Quarter Update, 22-23 (1)

1This term, students in first grade began with daily language warm-ups outside of my classroom. (This is the official “English/ Spanish/ Spanglish” zone, as opposed to the “Spanish-only zone” inside my room.) Here, students focused on memorizing basic phrases: yo hablo español (I speak Spanish); yo hablo inglés (I speak English); yo no hablo español (I don’t speak Spanish); yo no hablo inglés (I don’t speak English); and differentiating between español/ Spanish and España/ Spain (language vs. place).

Inside the classroom, they learned about El Camino de Santiago, a 500-mile hike across Spain that their teacher completed a few years ago. Students got their mochilas/backpacks, botella de agua/water bottle, plastic food/comida, and faux currency from Spain (dinero/money; euros for Spain), and set out around campus–‘climbing mountains’ (stairs) and drawing shells and arrows with chalk to mark the trail.

Each class, we added something new; for example, one day, students pretended to sleep in their bunks at hostels (picnic table benches as bunks) after a long day of hiking, and would ‘awaken’ to the sound of the rooster in Spanish: “¡Quiquiri-quí!” (cock-a-doodle-doo). A highlight was the day we talked about how much your feet hurt after 10 hours of hiking a day (for 30 days straight), but that a ‘foot pool’ makes everything better–first graders dipped their toes into a small bucket of cool water to simulate this. They also made abanicos/ Spanish fans out of paper for the super hot days.

When stormy weather ensued (¡Tormenta!/ storm!), first graders eased out of this introductory unit and launched into center days–the heart of the curriculum. Here, students sign up for what they want to do each day (Quiero jugar, colorear, construir /I want to play, color, build), and then, well–do it! Currently, several are building boats out of Popsicle sticks to sail to faraway lands (preferably, Spanish- speaking countries!). This center work begins as a sight word review from last year, but picks up pace quickly. The goal, ultimately, is language in action- pairing memorable experiences with vocabulary. Last but not least, first graders took a week to learn about Don Quijote and then made a copy of Picasso’s famous sketch. Gracias for a great term.
2This term, first graders continued building their daily warm-ups dialogue outside of my classroom, layering on expression and intonation, in addition to pronunciation and meaning. ¡Hola! Hi! ¿Cómo estás? How are you? ¡Estoy muy bien! I’m very well! Yo hablo español. I speak Spanish. Yo hablo inglés. I speak English. Espera un momento. Wait a minute. Yo no hablo español. I don’t speak Spanish. Yo no hablo inglés. I don’t speak English. ¡Qué problema! What a problem! Bonk! **face palm** ¡Ay! Ow! [singing]: ¡Me due-le tanto! / it hurts me so much / ¿Qué puedo hacer? / what can I do? / […] ¡No sé! I don’t know!! Voy adentro/ I’m going inside. ¿Por qué?/ why? Hace calor/ it’s hot OR hace frío/ it’s cold (dependent on the weather!)

Inside, students reviewed the Floor Map from last year (Spanish- speaking countries in South America; this is part of the curriculum for all of Lower School, as there is an annual competition for mastery at the end of the year). They also learned about and then built and painted a model of La Alhambra, a famous fortress in España/ Spain, complete with floor to ceiling, meticulously colored azulejos/ tiles.

When they were not signing up for Center Work–(¡Hola! Yo me llamo __ y quiero jugar/ colorear/ construir/ trabajar/ volar/ pintar. ¡No, no quiero dormir, maestra! /Hi, my name is __ and I want to play/ color/ build/ work/ fly/ paint/ etc. No, I don’t want to sleep, maestra!)–first graders also began brainstorming ideas for a storytelling unit. First, they sat on a square on the carpet and pretended that it was their casa/ house; from here, we would have Q&A sessions, where I would ask students a series of questions in the target language– do you live in a big house or a small house? A REALLY big house, wow! Do you have a cat or a dog? No? You have una vaca/ a cow? 19 cows?! And they are on a very strange diet? What do they eat? Spaghetti, pineapple, and sugar? Fascinating!

