Newsletter 18-19, T1 (1)

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 RalphMoana 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 CocoGracias 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.