Resources for Teaching Languages to Children


Ideas for Using a Wildlife Nature Documentary in Foreign Language Class

I LOVE NATURE DOCUMENTARIES, AND SO DO MY ELEMENTARY SPANISH STUDENTS!  Animals of all kinds are of high interest to my students, and there is so much you can glean from even a short clip. And, they serve really well with any proficiency or grade level; you just adjust your questions to be appropriate for your students. Weather, climate, habitats, geographical features, adjectives of all kinds, verbs, animal vocabulary, emotions, family vocabulary, food, ecosystems, environment, conservation, food chains...the list goes on in terms of what you can tap into depending on the clip you use and the level of your students.

Ideas for Using a Wildlife Nature Documentary in Spanish Foreign Language Class


*WATCH A SHORT CLIP rather than the whole thing. You may find that given your time constraints, a portion of a video may be better than trying to show the whole thing. Even a clip of 2-3 minutes can be stretched depending on the activities you do with it.

*FOR MY ELEMENTARY STUDENTS, I typically don't expect them to understand the narration; the language is usually too challenging. However, depending on the clip, I can have them listen for specific words (naturally I preview the clip ahead of time) and instruct them to raise their hands when they hear particular words.

*Q/A: the easiest way to view a wildlife / nature documentary with students is to preview it ahead of time, developing a list of questions you can ask your students, and then as you are watching it together, hit the pause button each time you want to ask a question. I also like to get kids to expand on their answers when, if I ask ¿Hace frío o calor? and they answer 'Hace frío', I might follow up with '¿Hace mucho frío? (Imagine a documentary of penguins for ex!) or if we are watching a sloth and I ask 'What is the sloth doing?' and the answer is 'climbing', I could then ask 'Is he climbing quickly or slowly?' and so on.

*WATCH THEN SHARE: Much like 'Turn and Talk/Share' the idea behind this activity is to show a short clip of a video, then have kids turn to a partner and share something about what they have seen. For novices, particularly Novice Low, this could be as simple as naming something they've seen, while for students with more proficiency, they could describe using sentences. Or for more advanced students, you could pose a question that elicits an opinion or a statement of position, such as 'Why do you think the people are converting habitat into farmland? or 'Should the government stop the clearing of land in this region?'. Students share their answer/opinion/position with their partner and vice versa.

*WHICH DO YOU LIKE MOST?: At the end of the clip, create a voting chart to practice the sentence 'I like ___ the most'. Write the names of some of the animals shown in the clip/ video as columns, then have students tell which is their favorite/ the one they like the most. Count up the answers at the end and determine the most popular animal from that clip!

NOTE: A couple of things I have learned include the following
-don't show videos of animals hunting or eating other animals to elementary students. Though we all know it's just part of life, it can really upset some children. Better to not use it, or at least not that part of the video.
-another no show is animals fighting or mating. Again, disturbing and weird for little kids. Not something you want them to go home and tell their families about.

INTERESTED IN SEEING HOW THIS CAN LOOK IN YOUR CLASS? Here is a clip of one of my Kindergarten classes last year watching the preview to a Spanish film on Cantábrico

The link to the trailer we watched is here: and for more nature videos, you can visit my Pinterest board here, where I've saved a number of them, (Be sure to vet first to ascertain appropriate content for your level of students):

AND DON'T MISS OUR NEW NON FICTION MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION! The first edition (Jan-Apr 2018) focuses on endangered animals of South America-each issue comes with a series of Youtube links to reinforce learning! Click here to subscribe!

Mira el Mundo Non Fiction Magazine Subscription in Spanish

A Simple Cultural Comparison Activity About Christmas Trees

I FREQUENTLY LIKE TO BEGIN MY CLASSES WITH A QUESTION OR POLL, something simple that my students of any ability can answer and engage in. These types of activities are particularly great for novice learners as there is entry for all. During the month of December I like to ask about decorations and traditions my kiddos are doing at home (I teach in a district where all students celebrate Christmas, even the few Jewish families, who celebrate both Christmas and Hannukah), so I don't run the risk of leaving any little friends out.

OF COURSE, I AM ALWAYS LOOKING FOR A CULTURAL CONNECTION whenever possible, so I reached out to friends and colleagues in and from a variety of Spanish speaking countries to find out about what type of Christmas tree is most often put up, real or artificial. I put the results into a simple infographic that can be used to extend the question: Is your tree real or artificial, yes or no? I have purposely kept the text simple so even Novice Low students can access information. The circles are a general representation of the breakdown in each country represented (don't quote them as exact statistics :) ) A huge THANK YOU to all who helped me with this project!


Cultural Comparison of Christmas Trees in Spanish speaking countries

I ALSO RECORDED ONE OF MY 3RD GRADE CLASSES ANSWERING THE QUESTION ¿Has armado un árbol de navidad en casa? You can see the video here.

