The 15-Minute Class (PK)

November: Because children are experiencing immersion in the target language, it is difficult to know when to send an update. They respond to me in class but may not bring home words to you; while frustrating, this is also completely natural: why would they speak to you in Spanish if you don’t speak it? They probably do not associate you with the target language. I hesitate in sending home word lists because in an immersive environment, each child will pick up something different each day. That said, I wanted to give you a general synopsis of what a day looks like for JK.

The 15-minute long class starts with a beginning-of-class song–Yo me llamo; Buenos días; or La araña pequeñita/Itsy Bitzy Spider; and as of this week, Feliz Navidad (Merry Christmas) and Mi hombre de nieve (Frosty the Snowman); progresses to actions (stand up, sit down, run or spin around, jump, etc.) and rhymes–Arriba, abajo, de lado a lado; Sí me gusta, no me gusta, para nada/Yes I like it, no I don’t, not at all–where we discuss things they like or dislike (e.g., fruit, ice cream, pizza) and do a quick weather report (this emerged because of the Itzy Bitzy Spider and sun/rain vocabulary); and then there is a magical chant–Abracadabra, pata de cabra, ¡chiquitipuf! I will call on a student to bring me a magic wand, and then we transform into various animals.

Some days, I choose the animals; other days, I will ask for suggestions/sugerencias. If they answer in English, I am happy they comprehended; if they answer in Spanish, I know that they have fully internalized the vocabulary and it is time to move on (too easy!). For example, at this point they have ALL mastered “tiburón“, or shark, and I have to think of creative ways to avoid this word or else the entire lesson reverts back to hungry sharks (Tengo hambre is another song here). When they can’t agree on an animal as a class, we will do a “lotería/lottery”, and they can do any animal they want (for about three seconds). I count up or down from five and they have to get back to their letter or animal on the carpet by the last number (cero/zero or cinco/five).

At this point, we are about halfway through the lesson, and it is time to continue our Adventures in Stuffed Animal World with their stuffed animal friend, Pato (a duck with a strong personality and ridiculous squeaky voice). Pato is always getting into some sort of mischief, and while not every lesson has a “moral of the story”, I try to lead it in that direction. The stories range from mini-stories, where I introduce new vocabulary, to full-on five-minute long sagas where I leave the JK room sweating from having exerted so much energy (between ventriloquism for the various stuffed animal characters and what can only be described as “extreme adventures”).

For example, I had been trying to shift their focus away from sharks to fish/pececitos, and so we went fishing with magnetic fish last week (another song here: Diez pececitos nadando en el río… link on Seesaw). The fish lesson led to water, where I sprinkled droplets of water/agua on their head/cabeza or hands/manitas (they chose), which led to me bringing an ice-pack to pass around and Pato taking on and off his sweater and scarf/bufanda because he couldn’t decide if he was hot or cold (tengo frío/tengo calor). I also brought a hair dryer so that they could feel the heat and experience the contrast between hot and cold.

Naturally, there was a Pocoyo cartoon episode about fishing–and one about pirates–and the pirate one was such a big hit that JK-A began a story about a pirate who lived on a boat and Pato needed help because he was swimming in the water but there was a ravenous shark nearby (which he saw through a telescope/catalejo)–and then I randomly received a phone call during the lesson (#truestory)–and claimed that it was the pirate calling me on his cell (of course!), and we took Saywer’s boot and used it as a boat for Pato to swim back to the main ship with his mapa/map–which tied in nicely with their map and community study in their regular classroom (*breath*). There was also a tesoro-tesoro-tesoro-TREASURE, but we have yet to flesh out that part of the story.

Students have been requesting to draw parts of the story on the board, so I will ask them tons of comprehension questions (Does he live in a big house or small house/casa grande o casa pequeña? Are there turtles/tortugas and snakes/serpientes and fish/pececitos in the water? Where is the pirate/pirata?, Is the house red/roja or azul/blue?, etc.), and they get to decide. Again, whether they respond in English or Spanish determines where we go. That said, comprehension is the most important thing right now, not production or output of the target language (though obviously, that makes my day when it happens).

Note: In JK-B, we have not gotten to a full story (only mini-stories), but we have started playing with names and nicknames because they wanted to know what their names were in Spanish. Some names translate directly–Josephine to Josefina–while others are actual words: Isla means “island” in Spanish. And some are just silly class jokes–fresa/strawberry for the Berry boys.

Anyway, at the end of class, we sing another song–Te amo, me amas and now this week, Estrellita/Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star–and then the children sit up straight and tall with their hands in their laps and we whisper to their classroom teacher, “Sorpresa” (surprise!) because they are so quiet and ready to continue with their day.

Are you beginning to understand how it would take me three hours every day to explain what has happened in our 15-minute Spanish class? I do apologize for the lack of Seesaw posts, but I tend to feel overwhelmed when trying to explain it all. Each day, I focus on recycling or spiraling old vocabulary and feeling out where they are and what they know, connecting new and old vocabulary, and/or adding brand new information. The latter can be in the form of a mini-story, science experiment, book, or Pocoyo cartoon. HERE is the Pirate episode link.

ASIDE: I do not like teaching colors, numbers, etc. explicitly in the traditional sense because it does not feel natural. You did not test your baby out of the womb on a list of colors, so neither will I. I will describe what is happening and what we are doing, and tell stories and ask questions in the target language, just as you spoke to your children before they knew how to talk. If your child is not bringing home words yet, please be patient.

We have had 39 classes so far this year, which is equivalent to 585 minutes, or 9.75 hours. Do you remember pressuring your child to speak less than 10 hours after they were born? I’m not trying to be cheeky here, just realistic. Remember to put things in perspective and celebrate anything they bring home! If you want to supplement their language study at home, make a habit of watching a Spanish cartoon every day for five or ten minutes with your child.

Whew! If you have read this far, thank you SO MUCH for taking the time to do so. And please let me know if you would like me to start putting recordings from time to time of songs we are working on in class, or vocabulary videos. Thanks and have a WONDERFUL WEEKEND!