

As an introduction to using a "grown-up" English-Spanish dictionary, try this well-designed dictionary. It is aimed at secondary school pupils studying for GCSE and Standard Grade, but younger pupils can use it selectively.

The design is clean and uses colour to make it easier for beginners to find their way to what they are looking for..

The vocabulary is up-to-date, with useful words and phrases for talking about computers and the Internet; lots of helpful phrases, special entries on Spanish life and culture, a section on how to use the dictionary, word games, and verbs.

There's also a feature on False Friends, so you can be sure you won't tell your friend Juan that you're embarazada (pregnant) when all you wanted to express was embarrassment! Nor will you offer your friend Saskia gift (poison) when you wanted to give her a present.

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A class dictionary project

An alternative to the pupil vocabulary book

Instead of asking students to keep their own A-Z record of new Spanish words they learn, why not try working together on a group effort that you can all talk about as you make new entries?

When the class decides a new word would be worth adding to the class dictionary, you could include a new page with:

  • a picture illustrating the meaning
  • an example of a phrase or sentence use the word
  • an equivalent word in English (or your own language)

Keep the pages in a loose-leaf binder. Decide whether to arrange the pages in:

  • alphabetical order of the Spanish words
  • alphabetical order of the English equivalent
  • topic themes, e.g. food, animals, places in a town...

Encourage children to add to the dictionary when they find a useful new word.

When a student is looking for a Spanish word, suggest they refer to the class dictionary, in case another student has already added what they are looking for.

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Books for the teacher

The Literacy Link (Young Pathfinder 9)
Catherine Cheater & Anne Farren

How can a modern foreign language be integrated into the primary school day? How can learning a foreign language enhance literacy development? The literacy link considers a wide range of skills and their development through MFLs, both for KS1 and KS2 &endash; vocabulary extension; confidence with text, with listening, speaking, reading and writing; phonological awareness, phonics and spelling; grammatical awareness; sentence construction and punctuation; reading comprehension; and writing composition &endash; supported by practical examples of activities.

Word level • Sentence level • Text level

86pp • 1 902031 41 5 • 2001 • £8

How to order from CILT Publications: http://www.cilt.org.uk/publications/howtoorder.htm

Other similar books: http://www.cilt.org.uk/publications/primary.htm

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