Sparking the Imagination

Good evening, LET ME BEGIN with a general (but sincere) apology for not sending out thank-you notes yet to acknowledge your incredible generosity throughout the holiday season. Below please find a detailed list of excuses for the time lapse, along with a multi-step, absurdly elaborated enumeration of thought processes of fantastical concoctions of the imagination. [...]

Argentina- Southern Lights

ARGENTINA: Ushuaia, Argentina is the southernmost city in the world, and also a great place to view the Southern Lights. We tend to hear more about the Northern Lights simply because more people live close to the North Pole than the South Pole, but in the south they are just as beautiful! In class, kindergarteners [...]

Argentina- Yerba Mate

ARGENTINA: Yerba Mate Tea ("MAH-tay") is the 'friendship drink' of South America, especially Argentina, Uruguay, Bolivia, and Paraguay. You drink the tea out of a gourd, and keep refilling it with hot water all day long to sip. The tea leaves are loose (not in a tea bag). It can be quite strong to some [...]

Holiday Packet 2020

My Dear Friends, Fellow Linguists, and Citizens of the World: The holidays are a time for family, friends, and much merriment. Hopefully, amidst the frantic shoppers and bumper-to-bumper traffic, you are able to relax and find some peace and joy in the season. That said, learning does not stop or stagnate just because there are [...]

Black Sands

THE SADNESS rolls over me in waves, intermittent pulses gradually washing away the shoreline. I reach down for a handful of the volcanic black sand, and marvel at its odd grainy texture. Farther on, the sand turns pebbly—small, smooth stones pepper the ground mosaic. It is difficult to grasp how this ash was once part of a [...]

Favorite Shirt

RAINY DAYS usually felt cozy, comforting: grayness squeezing her in a tight metaphorical hug, drops pelting the windowpane in a steady rhythm, staying inside with people she loved. But today was different. She was frustrated. Overwhelmed, perhaps. And for a seemingly nonsensical reason: her favorite shirt didn’t fit anymore. But everyone had one. You know the kind. It was the soft, stretchy, [...]

Year 2020-21, Update #2 (2)

WEEKS 3-4: Just so you are aware, any lesson involving Pato tends to grow and evolve and become an all-out saga that goes on and on because--as the PSA (Professional Stuffed Animal) of a linguist (yours truly)--he has inherited a love of words and language. In other words, these Spanish updates will not be strictly [...]

Year 2020-21, Update #2 (PK)

UPDATE: Students in PK-4 have been experiencing a 100% immersive classroom environment in Spanish class. We begin each day with a song, followed by knocking on the “door” (read: ground) to see if Pato is ready to visit them. I ask them where he is (¿Dónde está?) and they point to my small backpack (mochila). [...]

Year 2020-21, Update #2 (1)

September of 2020 My Dearest Pato: You are very sweet to write. Your penmanship, however, seems to have regressed. Then again, I am not as fluent in Duck as in years past; it is likely this was a factor in my overall comprehension. But yes, I am doing well and greatly enjoying my new adventures. [...]

Year 2020-21, Update #2 (K)

WEEK 5: On Monday, students used paper telescopes to look for tesoro/treasure, practicing the phrase, “¡MIRA!” (“MEER-rah”/Look!). Later, they watched Pocoyo: Piratas to understand these words in context. This was also the first time this year they’ve heard someone else speaking Spanish, other than their maestra. To extend our class story, kindergarteners traveled outside this [...]

Year 2020-21, Update #1 (K)

Week #2: This week, students in kindergarten experienced 95% immersion in the target language. They usually begin class with some sort of movement warm-up, either dancing as a group to the Wreck-It Ralph/Rompe Ralph song, or copying action words as the teacher does them (e.g., run, jump on one foot, raise your hand, etc.). Next, [...]

Year 2020-21, Update #2 (4)

Week #2: This week, students in fourth grade had another dance party--see video below--making sure to sing, "Es viernes ('bee-AIR-nace')/It's Fri-day" as they settled into their seats. The former is our “class song” and was the official anthem for the 2016 European Championship (soccer/fútbol). By Friday, fourth graders began to take a look at the [...]

Year 2020-21, Update #2 (3)

Week #2: This week, students in third grade entered the wonderful world of storytelling. Here, the teacher provides a bare-bones outline of a scripted story, and asks questions to personalize and cater the story to each particular class. My goal is to ingrain certain vocabulary structures in their minds each day through memorable experiences, comprehensible [...]

Year 2020-21, Update #1 (4)

Week #1: This week, fourth graders embarked on a whirlwind adventure of language and culture. The first class was spent almost entirely in the target language: here, students traveled to Spain to walk the Camino de Santiago (a 500-mile hike that will directly correspond with the Weekly Spanish Challenges). Fourth graders began 'hiking' around the [...]

Year 2020-21: 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 [...]

Year 2020-21, Update #1 (PK)

Week #1: This week, students in PK-4 were officially introduced to Pato, a stuffed animal duck who has a big heart but always seems to be getting into mischief. The first day of school, he overslept. When students tried to wake him up around 12:30pm-- AHEM, THE AFTERNOON?! (toca a la puerta/ knock on the [...]

Year 2020-21, Update #1 (3)

Week #1: Today in third grade, students first told me about their favorite places, and then I shared about one of my favorite trips, during which I hiked a famous 500-mile (877 kilometer) trek across northern Spain. The hike is called the Camino de Santiago, and takes about a month to complete (hiking about 10 [...]

Year 2020-21, Update #1 (2)

Weeks 1-2: This week, students in second grade--along with several other classes--met a stuffed animal duck named Pato (which conveniently means duck in Spanish). Pato has a big personality, and immediately made his presence known by wearing sock pajamas to school the first day of class. He also likes to sing the classic song "Feliz Navidad" [...]