Christmas E Cards to Download in Multiple Languages

NEW CHRISTMAS E CARDS FOR 2017! Last year I debuted our FREE downloadable e cards, and have been hard at work making this year's set, featuring more languages! You can grab last year's if you missed them by clicking here :)

JUST CLICK ON THE LINK BELOW EACH E CARD, download and send some holiday cheer via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or email to family, friends and colleagues! Once again let's fill cyber space with multicultural and multilingual joy :)

French Christmas E Card
Click here to download
Spanish Christmas E Card
Click here to download
Russian New Years E card
Click here to download
Spanish Christmas E card
Click here to download
Bon nadal E card
Click here to download
German Christmas E Card
Click here to download

Illustrated Chorus to the Traditional Villancico Campana sobre campana

I JUST LOVE THE SONG CAMPANA SOBRE CAMPANA, it is such a huge part of my Christmas each year, and I try to make it meaningful for my students, too. In 3rd and 4th grade, my students learn the chorus-it's easy, concrete, and repetitive, the perfect ingredients for an authentic resource for novice learners. I created this infographic which you can download for FREE by clicking here. During our winter assembly my kiddos sing the chorus, and hum the rest of the song. I use the version from the book/cd 'Villancicos' by Constanza Basaluzzo (available on Amazon), but there are many other wonderful choices on Youtube (I've put a few below the infographic). Enjoy and have fun!

Campana sobre campana letra ilustrada

Tips for Assessment Part 2 - Ideas for Elementary Foreign Language Classes

ASSESSMENT IN ELEMENTARY FOREIGN LANGUAGE CLASSES is a daunting task, especially when you have literally hundreds and hundreds of students, and you need to manage tracking data in order to provide reliable and valid grades for report cards. In Part 1 of this series, I shared some ways I assess which have been successful (click here to read this post!) and in this one we're going to look at some ways to keep all that data straight (Part 3 deals with rubrics and determining a grade-coming soon!).

SO, GOT DATA? I SURE DO! On average, each of my classes has anywhere from 17-24 kiddos, and I am grading them on 5 standards (with sub categories under each one) and 3 work habits. I am sure you are faced with a similar number...and you just can't keep all that information in your head! (Or, at least, I wouldn't recommend it :) ) I do assessments for the 5 standards at the end of each theme I teach, plus a variety of mini assessments through out each theme. I also record formative assessment grades on a regular basis, both for the standards and for work habits. I will say, we grade on a 4 point scale (4 being Above and Beyond, 3- Meets, 2- Needs assistance, and 1- Area of Concern). We send out report cards at the end of each trimester, which is to say by the time the first one goes out at the beginning of December, I have seen each of my classes a total of approximately 12 hours (not factoring in holidays, field trips, assemblies, etc). That's not a whole lot of time to be grading a kiddo... but I digress...

Tips for Assessment in Elementary Foreign Language Class

LACK OF TIME NOTWITHSTANDING, I MARK DOWN DATA EVERY CLASS, whether it be for work habits, or a formal or informal assessment. Here are some examples of how I keep this data organized:

*CHARTS: Yes, we all use them! I started using this mini charts a few years ago to track work habit data. You could use them to track any type of formative data (or summative for that matter) over time- I like them because they are small and easily portable. Even though I am no longer on a cart, this is still a big consideration for me! #oldhabitsdiehard The ones in the picture below are for work habits (Using time wisely, taking care of materials & room, being focused & taking part in activities).  If you would like to download them for free, click here!

Tips for Assessment in Elementary Foreign Language Class

*REUSABLE DATA COLLECTION CHARTS: I had used a variation on this for a few years but found it time consuming to make new names, so switched to this creation this year and am loving it. I got some library pockets, marked each 4,3,2,1, & absent, then made strips with my kiddos names on them (one folder for each class). Sometimes it is challenging to get to my computer to input grades in the moment, so this system is fantastic as I am circulating around the room. To make it even easier for me, I used two colors, yellow for girls and blue for boys-searching for a name is quick and painless! I just stick their name strip in the appropriate pocket as I am grading, then input the grades later in my computer. And, if I want to make a particular note on a student, I can do so on the name strip. TO MAKE: Use file folders, such as manila ones (or super nice ones from Staples or other supply store!) and stick library pockets on the inside-be sure you have the openings pointed upward when the folder is closed on BOTH sides!. Label each pocket with a grade, along with one pocket for absent kiddos. Label the folder for the homeroom teacher-make one for each homeroom. Cut strips of paper and write kids names on them- I house them all in the 3 (Meets) because statistically most kids perform there, and therefore I only have to change a small number of kids-unless a large number bomb the activity, which prompts me to look at the assessment and try to figure out why! #maybeIneedtoreteach

Tips for Assessment in Elementary Foreign Language Class

*I LIKE TO SEE HOW MY KIDDOS ARE DOING OVER TIME,  especially with vocabulary we use on a regular basis. This is a great way to show growth over time-identify a vocabulary set which you consider key content, incorporate it regularly so kids practice it frequently, and track their responses. You should see an increase in responses, as well as more accurate responses over time, which you can then use to show growth. A set of vocabulary that lends itself particularly well to this is greetings, emotions, and mini conversation vocab. My kiddos do a greeting activity at the beginning of every class in which they greeting someone else and ask how she/he is doing. Over the course of the program, more and more vocabulary is added so kids have many choices and can express a variety of emotions and modifiers. I track their responses every class, using a simple system of checks (no prompt needed), a P (prompt is needed for kid to say phrase/word), - (even with prompt kiddo can't express in Spanish). Each class I have 6 kiddos take a turn (so we don't use all of class for this activity)- I use colored markers so I can see responses for each round. This gives me an idea of when they start adding new responses, which frequently happens over time. Here is an example (the T3 is for Trimester 3):

Tips for Assessment in Elementary Foreign Language Class

and one with P's- note how those change to checks over time:

Assessment in Elementary Foreign Language Class

Interested in this chart? You can download it for free here.

