The ABCs and 123s of English Class at Spanish Schoolhouse

Preparing Bilingual Learners for Kindergarten

Kari Aguilar, Spanish Schoolhouse, preschool English class, preparing bilingual learners for kindergarten
Kari Aguilar, SSH Preschool English Teacher

As a Spanish immersion school, we primarily teach in Spanish, but we know it’s essential for preschoolers to have a strong English foundation too. One of our experts on this subject is Kari Aguilar.  Allow us to introduce her!

Mrs. Kari is a familiar face to many Spanish Schoolhouse parents. She’s the bubbly, energetic star (and creator/editor) of this year’s SSH Preschool English videos!  We normally have a 30 minute in-person English class for our three and four-year-old students, but during the pandemic we’ve adapted with a virtual version.  Most of our schools send these video links home via email, but a few locations view the videos during school hours. For Kari, it’s been exciting to be able to reach so many students and their families this year!

Kari worked as a speech pathologist and educational diagnostician in her public school career. She discovered Spanish Schoolhouse as a parent when both of her children attended from age 2 through Kindergarten. Kari loved the immersion concept and the SSH energy and wanted to get more involved.  She started teaching the preschool English class at SSH Frisco in 2010 and happily continued in that role for five years.  She also taught the Kindergarten English class and has helped with training and curriculum development for several years. 

For today’s post, we sat down with Mrs. Kari to learn more about how the English class works at Spanish Schoolhouse.

Q: Mrs. Kari, what do you see as the role of the English class in a Spanish immersion preschool?

A:  Even though families choose SSH for the Spanish immersion, many kiddos won’t continue in an immersion/bilingual program in elementary school. The English teacher’s job is to prepare them to go into an English (or mostly English) educational environment.  Of course, parents are the main educators, but we serve as a support to them.

Q:  What are your goals for the English class and how do they differ based by age?

A:  Primarily, we’re here to lay the groundwork for reading and math skills the students will develop in elementary school.  We teach letters and numbers according to the preschool TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills).  My goal is to make the learning environment fun and engaging, to demonstrate that learning is enjoyable and exciting.

For the three-year-olds, we introduce them to letters and the idea that letters make up words.  We’re creating a love of reading and stories, as well as talking about how to handle books.  We also develop concepts of numbers and having fun with them.  

Four-year-olds have longer attention spans. We can read longer stories and discuss comprehension questions (who, what, where, when, and why). In math, we talk about the calendar, days, weeks, and months. These are all concepts they’ll need for kindergarten.

Preschool English Class; preparing bilingual learners for kindergarten; Spanish Schoolhouse

Q:  It’s been a strange year!  How has it been teaching preschoolers virtually?

A:  It’s been interesting!  It’s so different because when you don’t see the kids’ faces, you don’t get that feedback to know when they are engaged.  I try to encourage them to get up and dance or clap their hands to keep things interactive.  Sometimes I add silly graphics to the videos to make them laugh.  I just try to keep building connections as much as possible.

Kari Aguilar, preschool English class, Spanish Schoolhouse; preparing bilingual learners for kindergarten

Q: What can parents do at home to help their children be Kindergarten-ready?

A: I tell parents, “Read a book together every day!”  Ask your child questions about the story and help them to equate reading and stories with pleasure.  Point out letters and numbers you see in daily life – signs in the grocery store or while driving, letters you get in the mail, menus, etc.  Make it a daily habit – a few minutes a day can make all the difference!  

And of course, we hope you are watching the English Class videos sent by the schools!  Bookmark the link – new videos are uploaded weekly.

Q:  What are some of your all-time favorite children’s books?

A:  There are a few series that I love!  The “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” series is silly and fun; it’s always good for some laughs. I also have a soft spot for Clifford books.  My favorite is Clifford Goes to Dog School.  Another favorite is the Berenstain Bears books.  They are relatable and always teach a good moral.

Clifford book, English class, Spanish Schoolhouse

Q:  Any final thoughts to share with Spanish Schoolhouse parents?

A:  I would share that my family’s personal experience with Spanish immersion was really beneficial for my own children, who are now 16 and 13.  They were both reading at an advanced level in first grade after SSH Kindergarten, and have both continued with their Spanish language learning.  I’m so thankful that we discovered Spanish Schoolhouse, both for my kids and for myself.  It’s been such a positive experience.

We want to send a big THANK YOU to Ms. Kari for all she does for the children of Spanish Schoolhouse!   And if you haven’t been following along with her English videos this year, be sure to look for the link in your weekly reminders.

To learn more about our bilingual Kindergarten program, check out this post or visit our website.  

So, what do you think?