Newsletter 20-21: Pato Who? (1)

This week, following introductions, students in first grade named as many words that they could think of in the target language (e.g., red/rojo, blue/azul, green/verde, uno-dos-tres, dog/perro, etc.), and then listened to their get-up-and-dance CLASS SONG. Not long after, they transitioned into an immersive Spanish classroom environment, and realized that they could understand and intuit a lot simply by watching. You see, when their teacher snaps, she magically begins speaking Spanish. If she snaps again, she turns back into an English-speaker. Very strange. Magic is everywhere.

“AH-HEM!” [A loud, shrill voice from the corner pipes up.]

“Yes, I know. I’m sorry, Pato. I know I should have introduced you first, but–“

NO EXCUSES!” The voice is coming from a stuffed animal duck. His name is Pato (which conveniently means duck in Spanish). He was grumpy, but there was no need for disrespect. “I do not like your tone, young man duck!”

As you may have already heard, Pato is quite the character. He has a big heart but frequently interrupts (we’re working on that) and is always getting into some sort of harmless mischief. He claims to know how to speak Spanish, but bops back and forth between English and Spanish so quickly that there might as well be a ping-pong game going on in his head. He also forgets where he is; arrives late to first grade on a regular basis (after Señorita M.–and sometimes on a red-eye flight from Brazil); wears sock pajamas to school; and takes a nap/siesta in the middle of class (which is what happened today).

Either Pato has no idea what’s going on, or he lives in his own world, or maybe he knows what’s going on and is intentionally doing the opposite of what he ought to, most of the time. I’m guessing the latter is probably closest to the truth, but with him you never know.

GRIFFFSNSHFKDJSFIBDSTH“. The normally shrill voice was muffled behind his mask.” “¿Qué? (“K”)/ WHAT?” He took off the mask.

“I SAID, I’m taking a nap/siesta because we’re in Spain. Don’t you know? The restaurants are all closed, so I’m going to sleep.” [proceeds to snore obnoxiously to make his point]

Aha, now I was beginning to understand. First graders did make a banner of colorful, glittery shells, as scallop shells are used to mark the 500-mile hike across northern Spain that Lower School has been talking about this week. (This trek will correspond with the Weekly Spanish Challenges.) And Señorita M. did use an abanico/ fan from Spain to cool him down when he was wearing his iconic yellow knit sweater and Christmas scarf (Come on, Pato! It’s summer in Florida! TOO HOT! This led to a conversation about ice-cream/helado, which was ironic, considering that I ate A LOT of ice cream while actually hiking the Camino de Santiago.) And she was speaking in Spanish. Maybe we were in Spain. Or maybe we should go?

We decided that his reasoning was valid. There was just one problem. “Where did you say that you think we are, Pato?”

“Stain.” [Ventriloquism requires that certain consonants be slightly mispronounced, so as not to move the lips. P’s become t’s, m’s become n’s–you get the idea.]

“You mean Spain.”

“That’s what I said.”

“No, you said ‘Stain’.”

I DID NOT!” The high pitched, going-to-throw-a-temper-tantrum pronto voice had returned. This was not something I wanted first graders to witness on the third day of class. Why couldn’t he just behave?

“Let’s try it in Spanish: España.”

“ES-TAHN-YAH.”

“Never mind. Let’s just go there instead.” And so we did.

After a quick flight–arms outstretched in airplane mode (there’s a pun in there somewhere)–first graders spent the remaining 5-10 minutes of class outside, placing tiny [real] shells in the mulch patches of the courtyard, marking the Camino de Santiago trail and creating our own little Spanish paradise.

And as for Pato, well, he found a large piece of bark and has decided that his mission in life is to build a boat and actually sail to Stain Spain.

To be continued…

PATO: “Senorita M., why can’t you just write normal newsletters?”

ME: “I honestly have no idea…”


VIRTUAL LEARNERS are encouraged to check out the video and photos at THIS LINK, and to create their own “Camino” at home. The arrows and shells are oftentimes made out of things in nature as well. Students may color or paint the shell template below; outline an arrow using some rocks or palms; collect shells at the beach; or simply draw your own arrow and shell signs and hang them up around your house. Make sure they are all pointed in the same direction, so that you don’t get lost. Feel free to send pictures, if you like!

For language input, virtual learners may also 1) participate in the Weekly Spanish Challenges and/or watch a movie or cartoon in the target language (Spanish voiceover and English subtitles). Just get used to hearing a lot of Spanish!

*ONE FINAL NOTE: To clarify, the bulk of classes have been in the target language, but I wasn’t sure how many of you would keep reading if I sent the original transcript. I do switch to English periodically, but mostly to communicate more abstract, cultural points where visual cues don’t do the trick.