June 13, 2017

Whistlefritz~ A Spanish Language Immersion Program for Ages 1-7 {Product Review}

Whistlefritz~ Spanish Language Immersion Program for Kids {review}
Both of my boys love picking up Spanish words, which they sprinkle into their vocabulary. We have reviewed a couple Spanish programs, but nothing really--stuck. My oldest asked to do an actual Spanish program this fall for part of his 6th grade curriculum. My youngest however, hasn't really had anything to teach HIM Spanish in a way for him to truly understand the words without having to search his memory. I have heard that Spanish immersion lessons are the way to go--so when we had the chance to review the award winning Educator's Spanish Collection from Whistlefritz geared for his age, I was curious to see how he would do.

About Whistlefritz

Whistlefritz is an award winning foreign language program designed especially for early elementary ages--ideally for ages 1-7. The company has created French and Spanish language immersion programs, using a mix of multi-media resources in
a fun and educational environment. In the Whistlefritz programs, the language is taught the same way that we learned our native tongue--through using words in context with live speakers doing skits, games, music, and dance. By using real people speaking the language, the children can see how the mouth moves to form the sounds and words. Whistlefritz also teaches more than one word at a time through repetition! The children will hear the words over and over through skits, songs, animation, and games--the way that they are sure to better retain the new information.

Whistlefritz provides an Educator's French Collection ( $115) and an Educator's Spanish Collection ($165). Each of the collections contain:

*Lesson Plans for Kids
Curriculum of 40 reproducible lessons that engage children in a variety of interactive and diverse age-appropriate activities.

*DVDs (5 for Spanish, 3 for French)
Videos designed to capture the visual learner with their animation, skits, songs, and dances

*CDs (3 for Spanish, 2 for French)
Upbeat and fun songs to get the children on their feet and practicing their new vocabulary!

*Memory Matching Cards
Practice the new vocabulary words with these memory matching cards!

The programs also come with translation guides and lyric sheets that can be downloaded on the website for assistance in using the program. There are also FREE lessons plans that match several of the videos, which can downloaded as well.

We were given the Educator's Spanish Collection to review with my 6 year old son.

Our Thoughts on Whistlefritz

When we started Whistlefritz, my biggest challenge was the fact that I do NOT speak Spanish, nor can I understand it. Thus I was going to have learn much in order to "teach" this program. Fortunately, between using the Lesson Plans with its teacher notes, and the incredibly useful translation guide for all the videos/cds, I was able to muddle through as we got started.

The lesson plans book is a nice almost 1" thick book for 40 reproducible plans to teach new vocabulary words and phrases. The activities in each lesson span the various learning styles children have--with much interaction. The lessons plans are written in a CLASSROOM scenario, so they will have to be adapted if you are using this in your homeschool. I found that this was easily accomplished.

Each lesson is set up with an introduction of the lesson which includes the description of the lesson, goal, objective, vocabulary, Materials, and time. Next comes the activities consisting of focus, teacher input (dialogue between teacher and students), guided practice (more interaction between teacher and students to practice the lesson), independent practice, and extension activities (songs, games, suggested Whistlefritz videos).

The 40 lessons include learning colors, birthdays, numbers, shapes, my house, my family, seasons, friends, body, food/drink, animals, the senses, and more!

The #1 problem I faced was that--I don't speak Spanish, so I was GUESSING at pronunciations. I truly feel that these lesson plans were designed only for Spanish speaking teachers--for there were never even any pronunciation guides. For instance, in the first lesson we are given vocabulary for the lesson Who am I? (¿Quién soy?). Then I am told: Say, "¡Hola! Hoy vamos a hablar de quién somos y cómo nos sentimos." I am given a translation of what this means--but nowhere am I given anything to tell me HOW to say it! Although I know basic Spanish phonics rules, I was using Google for this A LOT!

