How to Teach Reading in Spanish: 5 Strategies to Help You Start

5 Strategies to start teaching Spanish literacy

"Biliteracy is a higher form of literacy than monoliteracy"--Kathy Escamilla

Are you a parent of a Dual Language child?  Or do you want your child to learn to read in Spanish as well as in English?  Do you want your kiddo to be bililterate?

These are all good questions to consider as we raise our kiddos in a society where bilingualism matters, and biliteracy is valued.  No matter where you live on our Blue Planet, we have all become closer because of the ease of travel, and knowing another language is essential for so many different reasons.

In this post I will show you 5 strategies to consider if you are a parent or a teacher with an end goal of billiteracy!  Becoming biliterate is so important for your kids, and getting a start on the right foot with Spanish literacy is crucial. Let's take a look at 5 strategies to help you teach Spanish initial literacy skills at home or in the classroom!

How to Teach Reading in Spanish: 5 Strategies to Help You Start 

Strategy #1: Teach letter recognition

When children are young, even as babies, it is good to give them an early start.  In English there is a very well-known ABC song, but in Spanish there are many.  These are easily found on YouTube.  I recommend that you look for one that you like and play it for your child at home or in the classroom.

Along with that idea, you could also find different chants for letter recognition in Spanish.  One that comes to mind is from the 'Estrellita' program.  The letter recognition chant is good because children learn to recognize letters right away.  These can be found on YouTube as well.  My favorite channel is 'Maestra Kinder'.  

Just a quick word, however, and that is that you want to keep your teaching as authentic as possible.  Keep reading, because I will touch on the importance of authenticity when teaching your children to read in Spanish--no matter if they are in the classroom or at home!

Many school-based programs recommend that you say the letter and point to the letter either on the wall or with a deck of cards.  This method is great because your children will see the letter and recognize the name at the same time.  Check out this product with printable cards and a power point that you could upload to any device.  If you want to play, here is a bingo game with Sonidos Iniciales.

These methods for letter recognition are all great ways to teach your child in Spanish.  Check them out, and then choose your favorite methods and stick with them.  Watch your child learn and pick up on those letters right away!

This product is already sequenced authentically so that you can teach the letters using an authentic sequence.  You will also be able to download a powerpoint file so that you can use it on your favorite devices.  Kids can look at the image, say the image and repeat the letter sound.  The 8.5 by 11 sheets are the perfect size for putting up in your room or learning space.
Sonidos Iniciales

But be sure to always start with the vowels!  Keep reading....

Strategy #2: Teach the vowels

If you want your kids to learn to read in Spanish, you must begin with the vowels.  Spanish letters, including the vowels do not have a different 'name' and a different 'sound'.  In Spanish the letters 'say' their own sound.  As opposed to English, where the letter has a 'name' AND a separate sound.  So the Spanish vowels only have one sound.

Authenticity is very important when teaching reading in Spanish, and we start with the vowel sounds.  Yes, you need to teach vowels first.  Songs and chants are good for letter recognition, and once you are teaching reading, you will begin with the vowels.

Vowel sounds are how we make our syllables, and building words in Spanish is all about blending syllables.  The order in teaching the vowels is not alphabetic, it is phonetic, and to keep with authenticity, this is the order that you should teach the vowels: O, A, I, U, E.

Once a child knows the vowels, it is very easy for the child to recognize the syllable by adding a consonant.  Learning the syllables is foundational to Spanish initial literacy skills as learning phonemes is foundational to English initial literacy skills.

Strategy #3: Teach syllables 

As early readers recognize and practice the vowels in Spanish, they can easily form syllables.  
An important concept to understand is that Spanish uses syllables as the phonemic awareness unit, whereas in English children are taught separate phonemes and 'sounding out words'.  It is important to use this understanding as your teaching foundation and basic premise, especially for dual language or multi-lingual literacy and language learners.

So when you teach reading or phonemic awareness, do not break up the syllable into individual phonemes as you would in English.  Just point to an image and say, "ma - mamá",  for example.

Syllables are to Spanish literacy as phonemes are to English literacy.  I know the concept may be hard to grasp if you are an English speaker and have helped kids to 'sound out words'.  But if you want your child or your class to learn Spanish literacy effectively and authentically, this is the way to go.  For English speakers, this is a new way to think and process the teaching of literacy and initial literacy skills, but remember, we are talking about a language other than English as well.

Basic syllables in Spanish are very similar to those in English, but as you teach your child at home, or as you teach children in the classroom, remember that there is a very important sequence and order when teaching the syllables.

