Thursday, August 31, 2017

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 :)


  1. Being a former 1st and 2nd grade regular ed teacher, I have wondered about when to teach the alphabet and vowels. Thanks for the info and great video. You are so energetic!!!

    1. Thanks Margaret- I am thrilled this is useful for you! I look forward to hearing more of your perspective coming from the regular ed classroom- foreign language teachers can learn so much from gen ed! :) Julie