February: Because Sneezing Iguanas from Ecuador just make Tuesdays even better! #funfacts
January: Students had the option of traveling to several different countries today- 1) Argentina, to set up, buy, and sell items at an outdoor mercado/market with Argentine pesos: no American dollars accepted!; 2) Peru, to build one of the highest cities in the world out of blocks; 3) Dominican Republic, to play dominoes, a national pastime; and/or 4) Bolivia, to paint the beautiful sky reflections of starry nights and sunrises and sunsets over the largest salt flat in the world (and also taste more salt!).
January (1B): Primer grado vio un video muy breve de bioluminiscencia esta tarde (enlace arriba). En varias partes del mundo, incluso Puerto Rico, el agua ‘resplandece/brilla’ [glows] cuando algo le molesta el alga ahí. Tratamos de hacer un experimento con mi luz negra y marcadores, pero de repente la luz negra dejó de funcionar. ¡Qué extraño! Por lo menos, ahora un rinconcito del aula “es” Puerto Rico.
January: Esta semana, construimos un bosque tropical de Costa Rica en el armario de mi salón de clase. Los niños hicieron casi todo, y luego exploraron el lugar. Este es el ENLACE a la banda sonora (de los monos aulladores).
November (1B): Hoy, un grupito de niñas aprendió sobre los muñequitos quitapesares/de las preocupaciones (“Worry Dolls”) y empezó a hacerlos en clase con palitos y fieltro. Las niñas oyeron un cuento llamado, “Silly Billy”. Al final de la clase, ¡casi todos querían hacerlos también!
February/March: This month*, students in first grade began class by putting their shoes in the center of the circle and tapping their feet to the names of each of the Spanish-speaking countries they knew (instead of jumping on the map, for a change). They also had fun singing the “Buenos días” song (good morning) and explaining how they were feeling that day. To enter the room, prior to any of this, they were required to repeat the fruit or vegetable password of the week (that is, naranja/orange, plátano/banana, zanahoria/carrot, espárrago/asparagus, melocotón or durazno/peach, arándano/blueberry, cebolla/onion). Students’ end-of-class routine was to try and clean up before their teacher arrived and then wait, crouched down in line with the lights off, so that they could jump up and shout, “¡Sorpresa!” (surprise), once their teacher returned—the surprise being that they had cleaned up on time.
In the linguistic realm, in order to build their noun vocabularies, first graders focused on completing the sentence, “Necesito…” (I need). First graders presented at the class podium in front of their peers (¡Hola! Buenos días. Soy X. Hoy quiero X. Necesito X. ¡Próximo!/Hello! Good morning. I’m X. Today I want to X. I need X. Next!), and some of these new nouns quickly became class jokes. For example, one girl uses the word, “cobija” (blanket) at home with her Spanish-speaking nanny, and as a result, took this opportunity to teach it to all of her classmates, repeating, “Cobija-cobija-cobija-cobija-cobija” nonstop whenever anyone asked her. In 1.A, the word, “Chocolate” (‘cho-koh-lah-tay’) reduced everyone to giggles. The ‘chocolate’ piece came about after learning a Mexican rhyme (Bate, bate chocolate, tu nariz de cacahuate/stir, stir the chocolate, your nose is a peanut!), and seeing a video about how the tool used to stir the chocolate—un molinillo—is carved out of wood. It is absolutely gorgeous.
After first graders asked how to say, ‘fox’ in Spanish, they learned that ‘zorro’, or fox, was also the name of a fictitious character who used to save people in trouble (that took place in the Mexico/California region), and would carve the sign of the “Z” wherever he went to let the villains know he had been there. Students watched the black and white introduction and theme song to this show from 1958; some were even overheard afterwards declaring, “¡Soy Zorro!” (I’m Zorro!). Later, they played Musical Chairs and a game from Colombia called Tingo-Tingo-Tango, and calmed down with a “siesta” (nap) after hearing about this custom in Spain—all of the businesses really do shut down in the middle of the day! Last but not least, they enjoyed marching around to Spain’s National Anthem; watched Pocoyó: Piratas and El perro y el gato; and—as you already know—cooked and tasted fried plantains (patacones or tostones), which are eaten in many Spanish-speaking countries.
