Resources for Teaching Languages to Children


Activities for Distance Learning That AREN'T Online

DISTANCE LEARNING CAN BE CHALLENGING, ESPECIALLY FOR ELEMENTARY WORLD LANGUAGE CLASSES where we are used to getting up and moving with our students, and doing lots of interactive activities with them. Many of us have moved to sharing links and resources online, but I've been also trying to mix those up with activities which don't involve a screen or have an off screen component. Here is a growing list of ideas you can add to a choice board or share with your students via your regular communication channels.

Off Screen No Tech Distance Learning Activities for World Language Class

*SCAVENGER HUNTS: My students love doing these in class, so why not encourage them to do one at home? Students can draw or put items on their scavenger hunt board, then have parents take a photo and share it with you. Here's the link to one for colors, in SIX languages, which you can download for free.

*EXERCISES IN THE TARGET LANGUAGE: Give your students an exercise regimen! Have them do 10 jumping jacks, bunny hops, burpees, skips, cartwheels, sit ups, etc and prompt them to count in the target language.

*PLAY UNO: A perennial favorite game at home, now they can say the colors & numbers in the target language! War, Go fish!, and Crazy 8s would all be great card games to play in the TL, too!

*NATURE ART: Inspired by our art teacher, this is a simple activity that any age group can do. Simply provide a verbal or written prompt of what they should "draw" outside using natural elements, such as sticks, leaves, stones, and more. For example, right before school closed, my Kinders were finishing up our theme on El, one of their at-home activities is to choose one (or more!) of our zoo animals and "draw" it outside. I have paired it with a Youtube link to one of a series of videos we've already watched in class-they are awesome! Here's the one for el elefante And here is a video I took of me giving my students instructions for this activity :)

Give a Prompt in the Target Language to Create Nature Art

As a follow up to the nature art, depending on proficiency & age level, you can have kids label their art, take a photo & share with you. They can also provide a list of target vocabulary along with the photo instead of labeling it.

*PLAYGROUND GAMES: I wrote a post a few years ago with games we can play OUTDOORS, which are perfect to share with students (who can play with their siblings & families!) Here's the link to that post.  Along with those FIVE TRADITIONAL games, you can also share how to create a traditional rayuela (hopscotch) and/or this cool African version frequently played in many Spanish speaking countries.

*HAND CLAPPING GAMES: Speaking of playground games, don't forget about Choco-choco-la-la and Mari-po-sa, amongst others that your kiddos may already know-have them teach a family member or pet!

*TRADITIONAL BOARD GAMES: Games, games, and more games! Another fun way to incorporate culture is with board games, such as the set I created featuring FIVE board games from a variety of countries. Share the rules as well as the boards with students-they can play at home! You can grab them by clicking here!

5 Traditional Board Games from Spanish speaking Countries

*WEATHER JOURNAL: Prompt students to start a WEATHER JOURNAL by drawing seven squares on a piece of paper, labeling each square for a day of the week (hey, calendar vocabulary, too!) and then tracking the weather each day by drawing icons to represent the weather and writing in the target language the associated phrases. BONUS FUN: Share with them a link to a weather website in a target language country and have them track the weather there, too!

*BIRD WATCHING COLOR TRACK: I LOVE watching birds come to our feeders outside-even here in Maine, we have a large variety of birds that visit! Though the names of birds in the target language might not constitute high frequency vocabulary, colors are. Repurpose the free scavenger hunt page(s) above by having students use the one in your target language to tally the colors of birds they see outside-set a time limit of 10-15 minutes (or longer)... students put tally marks in the boxes representing the colors they see, then share with you/the class via the platform you are using. (The great part about this activity, as well as many in this post, is kids can do them multiple times! ;) )

*WRITE A POEM: I love the poems which utilize vocabulary words as the outline for a drawing. Provide your students with a set of vocabulary words (could be just one or a set) and prompt them to create a drawing using those words as the outlines-they can then share with you/the class :) The one shown below has just two words- flower & leaf.

Word Poems for World Language Class

*NATURE WALK: One of the activities I include in my En el jardín / Dans le jardin theme packs is tracking what one sees out in nature (worm, bird, flower, etc). Invite your students to do the same when they are out in their garden (if you already have the theme pack, awesome!), or on a hike. They can use tally marks to indicate what they see of each thing.

*SING WHILE WASHING HANDS: Challenge your students to sing a familiar song in the target language while they are washing their hands :)

*COOTIE CATCHERS: Many kids know how to make cootie catchers (they could teach me!)-prompt them to create a cootie catcher using the target language, either entirely, or as a bilingual one (numbers and colors for the initial two rounds, for ex, while fortunes are in the home language).

LET ME NOTE: I have been careful to not include activities like cooking and crafts because so many kids either may not have these materials at home and/or I do not want to encourage families to go out to stores during this #stayathome time.