This was all in Spanish, and once students realized that it was much more fun to give creative answers, we started making up wild mini stories aurally as a class. Currently, this has morphed into one about an EVIL ONION [“La cebolla malvada”] who goes to a castle in a forest in Spain, takes the princess’s SLIPPERS/ pantuflas, and escapes! Oh no! She is very angry! Tune in next quarter to find out what happens!
3This term, students in first grade began with the classic “Bathroom Song“. This is a silly song about a boy who needs to go to the bathroom, but is singing in class instead of just raising his hand to ask; the song gets faster and faster, and first graders enjoyed the challenge of trying to sing along in Spanish and read the subtitles simultaneously. Other popular songs this quarter included Para bailar la bamba; Canta y no llores (aka Cielito lindo); and Ríe, llora (originally by Celia Cruz, but students prefer the 9-year-old girl Carmen’s version!).

The primary focus, however, was on developing and memorizing the words and gestures to their class story, “The Evil Onion[“La cebolla malvada”– scroll way down on a phone for the English translation]. They would add a new line to the saga each lesson or week, and then work to apply this vocabulary in other contexts. The best part about storytelling is when lines of the story start leaking out into other Spanish class activities, inadvertently. One student says, “Give me that coche/ car back ahora/ now!”, and the other responds in a whiny voice, “¡Pero no quiero!” (but I don’t wanna!)–which is exactly what the Evil Onion told his mom when she demanded that he return the princess’ slippers (that he took). We layer on expression and make everything quite silly… because that makes it memorable, which is the whole point!

In Center Work, first graders continued expanding their vocabularies in new ways. Many enjoyed building with the Hotwheels ramps and cars, while others went through a phase where they wanted to dance and sing (bailar y cantar) along with Spanish songs on the Promethean board (esp. Ríe, llora). Centers also expanded to include “licenses” for everything, which are basically sight word flashcards that students have to have near them when using my materials. For example, if they sign up to “build a house” aka “Quiero construir una casa” [I want to build a house] with cardboard boxes and blankets, they have to have their “license” nearby (la casa/ house [flashcard]). It is a fun game we play to encourage contextualized, meaningful language in action. Class ended with the line leader saying, “¿Está aquí?” /is she [the teacher] here? and peeking out the door.

Last but not least, in the culture realm, they learned about and were amazed by La Danza de La Botella (Paraguay)–and spent a few classes trying to balance paper cups and books on their heads. First graders also practiced isolating numbers out of sequence, with addition problems in the target language, and attended the fourth graders’ Spanish Play in February. Gracias for a great term!
4This term, first graders focused on public speaking in the target language (presentational Spanish). For example, at the beginning of class, student-teachers would practice asking, “¿Qué tiempo hace afuera?” (what’s the weather like outside?) while students supplied both realistic and unrealistic answers (hace sol y hace calor/ it’s sunny and hot; está nevando/ it’s snowing; está lloviendo/ it’s raining; está nublado/ it’s cloudy). This is how the obsession with It’s Raining Tacos all began: one of the first days I asked about the weather, students broke into song, serenading me with the raining tacos in English–so naturally, I had to find the Spanish version! One student even made me a taco out of felt, so we could throw it up in the air and it would “rain” down. #hilarious!!!

Anyway, this song played on loop in the background for much of the fourth quarter during center work days. Because the first grade curriculum focuses heavily on linguistic interactions (students>students, students>teacher, and teacher>students) in a variety of contexts, the progress students make during center work is highly visible–it was so wonderful to see students’ confidence with the language (both aurally and with sight words) grow this year! A class favorite was, “Queremos hacer todo” (we want to do everything!).

First graders also continued telling part two of their class story, but as the year wound down, it did lose some steam. We’ll pick up storytelling again next year, though–no worries! Last but not least, students mastered much of the Floor Map, this time trying to beat the clock as they rattled off the 21 Spanish-speaking countries. During the last few classes, they worked as a team to organize ALL of the Spanish currency by country; and later, ‘built’ the Andes Mountains in South America out of plastic cups, to earn mint chocolate candies (brand name: Andes). Gracias for an amazing year!

