Studies Point to Multisensory Approach as Most Effective Way to Teach Kids Spanish

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Research-based Spanish curriculum uses art, music and games 
to address diverse learning styles of young students.

As the world gets smaller, schools and teachers feel mounting pressure to teach children Spanish at a young age. But while parents' expectations are justifiably high, what they may not know is how great the challenge is for schools to put children on the path to fluency. With the current focus on math, science and testing, limited budgets and limited time allocated for second language learning, ( the reality of the task can be daunting for teachers, especially when language instruction is often limited to one hour per week.

Now research is lighting the way to innovative teaching methods that can help overcome these obstacles. Cognitive studies in recent years indicate that a multisensory teaching approach which addresses a variety of student learning styles is the best way to engage students, sustain attention and improve retention (1). Providing a foreign language curriculum that meets these objectives may be the key to success (

Applying Research to the Classroom
Agnes Chavez, developer of Sube Learning Language through Art, Music and Games (, has seen the benefits of the multisensory approach firsthand. Several years ago, she started an after school program to teach Spanish to kids in her community one hour per week, which is the most time parents could commit. She soon discovered how seemingly impossible it was to move kids towards fluency with such limited exposure to the language.

"I asked myself how I could maximize learning and increase retention within that limited window of time," she recalled. "I discovered that a multisensory approach that addresses the diverse needs of my students was the best way to engage them and actually accelerate learning."

Chavez is among many who have successfully implemented multisensory strategies in education based on Howard Gardner's Multiple Intelligence Theory ( The Harvard education professor's work suggests that the traditional notion of intelligence based on IQ tests is far too limited. He presents eight types of intelligence including linguistic, logical, musical and interpersonal. His theory confirms what many educators intuitively know: students think and learn in a variety of ways.

Learning specialist Judith Dodge, a recognized leader in the field of effective classroom instruction and author of Differentiation in Action (, supports the multisensory approach. She states in her book, "when students are intrinsically motivated to learn, as they are when provided with choice and the ability to use their strengths and talents in the classroom, their learning is much greater."
Debunking the Divide Between Fun and Education
In addition to improved teaching methodology, these findings suggest that erasing long-held barriers between education and recreation may be the best way to maximize learning. Teachers may be relieved to discover that they don't have to make fun and play extracurricular activities. In fact, their teaching may actually be more effective--and more fun for students--when these elements are built into their classes. Proponents of the multisensory approach claim that doing so can actually accelerate learning while building student confidence.

More Fun and Functional Spanish Curriculum
In developing Sube, Ms. Chavez specifically designed a curriculum that applies this research to teach kids beginner Spanish more effectively. She found that the multisensory approach gave her the freedom to build art, music and games right into the lessons. This not only makes classes fun and engaging for the students, but has proven highly effective for teaching a second language in short blocks of time.

"I found that when we introduced new vocabulary through collaborative interpersonal games, then further explored it through art projects, and later heard and experienced it through a music video, while also providing reading and writing activities around the same vocabulary, students developed a more meaningful connection to the content," she said. "When I saw them a week later they had retained more and were able to progress to the next level faster."

Sube offers a complete curriculum with a planner and multisensory materials such as a music video DVD, Ay Caramba Bingo, Culebra Puzzle and more. The included multicultural music incorporates and reinforces key vocabulary through songs and motion. With comprehensive lesson plans, materials and teaching strategies all included, teachers have all the tools needed to provide a fun, high quality, research-based Spanish education--all with minimal preparation time.

For more on this topic, or on the Sube materials, email or call 575-758-1387

About Sube, Inc.
Based in Taos, N.M., Sube Inc. ( was founded in 1996 by Agnes Chavez to create innovative and effective ways to teach language and cultural diversity in schools, communities and homes. The name Sube (pronounced Soo-bay) means "to go up" in Spanish and is a reflection of her desire to elevate children's knowledge to prepare them for future success.

Today, the company produces a line of multimedia products that empower teachers and parents to teach Spanish or English as a second language by incorporating research-based teaching methods into art, music and games. The company's vision is predicated on the belief that learning more than one language gives children a global awareness crucial to their success in the world today.

(1) Effective teachers make a conscious effort to design instruction that incorporates a broad variety of learning preferences beyond their own (Doolan & Honigfeld, 2000; Sadler-Smith & Smith, 2004)

Varying teaching strategies to address all sensory preferences increases learning, regardless of the individual student's primary preference (Thomas, Cox, & Kojima, 2000)

Using multisensory strategies, teachers can engage and sustain the attention of all students. By employing a variety of strategies, the teacher may address the mixed efficiencies of those students as well as the dominant and secondary preferences of others. Thus, they reinforce strong preferences and strengthen weaker ones (Silver et al., 2000; Haggart, 2003)


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