February: Hoy les felicité a los de 4.A por ser mi clase más ‘global’ o mundial de Lower School, en términos de querer aprender tantos idiomas… y en actuar sobre esta pasión. Muchos están tomando más de un curso en Duolingo, en adición al español: mandarín, francés, ruso, polaco, japonés, etc. Hay unos 7.000 idiomas en el mundo ahora, y con solo nueve o diez años, los niños ya saben mucho del ámbito lingüístico.
Por ejemplo, me dijeron esta mañana (correctamente), que en orden de millones o billones de gente, el mandarín es primero, el español segundo y el inglés, tercero. Pero en línea, el inglés domina, con 52 por ciento de la Red.
Les expliqué que hay “unos” 7.000 idiomas y no resulta una ciencia exacta por falta de una definición nítida o precisa: es el “spanglish” un idioma? Qué tal Chinglish (chino/inglés) o Greeklish (griego/inglés)? Hablamos de las capas y el desarrollo de los idiomas en sí. Por ejemplo, el “japoñol” es la mezcla de japonés y español, cuando unos inmigrantes se fueron de Japón a Perú y la segunda generación aprendió español y empezó a mezclarlo con el japonés en casa. A qué punto se convierte en otro idioma, además de la jerga/lunfardo*? ¡Avísenme en los comentarios abajo si tienen una opinión! [*jerga/lunfardo significa “slang” aquí]
Como que la clase ya tenía interés en el asunto, llevé desde mi casa unos libros míos, escritos en otros idiomas. Los niños trataban de descifrar cuál era cuál. Al notar un idioma que no podían identificar, era “aymará”, una lengua indígena de Sudamérica. Un hecho interesante aquí es que, en nuestra cultura, para hacer referencia al pasado, uno señala hacia atrás (“Ayer yo fui…”) y un gesto adelante para significar el futuro. En aymará, resulta el opuesto: uno señala hacia adelante para referir al PASADO porque es lo que se ve y por tanto, lo que uno conoce; uno señala hacia atrás para referir al PORVENIR, ya que no se ve y uno todavía no lo conoce.
Al final de la clase, hablamos de frases (y palabras) intraducibles (“untranslatable”), como deja-vu, tortillas, tacos, etc. y “word loans” (préstamos). Era un día muy académico y lingüístico, pero aprecié tanto el interés y la madurez de la clase. ¡Cuarto grado es genial!
January: We went on a bit of a tangent today in Spanish class. Fourth graders have begun studying other languages in addition to Spanish in Duolingo. Students learned that a person who speaks an extreme number of languages is called a hyperpolyglot. Students learned about the hyper-polyglot Timothy Doner this morning. For homework, please watch the video above or read this article. Enjoy!
Also- scroll down on this page to see the graphs and charts we saw in class: Chinese is the number one language spoken in the world in real life (Spanish is #2 and English #3), but in the online realm, English dominates, with 52.9% of the Internet in English. Interesting!
September: Hoy hicimos gazpacho en clase para La Tomatina el miércoles pasado. Gazpacho y pan, ¡qué rico!
August: En cuarto grado, empezamos con un proyecto para enfatizar la comunidad, o sea, que somos una familia en la clase de español. Los alumnos van a trabajar juntos para construir puentes de armadura (“truss bridges”). Aquí, ves sus planes y diseños. Aprendieron que un puente es mucho más fuerte cuando hay triángulos como la base—puede soportar mucha más fuerza. En otras palabras, somos más fuertes cuando trabajamos juntos.
December/January: This month, students in fourth grade moved on from naming all of the twenty-one Spanish-speaking countries on the tape floor map, to identifying major landforms in South America: montañas/mountains (Andes Mountains); desierto/desert (Atacama Desert); and río/river (Amazon River). They made storyboard comic strips in the target language to wrap up their storytelling unit; chose Spanish first and last names; and practiced reciting the Pledge of Allegiance/Juro fidelidad a la bandera—at students’ request. Fourth graders also listened to both more traditional music (Mama Tingo, Johnny Ventura; Ojalá, Silvio Rodriguez/esp. 4.A) as well as pop songs (Tal vez me llames/Call Me Maybe Spanish cover; No tengo dinero, MAFFiO).
