Newsletter 20-21, Sept. (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. Thank you for asking. The candy heart drawing was beautifully done.

I was pleased to hear that you eventually made it to Stain Spain. But what a trip! The colorful Popsicle stick boats first graders made sank; the paper airplane was not quite robust enough to support a stuffed animal of your generous proportions; and the miniature zip-line inside the classroom lacked, well, length. Thankfully, you had the foresight to bring the latter outside and (whoosh!), landed north of Madrid. I won’t harp on the time you wasted jumping into a pool (agua/water) before your trip–we both know that you know better–but I understand the temptation, given the recent high heat index and humidity.

And, yes! Imagine your surprise upon learning that first graders had painted you a house. You must have been delighted when [one class] shouted, “¡Sorpresa!” (surprise!). I knew that they had consulted the world renowned Duck Designs, Inc. to match your particular tastes and preferred color schemes. Naturally, then, the house was covered in beautiful splashes of color, but it was also a PHOTO you saw, which would explain the bump on your head as a result of trying to enter the 2D image. For future reference, you must venture outside to move into the actual house (casa).

But look, I get it. You want to go away for the weekend and catch a quick flight south to that famous palace/fort. The house can wait. The paint is barely dry, anyway, and you deserve a vacation. The life of a stuffed animal can be trying at times. There are so many things to deal with: getting dizzy going ’round and ’round in the machines at the laundromat (surely a traumatic ordeal); receiving numerous air-hugs (abrazos/hugs) from students simultaneously (does that hurt?); and dealing with transportation mishaps (boat sank; airplane crashed; zipline wasn’t initially long enough).

I still think you’re loco (crazy) for not wanting to rest up, but you are permitted to go at your own pace. That is what the Camino teaches us: one step at a time. Be well, stay out of trouble, and keep me posted on your adventures.

Much love,

-Señorita M.

Newsletter 20-21: 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 a lot simply by watching. You see, when their teacher snaps, she magically begins speaking Spanish. If she snaps again, she turns back into an English-speaker. Very strange. Magic is everywhere.

“AH-HEM!” [A loud, shrill voice from the corner pipes up.]

“Yes, I know. I’m sorry, Pato. I know I should have introduced you first, but–“

NO EXCUSES!” The voice is coming from a stuffed animal duck. His name is Pato (which conveniently means duck in Spanish). He was grumpy, but there was no need for disrespect. “I do not like your tone, young man duck!”

As you may have already heard, Pato is quite the character. He has a big heart but frequently interrupts (we’re working on that) and is always getting into some sort of harmless mischief. He claims to know how to speak Spanish, but bops back and forth between English and Spanish so quickly that there might as well be a ping-pong game going on in his head. He also forgets where he is; arrives late to first grade on a regular basis (after Señorita M.–and sometimes on a red-eye flight from Brazil); wears sock pajamas to school; and takes a nap/siesta in the middle of class (which is what happened today).

Either Pato has no idea what’s going on, or he lives in his own world, or maybe he knows what’s going on and is intentionally doing the opposite of what he ought to, most of the time. I’m guessing the latter is probably closest to the truth, but with him you never know.

GRIFFFSNSHFKDJSFIBDSTH“. The normally shrill voice was muffled behind his mask.” “¿Qué? (“K”)/ WHAT?” He took off the mask.

“I SAID, I’m taking a nap/siesta because we’re in Spain. Don’t you know? The restaurants are all closed, so I’m going to sleep.” [proceeds to snore obnoxiously to make his point]

Aha, now I was beginning to understand. First graders did make a banner of colorful, glittery shells, as scallop shells are used to mark the 500-mile hike across northern Spain that Lower School has been talking about this week. (This trek will correspond with the Weekly Spanish Challenges.) And Señorita M. did use an abanico/ fan from Spain to cool him down when he was wearing his iconic yellow knit sweater and Christmas scarf (Come on, Pato! It’s summer in Florida! TOO HOT! This led to a conversation about ice-cream/helado, which was ironic, considering that I ate A LOT of ice cream while actually hiking the Camino de Santiago.) And she was speaking in Spanish. Maybe we were in Spain. Or maybe we should go?

