Teaching Spanish pronunciation to kids | Rockalingua
11/26/2018

Teaching Spanish pronunciation to kids

The end of fall and the beginning of winter is an exciting time in our Spanish classes, especially for the kids.  And, for teachers it’s the perfect moment to combine our Spanish programs with cultural comparisons and to use the language to learn about holidays and cultural practices in the rest of the world.  That’s one of the reasons that we love being language teachers, we have the chance to cultivate curiosity and expand global knowledge through teaching Spanish.  One of the most important aspects to teach, especially when the language is not spoken at home or outside of the classroom, is pronunciation.  While for some it's not necessarily a difficult topic to tackle, we find that with our goal of getting kids speaking and not wanting to discourage them, we sometimes overlook pronunciation errors for the greater good of creating a positive learning environment.  Is anyone else guilty of that?  With improving pronunciation as one of our main goals and focuses we've put together a list of different ways that you can incorporate natural pronunciation practice into your Spanish classes for kids even if you're not a native or bilingual speaker. 

The best part about practicing pronunciation and letter sounds is that you can do it with pre-readers.  That means that it's accessible and necessary to work on in all ages and levels.   Think about how we learn our own native language.  We start with sounds, words, simple sentences and as we grow and learn we eventually work our way to reading.  Why not practice a foreign language in the same way?  Especially if you have very young learners or young learners who can't quite yet read. 

 

Teach pronunciation through songs

Songs are the perfect resource for teaching pronunciation, especially when they have good rythmn, cater to the appropriate level of the class and are repititive and memorable.  At Rock A Lingua we love music, hence the name ;).   Our Spanish songs for kids are sung by a native teacher and musician who focuses on creating songs that combine useful vocabulary with functional language structures, rhythm and ample opportunities to repeat the words heard using the pronunciation presented in the song.  Whether you're working specifically with our resources or just looking for something to put on while your students work in class, our library is full of fun themes that you can sing along to.  Plus, songs are a great way to practice meaningful listening while you work on pronunciation because they are something that many learners are naturally interested in.  

We recently read a blog post by Carolina Gomez at Fun for Spanish Teachers and marveled at the possibility of combining authentic music, culture and Spanish language into one class.  She recommends a resource, The Hummingbird Sings - a musical picture book, that combines a colorful and creatively developed storybook with music to explore Latin American lullibies and nursery rhymes.  

Check out more of her ideas for using traditional songs in the elementary Spanish classroom here.

 

For very young learners this Ronda de Vocales is a great way to get them practicing without any written words involved. 

 

 

 

Practice onomatopoeia’s (onomatopeya)

An onomatopoeia, a word that is said like the actual sound that it describes, is a super fun way to get kids pronouncing all of the sounds, especially vowels.  It brings the learners attention to the different noises they need to make and how they need to physically move their mouths to create them.  Use the onomatopoeia to practice vocabulary, sounds or even build a dialogue around them.  Make it into a cultural comparison by comparing the sounds that occur in the learners first language versus those that occur in Spanish.  

 

 

 

 

Practice the vowel sounds by focusing on mouth and tongue movement

Spanish is wonderful because it's phonetic, but of course, the vowel sounds might not be the same sound as they are in the learner's mother tongue.  In the case of English there are multiple different vowel sounds that change depending on the letters around them, while in Spanish the five vowels are pure and for English speakers, that often makes them difficult to remember and pronounce correctly.  One of the best ways to teach pronunciation to is make the learners aware of the movement of the tongue and mouth when pronouncing a specific letter or in this case, vowel sound.  In many cases students may not hear the difference between the correct pronunciation and their own version or might think that they are already pronouncing it correctly, or are simply incapable of making that strange noise.  However, when they physically change the position of their mouth the noise will have to change as well and hopefully they will be able to hear and feel the difference.   While researching different ways to teach the movement of the mouth when pronouncing the vowels we came across this lesson plan and loved it.  

 

Getting Started:

Draw a bowl-shaped line on the board, like a smile. For younger students, you could start with a smile on the board (just keep it to one line). Since the alphabetical order of the vowels is another reason that teaching the vowels can be less effective, from left to right, just under the line, write the vowels in this order: ieaou. Be sure the a is in the middle, at the bottom-most part of the curve. Next, label the end with the i as the front of the mouth and the end with the u as the back of the mouth at the entrance to the throat. If you draw badly, it can still be humorous. If you have a drawing of a sagittal view of the mouth, it is good to have handy for the next step. A sagittal view is a cut-away view half-way through the mouth from nose to the back of the head, such as you’d see in an ear-nose-throat doctor’s office.

Get the students to focus and listen silently as you pronounce theses five pure vowels, from i-u, as a continuum – no breaks or coming up for air! It will sound like a mantra and might get a few giggles, even from college students, but next comes the lesson they can feel, not just hear.

Looking Funny Part:

Next, tell your students that before they do this themselves, they need to watch your lips as you slowly pronounce i-u again. As you begin, exaggerate the movement of the facial muscles a bit: the i sound should be pronounced with the lips spread wide like a toothy smile, but as you move to the u sound, the lips should tighten into a smoochy pucker. After you’ve modeled that a couple of times, tell them that as the lips are coming together, the tongue is also involved, but in a sort of opposite fashion. It begins at the i sound in a forward position, somewhat raised, goes to a relaxed “say-ah” position in the middle and then backs up toward the throat at the u sound. I like to use my hands to show their opposite motion, with one hand representing the lips, starting with fingers spread and closing them together, and the other representing the tongue’s curved path.

Now For The Laugh:

Now it’s their turn. Let them have at it. Pick out a few brave students to model it for the rest of the class, or, if time permits (often as a wind-down at the end of a class period), have them all do it, or just a few. 

*taken from the blog post: An Upbeat Way to Teach the Pronunciation of Spanish Vowels by Eric W. Vogt

 

  

 

 

Using Spanish worksheets to practice

There are many worksheets and songs that focus the learner's attention on the vowel sounds and letter sounds present in the Spanish langauge.  '

1. Free picture dictionary to practice the vowel sounds that go along with the ABC alphabet video and song

2. Spanish clothing vocabulary vowel practice and video 

 

Practice with Spanish tongue twisters

 

Pablito Clavo un Clavito (video)

 

PABLITO CLAVÓ UN CLAVITO

Pablito clavó un clavito

en la calva de un calvito.

En la calva de un calvito

un clavito clavó Pablito.

 

Erre con Erre Cigarro: A Tongue Twister in Spanish (video)

Version 1:

Erre con erre cigarro,

erre con erre barril.

Rápido corren los carros,

cargados de azúcar del ferrocarril.

 

Version 2:

Erre con erre cigarro,

erre con erre barril.

Rápido corren los carros,

detrás del ferrocarril.

 

Version 3:

Erre con erre guitarra,

erre con erre barril.

Mira que rápido ruedan,

las ruedas del ferrocarril.

 

As always, we'd love to hear how you work on Spanish pronunciation in your kids classes.  Please feel free to comment below or on our Facebook page!  Thanks for reading and keep on rocking! 

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