For current students
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you teach so many different aged children at one time?
Many parents are reluctant to put their 5 year old in a class with a 10 year old. On the surface, I can understand their concern. However, since Spanish is new to most of the students, they all need to start with the very basics. (Even ones who have taken classes in the past can use a refresher.) The way Club Amigos is structured, vocabulary is introduced first, followed by phrases. The children are then taught to put it all together in sentences. It is then all reinforced by a fun activity or a game, where reading and writing are not typically required. Since virtually all children like to play games and the material is equally new to everybody, the students end up not caring about their ages. In fact, if anything, the younger children usually retain the vocabulary faster while the older students understand the concepts of the games and activities. This creates an interesting dynamic where the children need each other and have a newfound respect for one another. Confidence is gained, Spanish is learned and fun is usually had by all.
Should we enroll for more than one session or are they all the same?
Your child will get the most out of this program by enrolling all year, in all the sessions. In fact, students typically enroll for Club Amigos for many years. We teach a different topic each session and we have 7 years' worth of lesson plans to keep things fresh and exciting for all children — both ones new to the program and those returning for more. Enrolling in one session typically means only 7 or 8 Spanish classes, which would be a waste of time and money if you have no intention of keeping it up and having follow-through.
Do students need to be able to read or write to be in this program?
Club Amigos' focus is on conversational Spanish, using games, songs and engaging activities. While a few of our activities might involve reading, we'll always group the children so that each group has a reader in it. We are also mindful in our games to put a child against another student of equal abilities so that the competition is fair. Overall, we try and keep the focus verbal (with picture cues more than written ones), as that seems to be the way most children learn best.
Why are elementary classes only 45 minutes?
Most Club Amigos classes are offered after school. After a long day of sitting and learning, children's attention spans are almost exhausted. Even for classes offered before school, more than 45 minutes ends up being too long. When we first started this program, we we offered the class for an hour. We quickly found out that, no matter how engaging our activities were, the last 15 or 20 minutes ended up being a waste of time. Most children could no longer concentrate, no matter how exciting the game. We then scaled back and tried offering class for a half hour, which then proved to be too short. Class was over just as we were all getting into the activity. For that reason, 45 minutes seems to be a happy medium, as it keeps children engaged the entire time and leaves them wanting more. If a particular activity runs a little longer, we'll keep the children for a few extra minutes without any extra charge to you. On the whole, however, we usually end right on time and the children leave, looking forward to the next class.
Why is it only one day a week? There are some other programs that offer classes two or three times a week.
We tried offering this class twice a week when we first started the program 12 years ago. Unfortunately, kids who were able to do it the first day were not often able to do it the second day. We got a lot of complaints because the two days we chose did not work for everybody. We ended up having only about three students who were able to do the two days we chose. We then decided it would be best to offer it one day a week, as more children were able to participate that way. We find that by efficiently using our time (even just once a week), we are still able to get good results.
When other programs offer classes two or three times a week, it does not necessarily mean the program is better than one offering classes only once a week. It's truly quality over quantity in this situation. If the instructor is not an experienced teacher (most programs have instructors who are native speakers, high school students or parents), a lot of time is often wasted on discipline problems. Thus two or even three days a week does not necessarily mean more Spanish instruction. Furthermore, some programs that offer Spanish twice a week do not run all school-year long. We believe consistency is key, which is why Club Amigos runs for the duration of the year. I had a parent leave our program to join another one that had Spanish three times a week. A few months later, the parent called me to say that she was sorry she left Club Amigos, as her child learned more from our class once a week than from the other one with classes three times a week. It turned out the instructors at that other program were not actual Spanish teachers and didn't have control of the class. Much of the time was spent disciplining the children and not learning Spanish. They also did a lot of coloring, video watching and other activities that were more like babysitting than teaching. I have heard this complaint fairly often from parents whose children are in other programs.
Thus, while Club Amigos is only one day a week, we use the time as efficiently as possible. We also now have a book/CD for purchase and we always offer homework (that children can choose to do or not to do). Such supplemental materials are great ways to reinforce Spanish at home and to keep the students involved even after our class ends.
Why does it cost money?
Club Amigos is an independent company, not paid for by the school or the school district. At the present time, many school systems do not offer foreign language classes at the preschool or elementary level. Club Amigos gives children an opportunity to learn Spanish that they might not otherwise have. Think of it as an extracurricular activity, much like soccer or piano lessons. Your tuition pays our instructors for their time and expertise, covers the cost of materials, newsletter printing, liability insurance and building-rental fees charged by the school district.
We try and help families by having rates that are significantly less than other Spanish programs in the metro area. We also do not charge any registration fees. Furthermore, we offer discounts for those who prepay for the entire year, for those with siblings and for those wanting to purchase our book/CD. We want to make Club Amigos and its products as accessible and affordable to as many families as possible.
Why does it matter that the teachers are certified and experienced? Couldn't anyone who speaks Spanish teach it?
A person can know all the Spanish in the world, but it doesn't mean he or she is capable of teaching it. Can you teach English just because it's your native language? Having certification and experience is invaluable. I, for one, took courses in college that showed me proper and successful teaching methods. I then had hands-on experience that has taught me how to best deal with, manage and educate children. Typically, when a teacher is inexperienced, there are often behavior and classroom management problems. Children misbehave and valuable teaching time gets wasted on discipline. A class can be offered three times a week, but if the instructor is not a trained teacher, much of that teaching time will be compromised. Having experienced teachers ensures the quality of the program and lets parents rest easy that their money is not being spent for a teacher working harder to control the class than actually teaching Spanish.
As an interesting side note, Club Amigos is so selective in hiring teachers, we currently have only two teachers on staff. We would rather turn schools (work) away than put your children in the care of an inexperienced teacher.
How does dismissal work?
For morning classes at elementary schools, Club Amigos typically dismisses the children from Spanish class directly to their homerooms. If students need to be signed in (usually ECE kids in Denver Public Schools), we will sign them in. Otherwise, the (older) kids go straight to their class themselves. If dismissal is different at your particular school, we will let you know.
For after school classes at elementary schools, we typically dismiss outside the front of the school, unless we let you know otherwise. Children in the school's After School Care Program (sometimes called B.A.S.E. or Aftercare, Kaleidoscope) are dismissed or taken straight to that program. For those getting picked up, you are expected to be there on time, as our instructors often have another school in which to report and we simply cannot wait with your child for an undetermined amount of time. You will be charged a late fee if you are not there to pick up your child on time. This fee will be enforced even if you have somebody else picking up your child.
Are children allowed to bring snacks for Club Amigos classes after school?
We allow you to send your child to Club Amigos with a snack, but we ask that it is one that is quick to eat and easy to clean up. We will alert you of any nut allergies and what snacks to avoid sending, if needed. In general, we ask that you be mindful in the snacks you choose to send, as we want to use our time teaching and learning... not eating, sharing and cleaning up goodies.
For any questions not answered here, please contact Rachel, as she will be more than happy to help you out: firstname.lastname@example.org