River of Joy

She took one last, lingering look around, slipped into the canoe, and pushed off. Aside from a few light water ripples, it was quiet that morning. The birds must be tired. She was tired. A coral sunrise painted wide brush strokes over the placid waters, bringing tears to her eyes. The woman wouldn't admit to crying, [...]

Christmas & Holiday Songs in Spanish

Christmas & Holiday Songs in Spanish! QUICK LINKS: Feliz Navidad (Jose Feliciano), Hoy es Navidad, Tito El Bambino, Esta Navidad (Maite Perroni), 20 Mejores Villancicos Navideños, Rodolfo el reno, Cascabeles, Blanca Navidad, Noche de paz, Burrito Sabanero, Arre Borrequito, Carol of the Bells, Andrea Bocelli [...]

Songs & Rhymes (PK-2)

SONGS & RHYMES Tengo hambre (BASHO)Botas perdidas (BASHO)8 Vasos al Día (Casi Creativo)Come vegetales (Casi Creativo)Chumbala Cachumbala (Día de los Muertos)El Pollito pio (original)El Pollito Pio (venganza)La Vaca LolaSammy El HeladeroSusanita Tiene Un RatónSaco una manita (Argentina)EstrellitaCanciones Infantiles1Canciones Infantiles2La Gallina Turuleca y MásSi Yo Pongo Mis Dos Manos ArribaEl Barquito ChiquititoMariposita ORIGINALMamalisa- MariposaTrepsi El PayasoPollito [...]

Songs- Cuba, DR, PR

CUBA La vida es un carnaval (Celia Cruz)Rie y Llora (Celia Cruz)La gozadera (Gente de zona)Represent Cuba (Cuba)Mi gatico vinagrito (Teresita Fernandez)Ojalá (Silvio Rodriguez)Abuela, qué pasaría Song (Cuba)Café Cubano (Putumayo)Latin Afro-Cuban Jazz Mix DOMINICAN REPUBLIC La guagua (Juan Luis Guerra)Ojalá que llueva café (Juan Luis Guerra)No tengo dinero (MAFFiO)Mama Tingo (Johnny Ventura)La Bilirrubina (Juan [...]

Songs- Peru, Colombia, Venezuela

PERU Music from the AndesInstrumental MusicMichael Jackson Cover in Quechua (Renata Flores Rivera) COLOMBIA Waka Waka- Esto es África (Shakira)Un mes (Mara)Bicicleta (Shakira)A Dios Le Pido (Juanes)Sale el sol (Shakira)Fotografía (Juanes, ft. Nelly Furtado) VENEZUELA La lista (Aldrey)

Songs- Chile, Argentina, Uruguay

CHILE Pop Songs Playlist (Kevin Karla y la banda)Perfect (Ed Sheeran/Kevin Karla)Call Me Maybe (Kevin Karla) ARGENTINA Hoy es domingo (Diego Torres)Abriendo caminos (Diego Torres)Mi Confesión (Gotan Project)Saco una manita (Argentina) URUGUAY La Cumparsita (Gerardo Matos Rodríguez)

Songs- Translated Fun

TRANSLATED FUN A Lot of Pop Song Covers (Alejandro Cázares)Pop Songs Playlist (Kevin Karla y la banda)High HopesTiburón Bebé/Baby SharkRompe Ralph/Wreck-It Ralph (Auryn)Brillante-/Shiny (Moana)Cuan Lejos Voy/How Far I'll Go (Moana)Frozen: ¡Suéltalo!/Let It GoDisney: Multilanguage Mix (40 languages!) Frozen: Multilanguage (Behind the Mic)Disney's Frozen: Let It Go (25 languages)Colors of the Wind: Multilanguage (28 languages!)Si Me Voy [...]

The Struggle

I stared at it from across the room. It stared back, refusing to blink, trying to lure me into the game, stubborn as all get-out. Why were we at odds again? The gray mist had descended a few days back: tornado skies, sucking me into the center of their dangerously calm vortices: like the penny [...]

Those Dusty Old Tomes

Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library THOSE DUSTY OLD TOMES haunt me, inspire me, enrage me, calm me: they are my best friends and my arch-nemeses. I turn the pages quickly, then slowly--slowly, then quickly--skimming the words and frequently returning, crunching on and digesting them one by one as they nourish my heart and soul. [...]

Winter in Brussels

The flakes fell fast and heavy, quickly transforming the city skyline into an incomprehensible, wintry blur. She stood still inside the moving tram, watching silently; there were no words in her mind; she was absorbing the scene into her being. Icelanders called this, “window-weather” (gluggaveður)—beautiful from a distance, provided the distance was indoors, adjacent to a [...]

Southern Spain ~ Andalucía

The unrelenting Spanish sun beat down on me as I wiped the sweat from my forehead for the umpteenth time, wondering what in the world 44*C was in Fahrenheit. [It turned out to be 110*F.] So this is why they have the siesta, I thought. My brother and I were the only ones walking around [...]

Year 2019-20, T3/Remote (K)

Continued Learning Assignments below. SPANISH ACTIVITY, 5/19/20- JK, K Zoom Party! Check Seesaw for login info.Check out the Spanish Summer Packet 2020 for 50 ideas of what to do over the summer, especially when your kids start saying, "I'm booooored!"HAVE AN AMAZING SUMMER! ❤ SPANISH ACTIVITY, 5/12/20- JK, K Watch the video on Seesaw.Watch [...]

Summer Packet 2020

My Dear Friends, Fellow Linguists, and Citizens of the World: This year's summer packet for Spanish is a list of 50 ideas--both online and offline--that you are welcome to reference when your child invariably complains, "I'm bored!" during the summer months. Have them choose their favorite number (or use the Random Number Generator LINK --> input a range [...]


There has been an effort in recent years to quash inaccurate definitions of minimalism--to streamline, to declutter, to get to the heart of what exactly this movement and philosophy are all about. While extreme minimalists and ultralight packing lists may be awe-inspiring and provide shock-value, true minimalism is about one thing: getting rid of the [...]

