Saturday, September 16, 2017

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!

Saturday, September 9, 2017

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 escribiendo un blogpost en español; hay errores? déjame saber!

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 :)

Sunday, August 20, 2017

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.



*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!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

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!


Sunday, July 30, 2017

Word of the Week Activity with Teams to Encourage Language Use in Class

HOW DO YOU ENCOURAGE STUDENTS IN LANGUAGE CLASS to use vocabulary INDEPENDENTLY? outside of directed activities? and not just vocabulary, but content you really want reinforced and practiced? This was a challenge for me for a number of years, most specifically with my 4th Graders who are often more intent on socializing than focusing in on the task at hand (you might have a few of those, too!). The answer did not come to me until I was trying to come up with a classroom management system that would address pre-middle school behaviors which were running rampant in my classes, such as calling out across the circle and cracking jokes like madmen. I decided to organize my classes in teams of 4-5 students and have them sit in pods around the circle (the clumping seems to interrupt the cross-circle calling out). I was also searching for a way to add more community-minded behavior to class, which I thought the teams would foster. As the idea began to crystallize, I also realized that a way to encourage language use along with team-related behavior was to have a word of the week that would allow teams to earn points and beyond that, rewards for those points.

Teams System and Word of the Week for Foreign Language Classes

NOW, I HAVE TO SAY THAT I AM PHILOSOPHICALLY AGAINST REWARD SYSTEMS, so this was a huge adjustment for me to even contemplate. However, I made the concession in hopes of seeing a positive return- I have now been using this system for three years and I am happy with the results, on the whole (there have been some class/personality dynamics that have challenged the system, but we worked through them). Here is how I set it up:

HOW THE SYSTEM WORKS in essence (please ask clarifying questions for anything that is confusing- it's a little hard to explain everything and not miss something!):

Teams are formed, with each student in the team having a role- captain, mascot, secretary, and trainer.  (Captain: keeps the team on track and focused; Mascot: cheers everyone on and keeps things positive; Secretary: organizes the folders, holds onto the coupons in their folder; Trainer: helps whoever needs it- these are rotated at the beginning of every month so everyone has a turn at all the roles) Teams choose a country as their name and receive a flag which serves to identify them. Flags need to be displayed at all times so I know which team to award any points. Students use the word of the week (posted) in a sentence to earn a point for their team. I keep track of the team points on charts, one for each class. For every 5 points earned, the team gets a coupon with a privilege (see below) which they can turn in on their designated day. The team can turn in as many coupons on their day as they choose, or can hoard them and not turn in any. Team members need to work together, helping one another, and being sure that all members are contributing. If I notice that one student is earning all the points, I will "mute" that student until others begin contributing. NOTE ON BEHAVIOR MANAGEMENT: sadly, there have been individuals whose behavior is a great challenge to his/her team and to the class. Rather than the whole team receiving a consequence, I let the class know that the particular individual will not be able to take part in the privilege on the next designated day. Although a bummer, this has been necessary, though very infrequently.


*I LOOK AT THE CLASS LIST and form the teams. I think about who will work well together, and try to mix up the teams so there are a variety of learning strengths and personality types. I also take into consideration friendships, attendance record (there are some kiddos who just don't come to school regularly unfortunately), and past conflicts. Because we have been together for 4 years already, I know them well and can usually put effective teams together.

*I CREATE AND PRINT OUT COUPONS for privileges they can earn (in my class we have tickets for: the whole team holding a stuffed animal, laying down, sitting on cushions, earning an extra point for the team, and a wild card which can be turned in for any of the above privileges). I print out a load of these tickets and keep them in a basket in my room

*I SET UP A POCKET CHART WITH THE HOMEROOM CLASS NAMES in it. This will serve to track designated coupon days. Once students choose their team names, I print out flags for each team and put them in the pocket chart next to the homeroom name. One team gets a turn each class to turn in coupons; when the class arrives, the next flag in order across the chart is the one who has a turn that day. I turn the flag over so we know they've had a turn for that round. Once all five teams have had a turn, I flip all the flags over and we start a new round. When they sit down, they have the responsibility of turning in any coupons within the first 5 minutes; during the first few months I remind them as needed, but by mid year I give them the initial reminder when they enter and if they forget, then they have to wait.

Team System with Word of the Week for Foreign Language Class

*I FILL OUT THE ROLES FORM FOR THE FIRST MONTH- after September, students fill these forms out, but to get them going (and save time!) I fill out who will be who, captain, mascot, etc for Sept.


*I ORGANIZE STUDENTS IN THEIR TEAMS and tell them where they will sit.

*I INTRODUCE THE IDEA OF BEING A TEAM using a photo I printed off of Equipo Barcelona- since most of my students are familiar with soccer, and more specifically the Spanish leagues, it's an easy way to convey meaning. I give the class a rough outline of how the system will work and organize them into their teams. I then instruct them to choose three countries that they would like as their team name. After about 2 minutes, I call on each group and ask them what their first preference is, writing it on the board. If there are repeats, I designate a number to each team, put the numbers in a basket and choose one. The team I choose gets first preference; the other team goes to second preference, and so on. I also hand out the roles form at this time. (You could choose any cultural aspect- famous people, foods, capitals, etc- for the team names).