August Notes

Objective: acclimating to daily routines, expectations, and an immersive Spanish environment!

  • Welcome Back!: intro to daily routine and general overview. We will tell a semester-long story in Spanish, adding only a sentence or two each day. The words in the sentence will be reinforced via class activities; games; songs; videos; and ‘free choice’ center work days. Country focus on Spain. 
  • El Camino de Santiago: Clarify “Spain/España” (place) vs. “Spanish/ Español” (language)- an ongoing discussion. Symbols of El Camino de Santiago include arrows and scallop shells. Color paper shells. “Mini hike” around classroom, up and down mountains.
  • Shells/Arrows: Hike around campus, complete with backpacks/ mochilas and water bottles/ botellas de agua. Mark ‘the way’ with chalk arrows and scallop shells. Stop for snack and water breaks and stay at a [faux] hostel for the night.
  • Double Class: Continue with hiking unit. “España” anecdote (boy saying name of his homeland on plane). Practiced responding to “¡Tormenta!” (storm). Took volunteers to throw their zapatos. Outside hike, albergues, and gallos.
  • Abanicos: Continue with hiking unit. Students learned about abanicos/Spanish fans and made their own in class. The intention was to hike today as well, but the acordian style folding was a challenge for them, and the hike was shortened, if not cut altogether.
  • Foot Pool, Day 1: Continue with hiking unit. Students learn about Wonderful Foot Pools available along The Way. Pato especially appreciated these in the heat (so many feathers, you know). Naturally, they had to “scale four mountains” and stay the night at an albergue before dipping their toes (or feet) into a bucket of cool water. Splashing fun was had by all. Shoe tying at the end of class was A Thing. Mea culpa.


Objective: begin to work on verbal output, increase speaking confidence in the target language.

  • Double Class: yo hablo espa-ñol/inglés. Double combined class for first today. Practice hike inside and outside. First graders pretended to hike El Camino de Santiago in Spain/ España. They carried their backpacks (mochilas) and water bottles (botellas de agua) up and down FOUR huge mountains (montañas). I spied some expert climbers! As the sun began to set, they found a bunk at a local albergue and did not awaken until before dawn–to the sound of the rooster: “¡Quiquiriquí! ¡Quiquiriquí” (cock-a-doodle-do). Students had fun being overly dramatic with the mountain climbing!
  • Foot Pool, Day 2: yo hablo espa-ñol/inglés. First graders continued their 500-mile hike through Spain. Today, they scaled four more mountains/ montañas and slept at an albergue. The FL sun is just like Spain/ España– HOT! (hace mucho calor), so the simulation felt very realistic. Stopped to experience a “foot pool” (bare toes in water), since we ran out of time on Wednesday to do this. We brought along Pato today (and his miniature bag), as well as a pet vaca/ cow (I don’t remember why) and a lot of euros to “buy food” along The Way.
  • Tormenta/Storm!: yo hablo espa-ñol. Two problems: 1) no hiking and first day indoors, due to the “tormenta!!” (storm); and 2) you need a “pasaporte” (passport) to go to Spain! (stamped their hands). Had “indoor” day of El Camino, where students set up albergues, used the comida/food and dinero/money, and went to the “beach” (sand and water sensory station) at the end of the Camino. Began establishing indoor routine, as storms are in the forecast for the near future.
  • Centers, Day 1: yo hablo espa-ñol. Written work, the letter “m”. Centers, day 1 (quiero jugar/ quiero colorear). Establishing routines. Paid in faux euros if the class cleans up and lines up before the timer.
  • Centers, Day 2: yo NO hablo espa-ñol. Written work, the letter “c”. Centers, day 2 (quiero jugar/ quiero colorear/ El Camino). Establishing routines. Paid in faux euros if the class cleans up and lines up before the timer.