*AND SOMETIMES I MAKE NOTES ON STICKIES... every year I say I am going to get away from this practice, but there are those times when you just want to make a quick note and the stickie is the best way to go!

I hope this has been helpful! Please share your data tracking tricks in the comments- I would love to learn from you!


Cultural Connections: Comparing Turkeys in México & US as part of a Thanksgiving Theme in Spanish Class

WANT TO BRING CULTURE TO YOUR SPANISH CLASS AROUND THANKSGIVING? Here's a simple activity that is perfect for all ages- comparing TURKEYS! Those of us who live in the US are very familiar with the wild turkey of our woods and fields, relatively drab brown and once a contender as the national bird, but have you ever seen photos of the Ocellated Turkey of México? It's feathers are reminiscent of a peacock, with blues, purples, mauves, and more, making him quite a looker! This fancy turkey is a great way to infuse some culture into an otherwise very American holiday celebration, and little kiddos LOVE to talk about animals so you can be sure your students will be interested! (I have a picture of this turkey outside my classroom all year round, and my students regularly comment on it!).

Thanksgiving Turkey Comparison Activity for Spanish Class


*START BY SHOWING A PHOTO OF THE US WILD TURKEY; your kiddos will most likely be familiar with it! Ask some simple yes/no questions about him such as 'Is this turkey from _____ (insert your state name)? Do you like to eat turkey? Do you have turkeys at your house? (If you live in a rural location this is probably going to resonate with your students! We have them in backyards all over the place here in Maine ) Then, place him on a large map using a smaller picture (you might want to have several since there is wide distribution across the states)

*NEXT SHOW A PICTURE OF THE OCELLATED TURKEY- can you believe this is a turkey, too? Indicate where this turkey lives (NOTE: Ocellated Turkeys also live in Guatemala!) and place a small picture on the map in México/ Guatemala. You can find pictures of both turkeys on line; I have a few of the Ocellated Turkey (el pavo ocelado) saved on my Pinterest board here.

Thanksgiving Turkey Coloring Page Cultural Comparison for Spanish Class

*REVIEW COLORS BY IDENTIFYING THOSE OF EACH TURKEY (US & México)- project pictures of each turkey on a smartboard or have them printed out and ask kiddos to name the colors of each turkey. You can list the colors named underneath each turkey, and/or put them on sentence strips.

*LASTLY, KIDS CAN COLOR THE ACTIVITY PAGE, coloring each turkey appropriately. This is a great way to bring the learning together. You can download this activity page for FREE here.

*AS A FOLLOWUP ACTIVITY you can create a writing center activity with the photos and have the kids label the colors on each turkey.


Thanksgiving Turkey Activity Pages for Spanish Class


Mystery Pictures Listening Comprehension Activity

I'M A HUGE FAN OF LISTENING COMPREHENSION ACTIVITIES, I will admit! Yes, I want my kiddos to speak, and I think as teachers sometimes we are so eager to get our students talking that we scrimp on the listening practice, but the two really go hand in hand and giving our students plenty of listening comprehension activities is key to good foreign language teaching at any level. Here is a simple game you can adapt to any age or proficiency level by simply changing up the descriptions to suit your class.

Listening Comprehension Activity for Foreign Language Class

SELECT A SET OF IMAGES THAT COINCIDE WITH YOUR THEME and/or vocabulary you would like your students to practice. Write up a simple (or more complex) description of each picture, using target vocabulary. I like to choose some pictures which are similar to each other so that students really have to consider the entire description and the answer isn't always readily apparent. Arrange the pictures on a large piece of paper (or as a slide on Google Drive to be projected) and number each one.

Listening comprehension Activity for Foreign Language Class

YOU'RE NOW READY FOR CLASS! Read a description out loud and instruct students to write down the number corresponding to the picture they think you are describing. I have mini white boards which I love to use for this activity. Once everyone has written their answer, I go around the circle quickly and ask each kid to say out loud the number they have chosen-a great way to incorporate numbers!

Listening Comprehension Activity for Foreign Language Class

I THEN DISCLOSE THE CORRECT PICTURE, and we start again! Once students have gotten the hang of how to play, you can call up kiddos to choose a mystery picture and describe it to the class. You can play along for more fun-it's always hilarious when I am wrong!

LOOKING FOR ANOTHER FUN LISTENING COMPREHENSION GAME? Check out how to play Gato (Tic Tac Toe) with your whole class here!

Have fun!

