Resources for Teaching Languages to Children


Mystery Scents Activity for Me Gusta (Preferences) Theme

I LOVE TO PROVIDE EXPERIENTIAL OPPORTUNITIES FOR MY ELEMENTARY SPANISH STUDENTS, activities that are authentic and foster real conversation, interaction & reaction on the part of everyone in the room. One such activity that I LOVE to do is Mystery Scents, which I incorporate into my Me gustan las frutas Theme as well as subsequently through my first graders' year. Simple in nature, this activity also allows me to stay in the target language since it is perfectly geared for novice learners! Here's how I run the activity:

Mystery Scents Activity for Me gusta theme preferences in Spanish French

Gather together paper lunch bags and a variety of items that have distinctive scents, such as fruits (lemons, oranges and bananas are particularly great!), coffee, spices, pine cones/pine needles, etc. You can see in the photo above I also used cinnamon sticks and mint leaves; I've also used orchid scented soap during my theme on Venezuela, vanilla/ vanilla beans, coconut, perfume, among other items. Place one item in each bag. You will also need cards that indicate a variety of preferences expressions, such as ours shown in the photo above-for my first graders I only use 'me gusta' and 'no me gusta', but it is easy to add more as kids gain more vocabulary!

Place preference cards on either side of the room. With kids sitting in circle, indicate that they are to sniff the contents of one bag, in silence. (Although they are not perfect at staying silent, I work to keep them as quiet as possible so they don't tell everyone else what they think it is before all have had a chance to take a sniff).
I walk around the circle, letting each kid take a sniff, reminding them to stay silent. Once all have sniffed the contents, I then direct them to either stand near 'me gusta' (I like) or 'no me gusta' (I don't like) in reference to the scent. NOTE: we haven't said what it is yet!
Once all kids are standing near the indication of their preference, I then ask them what they think it is. Sometimes I start with questions like 'Is it a taco?' 'Is it pizza', etc that are obviously NOT what it is, especially if it's a word they are not secure with. If it is a word they know, I would then ask, 'So, what is it?'. If it's not a secure word, but still a cognate, I can usually successfully say, 'Is it café?' and they get it; otherwise I just reveal the item and name it in the target language.
I then instruct them to sit back down and we start another round. Usually, in one 30 minute lesson, I do 2-3 mystery bags (we also do greeting activities, sing a song and/or review before we get to this). I do this activity twice during my Me gustan las frutas theme, while in other themes, I might just bring it back for one lesson with new items geared for that particular theme.

Mystery Scents Activity for Me gusta theme in Spanish class

I do really like to connect the items as much as possible to the theme itself, such as the orchid scented soap I mentioned above for my Venezuela theme. You could also use scented oils or even Glade or air fresheners if you are searching for a particular scent. I prefer items themselves so the kids can look at them and make a connection, but occasionally there is that one perfect scent that you only find as an air freshener! :)

To make it easier for you to do this activity, our Likes and Dislikes Preferences Cards in Spanish are ready to print and use in class, just click here to grab them! And for a set in FRENCH, click here!

Likes Dislikes Preferences Bulletin Board Cards in Spanish

Blowing Bubbles- A Calm Activity for FLES World Language Classes

EVER HAVE THOSE CLASSES WHERE KIDS ARE JUST SO IMPULSIVE, SO WIGGLY you can barely get anything done? Nearly every year, I have at least one incoming Kindergarten class that feels like a whole batch of tumbling puppies who have no idea that being in school involves learning, as well as play (well, at least in my room we play a lot!). As I start the year, introducing routines & class expectations, I also find, particularly with classes like these, incorporating activities which foster self control and calm are immensely helpful as we focus on being learners (as well as puppies!). A number of years ago, I started searching out activities that work on this fostering of self control and stumbled upon this one- blowing bubbles- BUT DON'T POP THEM!

HERE'S A SIMPLE EXPLANATION OF HOW I RUN THIS ACTIVITY (NOTE: this is all in the target language):

(Lights off (to reinforce the idea of calm) & I speak in a soft voice)
*We all sit in circle, including me. I indicate they need to be at the edge of the rug & stay in their place.
*I take out the bubbles and the wand and tell the kids I'm going to blow some bubbles.
*I blow one batch of bubbles and express amazement- Wow! Look at the bubbles!
*I monitor very closely to see if any hands reach out-if they do, I gently redirect, indicating not to touch the bubbles.
*Usually there are at least a few who try to pop the bubbles :) so...
*I start again, saying I am going to blow bubbles-this time I tell them not to touch or pop the bubbles before I blow them, miming the instruction.
*I blow some more bubbles, again monitoring carefully and gently redirecting as necessary.
*I repeat this process, each time w the expectation no bubbles will be popped. Usually by the third time most kids will get the idea and will refrain, allowing us all to marvel at the beauty of the bubbles, and watching the ones that land but don't pop (this is endlessly captivating for my students!)
*At this point, it should become apparent (if not already) as to who really needs this activity the most-your wiggle worm! For me, the whole point of this activity is to help the really impulsive ones develop some self control, which also takes a lot of patience on my part, because now you have to monitor, coach & celebrate the success of this kiddo.
>It is not uncommon at this point, during the first introduction of this activity, that the wiggle worm just does not have the skills yet to self contain. I usually put the activity away, but bring it back next class and we try again. So far, in the many times I have done this activity, it has only taken 3 class times to get my little wiggle friends to hold back. (yes, this is a long haul activity, and I am sure there is that kiddo out there who just never responds). Coupled with other activities designed for developing self control, this can be powerful for kiddos like this. Out of control bodies can often have a negative impact on social relationships with classmates, obviously interferes with learning, and can frankly drive everyone nuts. And, since this activity can be done entirely in the target language, you are still providing an immersive setting-win-win!

For more calm activities in the classroom, check out my post 'Be the calm classroom'! And don't miss my Pinterest board on classroom management by clicking here.

And, for the original video I watched and modified for my class on this activity, click here!

Sample Lesson Plans for Preschool World Language Class such as Spanish and French

ONE QUESTION I RECEIVE REGULARLY IS HOW TO PLAN A SPECIFIC LESSON, how to break down timings for various age groups in order for the class to run effectively and efficiently. I thought it might be helpful to start a short series of blog posts highlighting sample lesson plans that could serve as a template for teachers. Let's start with PRESCHOOL- and remember, this is just a TEMPLATE, there are tons of variations on the idea, this is meant to serve as a global 'get you started' outline-this could work well for a first day/first week lesson plan:

Sample Preschool Lesson Plan Template for Spanish and French


*GREET students at the door or at rug (if you are on a cart) with a simple ¡Hola! / Bonjour!

*INVITE students to stand in a line outside the rug; motion for each to sit in a designated spot on the rug (make seating charts ahead of time-you can always change these later once you know the kids better). Model walking to the seat and gently guide your little friends to their space. I frequently make the 'shhh' sound and a finger to my lips while I am doing this-it reinforces the idea of calm and begins to instill the concept of paying attention to me for direction.

*GREETING SONG OR GAME : because this age is so squirrelly, having a song or game that does not take turns is optimal (otherwise they will lose their attention and patience). A song like ¡Hola! from Super Simple Spanish can be accompanied by doing the actions in the video or rhythmic clapping-don't worry about them learning the words, but rather just moving along with the song at this point.

