How I Use It
Our Pre-K Spanish instructor and I were searching for an app to help Pre-K students learn phrases they could use for community building (e.g. greetings) as well as words and phrases they could use for everyday classroom discussion and routines (e.g. body parts like hands, feet, legs, eyes, ears and imperatives like "pick up your pencils" or "listen, please"). We took this app for a test drive to see what types of words or phrases it might teach.
After trying the app, we concluded that it would be useful for students who already knew some Spanish and who might benefit from extra practice or reinforcement. For several reasons, though, we wouldn’t want to use this app to introduce new vocabulary.
As Mieke VanderBorght mentions in the review, the app doesn’t check to see if students are listening (let alone repeating aloud) when students learn a new word. We had to play through several levels before the app checked for understanding in even the most basic way. Our Spanish teacher concluded that students might simply click things on the screen without thinking to advance the game. That wouldn’t be the ideal way to introduce vocabulary.
Even on more advanced levels, the app responded to incorrect taps only by ignoring them. Our Spanish teacher would have preferred that the app respond by explicitly pointing out the error. For example, the app could say, “You tapped una manzana. You’re looking for un cepillo de dientes. Can you try again?”
Our Spanish teacher also pointed out that learning vocabulary in context is especially important. For some reason, pictures of all new vocab words appeared on top of a table. The incongruity of several sofas or bathtubs appearing on top of a table could be distracting or confusing for our young learners. Also, not all vocabulary words were grouped thematically. Is a hat (depicted as a traditional sombrero) really an essential morning item that most students should learn and mentally group with other fundamental morning vocabulary words? Is placing “cat” in the category of “play time” the best fit?
In other situations, the app introduced words that were thematically consistent but extremely difficult for Pre-K students to pronounce. One of the first five words the app introduced was “reloj despertador” (alarm clock). Our Spanish teacher said she would have preferred to introduce a six-syllable tongue twister like that later on.
When the app introduced sentences in Spanish, we found it puzzling that it had not yet taught students the nouns with which the sentences were constructed. To teach students how to say that something “falls,” wouldn’t it make sense to say “the toothbrush falls” (after teaching the word for toothbrush) rather than saying “the blocks fall” when the app had not yet introduced the word for blocks?
As Mieke VanderBorght mentions in the review, not all pictures made clear what they were illustrating.
The limitations above convinced us not to use this app with students unfamiliar with Spanish, but we do believe students with some background in Spanish would find this a fun way to reinforce some vocabulary.