*I SHOW THEM THE SMALL WHITEBOARD I HAVE at the front of class and give them examples of how they can earn a point using a word. So, for example, if the word is 'Tengo' (I have, I am) they could say 'Tengo calor' (I'm hot) or 'Tengo un diente flojo' (I have a loose toothe) or 'Tengo dos gatos' (I have two cats) and so on. By 4th grade, most of my students can utilize pattern sentencing to create short sentences and phrases in the target language. I also emphasize that it has to be a full sentence but it can certainly be silly! NOTE: Regarding grammatical correctness and their sentences- I am not looking for full accuracy for every sentence, but I do encourage and, in some instances, expect a close approximation. If what they attempt is significantly off, I will help them put it together better. And, if it is a sentence structure we've used a lot over the course of the previous four years, I am stricter about getting it "right". (an example: if a kiddo says 'estoy calor' instead of 'tengo calor' I will ask them to look at it again and fix it before awarding a point- we've been using that phrase since September of First Grade)

*WE PRACTICE MAKING SAMPLE SENTENCES so they understand what the expectation is.

Teams System with Word of the Week in Foreign Language Class


*I PRINT OUT SMALL FLAGS of the countries chosen and glue them to pieces of stiff paper- these are for the teams to put out at the beginning of each class so I can identify them. I remind them at the beginning of every class to take out their flag and put it on the rug in front of their team so I can see it.

*I CREATE SCOREBOARDS for each class with the appropriate flags and post in my room

Team System and Word of the Week for Foreign Language Class


*I PUT ONE FREE COUPON in the folder of the secretary for each team so they all have one to start with.

AND THEN WE ARE OFF! It takes my students a few weeks to get used to the system, but once they get a hang of it, they are very successful. I try to choose a variety of words (nouns, adjectives, verbs, country names, culture vocab, etc) over the course of the year; sometimes they are directly related to the theme we are focusing on, sometimes it's a word I want reinforced regardless of theme. We have class twice a week, so students have two opportunities to create sentences with the word. I will say as another classroom management piece, depending on the class and what else we need to get done, I will limit how many sentences are shared out. I don't want to interrupt their enthusiasm and use of the language, but sometimes we need to move on to other content. If they are super excited and we need to get other things accomplished, I encourage them to write the sentences out during recess or lunch and bring them to me later in the day. I award the points accordingly. I would love to hear how you organize teams in your classes!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Where did you go? Fun Back to School Activity for World Language Classes

I DON'T KNOW ABOUT YOU, BUT I ALWAYS ENJOY A NEW BACK TO SCHOOL ACTIVITY for my elementary Spanish classes....even though I have a whole host of ones I've done and loved, I am always on the search for something different, especially as I like to differentiate what I do at each level so I don't hear "we did this last year, Señora" (gotta keep it fresh, my friends!). This past year, after every vacation we did a poll to find out where everyone went during the time off. I framed it as a simple question "¿Adónde fuiste durante las vacaciones?" and gave the sentence starter "Yo fui a ____" as a prompt along with some possibilities (locations such as the name of various states, towns, stores & restaurants, as well as My grandma's house, My friend's house, etc). It was a great way to re-enter school after vacation, and allowed us to expand on the conversation via follow up questions and reactions in the target language.

Write a Postcard Back to School Activity for Spanish Class

TO BUILD ON THIS IDEA, having students write a postcard telling where they went is a natural next step! Whether it is as simple as one sentence for younger students, or several lines for middle or high school, telling about your vacation is an authentic way to communicate, and is very relevant- AS LONG AS THE INFORMATION IS SHARED. Having students tell about their vacation only to have the information turned in makes little sense and doesn't give meaning to the activity.

AN EASY WAY TO SHARE WRITING for younger students is to have them read their postcard aloud to the class while you record the answers on the board. As repeats come up, you can put tally marks next to the answer. Once all postcards have been read, debrief, counting up as a class how many people went where, asking follow up questions such as asking other classmates whether they, too, had gone to destinations named during the activity, whether they liked it, etc.

Write a Postcard Back to School Activity for Spanish Class

FOR OLDER STUDENTS, have them come to the center of the room and form two circles, one inner and one outer, forming pairs. Provide the supportive language "I also went to ___" and "I didn't go to ____". The activity starts by one partner reading their postcard to the other- the second student has to respond with one of the above. If they both went to the same place, they can raise their hands and you can mark a point on the board. (See more about this in a moment!). They then switch and the second partner reads his/her postcard and first student responds. Again, if they both went to the same place, they raise their hand and a point is awarded. Monitor the conversation, ring a bell or other sound to have the inner circle move over one space to a new partner, and start again. Keep going in this fashion until students have gotten all the way around the circle. Tally up the points and have a competition between classes in the same grade level- winners get a 5 minute dance party or other fun activity!


Write a Postcard Back to School Activity for Spanish Class