So how did we use the program? 
I began with using the Spanish Lesson plans. We worked through several of the lessons--focusing on just one lesson a week. By the time the review period was over, we could adequately ask for names, how you were feeling, count objects to 10, name and recognize color words, and some animals. We made the puppet from Lesson 1 which was fun. My youngest's favorite game was playing Bingo with the number and color cards. I made use of my white board when working on the colors--I didn't have the suggested transparency sheets for the balloon activity, so we drew balloons in different colors on the board.
making his puppet to practice some dialogue
I would say the word, then draw the balloon for him to guess the color
Hands down, the favorite components of this program were the videos. Every day, they (for yes my oldest wanted them too) ask for a video and take turns choosing which ones they want. Like the program suggests, the repetition DOES teach the language. The videos have really helped the boys with the pronunciations and identification of words. They laugh while watching, and now start saying the words along with the videos. The translation guides have really come in handy for me, when there are just some words they cannot figure out--or they are guessing and want confirmation. 
This is how he watched the videos most days LOL

A mix of live people, puppets, and animation

Teaching the colors with Rico
The FREE lesson plans that go with several of the videos (totally different plans than in the Spanish Lesson Plans book) are very helpful. We have watched the video that teaches names of fruit several times, so this week, we are going to put together the Fritzi booklet about the different fruit--teaching the phrase Mi Gusta or No mi gusta.

Once we have a few more vocabulary words under our belts, I think we will be ready to play the Memory Matching Cards. But we still need to review those words a few more times to remember what they mean.

Would I Recommend Whistlefritz?
I think I would recommend this program--with a disclaimer. It is BEST USED for someone who KNOWS basic Spanish and would be able to guide their children through the course. For example, my sister-in-law married someone who is almost fluent in Spanish. They are trying to raise my nephew (almost 2 years old) to be fluent, thus his daddy speaks almost exclusively in Spanish to him. Because there is the Spanish background, a program like this would be IDEAL for continuing to immerse my nephew in the language. In fact, I suggested the program and they were so excited because it was just the kind of thing they were wanting for my nephew. With my sister-in-law's rudimentary Spanish she has picked up from her husband as well as her husband's understanding--they would be the ideal users to teach this program to their son.

If you do not have a rudimentary understanding of Spanish--or how to pronounce the language, you are going to spend a lot of time on Google like I was! LOL. The product itself states it was designed for the pre-K/Early Elementary SPANISH INSTRUCTOR.

In summary, this is a high quality and engaging program for teaching a Spanish language immersion course to pre-K and early elementary aged children. The lessons are easy to follow and do with very fun coordinating videos and cds to explore the language more fully. Your children WILL want to watch the videos over and over again--even when they don't completely understand the dialogue. I do think this program is going to work best if it's continuously reviewed over and over and over again--until there is complete understanding of the vocabulary and phrases. Watching the videos now and then will not do it.

As one last thing--I do think it's cute that my 6 year old has enough of an understanding of the colors and numbers, that he is now switching the English words out and replacing them with the Spanish equivalent. For instance, in our Language Arts studies, he was supposed to make a sentence with descriptive words--here is what he came up with:
So I KNOW that things are sticking to his memory--another reason why continuous use of a program like this at such a young age WILL work.

Want to Know More about Whistlefritz?

Over the last several weeks, we have been immersing ourselves in the Educator's Spanish Collection from Whistlefritz. You have seen how we have used the program in our family, but what about families with younger children? And what about the Educator's French Collection? Make sure you visit the rest of my fellow crew members to learn more!
Spanish and French {Whistlefritz Reviews}
Make sure you take a moment to check up on Whistlefritz on these social media outlets:
Facebook (@whistlefritz) * Twitter (@Whistlefritz) * YouTube   
Now that we have finished the review, I do plan on eventually passing these great videos on to my sister-in-law who is trying to raise their toddler in a semi-bilingual household. This is JUST the type of program that she has mentioned she is looking for and I think it will help them even more than it has helped us. But I won't be able to do that until my boys stop asking for the videos--which is STILL a daily occurrence. LOL