*NAME GAME Naturally you want to start learning names, but because of their attention span, activities where you are calling on one at a time can lead to losing them quickly. Instead try a simple listening- movement activity like "Stand up _____" (name in blank) , "Sit down ___", -have name cards handy and just pull them randomly so kids have to listen for their name and do the action (be sure to model what stand up is-be in a seated position yourself, say 'stand up' in the target language, and stand up, using your hands to indicate an upward motion. For 'sit down', be standing, say 'sit down' in the target language', sit down while using your hands to indicate a downward motion). After a few names, start calling two names at a time, work up to three names, etc. Have some kids remain standing for a rounds before having them sit back down again. Keep the pace brisk while pulling cards and calling names while giving the instructions, just for stand up and sit down. Give applause frequently for their great listening :) It usually takes me 2-4 classes to learn all names, so I do games like this EVERY class to help me get them down.

*HIGH FIVE When you end the above game, have a mini celebration with a high five-give a high five to the kid next to you in circle, that kid then "passes" the high five to the next kid and so on around the circle. Celebrating success, big and little, builds confidence and reduces some of their anxieties about not knowing the target language.

*COOL DOWN After all that energy, it can be helpful to have a cool down time. Lullabies are a great way to bring this about, as it naturally taps into a routine they already know well. Turn off the lights, make a 'shhh' sound with finger to lips, and play a quiet song like La lechuza hace shhh or Au clair de la lune. The goal is not for them to learn the words, but rather to watch and settle down a bit. Bring in the element of imaginative play by having them pretend to go to's night time, let's go to sleep. You can sing the lullaby again as they "drift off". Let them "sleep" for a minute or two, then "wake them up" with a magic wand or sprinkling "magic dust" on them. You can even have them go back to sleep and do the imaginative play again :)

*GOOD BYE I like to have a low key good bye at the end of class. Have them stand up (but stay in their circle spots) and invite them to line up by walking in the order they are sitting around the outside of the rug. As they leave, say 'good bye' in the target language to each one with a wave :)

45 MINUTES OR MORE (Incorporating the above plus the below-consider these "buffet items" that you can mix and match depending on your class)

*BILINGUAL STORY TIME: This can be a great option if you are ok with a fair amount of English being spoken during your class. Connecting with the lullaby above, you could read a 'bedtime story' like 'Buenas noches luna'/ 'Bonsoir lune' before they "go to sleep".

*CIRCLE GAME I love playing circle games where everyone is involved, such as 'Al corro de la patata' or 'A la rueda de San Miguel', or 'Corre el trencito', and in French, Rosi Rosa and they are perfect for little kids. Again, I am not looking for them to learn the words, but rather to just participate in the game.

*FREEZE DANCE My kiddos LOVE to play Freeze Dance, and it is a great way to not only incorporate authentic music, but also to instill elements of self control. I always go over my three guidelines for moving before we start: 1) you stay in your spot 2) your body is in control 3) we don't touch anyone else while dancing

*DRINKS sometimes, especially with a long class period like this, it helps to take a drink break. Just be cognizant that, if you have a large class, you will have squirrels in line while they are waiting or after they have had their turn at a drink. Clapping songs, counting, I spy can help keep everyone together while getting drinks. It also helps to do a count down for each kid so they don't take forever getting a drink.. 1, 2, 3 and done. Next!

AS I MENTIONED ABOVE, there are MANY variations on this, but I am hopeful this can serve as a guide. Note that I did not include rules or norms in this first class; there is plenty of time to go over these in subsequent classes :) My goal with any first class for preschool and Kindergarten is to keep it low key, with little expectation of output on their part, and let them start to get to know ME by the tone of my voice,  my smile, my welcoming demeanor and upbeat time together. :)

Eid Breakfast at Abuela's Book Review

AS AN ELEMENTARY SPANISH TEACHER, I am always on the lookout for books that represent the wide diversity of the Spanish speaking world-and that also represent my students, both those who are heritage learners, and those who come from a variety of backgrounds other than heritage Spanish speaking, such as the Bosnian Muslim family that moved into our district last year. I was SO EXCITED to stumble upon this new book, Eid Breakfast at Abuela's, by Mariam Saad. Sprinkled with Spanish, this book tells the story of Sofia, whose father is Muslim, and who travels with her family to visit her Mexican Abuela to celebrate Eid, the end of Ramadan.

ALTHOUGH SOFIA'S GRANDMOTHER IS NOT MUSLIM, she prepares a party in honor of Eid, melding Mexican and Islamic traditions together. From a banner that reads '¡Feliz Eid!' to empanadas and churros, a visit to the mosque and a song in both Arabic and Spanish, this story sweetly honors a family's welcoming of multiple backgrounds to become one together- certainly an inspirational message for our times!

AT THE BACK OF THE BOOK is a bonus-a vocabulary list in three languages-Spanish, Arabic and English-LOVE!! I hope you love this book as much as I do!

YOU CAN ORDER THIS BOOK at Prolance Writers by clicking here!

About the Author: 
Mariam Saad was raised in Southern California by Egyptian parents. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration from California State University, Fullerton. She worked at the family business for many years, with schools locally, and taught 8th Grade English abroad. With the birth of her son, her time and energy were focused at home while she surrounded him with reading materials and developmental toys. Before getting a taste for his board books, her son had taken interest in listening to her voice while he admired the images and felt the textures on the pages. This was the start of her inspiration in entering the world of children through story telling and lesson teaching.

About the Illustrator:
Chaymaa Sobhy is a children's book illustrator based in Cairo, Egypt.
Instagram: @chaymaadraws

How to Teach A Song With Regional Variations Resources for Spanish

ONE OF THE THINGS I LOVE MOST ABOUT my online community of fellow world language teachers is the opportunity to meet and learn from colleagues around the world. One such teacher and song writer, Ana Calabrese, has inspired me with her dedication to creating songs in Spanish that are not only beautiful in their own right, but are designed to both teach Spanish AND convey positive messages to her students, and by extension, to ours. Her approach is thoughtful, grounded in good practice, and shows her ability to understand what young children enjoy and bring that to her music.

Spanish Plus ME Song Activity

IN A CONVERSATION WITH ANA ABOUT TEACHING SONGS, she made mention of her wish to inspire more teachers to use music and songs in their classes, but also expressed a concern that many teachers might run into challenges incorporating them in their classes due to regional variations in vocabulary.  Most of us have had at least one moment where we have been teaching vocabulary that either a student or a parent questions because they have grown up with and/or learned different words for the same thing, so we can relate! From that conversation, Ana went on to write a post with fantastic tips to celebrate this diversity via songs and music. Along with the excellent tips, one of the things I love most about her post is how she shares her personal experiences as a Colombian living here in the US, and how they have allowed her to grow as a teacher and supporter of bilingualism.

I SHARE THIS REVIEW WITH YOU in the hopes you will visit Ana's website, read her article (click here!) and check out her songs-they will be a wonderful addition to your classes!

