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.