Car Rides to the Jungle

The day begins sitting outside my classroom in the hallway. “This is English,” I say. “I am speaking in English right now, but when I–*clap, clap*–yo cambio de un idioma a otro [I change from one language to another]. *Clap, clap.* Strange, isn’t it?!

This game progresses a bit farther each day. We look at our shoes, the colors of our shirts, the spider crawling up the wall. “You say, ‘blue’–clap, clap–yo digo, ‘azul’ [I say azul]”. All classes are learning to say, “Yo hablo español” (I speak Spanish), so that we can compare/contrast it with “Yo hablo inglés” (I speak English). After a minute or two of chitchat, we stand up, put our hands in the middle and say, “¡Vamos!” (let’s go!) like we mean it, and then travel into my room. Inside, everything is narrated and taught in Spanish.

Students sit in their assigned seats, and I ask the three-year-olds how they are: ¿Cómo estás? There are funny emoji faces on the board, and they come up one at a time and point to how they are feeling. I acted out the faces very dramatically the first few days for PK3 (feliz/happy, triste/sad, enojado(a)/mad, tengo frío/I’m cold), and we were very silly! So now it is a joke, and they will respond, “enojado(a)” (angry/mad) when I ask them, just to be silly, and with a huge grin on their face.

We move on to a song break at this point, usually one in particular from Encanto, or their newest favorite, Los solecitos (put it on loop!). They can move and dance around here, but some just watch–a bit fixatedly, trying to figure out how it is that the screen speaks the same language their Spanish teacher does. Hmm…

The first few classes, we did a science/ group activity on the carpet following the song. These lessons were sensory-happy, meaning that I brought in a hairdryer to levitate a ping-pong ball and teach the word, “caliente” (hot), and students got to feel the hot-hot-hot air; we melted a few crayons with the heat to “paint” a picture; I brought in ice cubes the next class to contrast and connect with, “frío” from above; and we put white plastic [temperature- activated] spoons in the cold water/ice cubes, which then ‘magically’ turned blue.

After the mini-lesson, students take turns ‘riding’ in my teacher chair (which is on wheels), and I sing a calming song, “Va-mos a España, va-mos; va-mos a Nicaragua, va-mos,” etc. as I push them across the room in the chair. I ring a windchime, we admire the beautiful sound, and then I push them back; but this time I ask if they want to go rápido/fast or not. The answer is, invariably, YES!

As we have settled into this routine, the ideas have started to expand. For example, in lieu of a science lesson et al, someone might say that they are “tired” (cansado/a) during the how-are-you Q&A, so we all take a 10-second nap with the lights off. Then I turn the lights back on, and announce that wow am I hungry. Hey! We should have a picnic! So we go to the carpet with a few blankets on the floor as a table, and pretend to eat the plastic food. I announce that there is a storm coming (I put rain sound effects on the board)–oh no!–so we have to go somewhere else. Then we take the “car rides” to the beach/ la playa or the jungle (la selva/la jungla), and students get to decide which video I put on the screen to enhance the general ambiance–tranquil waves, or howler monkeys in the rainforests of Costa Rica!

When our thirty minutes together is over, we say that the “train” is leaving, and students line up. I’m writing this now a bit out of guilt, because I never know how to put this in a nice, neat lesson plan on Veracross. We do a lot of fun things in Spanish every day, and the lessons are always evolving; but I wanted to give you a quick update before any more time passed. Otherwise, I would have started with the howler monkeys and chair cars two months from now, and you wouldn’t have known what I was talking about!

ASIDE: Your children may or may not bring home Spanish words; do not worry either way. The focus at this point is comprehension and following along in class. If you want to support/ encourage your child’s linguistic journey, feel free to watch cartoons or listen to music in Spanish with them at home. Don’t worry if you don’t understand; just watch/listen and have fun, and their brains will do the rest!

One thought on “Car Rides to the Jungle

Comments are closed.