We decided that his reasoning was valid. There was just one problem. “Where did you say that you think we are, Pato?”

“Stain.” [Ventriloquism requires that certain consonants be slightly mispronounced, so as not to move the lips. P’s become t’s, m’s become n’s–you get the idea.]

“You mean Spain.”

“That’s what I said.”

“No, you said ‘Stain’.”

I DID NOT!” The high pitched, going-to-throw-a-temper-tantrum pronto voice had returned. This was not something I wanted first graders to witness on the third day of class. Why couldn’t he just behave?

“Let’s try it in Spanish: España.”


“Never mind. Let’s just go there instead.” And so we did.

After a quick flight–arms outstretched in airplane mode (there’s a pun in there somewhere)–first graders spent the remaining 5-10 minutes of class outside, placing tiny [real] shells in the mulch patches of the courtyard, marking the Camino de Santiago trail and creating our own little Spanish paradise.

And as for Pato, well, he found a large piece of bark and has decided that his mission in life is to build a boat and actually sail to Stain Spain.

To be continued…

PATO: “Senorita M., why can’t you just write normal newsletters?”

ME: “I honestly have no idea…”

VIRTUAL LEARNERS are encouraged to check out the video and photos at THIS LINK, and to create their own “Camino” at home. The arrows and shells are oftentimes made out of things in nature as well. Students may color or paint the shell template below; outline an arrow using some rocks or palms; collect shells at the beach; or simply draw your own arrow and shell signs and hang them up around your house. Make sure they are all pointed in the same direction, so that you don’t get lost. Feel free to send pictures, if you like!

For language input, virtual learners may also 1) participate in the Weekly Spanish Challenges and/or watch a movie or cartoon in the target language (Spanish voiceover and English subtitles). Just get used to hearing a lot of Spanish!

*ONE FINAL NOTE: To clarify, the bulk of classes have been in the target language, but I wasn’t sure how many of you would keep reading if I sent the original transcript. I do switch to English periodically, but mostly to communicate more abstract, cultural points where visual cues don’t do the trick.

Remote 19-20, T3 (1-3)

Continued Learning Assignments below.

Spanish Activity, 5/21/20- 1,2,3

  1. Zoom Party! Check Seesaw for login info.
  2. Do one of the optional activities on the Summer Packet 2020.


Spanish Activity, 5/14/20- 1,2,3

  1. Watch this video on Seesaw.
  2. Watch THE PATO SHOW, #9.
  3. Choose your favorite exercise or activity that makes you feel STRONG/fuerte.
  4. Video yourself saying, “¡YO SOY FUERTE!” (I’m strong!) as you are doing that exercise or activity. Be dramatic and make sure to say it like you mean it!
  5. Post video on Seesaw.


  1. Get a head start on next week by checking out the SUMMER PACKET LETTER 2020 here. All activities will be optional.
  2. Click on the Random Number Generator Link, input your range (1-46), and then click on the button. It will randomly choose a number for you; and you can do the corresponding activity. If you don’t like the activity, repeat the process to get a different number–or just pick your favorite number!

Spanish Activity, 5/7/20- 1,2,3

OBJECTIVE: This is a CULTURE week! Today we are visiting Mexico.

  1. Click to watch both videos on Seesaw: PART 1 and PART 2.
  2. Put on some traditional Mariachi music, and then–
  3. Post a video/photo/craft on Seesaw. HAVE FUN!!!


If you want to listen to more Spanish–since there is not a new episode of THE PATO SHOW this week–here is a fun video.

Hear/read more stories at THIS LINK.

