Friday, March 18, 2016

How To Teach a Cultural Comparison of the Return of Robins & Swallows in the Spring in the TL

I HAVE BEEN WANTING to teach about the spring return of robins and swallows in my elementary Spanish classes for years, but never got myself in gear to do it. I am endlessly delighted to see the first robins arrive from the south after our very long winters here in Maine, and imagine many in Spain feel the same joy when they see swallows returning from Africa. This year I got myself together and taught a mini (very mini!) theme around the migration of these two birds who are symbols of the return of warm weather, a perfect, tangible cultural comparison for my Kindergartners. Over the course of three 30 minute classes, I introduced the migration using very simple language (oh, did I say I did the whole thing in 90% Spanish?), we colored the two birds (great practice for color words), and cut them out to create a school bulletin board.

Here's how I did it, with accompanying script (teacher script in quotation marks, student responses in parenthesis- CHANGE MAINE TO YOUR STATE):

PREP: I found a world map in Spanish online that I could project on my Smartboard, two photos, one of a robin and one of a swallow, picture cards of the four seasons, and my printable birds to color and cut out. You can download the birds here.

*DAY 1: (have the map projected behind you on the whiteboard)"Ok, niños, vamos a hablar acerca de unos símbolos de la primavera." Hold up a picture of spring, repeating 'la primavera'. Then put down cards for the other three seasons, saying each as you do so.

Click here to get our 'Seasons Activity Pack'

Ask a student (in English) "Are these a set of shoes?" (student-'No') "Hmmm, what could they be?" (student-'the seasons!')
"¡Sí, son las cuatro estaciones! La primavera, el verano, el otoño, el invierno. (point to each card in turn) Miren esta foto de un petirrojo- ¿hay petirrojos aquí en Maine? ¿Sí o no?" (students-  '¡Sí!).
"Sí, es la verdad, hay petirrojos en Maine. Hmmm, ¿hay petirrojos (point to the photo of the robin) aquí en Maine en el invierno?" (point to the winter card) (students- 'No') "No, no hay petirrojos aquí en Maine durante el invierno."
"Bueno, en el otoño (point to autumn card) los petirrojos dicen '¡Adiós Maine! y vuelan, vuelan, vuelan (making flying motions with your arms) al sur." Bring the picture of the robin to the board along with the seasons cards spring and fall- stick the robin up next to your state, and the seasons cards where the Atlantic Ocean is, and repeat "En el otoño los petirrojos dicen '¡Adiós Maine! y vuelan, vuelan, vuelan al sur" making the flying motions and drawing an arrow from your state to the south.
"Y, en la primavera (point to the spring card) los petirrojos vuelan, vuelan, vuelan y dicen '¡Hola Maine!'" again making flying motions and drawing an arrow from the south back to your state.

Now hold up the picture of a swallow- "Esta es una golondrina- a swallow. En el otoño las golondrinas dicen '¡Adiós España-Spain' y vuelan, vuelan, vuelan a Africa." Put the picture of the swallow on the board, and draw an arrow from Spain to Africa.
"Y, en la primavera, las golondrinas vuelan, vuelan, vuelan y dicen '¡Hola España!" Again, draw an arrow from Africa to Spain.
I also wrote 'Hola' and 'Adiós' along each arrow to reinforce the words.

At this point I had a few extra minutes before the end of class, so I reviewed our colors (we have a quick song) and then I asked kiddos "¿De qué color es el petirrojo?" and ¿De qué color es la golondrina?".  *NOTE ON TIMING: I always start class with a greeting activity and a transition activity, so the lesson laid out above took about 12-15 minutes, give or take.

*DAY 2: After our greeting and transition activities, I repeated the above script starting from the point where I was at the board, drawing the arrows to indicate migratory patterns as a quick review. Then, introduce the two coloring pages, identifying each and pointing to the pictures. You can review again "En la primavera el petirrojo dice '¡Hola Maine!' y la golondrina dice '¡Hola España!". Starting with the robin, indicate to the class what color to color each part. I do ONE color at a time, having everyone finish that space before we move on to the next color and part of the bird. This really helps ensure birds are colored appropriately, and since my Kinders only have early emerging literacy skills, I don't expect them to read independently. Once the robin is finished, move onto the swallow. NOTE: We ran out of time before the swallow was finished in our 30 minute period so we finished up during DAY 3 of the lesson.

*DAY 3: Again, after the greeting and transition activities, I repeated the script using the pictures on the board. We then reviewed colors and finished up the swallow, again going one color at a time. After the swallow is finished being colored, instruct the class to cut out both birds, making sure to put names on the back as each is cut out. (I go around and monitor as they are cutting to be sure names get on the birds).

Once all the birds were done, I collected them and created a bulletin board out in the hall!

*Interested in the seasons cards shown? They are part of our 'Pepita y el oso' Activity Pack, teaching seasons in context. You can find it in our shop here!


  1. Great lessons! We were just talking about swallows in my Spanish 2 class as we had listened to La Oreja de Van Gogh's Jueves and it references las golondrinas en el poema de Bécquer. We might need to talk about this tomorrow as well. :)

    1. Thank you so much! What a neat connection for your class! There is a great video on YouTube that I showed as well, language more than my Kinders could handle, but they loved watching!