Each Tiny Spark by Pablo Cartaya Book Review

I WAS SO EXCITED TO BE INVITED TO REVIEW PABLO CARTAYA'S NEW BOOK, EACH TINY SPARK, especially as I had loved his book, Marcus Vega Doesn't Speak Spanish, which I had reviewed last summer (you can read my review by clicking here), and I was not disappointed!

Each Tiny Spark tells the story of Emilia Rose, a tween living outside Atlanta, Georgia, with a lot of different puzzles to figure out in her life: how to deal with having ADHD, understanding her father who has returned from overseas active duty, town politics affecting her school, her own latina heritage, and the history of immigration and it's impact on her neighbors, friends and family.

Emilia Rose's story is compelling, entirely relatable, and poignant. In many ways, the multiple threads of the storyline mirror Emilia's ADHD in that you don't spend long amounts of time on any one of them, but rather Cartaya skillfully weaves vignettes together-Emilia trying to deal with her father's lack of communication while at the same time they work on fixing up an old Shelby Mustang together, the pressure she feels from her Abuela to conform to traditional dress and activities of young latina girls, navigating a friendship that is rapidly deteriorating, and coming to terms with the strong emotions school redistricting is surfacing in her town. Running through each of these is a common thread of identity, which Emilia Rose ultimately discovers as she works to untangle the facts she learns about her state's history and which develops a sense of purpose within her to raise awareness about immigration law and the unfair treatment many immigrants have received.

Pablo Cartaya
One of the most fascinating aspects of Cartaya's book is the local history-I learned so much about my own country through the research his character, Emilia, does for her school project. As she digs deeper into the past, Cartaya treats the reader to an informative overview of the law and it's impact on individuals and families. What I love about this is it's accessibility to young readers, and how the development of Emilia's understanding is contagious-as you read her process, you cannot help but want to get involved, too-an incredible message for today's young readers!

:) Julie

For more information:
Emilia Torres has a wandering mind. It's hard for her to follow along at school, and sometimes she forgets to do what her mom or abuela asks. But she remembers what matters: a time when her family was whole and home made sense. When Dad returns from deployment, Emilia expects that her life will get back to normal. Instead, it unravels.

     Dad shuts himself in the back stall of their family's auto shop to work on an old car. Emilia peeks in on him daily, mesmerized by his welder. One day, Dad calls Emilia over. Then, he teaches her how to weld. And over time, flickers of her old dad reappear.

     But as Emilia finds a way to repair the relationship with her father at home, her community ruptures with some of her classmates, like her best friend, Gus, at the center of the conflict. 

     Each Tiny Spark by Pablo Cartaya is a tender story about asking big questions and being brave enough to reckon with the answers.

Pre-order Here:

Pablo Cartaya is an award-winning author, speaker, actor, and educator. In 2018, he received a Pura Belpré Author Honor for his middle grade novel, The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora. His second novel, Marcus Vega Doesn't Speak Spanish, is also available.

Weather Talk in World Language Classes - An Authentic Approach

WEATHER VOCABULARY IS A STAPLE OF WORLD LANGUAGE CLASSES, with weather reports and/or themes a common part of many programs. Over the last few years, I have seen it lose popularity with some teachers for a variety of reasons including a concern that it's not relevant to students, or it's boring, etc. I cannot say whether this is true at older levels, but I have found that amongst my elementary students, nothing is farther from the truth. Little kids talk about the weather ALL the time-if you are an #earlylang teacher, take a moment to listen to them. Weather plays a huge role in their lives-if it's raining, chances are they will have inside recess. If it's snowing, there could be an early release, or a snow day. Or they might get to go sledding at recess time (at least in my school). Not to mention snow is still magical to most kids-just think, they have only seen first snow of the season 5-6 times! Thunderstorms can be scary, and heavy wind is definitely an event! All of this is to say that I hear weather talk from my students on a regular basis, and since I am always listening to what they are saying in order to figure out how I can move that from English to Spanish (in what I call the 'replacement approach'-more on that in another post :) ), it is natural for me to want to incorporate weather in my classes.

Weather Talk for Authentic communication in world language classes

HERE'S THE THING-I WANT IT TO BE ORGANIC, I want it to be part of the natural dialogue and interaction we are already having in class, part of the CONVERSATION- because I want it to be authentic and meaningful for my kiddos. There is a difference between giving a weather report as part of calendar time and stopping class to point out the window and call out 'It's snowing, friends!". For those who say there are no authentic moments in a language classroom, I respectfully disagree. If you all rush to the window and watch the snow together, commenting and reacting in the target language, you've got an authentic moment on your hands. If it's a beastly hot day and you all comment on it, complaining about the heat, that's an authentic moment. And, oh, I also call it INTERPERSONAL because you and your students are interacting with one another in the target language, swapping opinions and reactions.

SO, HOW TO BRING WEATHER TALK TO YOUR CLASSES? It's both simple & a bit challenging at the same time. It's simple because the phrases themselves are familiar to us as teachers, and short, which is great for delivery purposes. The challenge is in being comfortable with the impromptu nature of changing course in the middle of a lesson to react to weather as it unfolds, and remembering to include it as part of other themes, activities you are doing. The other piece of course is that it adds an element of the unknown to your planning, and may skew some classes in a grade level off of others, which can get a little hairy. Practically speaking, you need to be prepared with visuals to help you stay in the target language and provide clear, comprehensible input for your kiddos. I don't do calendar time (another topic that I incorporate organically), so no weather report either-and by this I mean where a student stands up at the front of the class and tells the weather to everyone. I don't have an issue with this, especially since most elementary kids are familiar with this activity, I just don't do it in my classes. Instead, I intentionally plan on mentioning the weather "in passing" or reacting to weather events as they occur outside my classroom window. If I have time, I will run outside between classes to take a photo of the current weather with one of our characters that I can then project on the whiteboard to support a comment I want to make. Sometimes I mention the weather and ask questions as my kids are arriving, or I embed it in other thematic activities we are doing, the greeting, or even as they are leaving. The key is in being authentic yourself-remember, interactions like this build community as well as language skills! :)

HERE'S A SIMPLE INTERACTION for novice learners to serve as an example:
Me: Look, kids, it's snowing!
Me: It's snowing-it's so pretty!
Me: Wow, it's snowing. I really like the snow. _____ (kid's name), do you like the snow?
____ answers. (I react depending on their answer- Yes, me too, I really like the snow. or No, you don't like the snow? Is it too cold? (this could go on depending on student & class, or stop here)
Me: _____ (kid's name, different kid), do you like the snow?
____ answers. I react.
Me: Kids, raise your hand if you like the snow. (I count hands and react)
Me: Kids, raise your hand if you don't like the snow (again, I count hands and react)

I could continue this conversation depending on the kids and the class-we could end up talking about things we like to do in the snow using yes/no questions, the cold and whether we like it or not, the rate of snowfall (fast or slow), if we brought our snowsuits to school that day or not (again yes/no), whether they will be sledding at recess or not (yes/no format again), etc OR I may just move on or return to what we were doing before I noticed the snow. This 'go with the flow' teaching is part of what I mentioned above in terms of being a bit challenging-but it is very rewarding to see kids sharing and building community together!