Later on, they began a centers unit. Here, students write form letters in the target language, filling in the blanks where necessary—or sometimes reconstructing it from memory—and receive immediate feedback re: accents, spelling, punctuation, etc. They choose their preferred activity of the day: tocar el piano/play the piano; jugar baloncesto/play basketball; pintar/paint; jugar a los naipes/play cards; jugar en la fortaleza/play in the fort; construir un videojuego/build a videogame; and/or work on a guided culture project—e.g., painting tiles for La Alhambra, a Moorish palace in southern Spain. The goal is to incorporate more Spanish words, phrases, and expressions at each center. For example, when they play cards, students exclaim, “¡Tú ganas!/you win!” or “¡Yo gano!/I win”; in basketball, they might say, “Pásala/pass it”, or in the fort, “¡No zapatos!/No shoes!”. Any time they want to switch centers during a class period or leave the room to get extra materials or go to the bathroom, they have to ask in the target language. Naturally, certain items will intentionally go ‘missing’ from time to time, leading to forced linguistic interactions; if I hide the basketballs in the closet, fourth graders must ask for the keys in Spanish to open the closet (Necesito las llaves/I need the keys). Teehehee. If you are intrigued or questioning the importance of play in the classroom, please visit the Language Blog* and read my latest post entitled, “Just Play”.
On one particularly exciting day, a student colored all over his hands with florescent marker (wait for the explanation before you say, “WHAT??!”), and put them under the class black light to demonstrate bioluminescence—a natural phenomenon where your skin glows underwater when it comes in contact with algae in certain parts of the world, including Puerto Rico. This kind of experiential creativity, combined with language and culture, is what learning is all about to me. As always, feel free to visit my website below for links and more information.
NOTE: Parents with children in multiple grades may notice that there has been some overlap in terms of content between the grades this past month and half. The purpose here is twofold. First, when children realize that they know the same Spanish vocabulary, a conversation begins—a door opens between grade levels where everyone is invited to the Party called Learning. If everyone in the world only knew segregated vocabularies, no one could talk to anyone!
Second, in the cultural realm, and now that students have more or less mastered the map, projects have begun popping up all around the Spanish room. When a class enters and there are suddenly masking tape designs all over the floor and a cardboard box tower in the corner, they naturally want to learn why and who and where and how and what. Of course, lessons are differentiated and age-appropriate, but it is absurdly exciting to hear first and fifth graders reference La Alhambra (Spain) or ‘jugar’/play in conversation. I feel that it builds a more inclusive, Spanish language-learning community when there are a few common building blocks.
November: This month, students in fourth grade worked on starting their sentences with, “Pregunta” (question) whenever they wanted to ask something, and learned how to dance the Salsa after they started naming Spanish-speaking countries in the Caribbean on the tape floor map; the dance is particularly popular there. Fourth graders also played the “offline dinosaur game” and designed their own live video game course in the Spanish classroom, complete with jumping obstacles, gold as the prize for completing all of the levels, and Super Mario music playing in the background for 4.B—whereas talented 4.A musicians opted to play video game type songs on the class keyboard (jugar/play; nivel uno/level one; salta/jump; el oro/gold).
Students also helped create more mini-stories in the target language. For example, in 4.A, an orca named Flippers has a boat/barco and is saved by a student in an airplane during a highly unusual storm, where it rains lemons. Fourth graders listened to the famous Ojalá llueva café en el campo by Juan Luis Guerra (Dominican Republic); in the song, it rains coffee. In another story, a Minecraft lamb named Lime/Limón Verde lives in a haunted house. Students have begun bringing in their favorite stuffed animals and toys around which the stories are then created. In 4.B, students chose a spooky genre, and things got a little weird: a lizard named Burrito lives in a haunted house with ghosts and zombies. One night, his dog is sleeping, and one of the zombies, Pocoyo—fourth graders decided on this cartoon character because the stuffed toy version’s head spins—is hungry and eats the dog’s brain/cerebro. The puppy calls a doctor, but the doctor is actually a mad scientist/cientítifico loco and gives him a super brain, with all of the information in the entire world. Yikes!
