Monday, February 9, 2015

Authentic tangible culture for young students

Recently I saw this infographic depicting an iceberg as a metaphor for culture- most of the culture is 'underwater' or rather, more in depth. It is a great graphic! However, at the elementary level, where young children are first being introduced to and learning about the concept of language and culture (often for the first time!) finding tangible, concrete aspects of culture to include in the classroom are key, in my opinion, and typically fall under the 'surface culture' part of the iceberg. As they gain experience and the mental ability to comprehend deeper culture as more than a fact about a group of people they have never met  (such as concepts of self, attitudes, and such) these can be added into Spanish class.

One of the most tangible and authentic ways I have brought culture into my elementary classroom, which I believe hits both surface and deep culture at the same time, is the tradition of Ratoncito Pérez, the Tooth Mouse. It is a celebration of sorts, that wonderful and magical experience of losing a tooth, and a coming of age moment for little kiddos. Recognizing and celebrating it in Spanish class via an adorable mouse (not a fairy!) has always been the most remembered, understood and delightful aspects of culture my students interact with. And, because kiddos always have loose teeth or one has fallen out, Ratoncito Pérez is part of EVERY class! Talk about keeping something fresh in their minds!

Here are ways I integrate Ratoncito Pérez in my classes:
*Right from Kindergarten kiddos learn how to say 'Tengo un diente flojo' and 'Se me cayó un diente'... they are encouraged to share their 'tooth news' with me anytime
*I have tooth chart posters featuring Ratoncito Pérez where I record each kiddo's name when he/she loses a tooth (they have to tell me in Spanish or their name doesn't go on the poster :) )
*I teach an entire theme about Ratoncito Pérez in Second Grade, where we read our book 'El diente de Javi' (see the link to our store at the end of this post) and then imagine what Ratoncito Pérez looks like (color and size) and what mode of transportation he uses to get around. After they have practiced this, they then write and illustrate three sentences describing him with this vocab. Super cute!
*I hand out certificates celebrating the lost tooth
*I read books I have collected over the years of various authors imagining adventures with Ratoncito Pérez-go to Amazon and type in 'Ratoncito Pérez' or 'Ratón Pérez'...a whole load of books will come up. My favorite is 'Cartas al Ratón Pérez'! (Note: most of these are in Spanish and with vocabulary far too advanced for my students to understand so I translate in my head and read it out loud in English)
*I have printed out lots of illustrations from Google images over the years which I put around my classroom...he is always present!
There are also two full length movies about Ratón Pérez made in Spain- if you are able to get ahold of a copy and can play it, what fun that is!

If you are interested in integrating Ratoncito Pérez into your classroom and don't want to start from scratch, please check out our Activity Pack in our store on TpT! It is full of printable activities, posters, 'El diente de Javi' minibook, props for retelling the story, and more! Ratoncito Pérez Printable Minibook & Activity Pack

5 comments:

  1. I LOVE this! My kids are always telling me about their teeth. What a great way to incorporate culture AND let my heritage speakers feel connected as well. Thank you for sharing!

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    1. Absolutely!! It has been wonderful over the years-parents will tell me how their kiddos couldn't wait to tell me they had lost a tooth :) Definitely a winner for my classes :)

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  2. This is great! My eldest (at 7!) finally lost two teeth. We talked to him about Ratoncito Perez, but in the back of my mind I have the same question as I do with the Reyes Magos--why does he get gifts from them when his friends do not? or why does he get $$ from the tooth fairy when his friends in Spain do not. Curious as to how you talk about that with your students? or does it even come up?

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  3. Jen,
    Those are great questions! And, additionally, how to deal with the great variation in terms of what Santa/Reyes Magos, Tooth Fairy, Tooth Mouse, Easter Bunny gives to each child. (Interestingly, kiddos don't often ask why so and so got $5 and he/she only got $1 from the Tooth Fairy, but I often wonder why they actually don't ask- when kiddos tell me they got a lot of $ from the Tooth Fairy in class, I answer by saying 'Wow! She must've just been to the bank!" to try and mitigate hurt feelings). As to Los Reyes vs Santa or Ratoncito Pérez vs Tooth Fairy- firstly, I always introduce them as traditions in Spanish speaking countries (naturally lol), so if you lived there, Ratoncito Pérez would come to your house, not the Tooth Fairy (and of course, vice versa, if you live in the US, Santa and the Tooth Fairy make an appearance, kind of like 'when in Rome, do as the Romans do' :) ). They accept that readily, though sometimes with surprise! Talk about widening their perspective! For my students who have parents from Spanish speaking countries, I tell the class that Ratoncito Pérez and Los Reyes might naturally come to their house because of their heritage, which makes sense to them. And, very cutely, some of my American students put out shoes on Jan 5 in anticipation of Los Reyes (and I tell parents about the tradition) and some parents do put something in their shoes, which I love to hear! One year, I even put my own shoes out in the hallway outside my classroom, along with water and grass and Los Reyes "came to visit" (so I told my students) and "left" me a few presents. It was great, my students loved it!

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  4. That's awesome! I love how open children are. In our house, we talk about how "if you don't truly believe", they won't come. Therefore, the Reyes, etc. don't necessarily come to their friends here in the US since they don't know about them. It's also necessary to write them a letter IN SPANISH to get gifts. haha. With the Ratoncito, we've just said that it's a lot of territory for the Tooth Fairy and Ratoncito to cover every day of the year, so if they lose a tooth here, they will probably get something from the TF, and in Spain they will probably get something from RP. Anyway, glad it works for your students...gives me hope that my kiddos will keep believing :) un abrazo...

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