Peru- Amazon River

PERU: Ed Stafford walked the entire Amazon River on foot. It took him 860 days, or almost 3 years, to complete the walk. He faced every kind of imaginable danger, and oftentimes had to machete his way through brush, while wading up to his neck in water. Unbelievable but true! Watch the videos to learn [...]

Year 2019-20, T3/Remote (1-3)

Continued Learning Assignments below. Spanish Activity, 5/21/20- 1,2,3 Zoom Party! Check Seesaw for login info.Do one of the optional activities on the Summer Packet 2020. HAVE AN AMAZING SUMMER!!! ❤ Spanish Activity, 5/14/20- 1,2,3 Watch this video on Seesaw.Watch THE PATO SHOW, #9.Choose your favorite exercise or activity that makes you feel STRONG/fuerte.Video yourself saying, "¡YO [...]

Year 2019-20, T3/Remote (5)

Continued Learning Assignments below. SPANISH ACTIVITY, 5/19/20 Watch the VIDEO!!!Do one of the optional activities on the Summer Packet.Come to the Specialist Zoom party on Thursday, from 10-10:30am. Look for the invitation in your email and on Seesaw. INSTRUCTIONAL VIDEO -- CLICK ME! Spanish summer packet 2020 HAVE AN AMAZING SUMMER!!!!!!! ❤ SPANISH ACTIVITY, 5/12/20 [...]

Year 2019-20, T3/Remote (4)

Continued Learning Assignments below. SPANISH ACTIVITY, 5/19/20 Watch the VIDEO!!!Do one of the optional activities on the Summer Packet.Come to the Specialist Zoom party on Thursday, from 10-10:30am. Look for the invitation in your email and on Seesaw. INSTRUCTIONAL VIDEO -- CLICK ME! Spanish summer packet 2020 HAVE AN AMAZING SUMMER!!!!!!! ❤ SPANISH ACTIVITY, 5/12/20 [...]

Guatemala- Sawdust Carpets

GUATEMALA: Thousands of Catholics in Antigua, Guatemala join together during Lent each year to make colored sawdust carpets in preparation for Semana Santa, or Holy Week. In 2014, they broke the Guinness Book of World Records and made the longest sawdust carpet ever, at an astounding 6,600 feet. In class, the art teacher drew stencils [...]

No Numbers or Worries

Deep in the Amazon Rainforest lives an indigenous tribe called the Hi’aiti’ihi, who speak the Pirahã language. This language is unique in several ways, but primarily world-renowned in linguistic communities because it contains no numbers. Not a single one. Not even one. Can you imagine such a world? I look at the clock, and see digits. I [...]

Despacito and Dr. Seuss

Nowadays, the song Despacito is probably as well known as Dr. Seuss. What you might not think about are the translation jobs that allow this information to circulate worldwide. People dedicate their lives to adapting and translating books, songs, and more into other languages, which takes time. For example, they say that Red Fish, Blue Fish took over a [...]

Translations Gone Wrong

Students have been talking about translation (written) and interpretation (spoken) in Spanish class recently. This week, they focused more on translation, after taking a moment to differentiate the two. You see, translation and interpretation are often confused and used interchangeably. However, they are two very different professions. In a nutshell… Translation is written. You translate [...]

Privacy & Tech

I have a very strained relationship with technology. On the one hand, and in light of the current circumstances, we are very fortunate to have this tool with which to communicate and share information around the world. And in general, I enjoy blogging and researching, and appreciate having an infinite number of resources at my [...]

Continued (Remote) Learning

Radio Broadcast- Summary CLICK BELOW TO LISTEN! NOTE: It is in both Spanish and English! This week, I will give a variety of options for grades JK-5, to ease into the idea of continued learning. While students are required to complete the Spanish language assignment below (independent work), they are also encouraged to try one [...]

Costa Rica- Rainforest

Tommy Krombacher COSTA RICA: Costa Rica is known for its biodiversity--flora and fauna abound. 18% of the world's butterflies, for example, are found there. Multiple Lower School classes helped to create their own rainforest in my classroom closet last week, printing out photos of realistic wildlife, hanging green streamer vines, artificial flowers, and relevant stuffed [...]

Just Play

As a child, I played “school” a lot. My mother says that in kindergarten, I would coerce others to be my students and scribble lessons on a Raggedy-Ann chalkboard. Even as a teenager, I lived in a world of ideas. I remember wanting to figure out how to convert the human body into pure electrons [...]

Mexico- Hammocks

MEXICO: The Yucatan in Mexico is known for its hammock culture. Here, 2/3 of children sleep in hammocks instead of beds, and there are even hammocks in hospitals! For this challenge, string up your own DIY hammock with a sheet and twine/rope. Attach it to your bedpost, a chair, or even a tree outside. Be [...]

Spain- Tapas

An exciting part of traveling is getting to see and try different types of foods. What is “normal” to you is “strange” to others, and vice-versa. In Spain, tapas—also called pinchos when pierced with toothpicks—are found in many restaurants. They are snacks arranged in small dishes, and have an interesting history: a long time ago, many people were [...]

Mexico- Crystal Caves

The Giant Crystal Cave is a cave connected to the Naica Mine in Mexico with massive crystals. The average person can only stay inside for ten minutes because there is 99% humidity, whoa! For this challenge, grow your own crystals at home with Epsom salts, food coloring, and a bowl. Turn off the air conditioning [...]

Spain- La Alhambra

La Alhambra is a famous fort/palace with beautiful gardens in southern Spain. Many students enjoy trying to build this fort during class time out of cardboard, so why not make one at home? Build a huge fort tent out of blankets, pillows, and chairs, based on La Alhambra. Ask your parents where in your house [...]