Last but not least, students in 4.A learned a clapping rhyme that children recite to pass the time when they are waiting (~in line, on the bus, etc.): Jorge robó pan en la casa de San Juan, quién yo, sí tú, yo no fui, entonces quién/lit., George stole bread from Saint John’s house/who me/yes, you/it wasn’t me/then who). To inspire them for their cookie cutter design project, 4.B learned about Las Fallas, a unique celebration in Valencia (Spain) where people build massive parade floats, and then burn them all at the end of the week.
October/Trimester 1: This trimester, students in fourth grade began by celebrating La Tomatina, a famous tomato-throwing festival in Spain. To celebrate and reenact the day sans actual tomatoes, fourth graders made catapults out of Popsicle sticks, rubber bands, and hot glue, and launched decorative, lightweight balls at G.I. Joe firemen and LEGO men figurines. Other cultural projects included ‘building’ the Andes Mountains out of blocks on the tape floor map (South America); tracing an inverted painting that is meant to change one’s perspective and question tradition (Uruguay); and decorating sugar skull cookies for El Día de los Muertos/Day of the Dead (Mexico).
Fourth graders also created and acted out several class stories. In one, a dramatic, slow motion, galactic force fight inside Taylor Swift’s jail cell ensued—with Kung Fu Fighting playing in the background—because Taylor would not hand over all of the tomatoes in the galaxy to the planetary kings and queens (la fuerza/the force). In another (4.B), a rocket ship with alien sisters on board crash-lands in the Atacama Desert (Chile); two groups of spies witness the crash and begin throwing lemons at the intruders; unexpectedly, the aliens love the sour flavor and graciously thank their attackers. Students built spy forts in the classroom to act this out and participated in official Spy Training. Fourth graders also practiced reading and writing sentences and mini-stories in the target language; jumped on and named the Spanish-speaking countries on the tape floor map; played a highly addictive, “Guess the Language” online game (LingLang); and made connections between their project time topics (Aztecs, Incas, and Mayans) and Spanish class. Gracias for a great first trimester.
*Spanish-speaking countries on the tape floor map: Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras.
September: This month, students in fourth grade made copies of their animal password cards for the Summit hallway bulletin board; sang along to a silly video called, “¿Puedo ir al baño?” (Can I go to the bathroom?); and took a trip down memory lane by watching Pocoyo: Invisible in the target language. They also jumped on and named certain Spanish-speaking countries on the tape floor map before they sat down each day: Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Bolivia. For their Summit mini culture project for Chile and Argentina, students “built” the Andes Mountains in three minutes with building blocks, and then watched as a “terrible mudslide” destroyed the mountain range—so that the next group could have a turn to build. For Uruguay, they traced a painting of a famous Uruguayan artist who wanted to define and identify Latin American art on his own terms, instead of in relation to North America and Europe; ultimately, the painting of an inverted map is about taking new perspectives and questioning tradition.
Fourth graders also continued their tomato saga, adding kings and queens of various planets (and even the galaxy!) to round out the story, and ended with a dramatic, slow motion, galactic force fight inside Taylor Swift’s jail cell—with Kung Fu Fighting playing in the background, of course. Taylor refused to hand over all of the tomatoes (todos los tomates), so really, there was no other option: “¡La fuerza!” (the force!). Since then, fourth graders have been working on a humorous script of their class story in Spanish—trying to memorize lines, coordinating words and movements onstage and, most importantly, making sure they know what they are saying!
August: This month, students in fourth grade learned about Spain’s famous tomato-throwing festival, La Tomatina, held the last Wednesday of August every year. To celebrate and reenact the day sans actual tomatoes, fourth graders made catapults out of Popsicle sticks, rubber bands, and hot glue, and launched decorative, lightweight balls at G.I. Joe firemen and LEGO men figurines. Students also chose individualized password cards, and then practiced thinking up ways to physically act out each one as part of their beginning-of-class routine; responded to action commands; and worked on their class stories, which are interactive, teacher-asked but student-led creations in the target language.
Here, the main character is absolutely ravenous, and desires a plateful of juicy, red tomatoes; however, his foe (in one class, Taylor Swift) has eaten all of the tomatoes in the entire world. Thus, our hero must travel to Mars, the red planet, to get what he wants—and, presumably, battle Taylor for it, in a struggle not unlike La Tomatina, thereby spreading Spanish culture beyond this world (4.B). Last but not least, students learned that there are 21 Spanish-speaking countries and 400+ million Spanish speakers, but that Chinese is actually the most-spoken language in the world right now (English is number three behind Spanish). Gracias for a great month.
