Review: Whistlefritz

My littles absolutely l♡ve the videos, music, games, and activities in the Educator's Spanish Collection by Whistlefritz.

We'd been cobbling together some Spanish lessons on our own for quite some time, but it was a struggle to be consistent because sometimes a new day would dawn, and I'd realize I'd forgotten to prepare.

It's a nice change of pace to always have something ready to go so the kids are getting consistent exposure to the Spanish language . . . something they look forward to!

The Educator's Spanish Collection includes:
5 DVDs
3 CDs
Book of 40 lesson plans
Matching game--Spanish verbs

Who at my house likes it:
Baymax and Lola--2 1/2 yrs
Little Brother--4 yrs
Brother and Mister Man--5 yrs
Ladybug--6 yrs
Little Princess--7 yrs
Nature Angel--10 yrs

(The videos and lessons are definitely geared to very young children.  Nature Angel wouldn't choose to watch the videos herself, but she's happy to join her younger siblings.)

How we use the materials:
The kids watch a DVD episode each school day for a week. (That's how the program is consistent for us!)  By watching the same DVD all week long, they get to hear the same vocabulary and sentence structure over and over again.  I've noticed that while on Monday they just laugh at the antics of the puppets and cartoon characters, by Friday they're asking thoughtful questions and repeating some of the words and phrases they've been listening to all week.

One day each week I present one of the lessons from the plan book.  In my heart, I'd like to present a lesson and then review it and extend it (suggestions are in the lesson plan book, and you can view a sample lesson plan here) on 2 other days, but I'm simply not there right now. 

If we had a CD player in our van, I'd put the 3 CDs in there and we'd listen to Spanish vocabulary songs, early learning songs, and fingerplays while we run errands.

But we don't.  

So we really only use the CDs in conjunction with the lesson plans.

The songs are lively and catchy.  Having the words to the songs printed in the lesson plan book makes it easy for me to sing along and lead the kids in improvised fingerplays that really help them learn.

And the matching cards are irresistible fun for the kids any time.  They include pictures and words for 25 common verbs and can be used in a variety of ways.

General Observations:
According to the FAQ page:  "The Lesson Plans are a coherent, “scaffolded” curriculum in which later lessons build upon prior lessons."  And later on the FAQ page it is recommended for those unsure where to start:  "Start from the beginning of the Spanish Lesson Plans for Kids curriculum and work your way through the book. The Lesson Plans have a clearly defined structure and order. The structure of the curriculum will lend structure to your overall Spanish instruction."

I can see that this is true in the sense that Lesson 26 "Let's Eat:  Vegetables" is reviewed in Lesson 27 "Let's Eat: Fruit." And Lesson 27 is reviewed in Lesson 28.  However, in our experience so far, the lessons don't seem to need to be presented in any specific order.  If I had fruits on hand, but I was out of veggies, it would be perfectly easy to switch the order of the lessons and review the names of fruit on the veggie day. The lessons focus on vocabulary acquisition.  We've happily jumped over lessons for which I didn't have the supplies, going on to other lessons and circling back without a hitch.  Every once in a while a later lesson will refer to an earlier lesson or to handouts needed from an earlier lesson, but nothing has kept us from being able to complete the lessons in the order that we want.

Lesson 1 calls for making puppets to use for practicing greetings.  We had lots and lots of old socks and googly eyes, so though the lesson calls for simple paper bag puppets, we had a grand time making these instead.  We named them and get them out each week to review our Spanish greeting skills.

The lessons often require some sort product that I don't have around the house.  For instance, Lesson 2 requires transparency sheets; lesson 4 requires balloon stickers (I bought those dot stickers that people use for pricing at garage sales); Lesson 5 requires multicolored goldfish crackers, etc.  I've had to plan ahead and do careful shopping in order to complete the lessons as planned.

We discovered that the transparencies used for practicing (and making) colors (Lesson 2) clung to our windows, and the light shining through gave us a better color-mixing effect.  We also discovered that because our red was so strong, it took 2 blues to make purple and 2 yellows to make orange!

On the flip side, some lessons (i.e. Lessons 18 and 19) require nothing more than making copies of handouts or game pieces.  Those are the lessons toward which I gravitate on busier than usual weeks!

Grammar is presented in the DVDs; the spoken conversations are the grammar lessons.   I noticed that the host often repeats sentences several times changing only the subject and the verb conjugation to allow children to hear how the sentences change naturally--without formal grammar activities.  

The music tracks on the CDs are not labeled in any way that I've been able to find.  There is no list of titles on the CDs themselves, and when I put the CDs in my computer to see if our music player would give me a list, all the songs were simply labeled "Track 1," "Track 2," etc.  This has proven very frustrating when trying to find a particular song for a particular lesson.  While the words to the song are printed in the lesson, and the title of the CD is referenced in the lesson, I've had to spend many minutes hunched over the CD player listening to the first lines of each song until I find the right one.

My husband, who served a 2 year mission in Venezuela as a young adult, was home one day as the kids watched.  "What's this?" he asked.

"Whistlefritz Spanish lessons,"  I answered.

"What's it for?" he asked with furrowed brow.

"Ummm, learning Spanish?" I grinned as I answered.

He chuckled, "Yes I know, but it seems like a Latin American kids' show, not an American how-to-speak-Spanish show."

"I know.  I think that's the point.  This program uses the immersion technique to allow kids to get really familiar with the language.  I think that if it reminded you of something you'd have seen in Venezuela, then that's great!  It's got an authentic feel."

"Yeah, you're right," he said, and then he started telling me funny stories about Venezuelan Spanish and Mexican Spanish and misunderstandings that can happen between the two.

I noticed as the kids watched "La Fiesta de Fritzi" that the family baking a birthday cake is a family of color.  In my multicultural family, we are always grateful to find positive multicultural examples of families learning and growing together.  In addition, the children throughout all of the videos are of various human colors.  That's a plus for us.

Overall, we're having a good experience with the Educator's Spanish Collection by Whistlefritz.  My kids really like the DVDs, the songs, the matching game, and the lessons.  I find the lessons take advanced planning to execute, but they are engaging, and I'm hearing my kids practice Spanish often.

We used 1 DVD every day for a week which means we watched all 5 DVDs in 5 weeks, and on week 6, we cycled back to the DVD we'd watched in week 1.  Nature Angel and Little Princess exclaimed to me later in the afternoon, "Mom!  We understand more than we did at first!  The first time we watched the video, it was like Sara was just waving her arms around and talking nonsense, but this time we understood what she was talking about!"

They're very excited to keep watching and understanding more.

So am I.

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