NOTE: in the above, having visuals for the yes/no questions is crucial to stay in the target language, especially with novice speakers who may not be familiar with some of the vocabulary. For example, if I am asking about going sledding at recess, I use a photo of kids sledding on OUR playground to ask the question 'Are you going to sled today at recess?'. All they need to answer is yes/no-REMEMBER, you can pose questions with unfamiliar vocabulary if you are using a yes/no format and still have an authentic conversation!

BONUS! WEATHER EXPRESSIONS ARE A GREAT WAY TO INCORPORATE CULTURE in a contextualized format-working them in as you go makes for what I call 'everyday culture', those small ticket items that make up so much of our lives, such as idiomatic expressions like the one in our photo of Olivia below (NOTE: this is another expression for Está lloviendo a cántaros, another being Está lloviendo hasta maridos)

Está lloviendo a mares Weather Idiomatic Expressions in Spanish

NEED WEATHER VISUALS FOR CLASS? We currently have them in Spanish (click here), French (click here) and Russian, and German on the way!

How I've Broken Down Novice Low & Mid into Sub Categories-and Why

LAST SUMMER I WROTE OUT MY INTERPRETATION OF THE ACTFL NOVICE LEVELS WITH AN ELEMENTARY PERSPECTIVE, which has really helped me view my students and their interactions in class more clearly. (Read them here) However, this has also prompted me to get more serious about my desire to change how I assess and grade my students, which is to say, along proficiency lines rather than discrete assessments at any one point in time. In some ways, I am already doing this, having identified what my expectations are for each grade level, but I am looking to take it further to define it as a proficiency level for each grade level. But, this brings with it significant challenges-for ex, my kiddos, over the course of their five years with me, mostly fall in Novice Low and Novice Mid for the bulk of our time together, with movement into Novice High for a portion. This means assigning Novice Low for 2-3 grades levels, which honestly doesn't help me if I am trying to identify whether a kiddo is 'On grade level' or not. Contemplating this nugget brought into focus the fact that even within each of these sub-categories (Low, Mid, High) there are gradations-not all Novice Low looks the same, especially if you are looking at a kiddo over the course of a couple of years. A Kindergartner in September is a different Novice Low than a First Grader in June, after having two years of class. So....

Breakdown of Novice Low & Mid Utterances into Sub Categories

TO DELVE INTO THIS MORE, I DECIDED TO TRACK STUDENT UTTERANCES & INTERACTIONS so I could get a clearer sense of what is actually happening. To that end, last November, I started writing down verbatim what my students are saying, and roughly placing them on a continuum from Novice Low to Novice High. I continued this process all the way to June, using a closet door in my room and sticky notes. What became readily apparent was what I suspected- lots of gradation, but patterns began to emerge within those gradations where I have been able to lump utterances together. So, for example, within what I am terming Novice Low, there are these:

"Green and blue!"

"It's verde and azul."

"Verde y azul."

These are all in answer to the question "¿De qué color es ____?". Note the progression from English, to a mixed bilingual sentence, to a completely target language response that would be a typical response from anyone, even a native speaker, when answering this question (I say this because, as we all know, it is common to answer questions of this kind without using a full sentence-What color is the ___? Green and blue.)

OK, SO NOW WHAT? As the year progressed and I had more and more utterances documented, I began thinking about what to term these sub-sub categories, and/or how I could present them visually. My internal metaphor for learning another language has always been to liken the process to climbing a mountain, with dips and plateaus, switchbacks and get the idea. I began playing around with a representation inspired by this metaphor that would be readily understood by a 5 year old, and came up with the below concept for Novice Low (for the PDF version of this click here):

Novice Low Break down of Utterances as a Progression

AS YOU CAN SEE, I'VE USED THREE SIMPLE WALKING PATHS, a sidewalk, the lawn, and an easy nature trail to visualize the progression, with the sidewalk being of the shortest duration, the lawn being a little longer, and the nature trail being the longest of the three, reflecting what I observe in my classes-kids move pretty quickly from the "sidewalk" to the "lawn", and from the "lawn" to the "nature trail" where they spend a fair amount of time. Imagine sharing this with your early elementary students-or your middle or high school students for that matter! The "sidewalk" is an easy walk, no special clothing or equipment needed. The "lawn" needs sneakers or flip flops, and might house some things to take into consideration, like flowers, bugs, or small stones. An "easy nature trail" requires sneakers and probably some bug spray, and perhaps a granola bar along with a water bottle since it could be a bit of a walk. It's highly evident the progression of "difficulty" from one to the next, which I think is also appealing to kids AND has the benefit of showing said progress over time, which a designation of just 'Novice Low' cannot do.

OK, ONTO NOVICE MID... I find this one a little harder to break down, in large part because I see kids mixing and matching utterances, with a lot of fluidity and gray area. I've decided, at least for the moment, to only have two sub-sub levels here (this is definitely a work in progress!) that flow back and forth-so, envision less precise categories, and kids' utterances moving back and forth along the progression as they integrate new content and fall back before moving ahead again. (The PDF version is here)

Novice Mid Break down into Sub Categories

CONTINUING THE TRAIL METAPHOR, I have two trails, one termed 'Nature Trail' which has a few rocks but otherwise smooth- one would need sturdy sneakers to successfully navigate the terrain. At the other end, 'Nature Trail with Hill' with more rocks, a slight incline and more trees, with one needing to pay more careful attention to the terrain and any obstacles, as well as put in a bit more energy to climb the hill. As a continuum of "difficulty, as kids gain more content, they are able to integrate this in more varied ways, such as stringing together vocabulary, adding modifiers as desired, and personalizing some of the practiced phrases they are learning, which takes on the aspect of original expression. Kids still rely on well learnt words, chunks and phrases and I still see a lot of English interference, both in terms of word order, etc and using the L1 to fill in the gaps for what they still don't know but want to express. Language is still rudimentary in nature, and sticks closely to the familiar topics from class, which makes sense given they still have a very small vocabulary set, though it is growing :)

I WANT TO ADD, THERE IS SOOOO much more to these charts-my goal is to continue to flesh out my observations and ideas over the course of this summer, getting them out of my head and onto virtual 'paper' :)

CAVEAT: All of the above is based on my experience with my resources and my method of teaching, which is 90-100% in Spanish, and incorporates a lot of conversational back and forth, encouragement and support of spontaneous interaction, and lots of scaffolding, all of which may affect what I see in my kiddos and may not be what your students output looks like- because of this, I would LOVE to hear your thoughts and experiences-please share in the comments below!

PSST: I am working on a kid-friendly printable of these so they can track their progress for those of you who incorporate this in class-should be finalized soon!

Father's Day Resources for Spanish Class

FATHER'S DAY, EL DÍA DEL PADRE, LIKE MOTHER'S DAY, IS A GREAT OPPORTUNITY FOR STUDENTS TO ENGAGE IN AUTHENTIC COMMUNICATION, as it is naturally a time to put into practice greetings and short phrases that are meaningful and extremely relevant for learners. As well, it is a great way for kids to use language to communicate and brighten someone's day- their dad! Here are some links and resources to integrate Father's Day in elementary Spanish class:

Father's Day Resources in Spanish for Kids

*CANCIÓN PARA EL PAPÁ: This adorable song from Babyradio is perfect for your heritage learners!

