La Clase Divertida Spanish Curriculum

Dear Reader,

At our recent homeschool convention, the keynote speaker said (I paraphrase): “I don’t recommend curricula. I could tell you what we use but that wouldn’t tell you how we use it.” I feel the same way about a lot of what we use. I never follow directions exactly and often adapt. This is true of our Spanish curriculum as well. I am now going through La Clase Divertida (it translates to “the fun class”) for the second time (I did it a number of years ago with my older two kids and now am doing it with my younger two). I have recommended this curriculum both in person and in online forums. But I have also recently heard that a friend is disappointed in it and is giving up on it. So I thought I would say a few words about how we use this curriculum and what I think it’s best and worst points are.

La Clase Divertida is primarily a video curriculum. I believe there may now be more to it but what I own is the first three years of videos and accompanying CDs and workbooks. When my oldest two were doing it, this was all there was which was why we ultimately stopped and they chose other languages to study. Each year consists of 15 video lessons. The lessons are set up as a class. The instructor, Senor Gamache, is in a classroom with students. he teaches them and asks them questions, they sing songs, they make mistakes. They also do a wonderful job of incorporating you, the audience. Most lessons start with the students asking you, telelandia (television-land), some questions. At this point you should pause your DVD player (VCR here; I told you I got these a while ago) and answer them. This class is best done when the parent participates and learns along with the student though an older student could certainly do it on their own, but it is meant to be interactive. Having multiple students is also nice though you can certainly do it with an only as well. We recently got together and had an end-of-the-year fiesta with three other families who were using the curriculum and even though they were all only finishing up level 1 and we are most fo the way through level 2, it was still really helpful. It was good to see what they remembered, but also to see how they stumbled when put on the spot (as the kids in the video class often do).

The curriculum comes with an audio CD and workbooks as well as craft supplies. This time through I am using none of them. If you don’t know any Spanish yourself, I would suggest using the audio. It is important to review between lessons. Even better though is just to try and incorporate the Spanish you all have learned in your life. As the program suggests, you need to do more than watch each lesson once. This is even more true as the years progress. Year one is comparatively slow and easy. Year two ramps it up quite a bit. Year three gets really fast in terms of how much they learn in each lesson. These lessons are meant to take 2 weeks (that’s why there are only 15 per year). You should watch the videos at least twice (I never do more than  twice as they would get too tedious and sometimes I fast forward through some more boring parts the second time) and try to practice in between. This can be as simple as five minutes of pointing out things around the house and asking your kids for the Spanish words.

I have not found the workbooks particularly helpful. Crosswords and word searches I  just don’t think are great learning tools. And even the other exercises have always been too much writing for my kids. Neither have we done the crafts this year. The crafts and recipes and parts of the videos where they talk about history and culture are a nice idea but they are not essential to the class. The first few we dound amusing, but overall they tend to drag. They can easily be skipped. This includes a long segment in year two when one draws a map of Spain. Very tedious.

I know it sounds at this point like I have a lot of ciriticisms of La Clase Divertida and I supose that is true. But I still think it is a good curriculum. The heart of it is really the lessons with the class and that is the best part of it. I have tried 3 different French curricula with my older daughter in the last year or two and they all got very boring very quickly. La Clase Divertida does not do this. The lessons get tougher, but they don’t drag. This curriculum is best for ages 5 through 14. It is also best if your goal is conversational Spanish. There is not much explanation of grammar. Kids pick up words as they use them and Senor Gamache makes a point of teaching things that are important to kids (what’s your favorite color? how old are you?). Despite its drawbacks, I think La Clase Divertida is definitely worth looking into.



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