Aymara & Quechua

I love that learning about other languages and cultures always gives us new perspectives. It is like when you stand on a chair: the room is still the same room, but you notice different things about it. As we deepen our language study, we will begin to notice new perspectives embedded in other languages and cultures. [...]


There is an endangered language in the US called Wukchumni, that only has one living speaker remaining. Intent on preserving her language for future generations and documenting it for linguists, Marie Wilcox is working on writing a dictionary to compile all of the words in her language. Can you imagine such a task? Our challenge is ‘merely’ to download all of [...]

Imports & Exports

The current political/media state has brought to the world’s attention how incredibly dependent and interdependent we–along with millions of people–are on other country’s products and services. An Apple iPhone does not just magically make its way into our hands: the physical hardware comes from somewhere, along with the intelligence, coding, encryption, and software inside the device. And what about the [...]

Peru- Boiling River

Andrés Ruzo- Photo from his book PERU: Deep in the Amazon there is a river... that actually boils. You can fill an empty mug with a teabag and have instant hot tea. Animals that fall in are instantly boiled. The average coffee is 130*F; this river has been measured at 210*F. Yikes! It is an [...]

Mexico- Chewing Gum

MEXICO: Making natural chewing gum is a fascinating, time-consuming, and dangerous job that dates back to the Mayas in the Yucatan. Chicleros climb high up to slash zig-zag patterns in the sapodilla trees with a machete, let the sap drain out, and then boil it until it turns into a thick paste, stirring all the [...]

Year 2019-20, T2 (2)

Second graders have done an excellent job this trimester of combining language and culture. For starters, the majority can write and say the following: "Hola, ¡buenos días! Yo me llamo ______. Yo quiero _____ y _____ [jugar y colorear] con mis amigos. Yo necesito ________ [marcadores, cobijas, peluches, comida, ropa, libros, etc.]. Yo voy a [...]

Year 2019-20, T2 (3)

Third Grade- This trimester, third graders in 3B chugged along steadily with their Duolingo work, while 3A decided to take a break from the app back in December (but picked it up again in February). 3.A CHAMPIONS: Aylani, 694 XP; Celia, 507 XP; Marijka, 500 XP; 3.B CHAMPIONS: Kaden, 1197 XP; Zafirah, 1127 XP; Sebastian, [...]

Year 2019-20, T2 (4)

This trimester, Summit students began with a “News Show” in Spanish–“En vivo, desde México” (Live, from Mexico)–where they took turns being reporters, working tech, and dramatically presenting the weather (¡El tiempo!/the weather). Each week, they added a new commercial, which was usually a translated slogan of a well-known brand (WalMart: save more, live better/ahorra más, [...]

Trimester 2- Update

OVERVIEW: Students in Lower School have spent a good chunk of time this trimester immersed in cultural projects and ideas. Some projects have spanned multiple levels and lasted several weeks, while others have been grade-specific and only taken a day or two to complete. These projects emerge due to student interest, but also when a visual [...]

Bolivia- Salt Flat

BOLIVIA: Salar de Uyuni is the largest salt flat formation in the world. If you travel there, you can even stay in a hotel made out of salt! During the rainy season, a light coat of water creates a perfect reflection of the sky–from sunrises and sunsets to beautiful starry nights. Some students used watercolors to [...]

Year 2019-20, T1-T2 (5)

This trimester, Summit students began with a “News Show” in Spanish–“En vivo, desde México” (Live, from Mexico)–where they took turns being reporters, working tech, and dramatically presenting the weather (¡El tiempo!/the weather). Each week, they added a new commercial, which was usually a translated slogan of a well-known brand (WalMart: save more, live better/ahorra más, [...]

Year 2019-20, T1-T2 (1)

As many of you know from SLC’s, first graders have become Map Masters. Their country-name recognition skills and ability to locate these places on a map are excellent. Currently, students are comfortable naming the majority of the following countries: Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, [...]

Memoir Excerpt

In what seems like a lifetime ago, I used to take ballroom dance lessons. This “phase” lasted for close to seven years. While my dance journey began gracias a mi padre—“You really need to know how to Salsa if you speak Spanish!”–my takeaways were much more than just proficiency in rhythm and smooth dances. What I [...]

Heritage Survey Results

**Interactive Map** For the 100th Day this year, we wanted to see if students in Lower School represented 100 or more countries, by heritage. By “heritage”, we mean any country in your bloodline: where are you from? Where are/were your parents or grandparents from? What about your great-grandparents? While we did not reach the 100th [...]

Nicaragua- Volcano Boarding

NICARAGUA: Do you know what snowboarding is? Well, volcano boarding is just like that... except that you slide down the side of a volcano. Really! This is an extreme sport that began in Nicaragua fairly recently (2005). It is considered extreme due to the 40% gradient of the volcano--you are going straight down--but also because [...]

Museum Gallery 2019-20

MUSEUM EXHIBITS This is a digital collection of our Spanish art/science/history museum. The photos on the left-hand side are from real life and represent a cultural aspect of one of the 21 Spanish-speaking countries, while the right-hand side photos are what students did in class. Click on any of the images to enlarge them. Enjoy! GUATEMALA [...]

Summer Language Camps

I am sure that some of you are already making summer plans. How time flies! With that in mind, for parents and/or students seeking a fun and educational language camp over the summer, I highly recommend Concordia Language Villages. Languages offered include Arabic, Chinese, Danish, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Swedish for [...]

Panama- Mola

The Kuna Indians of the San Blas Islands off of Panama are famous for a specific type of art, called mola. Mola means ‘blouse’ (or clothing) in the Kuna language. While women used to paint geometric designs on their bodies, nowadays the patterns come from nature—or, plants and animals—and are created with layers of fabric. [...]

Year 2019-20, T2 (PK)

Junior Knights- Many of these cultural projects you have already read about on Seesaw: folding abanicos/fans out of regular and then very large paper (Spain); making miniature güiros with toothpicks (instruments from the Caribbean); watching a video on how a wooden molinillo is made (the thing you use to stir the chocolate in Mexico); and, [...]