Spanish Activity, 4/30/20- 1,2,3

  1. If you haven’t seen THE PATO SHOW, #7, watch that first.
  2. Next, watch THE PATO SHOW, #8.
  3. Choose your favorite line in Spanish from the video.
  4. Video yourself saying it in Spanish VERY DRAMATICALLY!
  5. Respond to this activity with your video.

Spanish Activity, 4/23/20- 1,2,3

OBJECTIVE: This is a CULTURE week! Today, we visit the Dominican Republic.

  1. Watch the instructional video.
  2. Dress up in a fancy outfit and put on some Spanish music.
  3. Practice dancing the Merengue.
  4. Make a tres leches cake (or any kind of cake) OR record a short video of yourself dancing to a Spanish song and post to Seesaw.
  5. BE HAPPY!

Spanish Activity, 4/16/20- 1,2,3

OBJECTIVE: This is a LANGUAGE week (next week will be CULTURE), so the goal is to listen to as much Spanish as possible! The videos are both under 5 minutes.

  1. Watch THE PATO SHOW, #4.
  2. Watch THE PATO SHOW, #5.
  3. Watch them again, and write down 5-10 words that you understood. Spelling does not count, don’t worry! Just try your best!
  4. Take a picture of your paper and respond to this activity on Seesaw.

***And let me know if you liked the videos!!***

Spanish Activity, 4/9/20- 1,2,3

**Scroll down on THIS PAGE to see the amazing work students produced for the Continued Learning activity described below.

  1. First, watch the video on Seesaw—but note that Seesaw cut me off! People are not allowed to make the sawdust carpets out in the streets this year because of the current situation. Instead, people are making their own miniature sawdust carpets at home.
  2. Next, watch the short video to the right. There is no sound, but it gives you a really good idea of how much patience and what a long and beautiful process it is to make these carpets.

Look at the links below:

3) Now, choose an image you like and make your own! You can use candies, fruits, plants, flowers, blocks, frosting, or paint or color one. I would recommend one the size of a sheet of paper (8.5×11), but you are welcome to make one bigger than that! I added a few stencils below to give you ideas for a design.

4) When you are finished, respond to the activity on Seesaw with a picture of your creation. Take your time, be patient, do your best work, and have fun!!

Spanish Activity, 4/2/20- 1,2,3

  1. Watch the video on Seesaw.
  2. From the list below, choose 3-5 items to label in your house—or do all 15 just for fun!
    • Mi ropa/my clothes
    • Mis zapatos/my shoes
    • Mis libros/my books
    • Mis peluches/my stuffed animals
    • Mis juguetes/my toys
    • Mis cuadernos/my notebooks
    • Mi comida/my food (could be fake food)
    • Mi dinero/my money
    • Mis marcadores/my markers
    • Mis lápices/my pencils
    • Mi cama/my bed
    • Mis juegos de mesa/my board games
    • Mi mochila/my backpack
    • Mi escuela/my school (your learning space)
    • Mis papeles/my papers
  3. Post a picture on Seesaw of your COLORFUL signs in English and Spanish before you hang them up.

Extra Credit, 4/2/20- 1,2,3

  1. Cook a Spanish omelette, or tortilla española. Listen to MUSIC IN SPANISH while you are cooking!
  2. Choose a different recipe from THIS PAGE if you don’t have those ingredients.
  3. Watch THE PATO SHOW, #2 just for fun.
  4. Watch the “Baila con Cosmos” song for fun.

Spanish Activity, 3/19/20- 1

  1. Watch the Pato video on Seesaw.
  2. Choose your favorite Spanish-speaking country.
  3. Make a sign label for your bedroom with that country.
  4. Add TWO activities you like to do to your sign (jugar/play, construir/build, colorear/color, dibujar/draw, hablar/talk, comer/eat, pintar/paint, dormir/sleep, trabajar/work, etc.).
  5. Take a picture of your sign and post it to Seesaw.
  6. Read THIS POST with your parents, and consider doing one of the culture projects.