*¿QUIÉN SE PARECE A QUIÉN? Cantoalegre video from the series 'Lolalá vamos a cantar' is absolutely adorable! I love this video, and use it with my 1st grade classes as a Video Walk. Lolalá walks about the farm with her binoculars, spying baby animals that look like their fathers. I video'd one of my lessons using this video-you can see it by clicking here!

*PAPÁ, POR FAVOR, CONSÍGUEME LA LUNA by Eric Carle is a beautiful story of a little girl and her dad who climbs up to bring the moon back to his daughter. You can find the book on Amazon, and for a video version of the book, click here.

*EL PINGÜINO EMPERADOR song by Pinkfong is super cute and celebrates 'el súper papá' :) You may know that Emperor Penguin dads are the ones who sit on the egg until it hatches, not the mother. Here is the link to the song.

*TE AMO, PAPÁ Mini Theme Pack features our adorable and very simple mini book with animals from Spanish speaking countries who also happen to be great animal dads! El coquí, el ñandú and more are included, along with simple activities & a craft students can make for their dad. Grab it by clicking here!

Te amo Papá Father's Day Theme Pack in Spanish for Kids

Envisioning World Language Goals that Go Beyond the Language

I FREQUENTLY SEE WORLD LANGUAGE TEACHERS ASKING ABOUT GOALS FOR THEIR CLASSES... or, trying to answer a student who asks, 'Why are we doing this?'. I suspect this question is raised in all content areas, most especially as students are no longer buying into the 'learn for the sake of learning' mantra nor the 'because you will need it in the future' explanation. As Joshua Cabral of World Language Classroom so rightly notes in his interview on the Inspired Proficiency podcast (Nov 6, 2018 episode), students want to see meaningful application of the learning NOW, not later.

Re envisioning World Language Goals that Go Beyond the Language

OVER THE PAST FEW YEARS, I HAVE BEEN TRYING TO REWORK THE LEARNING GOALS IN MY ELEMENTARY SPANISH CLASSES to be aligned with a greater purpose and/or meaning-changing the idea of 'we are doing this because you are learning Spanish' 'or, we are doing a Movie talk so you can practice your Spanish vocabulary' to goals that reflect community and core values. This is the thought that has come to me: WHAT IF WE WEREN'T WORKING TOWARDS STUDENTS MOVING ALONG THE PROFICIENCY LADDER but rather PROVIDING THEM THE OPPORTUNITY TO USE THE LANGUAGE AS IT'S BEING LEARNED TOWARDS A GREATER PURPOSE? What if we were using the language for enjoyment- singing a song together just because IT'S FUN, reading a picture book because IT'S MESSAGE IS INSPIRING, playing a game together because IT BRINGS US ALL CLOSER TOGETHER? What if we are using the language TO SOLVE PROBLEMS or to LEARN NEW INFO we are interested in?

I'LL BE THE FIRST ONE TO ADMIT, these musings don't bring up anything particularly new, especially for elementary teachers who've taught content-based instructions as a matter of course... and I'm super excited to see more teachers incorporating the environment and social justice, amongst others... and yet, I know for many, a large number of theme or unit goals still lie somewhere in the linguistic realm; after all, we are hired as language teachers, right? That is what we are supposed to do, teach language. But, what if we re-envision how we frame the purpose for what we do in class?

Re envisioning the purpose of class activities in world language classes

GO FROM a goal written like this: Student will use greetings & leave takings appropriately
TO: Students will reflect their partnership in our class community by brightening someone else's day via the greetings & leave takings they use with one another (in Kid Speech: Let's brighten someone else's day by greeting them!)

BECAUSE, AFTER ALL, WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF A GREETING? Is it to show you know how to say one? or is it truly to say 'I see you, I acknowledge you, I care about you.'?

Here's another example:
GOING FROM: Student can write a description of a familiar object or person
TO: Students' descriptions of their pets allow all of us in the class community to learn more about each other (Kid Speech: Let's learn more about each other's pets!)

BECAUSE WHEN WE KNOW MORE ABOUT EACH OTHER, we are more likely to respect one another, period.

GOING FROM: Student demonstrates comprehension of verbal directions
TO: Students take care of classroom materials by listening to, and following, classroom instructions (Kid Speech: Taking care of our classroom also takes care of our planet)

BECAUSE RESPONSIBILITY OF OUR SPACE AND MATERIALS contributes to taking care of the earth- recycling, not wasting materials so we don't need to throw them away prematurely, etc.

GOING FROM: Student demonstrates comprehension of written text
TO: Based on information drawn from written texts, student learns more about his/her favorite animal. (Kid Speech: Let's learn more about our favorite animals!)

BECAUSE WHEN YOU'RE SEVEN YEARS OLD, learning about what a panda eats is pretty darn interesting and engaging!

LET ME TELL YOU, this is a slow and challenging process as I weed through the many goals for my program and re-envision them with the above thoughts in mind, and I know they aren't perfect by any measure! And, I suspect that some goals just might not be re-envisionable (I know that's not a real word but it serves lol) and that's ok. However, what I observe is that when I articulate goals like the ones above to my students, they really RESONATE. This tells me I'm on the right track, even if I am bumbling along as I do it :)

I would love to hear your thoughts, reactions, how you are writing your goals-put them in the comments below!

Summer Reading List 2019 for Elementary Spanish Students & Heritage Speakers

SUMMER IS RIGHT AROUND THE CORNER, and as per my yearly tradition, I've gathered a list of book recommendations for STUDENTS IN ELEMENTARY SPANISH as good reads while they are on vacation. My hope is to keep those connections to culture and language alive over the months we are apart, and of course, at the same time, encourage kids to read some FANTASTIC books! This year I'm including books available not just in English but also in Spanish for our heritage speakers.

Summer Reading List 2019 for Spanish Students in Elementary School

To see my past Summer Reading Lists visit:
2015 Summer Reading List
2017 Summer Reading List
2018 Summer Reading List


*DREAMERS by Yuyi Morales- This is such a touching, memorable story of coming to the United States from México! Not only is the story beautiful, but so are the illustrations- I highly recommend this book. Also available in Spanish: Soñadores

*THE DAY YOU BEGIN by Jacqueline Woodson- a lovely story about celebrating who you are as a unique being! Also available in Spanish: El día en que descubres quién eres.

*ZOMBIES DON'T EAT VEGGIES by Jorge Lacera and Megan Lacera- this is the debut book of Colombian author and his wife, Jorge and Megan Lacera, and features traditional foods in a witty, fun story, sure to be enjoyed by kids! Available in Spanish: ¡Los zombis no comen verduras!

*PLANTING STORIES, the Life of Storyteller and Librarian Pura Belpré by Anika Aldamuy Denise is the biography of Pura Belpré, the first Puerto Rican librarian in New York City, and namesake of the prestigious Pura Belpré Book Award. On my own reading list this summer! Available in Spanish: Sembrando historias.

*YO SOY MUSLIM by Mark Gonzales is on my reading list this year-I'm excited to see a book exploring cross-heritages, highlighting the complexities of identity and celebrating ones roots.