Puerto Rico- Coquí Frog

PUERTO RICO: Students were so fascinated by the tiny size and loud voice of the Coquí frog (native to Puerto Rico), that they wanted to create a whole unit out of it. Diving into history, they learned that a long time ago, the Taíno people carved petroglyphs into rocks and caves, including a special symbol [...]

The 15-Minute Class: A Synopsis (PK)

November: Because children are experiencing immersion in the target language, it is difficult to know when to send an update. They respond to me in class but may not bring home words to you; while frustrating, this is also completely natural: why would they speak to you in Spanish if you don’t speak it? They probably [...]

Native Speakers

Recently, I have had several questions about native (and heritage) speakers and how to improve their reading and writing skills in the target language. In list form, here are a few ideas: Doblajes, o covers en inglés. Es que, ¡me encantan! Alejandro Cázares es buenísimo como cantante y sus videos tienen toda la letra escrita, para que [...]

Spain- Joan Miró

SPAIN: Artwork by Joan Miró and a watercolor copy by a student. Look at THIS VIDEO PAINTING and THIS VIDEO PAINTING to understand what he sees. Quote: "For me an object is something living. This cigarette or this box of matches contains a secret life much more intense than that of certain human beings./Para mí, un objeto es algo [...]

Peru- Nazca Lines

PERU: The Nazca Lines are a group of ancient geoglyphs in Peru. They are made out of naturally occurring elements, like rocks, stones, or earth. These trenches--running in all different directions in this part of Peru--appear to be roads from ground level. However, from an airplane, you can see that they are actually huge designs [...]

Dominican Rep.- Defy Gravity

"Defy gravity in Barahona! In the southwestern part of the Dominican Republic, there is a town called Polo. There you can go challenge gravity at the Magnetic Pole (El Polo Magnético). If you stop your car in neutral gear downhill, your car will roll up! As cool as it sounds, this is what’s called a gravity [...]

Fried Plantains- Patacones

Students made tostones or patacones (plantain chips) to taste in class, which are a very popular snack in Spanish-speaking countries. If you would like to make this delicious snack at home, HERE is a recipe. Another way to prepare them is for breakfast, as mangú (eaten especially in the Dominican Republic)–recipe HERE. See below for the etymological origin of this [...]

Cuba/Spain- 1715 Shipwreck

CUBA/SPAIN: It is the year 1715--King Felipe V wants his treasure, and he wants it now. As a result, he demands that his Spanish fleet (of 12 ships) makes its way back from Cuba to Spain, even though it is hurricane season in the Caribbean. The 1715 fleet gets caught in a terrible storm and [...]

Venezuela- Lightning

VENEZUELA: Catatumbo Lightning is a naturally occurring phenomenon in Venezuela. Here, lightning strikes continuously above Lake Maracaibo for 140-160 nights per year (some sources say up to 300) for 10-12 hours straight each night. This can produce up to 40,000 strikes per night! To learn more, read this article HERE!! Or, to make lightning in [...]

Mexico- Underwater Museum

MEXICO: In 2005, someone noticed that tourists, anchors, snorkelers, and divers were damaging the coral reefs in Mexico--in particular, the Manchones Reef. By 2013, an underwater museum (MUSA/Museo Subacuático de Arte) had been created around the reef, in order to help protect it. Currently, there are about 500 sculptures that have been placed in the [...]

Argentina- Iguazu Falls

ARGENTINA: Iguazú Falls is the largest set of waterfalls in the world. They are amazing- my friends and I even took a speedboat under the falls! Here is more information on the falls. I also saw these little (and big!) guys when visiting Las Cataratas de Iguazú/ Iguazú Falls in Argentina. It is a baby [...]

Argentina- Train to the Clouds

ARGENTINA: This terrifyingly high "Tren a las nubes" (Train to the Clouds) in Argentina is, well, terrifyingly high! Students are in the middle of creating a model of it out of Popsicle sticks. Check out this video compilation of "The World's Most Extreme and Dangerous Railways", including trains in Argentina (Tren a las nubes, 7:35), [...]

Spain- El Prado

SPAIN: El Prado in Madrid, Spain is one of the most famous museums in the world, housing over 27,000 objects and artworks. In fact, it was the Google Doodle just this week, which celebrated the museum's 200th anniversary! For this exhibit, students took an 8.5x11 copy of Still Life with Game, Vegetables, and Fruit (the [...]

Spain- Bullfighting

SPAIN: Pamplona, Spain is perhaps most famous for its celebration of San Fermín and the annual Running of the Bulls. This tradition, although a huge part of Spanish culture, is highly controversial. To learn more, read this Wikipedia or Scholastic article, and watch the YouTube video below about the Running of the Bulls. Next, try [...]

Ecuador- Sneezing Iguanas

ECUADOR: There are sneezing iguanas that live here... and actually sneeze! HERE is a hilarious video to put on loop. We blend cultures by using the Colombian practice of saying, "Salud, dinero, amor" (health, money, love) every time someone sneezes in class, and then listen to a classic song about "Las tres cosas" by Cristina [...]

Museum Exhibits

*To see the digital collection and your child’s work, please visit THIS LINK. Students in Lower School have been working for the past few weeks on creating a Spanish museum with a wide variety of science, art, and history exhibits in preparation for GGD. In some classes, children are working individually or with a small group, [...]

Mexico- Chichen Itza

MEXICO: This pyramid is called "El Castillo" in Chichen Itza (2:19-2:36). It was built hundreds of years ago by the Maya civilization, but the amazing part here is that twice a year, exactly on the Spring and Fall equinoxes, a shadow appears that aligns perfectly with a serpent's head. How did the Maya figure this [...]

