CHESHIRE – With parents preparing kids to return to school, Small World Languages, an early learning language school, is ready to start its first fall session. The school, founded by Matt and Maegen Colehour of Cheshire, is made up of educators teaching French, German, Italian, Japanese, Spanish and baby sign language.
The Record-Journal recently sat down with Spanish teacher and Cheshire resident Cristina Piedrahita, originally from Columbia, to talk about her classroom, the growing demand to learn another language and how she teaches Spanish to preschoolers.
Q: What made you want to start teaching Spanish here at Small World Languages?
Piedrahita: I’m a preschool teacher and a parent, and speaking another language while living here in this country, I could see the need for my own child to speak both. So that’s how it started and then I connected it with my teaching.
Q: Why do you think it is easier for a younger student to learn another language?
Piedrahita: I think young children have such an incredible need to explore. They want to learn so much about everything. Everything is new, everything is there to be discovered.
Q: How do you teach them Spanish at such a young age?
Piedrahita: I do a lot of individualizing, a lot of “what are you interested in?” When we teach them we try to make sure that they learn colors, and they learn the same things they learn in preschool. Math concepts and counting, and sorting and making choices.
The all-about-me concept to start is wonderful because you know you start off about your face and you know show me your eyes and your nose just like you teach a baby. You try to go back to when they were learning English.
Q: What is a challenge in teaching children another language?
Piedrahita: They’re put on the spot. They are expected to say it and repeat it and that’s hard. Sometimes even for us adults, you know we don’t want to say things in front of other people when we’re not confident that we know it.
Q: How do you make them more comfortable?
Piedrahita: So through playing, doing games. One thing I try to do constantly in the classroom is I request and give them the opportunity to express things. So for example I use a lot of the Mr. Potato Head, Señor Patata, with all the pieces. I give each one of them a potato and they want to put it together. They want all these pieces but I have them in a bin with a lid and they need to request it.
I say ojos? (pointing to eyes) or boca? (pointing to mouth). So they repeat it.
Q: How do you teach them to read in Spanish if they may not know how to read in English yet?
Piedrahita: I always read a book in my class. We do group time but reading is always one of the things that I try to do. It is wonderful that a lot of the classics are in many languages. I try to find some of those because they already know the story so as I’m reading the story they can identify.
Q: Does this help them in school overall?
Piedrahita: I think what learning another language does for them is amazing.
Now they are the ones coming home after our class, and sometimes they have homework to do, and now they’re working with mom and dad or brothers or sisters and they are ones that know. They are teaching them. So I think for confidence, it does a lot.
When they cross that line like “I can do this,” it does amazing things for them.
Q: Have you seen more of a demand over the years for children to learn another language?
Piedrahita: I definitely have. I have worked in a lot of different communities and I think some places are a little bit more interested in having children exposed from a young age. I was so thrilled when I met Matt and Maegen that they wanted to do this here because the demand is there.
People are really more aware of how good it is for children to speak another language. There are no lines, there are no borders there is just so much to discover for them when they speak another language.
More information can be found at https://smallworldlanguages.com/ or by calling 203-516-1663