Tips for Assessment in Elementary Foreign Language Classes PART 1

I RECEIVE A LOT OF QUESTIONS ABOUT HOW I DO ASSESSMENT IN MY ELEMENTARY SPANISH CLASSES, and I see it mentioned regularly in professional forums online. With the sheer number of students most of us carry, and the limited time we have with them, assessment becomes a significant challenge, especially if we want it to be valid and reliable. On top of that, we want it to be MANAGEABLE! To that end, I thought it might be helpful to gather together some tips and resources that I have found helpful; because it is such a big topic, I decided to break this into three posts-in this post I focus on TYPES OF ASSESSMENTS that I have found effective and accessible. Part 2 focuses on ways to TRACK DATA on large numbers of students (click here to read!), and Part 3 will tackle WRITING RUBRICS and DETERMINING GRADES. (Post 3 coming soon!)

Tips for Assessment in Elementary Foreign Language Classes

BEFORE WE MAKE A FORAY INTO TYPES OF ASSESSMENTS, let's be sure we have done our backward planning. Before you start a theme/unit, identify key vocabulary and skills that you want your students to acquire by the end of the timeframe. This step is crucial; if you don't know what your expectations are, how will you know if your students have met them? And, how will you even know what to teach? Eeekkk! Whether it be students demonstrating comprehension of a key set of vocabulary (listening comp), or being able to answer a set of questions on a familiar topic, or writing a short description of their pet using adjectives and full sentences, be sure you have this laid out ahead of time. This will then help you determine what TYPES OF ASSESSMENTS will work best to glean the data you need.

OK, SO TYPES OF ASSESSMENTS...what kinds work well for elementary level? Here's a bulleted list of ones that I have found effective (and are generally those that are used at many levels! :) ).. I also think they highlight the WHAT I ASSESS also:

*EXIT/ENTRANCE SLIPS: I like these for quick formative assessments- they serve to practice reading comprehension of simple questions that recycle old vocabulary. I use these mostly for my 4th grade classes, with questions such as '¿Cómo estás? (How are you?), ¿Te gusta el guacamole? (Do you like guacamole?), ¿Cuál es tu color favorito? (What's your favorite color?) and so on. Sometimes the questions are directly related to the theme we are in, such as ¿Cómo eres tú? (What are you like?) when we are learning 'I am ___' phrases or ¿Qué escribe Arturo con el lápiz mágico? (What does Arturo write with the magic pencil?).

*LISTENING COMPREHENSION TASKS: At the elementary level, these typically run the gamut of very simple instructions to hone in on a key vocabulary set (Point to the ___, put the dinosaur on the ____,  etc), or 'Draw your favorite food and label it', etc. This also includes asking questions orally and having students answer verbally or in writing (A TIP with oral questioning- you can do this two ways- a) an open ended question that has many answers to it or b) questions which have a predetermined answer such as those tied to a story you are reading or are fact based such as 'What color is an elephant?' In the second scenario, you can develop a set of questions that all assess the same skill of comprehending a question based on a familiar topic, and rotate the questions so you don't have students just copying what the last person said. You can also rotate the questions over the course of a few classes so students end up answering multiple questions.)

Tips for Assessment in Elementary Foreign Language Classes

*SPEAKING SKILLS- I find these the most challenging to assess individually due to time constraints, so I try to get as much bang for my buck when doing them. For example, with my 1st & 2nd graders, I will frequently do polls, tables, and graphs which elicit personal information from my students such as 'What's your favorite color?', Which fruit(s) do you like?,  Do you like strawberry ice cream? Which flavor ice cream do you like the most?, How many brothers/sisters/cats/dogs do you have? etc. I keep charts (see my post on tracking data) over a certain number of classes so I can tell whether they are able to answer a series of questions. With the ice cream questions, for example, I might ask that question (changing the flavor) three, four, or five times (with the answer choices being: yes, I like it; yes, I like it alot; no, no I don't like it, etc). By the fifth time, I have a good sense of whether each kiddo can answer the question appropriately or whether they still a prompt.

Another speaking assessment I do is to track the answers kiddos give during our greeting activities. Since we do a greeting every day, I can get a fair amount of data over time to be able to gauge whether they can answer the question 'How are you?', and for my older kiddos, if they can engage in a mini conversation with someone else. If you would like to see/use my tracking data sheet for Spanish class, you can download it free here.

*WRITING- Yes, writing! I am firm believer in giving students opportunities to write in the target language, even if it is as simple as labeling a picture by using a word bank. Writing is another mode of practice, and I see my students building on spelling and reading skills by doing writing activities. I do not expect my students to have perfect spelling (or even be able to spell out words, I just don't have the dedicated time to get to that point- two 30 minute classes a week), but I do expect them to use our resources to copy words, and piece together sentences based on word banks.  At the end of some themes, I have students bring together what they have learned in a writing/ sharing 'mini project'. For example, at the end of our Pet Theme in 3rd grade, students write a simple description of their pet using full sentences. As they write, I circulate around the room, monitoring their progress and giving prompts as necessary. I can easily grade kids since I am amongst them, paying attention to who needs help and who doesn't.

