Mundo de Pepita

Resources for Teaching Languages to Children


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TEACHING 100% IN THE TARGET LANGUAGE IN MY KINDERGARTEN & FIRST GRADE SPANISH CLASSES has taught me many things, a big one being the need to explicitly model and teach my students strategies for communicating with me without translating into English (most especially because I "don't understand English", a dynamic I set up which has been extraordinarily successful! See my post here on my reflections teaching 100% in the TL). Since my Kinders are true Novice Lows, they also have an extremely small vocabulary set to work with, so circumlocution, although a great skill to practice and learn, is not the primary strategy to implement when a kiddo doesn't know how to say something in Spanish but wants to get the message across to me. Enter NON VERBAL COMMUNICATION.... this is essentially circumlocution without words! Here are THREE non verbal strategies I teach and model for my students which allow them to communicate to me (and allow me to help them build their vocabulary in the process!):

Three Non Verbal Strategies for the 90% in the Target Language Classroom

1) GESTURES/ MIMING: A standard practice for us as teachers to convey meaning, students too can utilize this strategy to communicate with us. I consistently elicit gestures & miming from my students by encouraging them when they use them, I model and develop class gestures that can be used time and again, and foster miming by intentionally incorporating activities where miming is the mode of communication, thereby providing practice of this strategy in a concrete manner. I will add- sound effects go great with this strategy!!

2) POINTING: I encourage my students to get up and move about the room to point to the vocabulary they are trying to express- this obviously means my walls are chock full of visuals! I have a pointer handy that any kid can use to point to vocabulary, handing it to them whenever I sense they need to point something out, and I allow kids to freely move about the room to indicate what they are referencing. This has been an incredibly powerful way for my kiddos to communicate!

Non Verbal Strategies for World Language Classrooms to Stay in the Target Language

3) DRAWING: Just as I use illustrations, photos, and other visuals to support understanding, I encourage my students to draw as necessary to get their message across, handing them a dry erase marker and letting them have at it! This has been a really neat way for my kiddos to realize that pictures transmit meaning and are a communication tool in and of themselves! In the photo below, for example, a Kindergartener wanted to tell me that they had four duck eggs outside their homeroom. I handed him the marker and he drew this super adorable picture, told me 'cuatro' (showing me four fingers also) and made quacking sounds.... message received!

Strategies to keep your world language classroom in Spanish French

OF COURSE, BRINGING ALL THREE TOGETHER plus adding the target language they do know is a winning combination! These strategies fill in the gaps when kiddos don't know, or can't remember, the word/phrases they want to express. For my part, as they are using these strategies, I can then furnish the necessary vocabulary in Spanish, filling out what it is they want to say, and providing input in the moment. Since I have a set of key vocabulary that form the basis of my curriculum content, I am highly mindful of trying to work those in when I am walking my students through this communicative process, selecting those high frequency words whenever possible as I know they will be extremely useful going forward.

What are some ways you support your students in communicating without translating? Please share in the comments!

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