Photo Prompt Activities for Remote School Learning with Pepita

MANY OF US ARE SUDDENLY IN NEED OF REMOTE LEARNING ACTIVITIES as our schools close for extended periods of time due to Coronavirus. I have created a set of 12 activity pages in Spanish you can send home with your students (click here to download for FREE), and thought that additionally some of you might want to keep connected with Pepita, the gang, and the themes from our resources. To that end, over the course of the next month (at least) I will be posting 2-4 picture prompts a week featuring our characters which you can share with your students.

Remote Learning Photo Prompt Activities for Elementary Spanish


*SHARE A PHOTO WITH STUDENTS-you can do this by downloading the photo from my drive (links will be updated on this blog post each week) and sharing it via the platform you are using to connect with students-just be sure to give photo credit where/if applicable.
*PROMPT STUDENTS to generate a list of vocabulary they see in the photo-could be one or two words, or could be many. These are geared for Novice students, so single words, chunks, & simple phrases are what one would expect at this level. You can have them record their words or type them (for upper elementary students). You can also pair the photo with a list of words they can circle virtually (such as on Seesaw)

So, for example, in the above photo, words generated could include:
rojo (a)
rosado (rosa)
cuatro frutas
Tengo hambre.
Me gustan las frutas
Me gustan las peras
No me gustan.....

I think you get the drift! :)

*SOME PHOTOS WILL CONTAIN PROMPTS-my plan is to have some of the photos come with prompts embedded in the image itself (for example, it could contain a question related to what is pictured) which I am hoping will provide extension for your students.

That's it- ¡pan comido! Here we go:

Click here to download :) 
En el zoo photo prompt for remote school learning
Click here to download
Click here to download

Alphabet Bead Bracelets which Celebrate Positive Attributes for World Language Class

ONE OF MY THEMES FOR FOURTH GRADE SPANISH IS YO SOY... with personal adjectives that celebrate positive self descriptors, such as adventurous, generous, artistic, etc. This year, after a student told me in wistful tones that he wasn't good at anything, I decided I wanted to do an activity which would build up all my students & provide something they could take with them and actually use after class was over... which led to us making ALPHABET BEAD BRACELETS.

Yo soy alphabet bead bracelets for world language class Spanish French

IT TOOK ONE CLASS PERIOD (30 minutes) TO MAKE THESE BRACELETS. (If you are concerned about time spent in the target language when doing a small project like this, read my previous post about how you can maximize language use when incorporating projects by clicking here).

Yo soy adjectives bead bracelets for World Language Class Spanish

***This activity came at the end of the theme, so my kids were already familiar with the adjectives to choose from.

-elastic cord (you can find this at Walmart, Michael's etc in the jewelry aisle)-for 95 kids, I used approximately two packages of cord
-alphabet beads-this can get EXPENSIVE if you have a lot of students UNLESS you can find the beads at Dollar Tree or another dollar store. Some letters are used WAY more than others, which means you need extra packs. I went through about 12 packs of beads, with 500 beads in each pack. You can find alphabet beads on Amazon as well, but the cost is prohibitive.
-optional: little silver beads to put one on each end-I had found a bunch free this past summer so I used them for this project, definitely not necessary!

-CUT LENGTHS OF CORD (it really helps having these ready to go before class)

1) Have students CHOOSE AN ADJECTIVE that they connect with (I had kids write the adjective down on a 3 x 5 card so everyone was ready to go)

2) Put out BEADS in bowls or small containers-my students are already in groups, so I put one bowl per group. Also hand out lengths of elastic cord so kids can begin stringing.

3) Once the word they've chosen is spelled, tie both ends of the cord together and ¡Ta-chán! they've got a bracelet to wear-in the target language!

NOTE: the alphabet beads did not have accent marks, which takes a little away from the spelling, but because my kids were so familiar with the vocabulary, it was a minimal issue for me.

INTERESTED IN THE THEME PACK I MENTIONED? You can grab it here in my shop!

Yo soy Theme Pack for Spanish class

Preschool Spanish Activity for Valentine's Day Using the Song 'Peekaboo'

I STUMBLED ACROSS THIS VIDEO / SONG FROM SUPER SIMPLE SPANISH & IMMEDIATELY THOUGHT HOW PERFECT IT IS FOR PRESCHOOL SPANISH CLASSES! The song itself is super easy to learn (I do wish it used 'cu- cú' instead of peekaboo, but I'll roll with it lol) and the video lends itself to a fun interactive activity to do alongside learning the song... & fits in well with Valentine's Day!

