|1||This term, students in first grade alternated between Story Days and Activity Days, although the two oftentimes overlapped and blended into one. For example, once Pato mentioned that he would like to visit the piñata hanging from the eighteen-foot ceiling in the Spanish Cave. But what could he use as a mode of transportation? The class decided on an avión de papel/ paper airplane, and after making one for their friend, joined in on the fun themselves and made their own models. Another day, he couldn’t get his beak out of a book, rather, novel—Don Quijote (the 900-page, 400+ year-old Spanish literary masterpiece)—and students pestered him to share the story. |
As a result, the Spanish Cave transformed into a stage where student actors and actresses had fun acting out the famous windmill chapter with Don Quijote, Sancho Panza and, of course, the windmills. As the first quarter winds to a close, students have become confident with both writing and explaining what they want to do each day (Quiero colorear/jugar/construir/pintar/dibujar/ir afuera/ver; I want to color/play/build [with Legos]/paint/draw/go outside/see [a video]), and also reading the daily letter from Pato. In addition to the stories and activity centers, first graders also watched a silly song called “¿Puedo ir al baño?” (Can I go to the bathroom?), and practiced lining up backwards in number order.
|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.
|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!
|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).