September: This month, students in fourth grade learned that they will be participating in a yearlong town simulation. Their first stop was Argentina, where fourth graders explored the history of Yerba Mate, or ‘the friendship drink’ of South America via photos and physical cultural artifacts, and later were able to taste the strong, somewhat bitter (but delicious!) tea. Then, it was time to travel again: after grabbing their passports, boarding passes, and luggage from the Locker Bay; removing their zapatos/shoes for the infamous TSA security screening process; watching a bilingual ‘safety instructions’ video; enjoying snacks—goldfish and water—from the stewardess during the flight; and experiencing a tiny bit of turbulence, students finally arrived in Madrid, the capital of Spain. Then, it was only a matter of deciphering the puzzling (but authentic) city map, a quick trip on the Metro (Subway) and a three-hour train ride (Renfe) through the Andalusian countryside (see all the olive trees?!), before students settled in what is to be their new home: Granada, España/Spain. The intense summer heat of southern Spain was reflected (bad pun) in the covered streets—colorful sheet canopies high above protect the city from the urban heat effect. Students left their baggage at the hotel, noticed the famous Moorish palace (La Alhambra) across the street (beautiful!), and set about their first set of business: deciding where to live and drawing up floorplans of the inside of their new homes. Yay! Fourth graders also practiced acting out their passwords, in order to associate a specific motion with each word.
Quarter 1: This term, students in fourth grade excitedly delved into the task of creating their own pueblo/town. A typical day consists of students striving to use the language in a variety of meaningful contexts and situations. As a result, the learning environment tends to be more boisterous than not, but in a lively, jovial sort of way, where fourth graders spend their time traveling to the bank, taking out money, working at the local shops, buying, selling, bargaining, trading, and occasionally employing ‘frantic gesturing’ when they find themselves unable to recall vocabulary or simplify an idea. Gracias for a great quarter.
Quarter 2: This term, students in fourth grade began opening new businesses in the pueblo/town. For example, there are a few street musicians who play on the classroom keyboard and earn their living from passers-by; students who buy tickets to watch Sr. Wooly videos at the town movie theater; and customers who frequent the Italian Restaurant on a regular basis. Fourth graders also spent some time away from the town to learn about street markets/mercados in South America as well as the importance and multi-faceted roles of street art in Argentina (e.g., graffiti, murals, political statements, etc.). Later, they worked on written translations as mental warm-up exercises for the beginning of class routine, and then created their own authentic mercado.
Quarters 3 & 4: This semester, students in fourth grade divided their time between working in the town and getting a healthy dose of grammar. In the latter, fourth graders ‘leveled up’ from one written translation to another, deepening their understanding of and making connections between Spanish etymologies and general syntax. After grasping the overarching idea (of both verb conjugations and nonliteral translations), students created their own quizzes to test one another, and then worked to apply this newfound knowledge in meaningful contexts. For example—in addition to the town simulation—they also rehearsed and presented (partner) stories with puppets, and invented their own class story about a bear named Jellybean who lives on Mars. Additionally, fourth graders talked about exchange rates and other currencies; learned about Cinco de Mayo; and wrapped up the year with a focus on how to ask questions in the target language. Gracias for a fabulous year.