Year 2019-20, T1-T2 (K)

Trimester 1 ended with a conversation about Day of the Dead in Mexico. Students were so interested in this that we continued our ‘culture trip’ around the Spanish-speaking world. When, for instance, students signed up for the ‘volar/fly’ center, I made them paper airplanes, on the condition that they brought me the color paper and size they [...]

November Update- JK

Junior Knights– Because children are experiencing immersion in the target language, it is difficult to know when to send an update. They respond to me in class but may not bring home words to you; while frustrating, this is also completely natural: why would they speak to you in Spanish if you don’t speak it? They [...]

Colombia- Guatapé

COLOMBIA: Is this the world's most colorful town? Students painted colorful buildings and houses on tri-folds, and set up the cardboard in two lines so that they could 'walk' through town, stopping at various businesses and mercados along the way. The Señor Wooly song, "¿Adónde vas?" works well with this unit. In Guatapé, Colombia, there [...]

Mexico- Alebrijes

MEXICO: Alebrijes are mythical-type creatures and spirit animals. You may remember the alebrije Dante if you have seen the movie Coco. The origin of this art had an interesting beginning (read below). Fifth graders created their own alebrije out of papier-mâché. "In 1936, when he was 30 years old, [Pedro] Linares fell ill with a [...]

Puerto Rico- Bioluminescence

PUERTO RICO: Bioluminescence is a natural phenomenon where "living organisms emit light", oftentimes when disturbed. You have probably seen this on land--fireflies lighting up the night--but it can also occur in the water. Mosquito Bay in Vieques Puerto Rico is the brightest glowing bioluminescent bay in the world. If you scribble on your hands with [...]

Year 2019-20, T1 (3)

December: Hoy en clase hablamos de otras culturas, perspectivas y tradiciones. Como una analogía, nos ponemos de pie en nuestras sillas para experimentar otra perspectiva: resulta el mismo cuarto, pero notamos cosas diferentes, igual que en inglés o español; el enfoque se ha cambiado. Para probar nuestro coraje/valentía, probamos unos insectos fritos hoy; en Mexico, [...]

Guatemala- Worry Dolls

GUATEMALA: These tiny Worry Dolls are from Guatemala. Children make them and put them under their pillows at night to take away their worries (e.g., monsters, nightmares). Students were fascinated by these. They took a day to glue small pieces of fabric to mini Popsicle sticks, added a face, and soon afterwards, had their very [...]

Year 2019-20, T1 (PK)

October: La canción empieza al minuto 0:40. La hemos cantado varias veces en clase, pero hoy cambié la letra para que diga "[Un pez] estaba jugando cuando XXX [estudiante] lo atrapó, te voy a comer y se lo comió" mientras pescaban con la caña de pescar y unos peces magnéticos. ¡Qué divertido! October: Students made [...]

Year 2019-20, T1 (4)

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 [...]

Year 2019-20, T1 (2)

January: Segundo grado está trabajando a varios negocios en la clase de español, incluso la creación de una tienda en Cuba donde se puede comprar y tomar un "café cubano". En otro rincón, se venden rocas pintadas de muchos países hispanohablantes (p.ej., esmeraldas muy caras, zafiros, diamantes...). Son hermosas pero muy, muy caras. Finalmente, un [...]

Mexico- Día de los Muertos

MEXICO: El Día de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead) is a day to honor family members who have passed away. This tradition dates back to the Aztecs. People believe that spirits come back to visit us from Oct. 31-Nov. 2nd. The skeletons you see are very happy to be reunited with their loved [...]

South America- Condor

SOUTH AMERICA: The Andean Condor is the largest flying bird in the world. It weighs up to 33 pounds and can have a wingspan of nearly 11 feet. Students tried to make a life-size replica of this massive bird with paper feathers, but ultimately tired of cutting them out. So many feathers!! Perhaps in the [...]

Spain- El Camino

SPAIN: The Camino de Santiago is a 500-mile hike across northern Spain. It takes about 30 days to complete on foot. You carry everything you need in a backpack, and follow the arrows and shells so you don't get lost. Second graders made a very cool green screen video (see below) showing us their journey, [...]

Peru- Rainbow Mountain

PERU: Rainbow Mountain, or Vinicunca in Quechua, has a unique composition--14 different, colorful minerals--that makes the mountain range appear like the inside of a jawbreaker. While the class used the amazing, paint-pouring video below to make a model of the mountain--crazy fun but really messy!--one student painted the middle image on a canvas (above). Wow! For [...]

Spain- Don Quijote

SPAIN: Don Quijote de La Mancha is a world-renowned, 900-page novel from Spain, written by Miguel de Cervantes way back in the 1600's. Centuries later, Picasso made a sketch (see below) of the two main characters to commemorate the novel's 350th anniversary. Students put a photocopy of this up to the window, place pastel-colored paper [...]

Chile- Easter Island

CHILE: Easter Island is an island located in the South Pacific. There are hundreds of massive statues and wooden tablets scattered over this landmass, but no one knows how they got there--it is a mystery! The tablets have a mysterious language written on them (called Rongorongo) that no one can read. Third graders carved 3-D [...]

Language Challenge

Week #5: Numbers Learning a language is not an overnight project. It is not even a project where there is a clear telos, or end point. You just keep chipping away at your own pace, and the graph naturally swings up and down: you make a lot of progress, a little progress, plateau, and then make [...]

Spain- Gazpacho

SPAIN: Gazpacho is a delicious soup from Spain, and the perfect cold tomato dish to enjoy on a hot summer day. Third, fourth, and fifth graders took a day to celebrate La Tomatina, or tomato-throwing fight in Spain, by making Gazpacho in class. This is the recipe we used.

August Update

Since you cannot see your child’s digital portfolio (Seesaw) for another few weeks, I thought I would give you a brief update about the goings-on in Spanish class so far this year. For an explanation of the photos, keep reading. And to learn about La Tomatina, the tomato-throwing holiday festival in Spain this past week, check [...]

