For the last three years, fifth graders at Fieldston Lower have been using Duolingo, the popular digital language-learning program, to support their study of Spanish at home.
According to FL Spanish teacher Cristina Mella, "Duolingo is fun and has a game-like structure, so kids love it." She uses the "Schools" version of the web-based platform (Duolingo is also available as an app), which allows teachers to tailor assignments and track students' progress.
At the start of the school year, Mella creates accounts for each of the fifth graders, adjusting the safety settings so students can't interact with their classmates or others online. After a basic introduction to Duolingo in the classroom, students are responsible for completing a series of "friendly" homework assignments every week, which they review the following Monday.
"Much of the Spanish-language program in the lower grades at Fieldston Lower is based on speaking and listening," Mella noted. "In the fourth grade, the focus expands to reading and writing, and Duolingo is a great tool to develop these skills. It teaches users to make simple yet complete sentences, not just words. I like the fact that it's a linear program, meaning you can't 'unlock' a lesson until you have successfully completed the previous one."
Mella appreciates that Duolingo connects language with culture. For instance, it mentions current events that are taking place in the country or countries where the target language is spoken. "It's also full of images and sounds, so students get to see the language and they get to hear it."