**Note that my definition of “month” here is not necessarily aligned with society’s views on temporality…
December/January: This month, students in first grade began differentiating between “¿Qué quieres ser?” (What do you want to be?) and “¿Qué quieres hacer?” (What do you want to do?). This was actually an unintentional wordplay that grew out of the class activity of pretending to be príncipes/princes, princesas/princesses, reyes/kings, reinas/queens, unicornios/unicorns, futbolistas/soccer players, caballos/horses, perritos/puppies, and bufones/jestors from last month. As a result, “Quiero ser…” (I want to be) became the new rage; but phonetically, it was a challenge to hear the difference between ser (“s[air]”/to be) and hacer (“ah-s[air]”/to do). First graders alternated days writing and speaking in the target language, while continuing their map practice. The majority can now name fourteen of the twenty-one Spanish-speaking countries—bravo! Their official class song has changed as well: the translated version of Wreck-It Ralph/Rompe Ralph (by Auryn, a pop group from Spain) had been a favorite for many months, but with the clean slate and fresh air of 2019 came a new beat—Hoy es domingo (Today is Sunday) by Diego Torres. It is about how wonderfully relaxing Sundays can be, and students have already started singing along with the words. Last but not least, and as part of an all-of-Lower-School project, first graders painted and colored tiles for the class fort, aka La Alhambra, which is based on an actual Moorish palace/fortress in southern Spain.
November: This month, students in first grade continued naming more Spanish-speaking countries and adding new centers to their Spanish sight word collection (e.g., dormir/to sleep; trabajar/to work—students get to use the fake dinero/money and ‘work’ at the bank). They also began using lapices/pencils instead of marcadores/markers when signing up for centers, and explained with whom they were planning on playing (Quiero jugar con…/I want to play with…), both to learn the word ‘with’ as well as how to spell their classmates’ names. As part of the beginning-of-class routine, first graders also jammed out to Feliz Navidad and pretended to be príncipes/princes, princesas/princesses, reyes/kings, reinas/queens, unicornios/unicorns, caballeros/knights, caballos/horses, and more (the teacher went around and placed an invisible crown on their heads). Students have become masters at the daily routine and enjoy adding new, creative pieces to the ever-evolving puzzle each week.
October/Trimester 1: This trimester, students in first grade practiced acting out their password cards, reading the Letter from Pato, naming the Spanish-speaking countries* on the tape floor map, and singing and dancing along to daily class songs (esp. Rompe Ralph, Moana in Spanish, and “¿Puedo ir al baño?” [Can I go to the bathroom?]). Their primary focus, however, was on signing up for centers in the target language, and adding new sight words each week. Centers are teacher-guided but ultimately student-created. For example, when “construir” (to build) was added, first graders grew this into a complex fort-building project—with chairs, blankets, flags, cardboard boxes, a spinning disco ball, etc.—until “Quiero construir una fortaleza” (I want to build a fort) rolled off their tongues. When they tired of that, soccer games and paper dragon-type creature crafts became the new rage. Later, students worked on leading group discussions with the question, “¿Qué quieres hacer?” (“K key-air-race ah-s(air)”/What do you want to do?). They also took a day to learn about El Día de los Muertos/Day of the Dead, and made connections with the movie Coco. Gracias for a great first trimester.
*Spanish-speaking countries on the tape floor map: Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela.
KEY VOCABULARY: Quiero pintar/I want to paint; Quiero construir una fortaleza/I want to build a fort; Quiero jugar (al fútbol)/I want to play (soccer); Quiero colorear/I want to color; Quiero cantar/I want to sing; Quiero bailar/I want to dance; Quiero hablar/I want to talk; ¿Puedo ir al baño?/Can I go to the bathroom?; las tarjetas/cards (index); los marcadores/markers; la bandera/the flag; la cinta/tape; el papel/paper; por favor/please; este partido, lo vamos a ganar/we’re going to win this game (chant/only 1.A); and much, much more. Newer: ¿Qué quieres hacer?/What do you want to do?
September: This month, students in first grade continued acting out their password cards and reading the daily letter from Pato. By the end of September, students were able to recite the letter as a class group effort—bravo! First graders also watched a silly video called, “¿Puedo ir al baño?” (Can I go to the bathroom?), and practiced naming Spanish-speaking countries on the tape floor map: Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay. They continued to add centers to the daily Letter from Pato as well (who managed to fit in a quick trip to Argentina while first graders were working hard and he was, ahem, hardly working). Centers—i.e., sight words—up to this point include: colorear/to color; jugar/to play; pintar/to paint; construir/to build; cantar/to sing; and the newest addition, hablar/to talk. To start building short sentences in the target language, first graders added, “Quiero” (I want/‘key-arrow’) when signing up for centers: for example, Quiero pintar/I want to paint.