*CULTURAL KNOWLEDGE- I also assess cultural knowledge at different points throughout my grade levels, most specifically facts about countries, people, and/or celebrations. For example, in 2nd grade my kiddos learn about Days of the Dead, and then illustrate/label 4 Datos sobre el Día de los Muertos (4 Facts/Aspects). If they can identify FOUR aspects of the holiday (such as marigolds, sugar skulls, candles, monarch butterflies, etc) they meet the expectation. Simple but effective :) Another simple assessment I do is for my 4th graders, at the end of our salsa theme, to illustrate the ingredients and label them. In First Grade my students identify 4 Datos Sobre Venezuela (Four Facts about Venezuela), again illustrating and labeling things they have learned. Another great way to assess at this age level is to do a Venn Diagram, such as the one my First Graders do comparing Mexican hot chocolate and hot chocolate in the US. All of these are culminating activities that we do in the course of the theme, rather than as separate stand alone assessments, which is to say, they are activities to do in and of themselves, I just happen to assess them, also :)

Assessing Culture in Elementary Foreign Language Classes

THIS IS BY NO MEANS AN EXHAUSTIVE LIST, but I hope it has sparked some ideas for your classroom! Be on the lookout for my next posts coming soon-follow us on Facebook and Twitter so you hear about them first! And don't miss my post on 35 Report Card Comments for Elementary Spanish Class-click here!

Las Guaguas de Ecuador- A Days of the Dead Tradition

DAYS OF THE DEAD IS A WONDERFUL CULTURAL THEME FOR THE ELEMENTARY SPANISH CLASS, especially if we keep the information concrete, clear, and comprehensible for little kids. We often focus on México's traditions for this holiday, but it is celebrated in many countries, including Ecuador. Marked by a sweet bread called LAS GUAGUAS (meaning 'niños' in Quechua) and often served with colada morada, a spiced berry drink, the celebrations focus on el 2 de noviembre, el Día de los Difuntos.

Las guaguas de Ecuador, a Days of the Dead Tradition

LAS GUAGUAS typically are in the shape of babies and animals, and have frosting and other decorations making them look very festive. I've pinned several photos of them and colada morada to my Pinterest board El Día de los Muertos, which you can check out here!

WANT TO SHARE SOME SIMPLE FACTS ABOUT LAS GUAGUAS in Spanish class? I've created an infographic poster with a few facts in Spanish; you can download it for FREE and print it out! NOTE: It is an 11 x 17 file so be sure the right size paper is in the printer before printing! Click here to download.

Las guaguas de Ecuador A Simple Infographic in Spanish

*Los Barriletes de Guatemala from Fun for Spanish Teachers

*Days of the Dead Songs to Share in Class from Fun for Spanish Teachers

*Making Paper Marigolds in Spanish Class

*Reasons for Teaching Days of the Dead in Spanish Class from Fun for Spanish Teachers

*Creating a Family Altar by Mamá Tortuga

*Las celebraciones en Bolivia From Fun for Spanish Teachers

Foster Output in the Target Language by Holding Students Accountable

HOW DO WE GET OUR STUDENTS TO SPEAK IN THE TARGET LANGUAGE in a 90% classroom rather than in English? I am asked this question frequently, and see it posted regularly and there are a lot of answers to that one! Here is one tip that seems obvious on the face of it, but requires the teacher to consistently hold the line when students try to slip into English rather than use the TL. (sometimes harder to do than you think!)

Foster Output in the Target Language with this Tip

EVER NOTICE THAT EVEN MANY OF THOSE PHRASES, WORDS, ETC that you have taught, reinforced, practiced umpteen times still get the English treatment? If you really want your students to use the language they are learning, you ultimately have to establish the expectation that THEY WILL USE THE TARGET other words, when a student says to you "Can I get a drink of water?" and this phrase has been practiced frequently, your response is not 'Yes', 'Si', 'Да' (you get the picture), it is 'En Español por favor' or ¿Cómo? ...and when they repeat the English again, you respond (again) 'En Español por favor'... and you keep doing that until the student restates in the target language. By doing this, you are holding your students accountable for what is being learned rather than sending an unintentional message that even though you are teaching content, it doesn't really have to be remembered.

THIS APPLIES TO JUST ABOUT ANYTHING YOU ARE DOING IN CLASS, whether it be a single word, a phrase, a request, you name it. If it's something they have worked on, hold them accountable. THIS DOES NOT MEAN YOU DO NOT HELP THEM! If a student needs help to get the phrase (word, etc) out, OF COURSE you prompt them, guide them, encourage them. The key is that, even with the prompts and help, the utterance is still in the target language and there is a lot of power in this moment for the student. And the more you help them through saying what they want to say in the TL, the more confident they will become as they realize just how much they really know, and the more they will try to express themselves in the target language. It's a beautiful thing!

GIVE IT TRY NEXT CLASS AND LET ME KNOW HOW IT GOES! And for another tip on encouraging output with students, check out this post! :)

How to Talk Like a Pirate in Spanish- Fun Vocabulary for Class

SEPTEMBER 19TH IS INTERNATIONAL TALK LIKE A PIRATE DAY, and, knowing the popularity of pirates amongst kiddos, why not incorporate some authentic pirate speak into your Spanish classes? Here's a list of some common phrases you can use in class- have fun!

