Read-Alouds for Spanish Class

Sub plans for language teachers are always a bit tricky. I remember once when I was told that my sub would be Spanish-speaking. Thoroughly delighted, I typed up three pages of plans, all in the target language. Naturally, that particular individual ending up canceling at the last minute, and my new sub wrote, “I don’t understand what this says” at the top of my carefully curated plans. Oh no!

I am not out often, but when I am, I’ve always dreamt of having plans in place, instead of writing them frantically the night before (read: @4am the morning of). How can we, as language teachers, prepare meaningful sub plans well in advance of any absences, planned or not? Keep reading for a few ideas.


Read-alouds in English are simple plans for Spanish class substitutes who don’t speak Spanish and/or don’t have Internet access in a classroom. Many folktales offer a glimpse into another country and culture, and a carefully curated list can blend seamlessly into and supplement any curriculum, with a little creative thought. NOTE: My books are in the white magazine holder on my desk.

  • For a playlist of Scholastic read-alouds in Spanish, click HERE;
  • For fairy tales in Spanish, click HERE;
  • For online read-alouds, grades K-2, click HERE;
  • And HERE are 14 Latin American Folktales for Kids.
  • Books in English – more info below.
    • Zorro and Quwi, by Rebecca Hickox
    • The Story of Ferdinand, by Munro Leaf and Robert Lawson
    • La Mariposa, by Francisco Jimenez
    • Ashes for Gold: A Tale from Mexico, by Katherine Maitland
    • Conejito: A Folktale from Panama, by Margaret Read MacDonald
    • The Rooster Who Would Not Be Quiet!, by Carmen Agra Deedy
    • Cuckoo, by Lois Ehlert
    • The Legend of the Poinsettia, by Tomie dePaola
    • Latin Americans Thought of It: Amazing Innovations, by Eva Salinas
    • Knuffle Bunny, by Mo Willems

PERU: Zorro and Quwibook

  • First, tell students that the book they are going to hear today is a folktale from the [Andes] mountains of Peru. In Peru, most people speak Spanish, but many people also speak another language there called Quechua. (I mention this because in the title of the book, ‘Quwi’ is the Quechua word for ‘guinea pig’; Quechua is spoken by 9-14 million people in South America; zorro means fox in Spanish.)
  • Next, read the book ZORRO and QUWI. Feel free to take a stretch or brain break part way through if they are getting antsy. I tend to stop and ask comprehension questions throughout a story, as well.
  • After you read it, see if they can retell the tale going around the circle—everyone gets to say one sentence–or just discuss the tale and ask more questions. What would they change if they had written the story? If you/they don’t want to retell it, students can draw out the story (regular white paper is on the black shelf in the corner of the room).

SPAIN: The Story of Ferdinandbook; read aloud; trailer; bullfighting

  • First, ask [younger] students if they know any words in Spanish. They may offer a lot or nothing at all. You can say that one example is hola. We say hello in English, and in Spanish, we say hola!
  • Next, explain that Spanish is spoken in many different places around the world. One faraway place is called Spain. The story they are going to hear takes place in Spain. You can use the black outlined map with golden stars on it on the wall (with the fairy lights) to point to our state and then Spain–far across the ocean.
  • Read The Story of Ferdinand. Read more slowly than not. I tend to speak too quickly and always need to remind myself to slowwwww down!

MEXICO/USA: La Mariposabook; read aloud

  • Read La Mariposa to class (‘mariposa’ means butterfly). Take a stretch break part way through if they are getting antsy. Discuss—how would you feel if you were the main character? I tend to ask comprehension questions throughout a story, as well. The last page has a list of Spanish words and pronunciations.

MEXICO: Ashes for Goldbook; read aloud

PANAMA: Conejito: A Folktale from Panamabook; read aloud; another read aloud @1:12

BOLIVIA: The Rooster Who Would Not Be Quiet!book; read aloud

MEXICO: Cuckoo, Mexico – book; read aloud

MEXICO: The Legend of the Poinsettiabook; read aloud

USA: Knuffle Bunnybook; read aloud

  • Knuffle Bunny does not seem to fit in this list of folklore, but the book could launch an interesting discussion about language itself from a more philosophical viewpoint, and how much we rely on verbal communication in our day to day lives. How are Trixie’s attempts to communicate any different than someone dropped in a country whose language s/he does not speak? Does language give us power? What kind(s)? What makes some words “real” and other words not?

PK3, PK4, KINDERGARTEN: popular cartoons

GRADES 1 & 2: Fun Spanish app.

GRADES 3 & 4: Duolingo app.