*SARAI AND THE MEANING OF AWESOME by Sarai Gonzalez (of Soy yo fame) and Monica Brown. Both inspirational and fun, this short book is perfect for upper elementary reading! Available in Spanish: Sarai y el significado de lo genial. NOTE: This is the first in a series featuring Sarai, be sure to check out all the titles!

*SOFIA MARTINEZ, Every day is Exciting by Jacqueline Jules- I LOVE this book for early emergent chapter book readers (say, around 2nd grade or so)- Sofia Martinez is getting ready for her friend's quinceañera, with mishaps galore before she finally makes it to the party. Cute and accessible! Part of a series, these are awesome books for young readers :) All books in the series are also available in Spanish.

CHAPTER BOOKS for Upper Elementary and Middle School

*THE FIRST RULE OF PUNK by Celia C Pérez is AWESOME! I loved this book so much, really fresh, relatable for kids of all backgrounds, but most especially for kids who have a mixed heritage and are struggling to figure out their identity. A Pura Belpré Honor Book. PSSST: Celia let me know via Twitter that this book will be available in Spanish this fall- ¡yupiiii!

*MARCUS VEGA DOESN'T SPEAK SPANISH by Pablo Cartaya is another book exploring one's identity in light of your heritage- I adored this book, and think ALL kids can connect with Marcus' story.

*MERCI SUÁREZ CHANGES GEARS by Meg Medina won the 2019 Newberry Medal, and is on my reading list for summer. Featuring Merci Suárez, a 6th grader trying to make her way in a new school, this sounds great-I'll report back after I've read it!

*LUCKY BROKEN GIRL by Ruth Behar won the Pura Belpré Award and tells the story of a Cuban-Jewish immigrant to NYC, whose journey to belong is jeopardized by a tragic accident which leaves her bed ridden for an extended period of time. Set in the 1960s, this is another on my list TO READ!

Finally, last year I had on my list Me, Frida and the Secret of the Peacock Ring, by Angela Cervantes which I LOVE LOVE LOVE and is now available in Spanish: Frida, el misterio del anillo del pavo real, y yo. A great read for heritage speakers!

Happy reading!

Going GREEN in Your Classroom- Ideas for a More Environmentally Friendly Space

LIKE MANY OF YOU, I TRY REALLY HARD TO BE A RESPONSIBLE STEWARD OF THE EARTH AT HOME-we compost, we recycle everything we can, we've reduced our plastic, water and electricity use where ever we can, I carry metal straws in my purse, and reusable bags in the car. But honestly, I haven't put nearly as much thought into my footprint at school... until now. Over this past school year, I have been systematically making my classroom a GREENER space, and am continually searching out new ideas to implement. Have you been thinking the same thing? making efforts too? I would love to hear about it-post in the comments below and let me know what you're doing to help the one and only earth we have!

Going Green in Your Classroom Eco Friendly School Space


*PAPER BAGS INSTEAD OF ZIPLOCS: I will profess, I long have loved ziploc bags, they are so cheap, convenient and come in so many sizes. But, as my stash is being used up, I'm not buying more. Instead, I found paper sandwich bags, and am using them to hold manipulatives, class sets of materials, pictures and more. For larger items, I've been using paper lunch bags. So far, so good- I just have to label the outside of the bags before storing them away (as opposed to being able to see through them to the contents like with ziplocs).

*REPURPOSING VEGGIE TRAYS: Sometimes our vegetables come on a stiff paper "tray", which are perfect for arranging & organizing items (like legos, dice, little letters, etc) at stations or around the room instead of plastic bins.

*COPY PAPER BOXES: This I've been doing for as long as I've been teaching, but as a few have worn out, I haven't replaced them with plastic bins. I keep all my theme materials in cardboard copy paper boxes which are sturdy and can be stacked easily if necessary. TIP: I've gotten all mine from our custodians- which is to say, FREE!

*LOW/ NO LAMINATION: Whaaaaaatttt???? I know, this is a tough one, especially for us elementary teachers! Now, I've been at this on and off for the past several years as I became concerned about the freakish amount of lamination I had been doing and the potential health risks from inhaling all those fumes (we have a hot laminator at school)... but this year I have gone the extra step to work on wrangling my students to try and be a little more careful with materials so they would last longer rather than laminating them. By no means a runaway success, their heightened awareness of the problems plastic poses to the environment has helped the cause and I can say happily that I haven't laminated anything since last September :) SIDE NOTE: Although I haven't laminated in months, I don't expect to give up lamination altogether, there are some things that just make sense to laminate, but reducing to the bare minimum is definitely a help for the environment!

*CRAYON SHARPENERS: How I missed this one all these years is a mystery to me! I don't use markers in my classroom (but if you do, definitely recycle them via CRAYOLA's program- link here), instead having crayons as I find them easier to deal with....but the down side is once they are dull, kids don't want to use them anymore and I end up throwing them away. I have spent a lot of my teacher time peeling crayons to try and extend their lifespan, but even that is not satisfactory for my little treasures. Enter the crayon sharpener on the back of the 64 pack- it works reasonably well and lengthens the life of a crayon quite nicely and in an acceptable manner for my students, meaning I don't have to throw it out so soon. (and yes, I tried baking them down into blob crayons, but the smell was unbearable! Nevertheless, if you want to try this at home, here's how)

AND, HERE'S AN ORGANIZATION THAT WILL COLLECT YOUR CRAYONS, melt them down, make new crayons and donate them to kids in need! The Crayon Initiative

NOTE: Crayola will take your dry erase markers, even though they aren't their brand!!

*TURN OFF THE LIGHTS: I don't recommend you spend all day in the dark, but you probably can find some strategic moments to cut the lights- I also find the lights being off has a calming effect on my students, an added side benefit to being globally responsible!

*PAPER CONSERVATION: I find this to be a tricky one, since I can't get away from paper altogether, most specifically in the classroom. However, most of us have gone digital for classroom news (no more paper handouts), so that's a good step. For older students, utilizing Google Classroom and devices can be a big assistance here as well. For the littles, a couple of things I've been trying: using smaller pieces of paper (cutting paper in half, for ex) for projects, encouraging (e-hem, requiring) them to use BOTH sides of a paper before throwing it in the recycler if they aren't happy with something, gluing scrap paper over unwanted items for those kiddos who just CAN'T live with a cross out on their paper, using mini whiteboards instead of paper

*GLUE STICK CARE: Like many of our materials, if not taken care of properly, glue sticks end up in the waste basket before they are completely used up. I always model how to use them (roll down BEFORE putting the cap back on!!!) before we use them, each and every time to remind my friends of proper care.

*PLANTS: We all know that plants are providers of oxygen, but they are also calming & give a natural, living element to your space that connects you and your students to the greater world. Consider choosing plants that grow in the target language country if possible, or plant seeds to grow flowers,  herbs or other plants during the year. And, if you are able to to give students stewardship over the plants, you are also ingraining great values for taking care of the world around us!

Creating a GREENER Space in your Classroom

LASTLY, GET YOUR STUDENTS INVOLVED! I find the more I appeal to my students' desire to also be stewards of the earth, the better they are at being ones. Educating THEM about how they can help take care of the environment while at school is a huge step towards them being more conscious outside of school :)

Have additional ideas? Please share them below!