Phrases to Talk like a Pirate in Spanish Class

*ARRRRRR (it's a classic lol)
*¡Yo-ho-ho! (yo-ho-ho)
*¡Al ataque! (Attack!)
*¡Barco a la vista! (Ship ahoy!)
*¡Tierra a la vista! (Land ho!)
*¡Camina la plancha! (Walk the plank!)
*¡Todos a sus puestos! (Everyone on deck!)
*¡A dormir con los tiburones! (You'll sleep with the fishes!)
*¡A toda vela! (Full speed ahead!)
*¡Rayos! (expression of surprise)


And don't miss our Activity Pack, 'Mateo y el mapa del tesoro', perfect for upper elementary and lower middle school! Grab it here!

Los símbolos patrios de cada país hispanohablante- National Symbols for Each Spanish speaking Country

UN ASPECTO CULTURAL MUY POTENTE PARA TRABAJAR EN LA CLASE DE ESPAÑOL son los símbolos patrios de cada país. Podrías enseñarlos durante el Mes de la Herencia Hispana, para celebrar unos días patrios, o como parte de un tema sobre un país específico. De todas maneras, los símbolos patrios son una gran parte del orgullo de cada país, y para los peques, especialmente, una cosa bien tangible para aprender. Aquí un listado de las flores, animales, y árboles nacionales:

Los símbolos patrios National Symbols for Spanish Speaking Countries

*la flor nacional: ceibo
*el ave nacional: el hornero común (Rufous hornero)
*el árbol/ arbusto nacional: ceibo
*la flor nacional: la orquídea negra
*el ave nacional: el  Tucán de Quilla o Picoiris (Keel billed toucan)
*el árbol/ arbusto nacional: la caoba
*la flor nacional: cantuta y patajú
*el ave nacional: el condór andino (Andean Condor)
*el árbol/ arbusto nacional: palma
*la flor nacional: copihue
*el ave nacional: el condór andino (Andean Condor)
*el árbol/ arbusto nacional: araucaria
*la flor nacional: orquídea colombiana
*el ave nacional: el condór andino (Andean Condor)
*el árbol/ arbusto nacional: palma de cera
*la flor nacional: guaria morada (orquídea)
*el ave nacional: el Yigüirro (Clay colored thrush)
*el árbol/ arbusto nacional: El árbol de Guanacaste
*la flor nacional: mariposa
*el ave nacional: el tocororo, el trogon cubano (Cuban trogon)
*el árbol/ arbusto nacional: la palma real
*la flor nacional: chuquiragua (no oficial)
*el ave nacional: el condór andino (Andean condor)
*el árbol/ arbusto nacional: cascarilla
*la flor nacional: flor de izote
*el ave nacional: el Torogoz, Momoto ceja turquesa
*el árbol/ arbusto nacional: El Maquilishuat
*la flor nacional: clavel
*el ave nacional: no hay
*el árbol/ arbusto nacional: la encina (carrasca, chaparra/chaparro)
*la flor nacional: monja blanca (orquídea)
*el ave nacional: el quetzal
*el árbol/ arbusto nacional: la ceiba
*la flor nacional: orquídea de la Virgen
*el ave nacional: la Lapa Roja (la guacamaya) Scarlet Macaw
*el árbol/ arbusto nacional: el pino
*la flor nacional: dalia
*el ave nacional: el águila real (Golden Eagle)
*el árbol/ arbusto nacional: Ahuehuete o El Árbol del Tule
*la flor nacional: sacuanjoche (plumeria)
*el ave nacional: el Guardabarranco (Turquoise browed Motmot)
*el árbol/ arbusto nacional: madroño
*la flor nacional: flor del Espíritu Santo
*el ave nacional: El Águila Arpía (Harpy Eagle)
*el árbol/ arbusto nacional: camoruco (el árbol panamá)
*la flor nacional: mburucuyá
*el ave nacional: el pájaro campana
*el árbol/ arbusto nacional: tajy
*la flor nacional: cantuta
*el ave nacional: el tunqui (el gallito de las rocas) (Cock of the Rock)
*el árbol/ arbusto nacional: quina
*la flor nacional: flor de maga
*el ave nacional: el carpintero puertorriqueño (Puerto Rican Woodpecker)
*el árbol/ arbusto nacional:
*la flor nacional: Rosa de Bayahíbe
*el ave nacional: la cigua palmera (Palmchat)
*el árbol/ arbusto nacional: la caoba
*la flor nacional: ceibo
*el ave nacional: el tero
*el árbol/ arbusto nacional: ciebo
*la flor nacional: flor de mayo
*el ave nacional: el turpial venezolano
*árbol nacional: araguanay


PD: Esta es la primera vez que estoy escribiendo un blogpost en español; hay errores? déjame saber!