As their list of centers begins to grow, students learn vocabulary specific and relevant to each center. For example, in one class, the porristas/cheerleaders learned a cheer for the soccer game (este partido, lo vamos a ganar/we’re going to win this game), whereas students more interested in coloring or painting learned words like papel/paper, cinta/tape, tarjetas/cards, marcadores/markers, etc. As a result, and when first graders want to try a new center, they are encouraged to teach each other new words. That way, it becomes a genuine community of learners where knowledge is not hoarded but rather shared for the growth and advancement of all.
August: This month, students in first grade chose individualized password cards, and then practiced thinking up ways to physically act out each one as part of their beginning-of-class routine. Later, students read the daily Letter from Pato—a very lovable, stuffed animal duck who is learning how to read Spanish himself; jammed to the theme song from Rompe Ralph/Wreck-It Ralph; and signed up for centers in the target language (colorear/color; jugar/play). Each week, a new center (and sight word) will be added, so that by the end of the year, first graders will have a substantial word collection.
First graders have already demonstrated ownership and agency within these centers, as in one class, the “jugar/play” center morphed from a golf course spread out across the Spanish room (with plastic white balls and paper cups) to a bowling alley (stacking the cups and knocking them down with colorful, oversized dice). Another day, “jugar/play” became a class parade, complete with students marching around the room to Spain’s National Anthem, all while dressed up in scarves and sombreros, and carrying a huge flag of Spain. Language grows ever deeper within a meaningful context; when its layers and roots begin to connect with real-life experiences and memories, “jugar/play” is no longer a translation, but a breathing, living entity in students’ minds.
September: This month, students in first grade chose individual professions passwords, and then practiced acting out each one. Later, they read the daily letter from Pato, wrote what they wanted to do on the miniature whiteboards (Quiero colorear, Quiero jugar//I want to color, I want to play), and then traveled to said isla, or island. First graders will continuously add new islands—aka sight words—to their repertoire throughout the year. These ‘play days’ will also be interspersed with ‘project days’, which build community, expose students to other cultures and perspectives, and/or reinforce sight words with a fun, hands-on assignment. The first project day was based on Don Quijote, the 900-page, 400+ year-old Spanish literary masterpiece by Cervantes. In a nutshell, the adventures begin when Don Quijote goes crazy from reading too many books and decides to become a knight in shining armor like the ones he reads about. First graders became so excited about the novel that one project day turned into a week—and the Spanish classroom transformed into a stage, where student actors and actresses acted out multiple chapters. They even made a two-tone copy of Picasso’s famous black and white painting depicting the two main characters. Impressive!
Quarter 1: This term, students in first grade read and translated the daily letter from Pato, learning which ‘islas/islands’—[read: activity centers]—were open that day. First graders then submitted written requests expressing what they wanted to do. As a constantly changing mix of toys spark students’ imaginations, the archipelago comes alive with creativity and authentic linguistic exchanges between teacher and students. It should also be noted that they are all hard-core fans of the silly song, “¿Puedo ir al baño?” (Can I go to the bathroom?). Gracias for a great quarter.
Quarter 2: This term, students in first grade continued submitting written requests expressing what they wanted to do and reasons to support their choice. First graders also spent time learning about the 900-page, 400-year-old Spanish literary masterpiece, Don Quijote, and had fun imagining and acting out various chapters. Later on, they identified a painting by Picasso based on the novel; chose individualized professions-passwords; constructed a model of Machu Picchu out of clay as a class (Peru); heard about La Tomatina, an annual, giant tomato fight in Spain; and listened to a hilarious chipmunks-voiceover of their class song, “¿Puedo ir al baño?”, as mimicking and dance choreography evolved quite naturally in response to the video. Gracias for another great quarter.