Preschool Spanish Activity For Valentine's Day


1) BEFORE viewing the song video, establish the vocabulary 'te amo' and 'el gato'- I like to use "heart hands" for 'te amo'-most kids readily understand this. You can pair this with a heart visual, and of course, be sure to indicate the 'te' by pointing from yourself to a kiddo and saying 'te amo'. For 'el gato', a simple visual and the sound 'miau miau' are perfect for establishing meaning of the word :) You can also have a gesture for the cat, such as stroking whiskers, and for peekaboo, an obvious gesture is the peekaboo motion with your hands over your eyes :)

2) START THE VIDEO (click here for video on Youtube): Play and sing along, using the heart hands gesture for 'te amo' until :24 seconds-stop video. At this point in the video, the cats pop out of various places in the video, which makes it perfect for an interactive component with the video itself-by stopping the video as the cat appears, you can then ask the question ¿dónde está el gato? and calling up a kiddo to point it out. ¡Aquí está! Do this each time the cat appears so that multiple students get a turn! When the song resumes, everyone can sing along, then stop again when the cat starts popping out. You can play the song sufficient times for every kid to get a turn "finding" the cat. FUN & EASY ACTIVITY FOR CLASS!


*SING! This is so catchy, you can play it over and over again for the littles; you don't have to do the above activity again, though sometimes that's a fun thing to do after a few classes have gone by (I find my kids are not hugely keen on repeating an activity like this in subsequent lessons UNLESS not everyone got a turn during the first round. The element of surprise is lost, so they tend to want to move on... might just be my kiddos lol)

*WHERE'S THE CAT? GAME: A fun extension is to play one of my favorite games with littles- Where's the ____? (it has endless variations). Using cards with familiar vocabulary on them, such as colors, numbers, whatever you might also be focusing on or want to spiral back for practice, set them up in a pocket chart or on the board using magnets, then have your students close their eyes while you hide a cat image behind one of the cards. Have them open their eyes and take turns trying to guess where the cat is by naming a vocabulary word. Guesses continue until the cat is found, then start a new round. Don't have time to make this game yourself? Here's one I made to go along with the song that focuses on colors! Click here

Where's the Cat game Colors for Preschool Spanish French Russian German

*LABEL SCREENSHOTS: Even pre-literate kids can interact with the written word! For this extension, make a series of screenshots with the cat in each, print them out, and have them placed around the room. Also make a series of small word cards, each with 'gato' on them. Hand a card to each student and have them "search" for el gato and put their label on him/her (on a screenshot). Since you have given the word orally, they are not "reading" per se, but you ARE developing literacy skills by connecting the sound of the word to it's written form. You can go even further if they know colors, parts of the house, or other vocabulary in the video by making word cards of them and having kids "label" the screenshots with color words, etc.

Labeling Activity for Preschool Spanish French

THIS VIDEO IS A PERFECT COMPANION to our Te amo, familia Theme Pack! You can find it by clicking here :)

Te amo familia Spanish Theme Pack for Valentine's Day preschool

Have fun and let me know how it goes!

Annotating for Greater Text Comprehension- A Reading Strategy

FACILITATING READING COMPREHENSION FOR MY ELEMENTARY STUDENTS IS A CONTINUAL GOAL for me in my Spanish classes, with several in place right from the start, including high text to illustration correspondence, repetition of text (and/or pattern sentences), and lots of visual props to accompany my teaching when I introduce a new mini book. Always on the look out for additional strategies, I’ve begun using a new one I adapted from a strategy incorporated by home room teachers: ANNOTATING THE TEXT, or as I like to call it, coding the story.

Annotating For Greater Text Comprehension in World Language Classes

THE CONCEPT IS SIMPLE: Use a series of annotations to create a visual mechanism which conveys the meaning of the words within the text, so that, as students are reading, the meaning jumps out at them immediately (or at least, more quickly). With my 3rd & 4th graders, who are ready to decode simple texts independently, this strategy becomes a way for them to access the story in a different format (rather than me providing all the input & scaffolding verbally in the initial introduction). ***This doesn’t mean it replaces me telling the story, just adds another layer for comprehension purposes.

HOW TO ANNOTATE: Each text being different, the annotating is unique to each story, but here are the MAIN STEPS:

1: Go through the text yourself prior to introducing the story & identify key vocabulary that can be highlighted in some fashion- color coded, circled, small icons or pictographs put under/over, underline, label the illustrations, etc. Concentrate on those concrete words which the coding can help to bring meaning into view quickly. In the above example, you can see a variety of annotations: verde is colored green, queso is colored yellow, Mateo is circled in brown (because he is brown), the spaceship is labeled, a heart is put under ‘favorito’, the planets are labeled. Make a list for your own reference. (This mini book comes from our Theme Pack, Mateo el astronauta, which you can find by clicking here)

2: In class- before reading the story together, hand out the mini book or other text, and begin the process of annotating. Do one annotation at a time so all kids can keep up and don’t get confused during the process. Once the annotating is finished, you can then read through the story using storytelling techniques. As kids follow along, their comprehension is now enhanced by the annotations; this also facilitates future re-readings of the story, and supports your Special Ed kids with concrete connections between text & meaning. I would add that I think kids doing this annotating themselves is more beneficial than you doing it yourself in the text-they are connecting meaning while they are annotating, much like writing has been shown to facilitate learning, as opposed to using a digital device.

Note: this strategy also reduces the need for translating, allowing you to stay in the target language more often :)

A Reading Comprehension Strategy for World Language Classes