Four (Five!) Corners Activity with Spanish Vowels

I LIKE TO START FORMALLY TEACHING THE SPANISH ALPHABET TO MY ELEMENTARY STUDENTS WITH THE VOWELS-I find that, along with certain  consonants, the vowels are the most difficult for my students to grasp, especially 'a', 'e' and 'i' so sufficient practice and exposure is essential to them internalizing the sight-sound phonetic connection. I wait until Third Grade to directly teach the alphabet (see my rationale at the bottom), but my students are exposed to, and interact with, print and early literacy skills in Spanish from the beginning of Kindergarten onward. Here is a simple movement activity I do when introducing the vowels to help my students match the sound of each vowel with it's written letter.

Vowels Movement Game for Spanish Class

*PREPARE A LIST OF FAMILIAR VOCABULARY, each word of which is comprised of only one vowel. The list I work off of is below :) Place each of the five vowels around the room, like you would place images for playing Four Corners. Say a word from your list and instruct students to head over to the vowel that's in the word. So, if you say 'mamá', students will move over to the 'a'. Once students have moved to the correct vowel, say another word and have them move to that vowel. Continue in this manner, mixing up the vowels out of order after the first few rounds so they need to play close attention. This is a great activity to review vowels also (and you can add in consonants, especially those tricky ones!) when you have 5 minutes at the end of class that suddenly appear unexpectedly!

A: mamá, papá, casa, banana, manzana, naranja, salsa, mal, va, mar
E: bebé, nene, tres, sé, me, sed, ve, es, pez
I: gris, sí, bici, kiwi, picnic, rin rin, mi
O: ocho, dos, rojo, flojo, yo, lobo, loco, globo
U: cucú, tutú, glu glu, un, tú, muuuu

*YOU CAN FOLLOW UP THIS ACTIVITY WITH MINI WHITEBOARDS, saying a word out loud and having students write the vowel they hear on the whiteboard, again using the same list.

AND DON'T MISS THIS VIDEO OF US LEADING UP TO THE VOWELS ACTIVITY! I introduce the vowels with actions and key here to view it on Youtube.

REGARDING WAITING UNTIL THIRD GRADE to formally teach the alphabet- over the years I have found that up until this point the majority of my students in class do not have secure early literacy skills and may lack foundational understanding of the concept of sight-sound matching (looking at a written letter and telling what sound it makes). I have made the conscious decision to wait until these concepts are more secure for most of my students before introducing formal conversations about the Spanish alphabet and phonetics. This helps them access our activities much better, and at a more confident level. As I stated above however, my students are exposed to, and interact with, Spanish in print right from the beginning of Kindergarten, through the mini books we read, the print I have all around my room, simple reading and writing/labeling/copying activities we do, and so on. These activities prime my students for being ready to look at the alphabet more closely at the start of Third Grade, and then applying that knowledge going forward in the course of subsequent class activities (more mini books, more writing and reading activities, entrance slips, and so on). Each teacher needs to find what is most appropriate for their students; some start earlier, some later, it all depends on what works best for the program you teach in :)

First Days in My Elementary Spanish Classes -What I Do to Welcome My Students Back & Begin the Year

THANK YOU TO OUR READER, LAUREN, for suggesting this post about what I do in my elementary Spanish classes during the first days back to school- what a great idea!

First Spanish class lessons of the school year

Here is an outline of how I start off in my First through Third Grade classes; Fourth Grade looks a little different, though I still start the same way with a greeting- I've described my system for Fourth in this post-click here. Kindergarten is also different as they are new to their school and my class.... I videotaped my first class last year which you can watch here:

OK, FOR FIRST THROUGH THIRD GRADE, my first class for all grades looks very similar, though the specific games/songs are individual to the grade. Since all of these classes are returning, meaning I have had them before, I don't need to get to know more than a few new friends, whom I do greet and welcome to our school and ask them if they've had Spanish class before, reassuring them that we will all help him/her out and have lots of fun! Here's a run down of a typical first class (my classes are 30 minutes):


*I MEET THEM IN THE HALLWAY outside my room (when I was traveling on a cart, in the homeroom classroom) and welcome them back to school, greet new friends and have a student introduce me.

*I WELCOME THEM INTO MY ROOM and have them stand in a large circle around our rug. I then give them their "Spanish spots", their assigned seats in circle. These spots allow for a very quick transition into class throughout the year, rather than having kids change it up each class, often causing bickering and hurt feelings which I would rather avoid. (I had assigned seats when I traveled also)

*WE DO A SIMPLE GREETING GAME- whether it is just rolling a ball across the rug (see this post for some ideas!) or a more energetic game like 'INSIDE/OUTSIDE CIRCLE', I choose a greeting activity which is familiar to them and allows us to get back into the groove with something they (most of them) know already, which also keeps the affective filter way down. #winwin

*WHERE DID YOU GO OVER VACATION? POLL- this is another simple way to get back in the groove and allow kids to share some news about vacation while still staying in the target language. Depending on the grade level, kids can answer with just the destination or with a full sentence. Since I do this same question after all of our vacations, they are accustomed to this as well! Here I am last spring asking this question to one of my Fourth Grade classes so you can get a sense of how it works:

This is how I set up the question- I give them some answers to get started and they can add as appropriate. For those kids whose families don't do a lot of traveling, I always include local shops like Hannaford's Grocery Store and Walmart.
For First Grade, they might only respond 'Boston' or 'mis abuelos', whereas my Third Graders can provide most, if not all, of the sentence I've provided as a prompt. I provide the prompt to give support to my kiddos who need it, and also provides some structure and boundary to the activity, which also lends support.