Welcome Back 2019-20!

My Dear Friends, Fellow Linguists, and Citizens of the World: Welcome back! I hope you are having (and have had) a wonderfully adventurous summer. As we look forward to the start of another school year, there are a few things I would like to share with you. For any new families, I am Señorita M., [...]

Summer Packet 2019

My Dear Friends, Fellow Linguists, and Citizens of the World: WE LIVE in a World of Words, where every conversation, every interaction, everything we read and hear is, ultimately, a story of our lives. Some are stories of heartbreak, others of adventure, wonder, or joy; some are apathetic, others filled with purpose and intention. Our [...]

Country Presentations

Today, kindergarteners and third graders had a special presentation about Mexico [from Regina and Isabella’s mom and grandmother]. In it, students learned that the Aztecs were warriors, or guerreros, who needed to eat very good food to keep them strong. Corn tortillas provided just the strength they needed, and this food acted as their main source of [...]

May Update- Projects

Patacones/Fried Plantains This morning in Spanish class, third graders started a cooking project that first graders ended up finishing (because Señorita overloaded the electrical circuits… whoops! and had to restart, ahem). As serendipity would have it, the end product was even better than planned: a beautiful mix of first and third graders working and cooking side-by-side. [...]

Invitation for Speakers

As the year has progressed (we are already in the third trimester!), I have learned that many families have a connection with one or more of the 21 Spanish-speaking countries in our world. Some of you speak only Spanish at home with your children, others speak a mixture of Spanish and English, and others have [...]

Year 2018-19, T2 (4)

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 [...]

Year 2018-19, T2 (2)

February/March: This month*, students in second grade had fun adjusting to a new daily routine: at the door of the Spanish Cave, after one student says, “Dime la contraseña” (tell me the password), the other responds with the fruit or vegetable of the week (that is, naranja/orange, plátano/banana, zanahoria/carrot, espárrago/asparagus, melocotón, durazno/peach, arándano/blueberry, cebolla/onion). To start the month, they took [...]

Year 2018-19, T2 (K)

February/March: This month*, students in kindergarten were encouraged to add more depth to their center work. The sight word, i/to go (pronunciation: ‘ear’), for instance, became an entire week’s activity. Steps 1-5 as follows: build an airplane out of chairs (construir un avión); draw a plane ticket with name, destination, and a picture of the flag of [...]

Year 2018-19, T2 (3)

February/March: This month*, students in third grade had more than a few discussions about phonetics and language in a more general sense, as opposed to “only” Spanish. There are, after all, about 7,000 languages in the world! These conversations touched on word loans—tacos, tortillas, quesadillas, and deja-vu, for example, have all been borrowed from other languages; [...]

Year 2018-19, T2 (1)

February/March: This month*, students in first grade began class by putting their shoes in the center of the circle and tapping their feet to the names of each of the Spanish-speaking countries they knew (instead of jumping on the map, for a change). They also had fun singing the “Buenos días” song (good morning) and explaining [...]

Year 2018-19, T2 (PK)

February/March: This month*, students in PK worked on a variety of culture-based projects to point out that Spanish is spoken in many different places (and not “just” Spain and Mexico). For example, one day, they made and played güiros—an instrument from the Caribbean—out of paper and toothpicks, and tried to identify this unique sound in the [...]

Year 2018-19, T2 (5)

December/January: This month, students in fifth grade became a bit fanatical about jumping on and naming all of the 21 Spanish-speaking countries on the tape floor map in a certain number of seconds. The Lower School record at this point is 8.32 seconds—wow! Students took an official test to demonstrate their mastery of the material. Fifth [...]

Spanish App Challenge

Happy New Year! It is a new year, and a new you. Fifth grade is a fabulous class, but because we only meet twice a week, there is a lot of time during the week without Spanish (boo hoo!); so we are going to level up and try to change this for 2019. That means [...]

Year 2018-19, T1 (2)

October/Trimester 1: This trimester, students in second grade practiced acting out their password cards and naming the Spanish-speaking countries* on the tape floor map. While the map focused on South America, culture projects and discussions were not limited to these countries. For example, after learning about El Camino de Santiago in northern Spain, second graders created their own faux [...]

Year 2018-19, T1 (1)

October/Trimester 1: This trimester, students in first grade practiced acting out their password cards, reading the Letter from Pato, naming the Spanish-speaking countries* on the tape floor map, and singing and dancing along to daily class songs (esp. Rompe Ralph, Moana in Spanish, and “¿Puedo ir al baño?” [Can I go to the bathroom?]). Their primary focus, however, was on [...]

Year 2018-19, T1 (K)

October/Trimester 1: This trimester, students in kindergarten experienced immersion in the target language through a variety of multi-sensory and scientific activities. From hoisting their stuffed animal friend Pato up-up-up to the sky on a yarn pulley so that he could learn how to fly; to crinkling their noses at the smell of vinegar and gasping as baking [...]

Year 2018-19, T1 (PK)

October/Trimester 1: This trimester, students in PK responded to action commands (baila/dance, toca la cabeza/touch your head, salta/jump, da la vuelta/turn around); sang along with Saco una manita; followed the gestures to Estrellita (Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star); danced to Rompe Ralph/Wreck-It Ralph; and watched relevant Pocoyo episodes. Basic skills such as color and number practice were incorporated into [...]

Year 2018-19, T1 (5)

October/Trimester 1: This trimester, students in fifth grade began by creating several wildly creative class stories, with plots about evil donkeys, broken down school buses, a serious Chick-fil-A vs. PDQ rivalry, stolen jewels from an art museum, and even a real courtroom trial (5.B). Here, fifth graders worked on answering questions about the stories and composing [...]

Year 2018-19, T1 (4)

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’ [...]