Mapa de Crazyville
Quarter 1: This term, students in fourth grade excitedly delved into the task of creating their own pueblo/town. After hailing a taxi to the airport, showing their boarding passes and boarding the plane, fourth graders sat back and relaxed, enjoyed beverages, and chatted until landing. As they officially stepped into their town for the first time—Ijusthaditville, España—the actual simulation commenced, and students signed a Language Pledge, promising to use solely the target language in the Spanish Cave. After establishing bank accounts, buying their own mansions and designing the interior of their homes, fourth graders began looking for work and creating their own businesses. A typical day consists of students striving to use the language in a variety of meaningful contexts and situations. As a result, the learning environment tends to be more boisterous than not, but in a lively, jovial sort of way, where fourth graders spend their time traveling to the bank, taking out money, working at the local shops, buying, selling, bargaining, trading, and occasionally employing ‘frantic gesturing’ when they find themselves unable to recall vocabulary or simplify an idea. In addition to the town, fourth graders also took an ‘English day’ in order to integrate with their regular classroom curriculum, and talked about words in other languages that are untranslatable…
Quarter 2: This term, students in fourth grade chose new [fruit and vegetable] identities as part of the pueblo/town simulation, with the understanding that their English name and person ‘no longer exist’ in the Spanish Cave. In addition, fourth graders have also begun opening new businesses. Now, for example, there are a few street musicians who play on the classroom keyboard and earn their living from passers-by (propinas/tips); students who buy tickets to watch Sr. Wooly videos at the town cine/movie theater; and generous customers who allow the party shop to thrive financially. However, a few strange developments have made life anything but normal: increasing tension relating to the overtly amorous conversations between a girl and her novio/boyfriend, Diego (¡Mi amor!/My love!), led several town residents to the brink of insanity. It was therefore incumbent upon those affected to visit the town doctor(a)/doctor for some much-needed terapia/therapy. The rabid raccoon (mapache rabioso) that escaped from the zoo also spent some time in a group treatment center. The most effective cure? Un abrazo/a hug. Students—rather, citizens—refocused their attention amidst the unanticipated chaos with a call-response echo: ¿Qué queremos?/¡Queremos trabajar! (What do we want? We want to work!). Gracias for another memorable quarter.
Quarter 3: This term, students in fourth grade were required to think creatively when their beloved town was moved, well, across town (to the St. John building). Instead of relying on the same old, same old, fourth graders delved into the challenges of a relocated classroom, err, pueblo most audaciously—redesigning, revamping, and redecorating—for the purpose of improving upon their original ideas. Where should the panadería/bakery be located now? What about the Azkaban prison? How could vendors re-imagine the concept of a mercado from South and Central American countries to fit their own town? While this progression and conversation occurred quite naturally, it was also beautifully reflective of the creative thinking process: are students generating new ideas (divergent thinking)? Are they taking risks? Can they overcome and push past the mental obstacles of an idea that results in complete and utter failure? Did they synthesize their experience into a cogent, cohesive product (convergent thinking)? The creative thinking process manifested itself not only within the confines of the town expansion, but also in students’ linguistic development. Do students put language together in unusual and novel ways, beyond what the teacher has taught? Does the product work (was the message communicated effectively)? Welcome to a new era, the age of creative thinking! Fourth graders have hit the ground running; gracias for another magical quarter.
Quarter 4: This term, students in fourth grade extended their understanding of the word ‘pueblo’: the town does not only exist within the four walls of the Spanish Cave, but also beyond it… and thus a parque/park was borne. This outing begins with a class conversation: “¿Qué queremos? Queremos ir a jugar al fútbol en el parque” (What do we want? We want to go play soccer at the park). Later, fourth graders request relevant vocabulary; the doctoras/doctors and enfermera/nurse pack up their medical bags in case of an emergency; and students head out to play with a Guatemalan saying on their minds, “Ganamos, perdimos, igual nos divertimos” (we win or we lose, either way we have fun). Partway through the game, there is a ‘half-time show’, where a talented gymnast performs complicated flips, round-offs, and cartwheels for the class; and when it is time to go, they form two lines/filas and say, “Buen partido/good game”. Later on, students saw photos from my trip to Iguazú Falls (Cataratas de Iguazú) in Argentina; discussed what Spanglish is; and had a game week in the target language (Spanish Monopoly, rompecabezas/puzzles, La Guerra/War [card game], Spot It, and Bingo). Prior to catching a flight back to their hometown, fourth graders took a day to learn about and taste the traditional friendship drink and famous tea of Argentina, called Yerba Mate. Hasta la próxima (until next time), citizens of Ijusthaditville, España. Gracias for a beautiful year.