Quarters 3 & 4: This semester, students in first grade worked on understanding the difference between a statement and a question in Spanish (quiero/I want vs. ¿puedo?/ can I?), through context cues and punctuation. Later, they were given age-appropriate worksheets in the target language and, via use of logic, sight words, and teamwork, had to deduce the instructions themselves! Additionally, students composed both silly and serious sentences; chose food nicknames; tasted Mexican candies; made Me gusta/I like collages; learned a soccer chant from Spain; earned (fake) euros for cleaning the classroom (limpiar/to clean); built an impressive 3-D model of part of Chichen Itza out of colorful paper cubes, in an “assembly-line” type of factory (Mexico); and had fun playing Hangman and Spanish Bingo. First graders also increased their clean-up routine productivity by imagining the trashcans as “Monstruos de la basura” (Trash Monsters), and then feeding the ravenous creatures with papers and scraps at the end of class. Gracias for a fabulous year.
Quarter 2: This term, students in first grade began exploring the Spanish written word in greater depth. In addition to reading the daily letters from Pato and their own individualized password cards (aka sight words), they also wrote out their Activity Center wishes each day on the mini class whiteboards. This process involves all students requesting whiteboards (pizarrón, por favor), chatting with their neighbors—“¿Qué quieres hacer?” (What do you want to do?)—and then completing the sentence Quiero… [dibujar] pero necesito… [papel] (I want [to draw] but I need [paper]) at their own pace, while student helpers ask their peers what color marker they would like to write with. Sentences vary from day to day and week to week, which allows first graders to see the possibilities of linguistic versatility as well as get a lot of practice. To enforce the idea of ‘versatility’, students also made “Me gusta” (I like) collages with their favorite infinitives (jugar/to play, dormir/to sleep, etc.) and an excess of glitter sprinkled all around the page. Last but not least, they played Luz roja, luz verde (Red Light, Green Light) in the target language; asked one another what they wanted to do and recorded the information, survey-style; and worked on possessive articles (Lego station: ¡Mi caballo! My horse! Art station: ¡Mi papel! My paper!). Gracias for a great quarter.
Quarter 3: This term, students in first grade continued learning through the ‘continuously evolving’ activity centers. First graders focused on honing their writing skills—e.g., not looking at the bilingual signs to spell a word in the target language (tarjetas/cards)—and building their vocabularies. Words take on a new level and layer of importance when they are acquired in a meaningful context, and so while some are learning ‘caballero’ (knight), others are learning ‘cinta’ (tape), depending on their interests. When the caballero-student decides to, quite literally, connect two knights in shining armor with tape, s/he learns from the cinta-student. During this process, first graders are frequently subjected to unanticipated follow-up questions, to work on linguistic spontaneity. For example, “¿Qué quieres construir? ¿Por qué? ¿Qué haces?” (What do you want to build? Why? What are you doing?). While students begin the year with a very basic Q&A in the target language, this conversation grows, builds and continuously spirals throughout the months so that by the beginning of April, students feel confident with a variety of questions and answers. In-between snow/cold days, they also practiced naming the Spanish-speaking countries on the tape floor map in the Spanish Cave; made Mi libro password booklets; and read La Mariposa by Francisco Jiménez. From “Creative Crafts”, stickers, and colored paper, to rubber ducks, tire swings, and scaly crocodiles, it has been a fun quarter!
Quarter 4: This term, students in first grade decided as a class either to listen to (escuchar) their peers express their preferred activity for the day, or write (escribir) down their ideas on the miniature whiteboards. Students focused on including their reasons for wanting to do an activity—“Porque es mi amigo(a); porque es amable; porque me gusta” (because s/he is my friend; because s/he is kind; because I like it), and then traveled to their centers. Some like to stick with the same-old, same-old, while others rotate stations weekly or choose rather arbitrarily. Regardless, it is fascinating to see where their creative minds take them. From scary monstruos/monsters hiding out in their cuevas/caves and piano players insistent on turning up the keyboard’s volume, to emoticon drawings, buried treasure and a class bank (banco/bank; comida/food), first graders clearly work best when playing. Students also began incorporating the Spanish-speaking countries on the tape floor map into their free play—knights invading Bolivia, a rubber duck boda/wedding in España/Spain, a gigantic tower of cajas/boxes in Brazil, etc. Finally, first graders read Corre, perro, corre; listened to La Invitación; and worked on two free play projects that extended beyond one class period: a formal wedding ceremony with invitations, dress-up clothes, and more (Huck); and the construction of an enormous fort made of boxes and blankets, with accompanying Japanese ninja music playing in the background (Ranallo).