*GOOD BYE... we wrap up class with a high five good bye or wave and I send them on their way.


Often I will do a quick model and practice of our call and response routine which I use to get their attention (I say 'Nachos' and they respond 'Salsa' and then look to me); other routines and expectations I model, practice and reinforce as they come up since my students are already familiar with them from years past. I do make a point of being sure that there are plenty of situational opportunities where these WILL come up to be sure we have that chance to practice them in the first few weeks. I also use my 10% in English to remind my students why we have expectations in the first place: so everyone is safe, can learn, and feels good, not frustrated, at the end of class.


*STUDENTS ARRIVE AT MY DOOR, I CHOOSE A SECRETARIO/SECRETARIA (a helper for the class) who picks a stuffie from the basket. We do a call and response related to our expectations- I ask '¿Preparados? and they respond "Listo/ lista" depending on their gender. We do this in the hallway at the beginning of EVERY serves as a reminder that they are to be ready to follow and meet our expectations. (Ready to use your best manners, ready to be your kindest self, and ready to be in the game/ participate)


*REVIEW ACTIVITY OR GAME RELATED TO THE FIRST THEME we will be learning for the school year. Depending on what the first theme is for the grade level, I purposely bring back at least one activity or game we did the previous year which ties into what we will be learning in the current year. This serves to spiral our curriculum and prime them for the new learning that will start on DAY 3. For example, in Kindergarten, one of our themes is 'Julieta y Mateo hacen un picnic' during which fruits are introduced and practiced. We have our mini book, we act out the story with props, and play a variety of games to practice fruit vocabulary in context. So, since our first theme in First Grade is 'Me gustan las frutas' where I introduce likes/ dislikes phrases (me gustan, no me gustan) in context with fruits, during this DAY 2 I re- read our mini book, and we play a game such as 'What's missing?' to prime and practice las frutas. With each grade level I plan activities that will allow this spiraling to take place-it is a great way to connect the past and present and keep old vocabulary alive even as we add new. It also is a "soft entry" for my students, meaning there is lots of success because they are familiar with the activity/ vocabulary.

*BLAST FROM OUR PAST SONGS... if there is time, I usually will pull up some of our favorite songs from the past on Youtube such as 'Bate, bate, chocolate', 'Los pollitos dicen', 'La familia dedo', etc, again to give a soft entry and keep the positivity going.

*GOOD BYE AND HAND OFF to next class.

First Classes of School Year for Elementary Foreign Language



*THIS IS TYPICALLY WHEN I WILL START OUR FIRST THEME of the year, passing out their folders with the first mini book, and following our routines for beginning a new theme (putting their name on the mini book, I introduce the book, we read it together, and so on). I may have a song or poem that is related to the theme which I may incorporate; depends on the theme. THIRD GRADE I formally introduce the calendar, being sure they understand that it is set up with Monday first. We don't do regular calendar activities; instead I reference it throughout class as appropriate when we are talking about anything related to timeframes. (I am working on a post about this and will link it when it's done!)

*FREEZE DANCE: for my Kindergarteners and First Grade I usually try to get movement in before they head out; Freeze Dance is an easy activity that they love and doesn't require them to do anything more than pay attention (which also teaches self control, a HUGE bonus!).


I hope this has given a decent sense of my first few days- I will be videotaping the classes this year (hopefully!), so be sure you are following our Youtube channel so you don't miss those! I would love to hear how you start the year, too!

And don't miss our fun Activity Pack featuring our Pepita as she gets ready to go back to school, too! You can find it by clicking here!

School Supplies in Spanish Theme Pack for Elementary Spanish for Kids
Grab it here!

Activities to Teach about Solar and Lunar Eclipses in Spanish Class

ECLIPSES ARE ALWAYS AN EXCITING EVENT, and, although they are rare, they are a fantastic opportunity to incorporate science in Spanish class, something I have found to be a HUGE motivator for my elementary students- they LOVE to learn and talk about all things having to do with science. August 21, 2017 brings us a solar eclipse visible throughout much of the US-here are some resources and ideas to bring solar and lunar eclipses to your classroom:

Activities to Teach about solar and lunar eclipses in Spanish Class

ONE OF MY ALL TIME FAVORITE VIDEO SERIES is Zamba from Argentina- this video is about a solar eclipse:

ANOTHER VIDEO I LIKE IS THIS ONE, it is well illustrated and simple- great to pause and give comprehensible input about the event:

THIS EDUCATIONAL VIDEO, LIKE THE ABOVE, can be used to introduce vocabulary and highlight various moments throughout an eclipse:

RIMAS DE COLORES has a great post with ideas to teach about both eclipses- you can read it here!

One of our readers, Kenna, kindly shared a link to this song on Cantoalegre (thank you so much!)

ANOTHER GREAT BLOG POST IS this one from CIENCIA Y LAPICERO. They've included a demonstration on how you can re-create both types of eclipses with a flashlight and balls. Neat!