Year 2018-19, T1 (3)

October/Trimester 1: This trimester, students in third grade practiced acting out their password cards and naming the Spanish-speaking countries* on the tape floor map. They also acted out wildly creative story plots: from an evil pig, duck sandwich, powerful notebook, town named HairGel, and a ghost who wants revenge (3.B), to a magic school bus, stolen [...]


Highlights: Ice-skating at Rockefeller Center, Brooklyn Bridge, Times Square, Central Park, chancing upon Mandarin speakers!, eating the best Avocado Benedict I've ever had (at Little Collins), five-hour NYC St. Patrick's Day Parade, the Waldorf-Astoria, and the Empire State Building.


Highlights: Ghent, dragons, Christmas Markets, roasted chestnuts, went via Metro to the Atomium--an iron crystal magnified 165 billion times--during a snowstorm with huge flakes, saw beautiful light and sound show in the Grand-Place de Bruxelles, heard Mongolian street band, ate a lot of gaufres, found the Musical Instrument Museum, signs all in Dutch but many [...]


Highlights: Blue Lagoon, Hallgrímskirkja, Jökulsárlón, Þingvellir National Park, Icelandic Symphony Orchestra at Harpa, Reykjavík Food Walk, Polyglot Conference, free walking tour, Northern Lights, Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach, glacier hiking, geysers, waterfalls, troll and elf legends, volcanoes, lava fields, whale-watching, snowstorms, one-way tunnels, exploring around Reykjavík, fermented shark, Skyr, Pylsa með öllu (hotdog with everything), a [...]


Highlights: Saw Northern Lights from plane at eye level-wow!, Dublin Castle, absolutely loved the Chester Beatty Library, saw Trinity College, Book of Kells and Long Room, attended a beautiful Irish River Dance show, National Leprechaun Museum, delicious breakfast at Avoca Café, visited St. Patrick's Cathedral, took a day trip to visit Malahide Castle and Howth, went [...]

Food for Thought

Language-Learning Is Hard: True or False? We live in an ‘instant-gratification’ society these days. In a way, the time it takes to pronounce the word ‘instant’ is counterproductive to the actual definition of the word. When people claim that language-learning is hard, they tend to mean that they have to wait for what they want. [...]

Summer Packet 2017

*Update: For photos of my Camino adventures, visit THIS PAGE. My Dearest Friends: As most of you know, I will not be returning next year. I have loved teaching here, but I also love learning and traveling and exploring, and need to go see the world. That said, I care deeply for each and every one [...]

When Will My Child Be Fluent?

With all due respect, this question and its answer are not as simple or black-and-white as some would want to believe.  Let’s consider its three main flaws. 1) This is not an immersion school.  While its language classes may be taught 95-100% in the target language, these classes are language-specific, and not the medium of instruction [...]

Endangered Languages

"An endangered language, or moribund language, is a language that is at risk of falling out of use as its speakers die out or shift to speaking another language. Language loss occurs when the language has no more native speakers and becomes a 'dead language' " (Wikipedia). Please see below for links to articles about endangered languages. For a more academic source than Wikipedia, Ethnologue is [...]

Year 2016-17 (4)

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!) [...]

Year 2016-17 (3)

September: This month, students in third grade learned that they have been selected to join the world-renowned Spanish Acting Company.  A quick tour of the Walk of Fame—Hollywood squares with students’ names printed in the stars—confirmed this fact.  As participants, third graders will perform in multiple shows throughout the year, as main characters and audience members.  [...]

Year 2016-17 (1)

September: This month, students in first grade chose individual professions passwords, and then practiced acting out each one.  Later, they read the daily letter from Pato, wrote what they wanted to do on the miniature whiteboards (Quiero colorear, Quiero jugar//I want to color, I want to play), and then traveled to said isla, or island.  First graders will [...]

Year 2016-17 (5)

September: This month, students in fifth grade learned that their end-of-the-year Spanish Program will actually take place in February this year.  As a result, fifth graders launched into full-fledged rehearsal mode.  Their first play begins with two news reporters.  To make this more culturally authentic, students learned about and watched a short video clip of [...]

Year 2016-17 (2)

September: This month, students in second grade chose new identities, that is, Spanish names.  Because a majority of students wanted the same names, they had to choose a second name to help differentiate one from another.  This means that not only is there a “Sofía Isabel” in class, but also an “Isabel Sofía”—just to keep us [...]

Year 2016-17 (K)

September: This month, students in kindergarten reacquanited themselves with several of the most beloved stuffed animals in the Spanish room, including Pato/Duck, Oso/Bear, Conejito/Bunny, Patito/Ducky, and Ardilla/Squirrel. After a summer of scrounging on crumbs in the Spanish room, Pato was, not surprisingly, beyond famished, and discovered in a gigantic bag full of plastic eggs. Because the [...]

Tips for New Students

As there are new students in nearly every grade level in Lower School this year, please be assured that your child is not the only one adjusting to being immersed in a brand new language three times a week.  Several of you have expressed concern and inquired about extra work that your children can do [...]


TechnologyTech Gets A Time-OutSilicon Valley Parents Are Raising Their Kids Tech FreeThis Panda is Dancing - Time Well SpentThe Digital Language DivideI Used to Be a Human Being (Andrew Sullivan)The ‘Busy’ Trap (Tim Kreider)The Disease of Being Busy (Omid Safi)Thinking About a Lack of Thinking (Grant Wiggins)Thoughtlessness, Part 3 (Grant Wiggins)Thoughtlessness, Part 2 (Grant Wiggins)Can [...]

Multiple Languages

"The hyperpolyglot is someone who is both a gifted and massive language accumulator. They possess a particular neurology that's well-suited for learning languages very quickly and being able to use them" (Michael Erard*). Multiple Languages and HyperpolyglotsHow to Maintain Multiple Languages (Agnieszka Karch)Hyperpolyglots - Secrets of Language Superlearners*How Many Languages Can You Juggle?Man [...]