End of the School Year Survival Guide- Tips To Get You Through

END OF THE SCHOOL YEAR... EXHAUSTION, STRESS, WANTING TO PULL YOUR HAIR OUT, eating poorly... perhaps you experience some or all of these as the warrior teacher you are, I know I do! By the time spring hits here in Maine, which really doesn't start until mid-April, the kids are squirrelly and I am done, stick a fork in me please. Couple that with all the special events happening in and out of school, routines going haywire, and a need to just SLEEP, it most definitely is the hardest time of year, at least in my opinion. Over the years, I've tried to institute some changes to the end of the year (as in the last two months!) to make it more manageable and enjoyable for me and my students. Here are some tips that have grown out of those changes:

End of School Year Guide and Tips for Teachers Spanish and French

*STICK TO YOUR ROUTINES: This doesn't mean don't do anything special, it means maintain the routines and expectations that you have worked so hard to put in place, and that, especially if you are an elementary teacher with potentially many years with these same kids, you don't want to lose. For ex, keep the beginning of class routines in place, such as your greeting or your welcome. Continue to remind and reinforce your expectations-it's very tempting to just let them slide now that you are exhausted and the kids are bonkers. But.... this is when holding to these expectations will pay off in terms of making the last weeks positive or negative. A rowdy, chaotic class is only fun for the ones being rowdy-everyone else, including many of their classmates, are not digging it. (SIDE NOTE: I know how HARD this one is, believe me!)

*PLAN FOR LESS "ACADEMIC" CONTENT: I wasn't quite sure how to word this, but the idea is relatively simple- when planning out your year, consider putting content at the end of the year that requires less intense focus on the part of students. This doesn't mean you throw content out the window altogether and swing from the rafters, but rather take into consideration the difficulty kids have at this time of year, and intentionallycmake that part of your planning process. For ex, my last theme of Fourth Grade is traditional card and board games-over the course of six weeks, I introduce a series of 4-5 games which we play in class and/or outside if the weather is nice. I still stick to our routines, kids are participating in cultural activities in the target language, and no one is taxed to the point of losing their mind. Win-win!

Planning the End of the School Year for Spanish and French Class

*BLAST FROM THE PAST: This is what I call our trip down memory lane :) The last few classes of the year are a great time to bring back old favorites, such as songs, games, activities, videos, etc-I love to not just revisit those from the current year, but ones from all the years we've been together. It's awesome to hear kids say, 'I remember that song from Kindergarten!'. Because these are familiar to kids, there is less 'effort' on your part to introduce them...and the bonus is you get to recycle some great content, too!

*HOLD KIDS ACCOUNTABLE: Related to the above 'stick to your routines', hold kids to the expectations you've established. Some kids just lose it at the end of the year, thinking they can get away with disruptive, wild behaviors. It's a no go. If a kiddo can't contribute to the community in a productive way, give yourself permission to give consequences-perhaps this is some time spent in the Take a Break space while the rest of the class is playing a game, or off to the Buddy Classroom while the class goes outside... whatever makes sense for your class and school. Lose of privilege is a natural consequence that can be effective, especially if held to consistently. has some great articles about this!

*HEAD OUTSIDE: With the weather warming up, going outside is an obvious option. Choose activities that have structure, involve ALL your students (nothing like an activity where they have to take turns to devolve into mayhem and frustration), and don't require extensive instructions (you will lose them to the dandelions, rocks, and twigs if your instructions are too involved!). Scavenger hunts, chalk flags, traditional games like hopscotch, jump rope, circle games, etc are great, low prep activities for the outdoors. You could also bring out a basket of books and enjoying some reading time in the sun :) A NOTE: Going outside does require some pre-teaching, modeling and reminding of appropriate behaviors prior to heading out-don't skip this step! :)

*BE SENSITIVE TO YOUR STUDENTS: Lastly, but perhaps the most important- many of our kiddos are not excited about the end of the year, many are anxious or stressed about moving to the next grade level or building, and many students dread summer vacation which can be an absolute nightmare for them-being home for some of these kiddos is a horror show. Often, these emotions present as disruptions, explosions, melt downs and defiant or argumentative behaviors. As hard as it is, being a positive and constant adult in these kids' lives is crucial. To that end, being careful in how you reference summer and vacation is important-take into consideration that these kids won't react positively to a 'Who's excited for summer vacation?' or 'Only 23 days til vacation!'. Consider trying to frame vacation as a bridge 'We'll be seeing each again really soon!' or 'I can't wait to see you again in September!'. :)

*5 Traditional Board Games from Spanish Speaking Countries
*Reloj, a card game from Spain
*Yearbook Activity in Spanish and in French
*Doodle Pages- Draw and Share
*Make Tissue Paper Flowers
*Minute to Win It Games for Spring

How do you end the year? Let me know in the comments!

Doodle Pages Activity to Foster Language Use in Student Centered Learning

STUDENT CENTERED LEARNING is certainly very much talked about in education circles today, and no less so in world language classrooms. There are so many ways we can incorporate activities that promote students' perspectives, creativity and "showing what they know". And, we know that kids respond really well to choice driven activities, which not only is great for them but can also have a positive impact on classroom community and management. At the same time, we language teachers want to foster authentic communication in our classrooms, embedded in relevant activities.

Doodle Pages Activity for World Language Class Spanish French

A FUN ACTIVITY TO FOSTER MEANINGFUL LANGUAGE USE is a twist on the writing prompt idea-using a visual prompt instead that inspires our students to complete a drawing and then share that with someone else-you, a classmate, a small group, or even the whole class (or, if you have Seesaw or another similar app, they can share with their families!).

PERHAPS YOU HAVE SEEN DOODLE BOOKS- as someone who loves to draw myself, these books are so much fun! And, they have the added benefit that they can be completed in an infinite number of ways, making each page up to the interpretation of the student artist.

SO, HOW TO USE A DOODLE PAGE IN CLASS? Choose a page that connects in some way to a theme or content set that your students know-perhaps the page has a cloud and raindrops on it if you are interested in kids practicing weather related vocabulary, or a shirt if you are talking in the midst of talking about clothes-or any page just for fun! Instruct your students to finish the drawing started by the doodle, filling in the background and/or setting a scene. With novice students in particular, I find it's a good idea to guide their ideas towards vocabulary sets they are familiar with, giving them choice within structure so that they are able to share what they've drawn at the end. As students are drawing, you can walk around asking them questions about what they have in their pictures and encouraging them to share in the target language. Depending on your students, you could use yes/no or either/or questions to elicit a response, or a more open ended one if they are ready to do so. The great part about this is that each kiddo can share based on what they are ABLE TO DO, rather than getting stuck in what THEY CAN'T DO; your differentiation in the interaction allows this to occur naturally :)

ONCE FINISHED, students can share their drawing elements as I mentioned above. Even a simple listing of each thing is awesome for kids as they are telling about something THEY created-super motivating! You can see a cute example from one of my first grade classes here:

I'VE CREATED A SET OF 20 DOODLE PAGES for anyone who wants to try these out! They can be used at any grade or proficiency level, and with ANY LANGUAGE! Click here to grab them :)

Draw and Share Doodle Activity Pages for Spanish French class

Links & Resources to Advocate for, and Educate about, Early Language Learning Programs

I AM FREQUENTLY ASKED ABOUT RESEARCH AND INFORMATION RELATED TO EARLY LANGUAGE LEARNING AND PROGRAMS, as many of us find the need to advocate for our programs and educate parents, districts and communities about the advantages for children to study a second language in preschool and elementary school, and for children to be bilingual, as well inform them on realistic expectations for their child in an #earlylang program. I thought it would be helpful to gather these together in one blog post-please let me know any I've missed and I will add them!