Quarter 1: This term, students in first grade alternated between Story Days and Activity Days. On the former, students tended to ask Pato was he was doing, and oftentimes he would invent a wild adventure (that coincidentally included Activity Day vocabulary). Once, though, he couldn’t get his beak out of a book, and students pestered him to share the story. Because it was either that or a time-out from Señorita, Pato began to relate the adventures of his hero, Don Quijote de La Mancha, to first graders. He started with the renowned windmill chapter, and conveniently, students were able to make connections with the windmills in this novel and the windmill in The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind. The class so enjoyed hearing about the Spanish literary masterpiece, that from that point forward, Pato focused all of his energy on the book. Students also translated the daily message; played Luz roja, luz verde outside; read two books in the target language; and practiced answering the question, “¿Qué quieres hacer?” (What do you want to do?), on Activity Days, with one of four choices: Quiero jugar/I want to play; Quiero dibujar/I want to draw; Quiero ir/I want to go; or Quiero pintar/I want to paint. Gracias for a fun-filled start to the year.
Quarter 2: This term, students in first grade continued adding and expanding upon their various activity centers. For example, one week first graders built structures out of Legos and/or popsicle sticks, and the following week, they deepened their understanding of ‘construir’ (build) by molding and later painting various structures out of air-dry clay. Partway through the quarter, first graders practiced using their new ‘connecting’ words to combine activities—y/and; con/with—and either read, wrote, or voiced their preferences aloud. Many students seemed to appreciate the official nature of submitting what they wanted to do in written form (e.g., “Quiero jugar con mi amigo Fred/I want to play with my friend Fred). In addition, they also chose new professions passwords to integrate with their regular classroom; read the daily letters from Pato and the book, El artista que pintó un caballo azul (The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse); discussed the difference between amigo and amiga; made postre/dessert collages to practice asking for materials; played Spanish Bingo and Roca-papel-tijeras/Rock-paper-scissors in the target language; and were introduced to the witty ‘class conversation’ games that will reappear throughout the remainder of the year.
Quarter 3: This term, students in first grade played a variety of games to escape the ugly winter doldrums. In one, the teacher pretends to give a boring addition lesson, while one first grader is secretly given permission to ‘act out’ and be silly. For example, students can sit in their chair upside-down, take a sombrero and maracas from the toy shelf and start dancing, or even hide underneath the table. When the teacher looks at her list of students and decides to call on the one student who is acting out, she ‘finds’ said first grader and demands, “¿Qué haces?” (What are you doing?), to which s/he responds, “Nada” (Nothing). Students also played Spanish Bingo, Simon Says, Hot Potato with practice counting backwards from ten, and Pato-pato-oca. The latter quickly morphed to “Tomate-tomate-tocino” (tomato-tomato-bacon) for the sheer delight of being able to make ‘sopa de tomate’, or tomato soup, when someone was tagged and sent to the ‘soup’, and as an extension, first graders learned a rhyme to accompany the game: “Bate-bate-la sopa de tomate” (Stir-stir-the tomato soup). Students also listened to the ever-popular Rompe Ralph (Wreck-It Ralph) theme song, and learned that rompe means break. To illustrate this point, the class made an inedible soup with broken rotten eggs, slime, baking soda, vinegar, and food coloring (¡Qué asco!/Gross!; ¡Chévere!/Cool!). Adiós, winter blues!
Quarter 4: This term, students in first grade participated in an interactive class drama presentation in the target language. In the story, a police officer was guarding a pile of stuffed animals, but decided to take a short siesta. Meanwhile, multiple thieves dressed up in silly disguises stole stuffed animals as well as the police officer’s key. All of the ladrones/thieves were sent to la cárcel/jail, but ended up playing with the toys there because the police officer fell asleep again. Students wrote out and made a goanimate.com video of this class drama on the SMART board. Later on, first graders ventured downstairs in the tunnels to hang up pictures of monsters and goblins on the wall, and searched for each others’ frightening creatures; read La Mariposa (The Butterfly); were introduced to the Sr. Wooly song ¿Puedo ir al baño? (Can I go to the bathroom?); had fun forming words and mathematical equations with their bodies; made boats out of Popsicle sticks, cinta/tape, and pipe cleaners (requested by color and quantity desired); and finally, made a bar graph of what they wanted to do—x axis, ideas; y axis, number of votes. Based on the data, students’ favorite activity was traveling outside to play Policías y ladrones/Cops and Robbers (descanso/rest or break, when out of breath; libertad/freedom, when escaping from jail). Gracias for a fantastic year.