Quarter 1: This term, students in fourth grade excitedly delved into the task of creating their own pueblo/town. After establishing bank accounts and buying their own mansions, the actual simulation commenced. A typical day in either Epicville (Papageorge) or Marlow Mayhem (Marlow) begins with workers being dismissed to their jobs. Businesses open at this point include the banco/bank, juguetería/toy store, tienda de arte/art store, and teatro/theater. Later, students travel around town, taking out money from the bank, buying what they need and want with realistic-looking euros, communicating solely in the target language, and occasionally employing ‘frantic gesturing’ when they find themselves unable to recall vocabulary or simplify an idea. It is amazing how innovative fourth graders become when they are desperate to express a thought. In addition to working and living in the pueblo, students also translated key words in their constellation poems from English to Spanish; signed a Language Pledge promising not to speak English within the walls of the Spanish Cave; tweeted their favorite movies; learned how to use the internet dictionary www.wordreference.com; wrote letters to their pen-pals in Oaxaca, Mexico; and worked on a “Class Wordle” of all the words they know in the target language. Gracias for a great start to the year!
Quarter 2: This term, students in fourth grade received letters and photos from their pen-pals in Oaxaca, Mexico; chose new Spanish identities, with the understanding that their English name and person ‘no longer exist’ in the Spanish Cave; tried their hand at several translation exercises; sang along with the overly dramatic Sr. Wooly video, ¿Adónde vas? (Where are you going?); and, of course, continued with their pueblo simulation. In addition to the usual browsing, buying, selling and even trading, several instances of corruption were also witnessed; members of the police department were allowing prisoners—i.e., thieves sent to la cárcel/jail for petty crimes—to escape in exchange for [plastic green] money. Such blatant injustices and brazen disrespect of the law led to a ban on all criminal activities. Later, students refocused their attention with a call-response echo in the target language: ¿Qué queremos?/¡Queremos trabajar! (What do we want? We want to work!). Other town updates as follows. Epicville: Students have created an Apple Store, where they sell technological gadgets and devices to their peers, such as handmade laptops and teléfonos inteligentes/SMART phones. Marlow Mayhem: Students have added a cine/movie theater, where they sell tickets to anyone and everyone who would like to watch a show. Gracias for another exciting quarter.
Quarter 3: This term, students in fourth grade focused their energies on two specific goals each class (¿Cuál es la meta?/What is the goal?). Generally speaking, the goals tend to be to repeat a certain linguistic structure as many times and in as many relevant contexts as possible in the town simulation. For instance, “¡No puedes hacer eso!” (You can’t do that!), “Quiero comprar eso” (I want to buy that), and “¿Por que?” (Why?), can easily be incorporated into almost any conversation. Moreover, students who take piano lessons were permitted to play songs from memory for the citizens of Epicville or Marlow Mayhem on the classroom teclado/keyboard. Excellent performances resulted in several very affluent musicians (propina/tip). In addition, fourth graders learned that Wikipedia has a wonderful translation feature on the sidebar; deduced what names of BrainPop videos were using common sense and logic (e.g., La gran explosión/The Big Bang); participated in a Virtual Word Search; rehearsed and then presented dialogues in the target language in front of their peers; generated their own linguistic discussions as they helped each other translate their pen-pal letters from Mexico, and worked on rough and final drafts of their letters, attaching tiny gifts of appreciation for their new friends (e.g., origami, beaded bracelets, stickers, etc.). Gracias for another outstanding quarter.
Quarter 4: This term, students in fourth grade played Spanish Monopoly; bought mansions and created a handmade map of the town; discovered that the map is authentic and of downtown Buenos Aires, and that the main street, or Avenida 9 de Julio, happens to be one of the widest in the world (with a whopping sixteen lanes of traffic); opened up a café, and then sipped and learned about the traditional friendship drink and famous tea of Argentina, called Mate; and extended their understanding of the word ‘pueblo’: The town does not only exist within the four walls of the Spanish Cave, but also beyond it… and thus a parque/park (in which to play fútbol/soccer) was borne. Not long after, fourth graders learned of a dramatic new development. The town had suffered a desastre natural/natural disaster, and as a result, no longer exists. Following the initial shock, fourth graders began to wonder—what if your friend has a sweater and you don’t? Rationally minded individuals suddenly become desperate, even when la fuerza/the force—illustrated by a ping-pong ball levitating above a hair dryer—is on their side. Thankfully, the Red Cross/La Cruz Roja was able to collect and donate $50,000 to all citizens affected before things got too out of hand. Students read the generous letter and began planning how to spend the cash (needs vs. wants). Gracias for an incredible year.