Links & Resources to Advocate for Early Language Learning

*NNELL: The National Network for Early Language Learning is our national advocate here in the US, with many resources for teachers and parents on their website. Becoming a member means you also gain access to their journal and resources and you are able to connect with other teachers across the country.

*Lead With Languages is an advocacy initiative from ACTFL, working to educate on the importance of language learning. The link provided connects you to their rationale for early language learning; they have links for all levels so be sure to explore their site!

*ACTFL: The American Council on Teaching Foreign Languages has this advocacy page explaining the research behind language instruction

*Edutopia produced this video on the benefits of language learning for children, could be a great link for parents!

*This article from the Early Childhood Education Journal highlights the benefits of studying a foreign language on language arts & math instruction

*Ñandutí is a website dedicated to preK-8 language instruction and has several articles related to advocacy

*'Beyond the Bridge of Understanding, the Benefits of Second Language Learning' by Martha G. Abbott is an excellent article written for the American Educator.

*The European Centre for Modern Languages of the Council of Europe has a section dedicated to early language learning. You can find an additional series of links here.

*Multicultural Kids Blog has collected many resources to help parents advocate for their children being bilingual/ learning another language and being culturally connected. Here is a great set of links for the role of being bilingual.

*The State of French Education in Canada- on pages 7-8 of this report you will find the results of a research study conducted to determine whether there is interference from a second language being learnt on the first language... psst.... nope!

*Invest in FLES: this is a great article arguing the need for FLES programs in the US.

*Heidi Stock, founder of Whistlefritz, did a ton of research and compiled her findings together in this fantastic post on the benefits of being bilingual.

*Advice for homeschool families on bringing a second language to their lives, lots of great info!

*For infographics and other visual resources, I've created a section on my Pinterest board entitled ''Benefits of Learning a Language and Being Bilingual' which you can visit by clicking here.


I also find that it can be helpful when talking with parents & admin to give them a better perspective on second language acquisition and what should be realistically expected from an #earlylang program. Here are some links to that end:

Stages of Language Acquisition to Help Advocate for World Language Programs in Elementary

*Stages of Language Acquisition- this outlines the five stages of language acquisition with fantastic prompts for each stage-I have used this basic concept for most of my teaching career to guide me in how I plan my lessons and flow throughout my program.

*Geared for ELL, this article from Colorín Colorado is applicable to all languages and is very informative.

*The Language Instinct by Stephen Pinker is one of my all time favorite books, a terrific read for those who are interested in how the brain learns language.

*Ohio Department of Education does a FANTASTIC job of breaking down hours of instruction and expected proficiency level, including for FLES programs (meeting a minimum of 90 minutes a week). An excellent resource for educating parents!

*A breakdown of contact hours for a student to reach various proficiency levels by language-the Ohio document is more applicable to us, as this is based on specific language training, not your average public school setting, but still informative in my humble opinion as an additional resource.


Here are some tips on keeping your program front and center with parents, admin and your community!

Again, please let me know what I've missed and I will add them! :)

Minute to Win It Games for SPRING

IT'S OUR MINUTE TO WIN IT GAMES SPRING EDITION! One of my most popular posts is one I wrote a few years ago with NINE games related to Valentine's Day (although you could play them anytime!)-easy to prep, easy to play, and like all games, highly motivating for kids-and as I said in that post, games of all kinds are authentic in and of themselves, making the communication that happens while playing also authentic-yay! (you can read that post by clicking here) Well, with my kiddos getting a little squirrelly before April break, I began thinking of what kinds of games would work for this time of year, incorporating themes of the season.... and here they are!

Minute to Win It Games for Spring Spanish French Classes

*WIND UP TOY RACE: I love these bunny & chick wind up toys, they are irresistable! You can get them at a dollar store very inexpensively, which is great! Draw a circle on a large piece of paper, anywhere from a foot to two feet in diameter (I would experiment first with the ones you purchase as they vary in terms of how far they go-you want the circle big enough that there is a bit of challenge, but still manageable for one to exit). The competition is a simple one-two kids face off with their wind up toys, the first toy to hop out of the circle is the winner!

Minute to Win it Games for Spring World Language Classses

*BABY ANIMAL MATCH: You will need small mom and baby animal toys (or flash cards of the same), sufficient sets for the number of players, each set in a bag or box so the players can't see them. Set the timer, students need to pull out the animals one at a time and start matching babies to mommas. The kid with the most matches when the timer goes off is the winner! NOTE: You will typically need more animal sets for older kids as opposed to younger kids who may still be learning which go with which and therefore might take longer to put the matches together :)

Minute to Win it Games for Spring in Foreign Language Class Spanish French

*EASTER EGG TOWER: I saw a version of this on Pinterest-it is way harder than it looks! You need: plastic Easter eggs and play dough or poster putty. Students have one minute to build their tower using the poster putty to attach the eggs to each other; the tower with the most eggs is the winner, with only one egg touching the table. Note, I did not say the highest! When I did this on my own, my eggs kept toppling over-until I started building on the sides, too. Even so, I only had 6 eggs total lol

Minute to Win it Games for Spring STEM

*FILL THE NEST: You will need a nest, little chicks and a clothespin for each player. The goal: fill your nest with as many chicks as possible-but you can only use the clothespin to transport them into the nest, one at a time. Set the timer- the player with the most chicks in their nest when the timer goes off is the winner :) You can also do this with cotton balls or pom poms and a rabbit, chick or lamb cookie cutter!

*EGG RACES: This is based on a classic game-you will need spoons, plastic Easter eggs, and baskets or bins, one for each end of the "racing course". The goal: to transport as many eggs from the first basket to the second before the timer goes off. To play: have the "starter" baskets containing the eggs, and a second basket across the room or across a section of the playground field (this makes a great activity for outdoors!). Set the timer-students must scoop up an egg with the spoon, carry it to the next basket, drop it in the basket and return to get another egg, and so on until the timer goes off. The player with the most eggs in his/her basket is the winner. (Hint: use smaller spoons for older kids for an extra challenge!)

- These can be done as stations very easily; prior to playing, take a picture (or series of pictures depicting materials & objective) of the goal, post it next to the materials for that station, divide your students up and assign them to the stations, set the timer and have every station competing at the same time. They can then rotate to the next station and so on.
- Any of these games can also be played outside, especially if you have access to an all terrain cart you can carry the materials outside with. Great for those beautiful days when you all would rather be outside!

AND DON'T FORGET TO THROW IN GAME VOCABULARY as students are playing-these authentic expressions are easy to learn and help keep the activities in the target language.

FOR YOUR CONVENIENCE, WE HAVE A SET OF GAMES VOCABULARY POSTERS in Spanish that support your students while playing-you can grab them here!

Games Vocabulary Posters in Spanish