As you know, to form a syllable add a consonant to a vowel:  ma, me, mi, mo, mu.  This is where we start in Spanish.  Of course, the sequencing of the syllables is essential.

Strategy #4: Know the authentic sequence and order for teaching the syllables

vocales y sílabas directas
Check out these products to help teach Spanish literacy!

The syllable sequence begins with 'sílabas directas'.  And even within this group of syllables, the order is very specific and not randomized.  Most of authentic methods will use the following order to teach the syllables:  
m, p, n, s, l, t, r, ca/co/cu, ñ, b,v, ga/go/gu, y, h, f, j, 
que/qui, gue/gui, ge/gi, ce/ci, z, ch, ll (k)

So the 'sílabas directas' sequence in more detail starts like this: ma, me, mi, mo, mu. Then you would continue with pa, pe, pi, po, pu.  And so continue to teach the syllables until you complete this segment.

But as you teach the syllables, the fun part is that you can and should show kids how to blend the syllables and start to build words right away!  Words that you can build with ma, me, mi, mo, mu are, for example, mamá, mima, Mimí, mi, me.  

The common sentence we put together for kids to read at this point is: Mi mamá me ama, mi mamá me mima.

After teaching the 'm' syllables, teach the 'p' syllables, and then start to bring in words that are built with m and p syllables such as: papá, mapa, papa, Pepe and so forth.  This is the perfect time to bring in the 'tilde' or 'accent mark' to differentiate between 'papa' and 'papá". 

Scrambled Sentences Silabas Directas will help you when you are teaching these syllables.  You will be able to help your kids with building sentences made of words with 'sílabas directas'!  Check out that blog post by clicking HERE.

I have several products that are pictured above that can help teach 'sílabas directas', and the Dictado Trifecta is super helpful as well.  Save on the bundle.  Check them out by clicking HERE to read the blog post.

After learning vocabulary and learning how to blend the 'sílabas directas' to build words, children can start to learn the next set of syllables.  In the next few posts I plan to write more about these syllables.  For now, that sequence usually looks like this:

Las Sílabas.... More to come on these, but here's the run-down:

  • Sílabas Directas (above)
  • Sílabas Inversas y Mixtas
    • as, es, is, os, us
    • ar, er, ir, or, ur
    • al, el, il, ol, ul
      • sing y plural: el/la los/las
      • un/una unos/unas
    • an, en, in, on, un
    • ac, ec, ic, oc, uc
    • ax, ex, ix, ox, ux
  • Sílabas Diptongadas (diptongos) vocales fuertes (strong vowels): a, e, o; vocales débiles (weak vowels): i, u 
    • diptongo = strong vowel + weak vowel or weak vowel + strong vowel
      • abiertas (weak vowel + strong vowel): ia, ie, io, ua 
      • cerradas (strong vowel + weak vowel): ai, au, ei, eu, oi, ou
  • Worth noting: some systems will add güe/güi here, some add these syllables above with the 'sílabas directas'
  • Sílabas Trabadas 
    • pla, ple, pli, plo, plu
    • cla, cle, cli, clo, clu
    • gla, gle, gli, glo, glu
    • bla, ble, bli, blo, blu
    • fla, fle, fli, flo, flu
    • tla, tle, tli, tlo, tlu
    • dra, dre, dri, dro, dru
    • tra, tre, tri, tro, tru
    • fra, fre, fri, fro, fru
    • cra, cre, cri, cro, cru
    • gra, gre, gri, gro, gru
    • bra, bre, bri, bro, bru
    • pra, pre, pri, pro, pru

 Strategy #5: Understand that biliteracy is a blend of 2 languages; therefore make adaptations

Adaptations are easy to see on paper as a concept, but it is something more to put these into practice.  I will not go into great detail in this because there is so much to say.  The main concept to begin to consider when thinking about adapting literacy time, is that when we are aiming for bilileracy we are not 100% in  one language, nor  100% in the other language.  In other words we produce bilingualism and biliteracy, a blend of the two languages and cultures!

A point to keep in mind after you have read this post is that you do make adaptations when teaching Spanish when you look at the syllables in Spanish as you would look at a phoneme in English.  If you start here, you are already making a huge adaptation!

To summarize, keep in mind that letter recognition is important in Spanish as well as in English.  

After your kiddos learn letter recognition you then need to emphasize and teach the vowels.  Vowels are the base for forming syllables, and syllables are the base for literacy in Spanish.  Syllables in Spanish are sequenced in a very specific way, and once you get on a roll teaching literacy in Spanish, you will see that the sequence for the syllables is important because each segment builds on the other one.  

No comments

Post a Comment