The Spanish program at Barnard Academy is a one-day per week course that includes students in Kindergarten through sixth grade. Instruction introduces students to the four domains of language: listening, speaking, reading, and writing. The seven years of the elementary school course is roughly equivalent to the middle school seventh grade Spanish curriculum.
The program attempts to keep the second language learning process as close to native language acquisition as possible. Students are encouraged first to listen to and understand spoken Spanish, then to speak words and basic phrases in a meaningful context, and finally to string words together into complete sentences. While students may learn to recognize some written Spanish in first and second grades, reading is not introduced until third grade, after native language reading skills are well established. Speaking and writing in complete sentences is expected in the fifth and sixth grades.
Following the recommendation of the American Council for the Teaching of Foreign Languages, the majority of the class is conducted in Spanish. Communication is facilitated through the liberal use of cognates, pictorial flash cards, classroom art and body language. Students are encouraged to translate for their classmates and there are frequent checks for understanding.