Extra Credit, 3/19/20- 1,2,3

If you choose to do one of the culture projects, PLEASE share a video or photo here with our community to inspire everyone! The projects are from Spain and Mexico this week:

  1. Hang up a hammock in your house
  2. Make an amate bark painting
  3. Grow your own crystals
  4. Make/cook tapas in your kitchen
  5. Build a fort in Spain with pillows and blankets
  6. Go on a hike, Camino-style

**More information on all projects can be found HERE.

Also, please respond to the activity when submitting any work. This helps keep everything organized. Thank you!

Other Notes, 3/19/20

Grades JK-2

**Students in JK-2 should watch two 4-7 minute cartoons in the target language this week–preferably on separate days. HERE is a list of links, including Pocoyo, Perro y Gato, and Caillou in Spanish. Listening to SONGS in the target language counts, too. Just make sure you don’t sing the English lyrics over the Spanish if it is translated!

Note that it would be beneficial to build into your home schedule that children watch these shows at a specific day and time, for example, 2x per week, when you are preparing breakfast or dinner and need a few minutes alone. The more predictable the routine, the better.

Newsletter 19-20, 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, and Mexico. Students have had mini-lessons about many of these cultures–from Worry Dolls (Guatemala) to making natural chewing gum (Mexico) and tracing Mola designs (Panama)–as well as a week of assigned centers for first and second grades, where they chose a culture project of interest.

The assigned centers looked like this: 1) Argentina, set up, buy, and sell items at an outdoor mercado/market with Argentine pesos: no American dollars accepted!; 2) Peru, build one of the highest cities in the world out of blocks; 3) Dominican Republic, play dominoes, a national pastime; and/or 4) Bolivia, paint the beautiful sky reflections of starry nights and sunrises and sunsets over the largest salt flat in the world (and also taste more salt!).

A memorable day was when students tried selling their artwork (paintings of Bolivia) at the outdoor market in Argentina, but listed a painting as 20 pesos. I suggested that we look up how much that was, and when the student learned that 20 Argentinian pesos was only equivalent to $0.32, she changed the price, adding a few more zeros (2000 ARS = $32.00).

A few students could not decide where to go, so I gave them an alternate project: recreate a textured model of La mano de Punta del Este in Uruguay with paint and sand (it is a famous sculpture of a hand on the beach).

Both classes were also introduced to and acted out the most famous windmill chapter of the 900-page world-renowned novel, Don Quijote, back in the fall. Picasso made a sketch of the two main characters (Don Quijote and Sancho Panza) to commemorate the novel’s 350th anniversary. First graders put a photocopy of this up to the window, placed pastel-colored paper on top of it, and then trace-scribbled the drawing with a Sharpie to create a two-tone replica. The class joke and icing on the cake was to cross out Picasso’s name and replace it with their own!

Because first graders are becoming so knowledgeable about the Spanish-speaking world, and also because they were wholly inspired by the second graders’ iMovie about the Camino in Spain back in October, students are currently making their own pasaportes/passports. Passports are necessary to visit the Costa Rican rainforest in my closet. Obviously. Great work this term.

February: Because Sneezing Iguanas from Ecuador just make Tuesdays even better! #funfacts

January: Students had the option of traveling to several different countries today- 1) Argentina, to set up, buy, and sell items at an outdoor mercado/market with Argentine pesos: no American dollars accepted!; 2) Peru, to build one of the highest cities in the world out of blocks; 3) Dominican Republic, to play dominoes, a national pastime; and/or 4) Bolivia, to paint the beautiful sky reflections of starry nights and sunrises and sunsets over the largest salt flat in the world (and also taste more salt!).

January (1B): Primer grado vio un video muy breve de bioluminiscencia esta tarde (enlace arriba). En varias partes del mundo, incluso Puerto Rico, el agua ‘resplandece/brilla’ [glows] cuando algo le molesta el alga ahí. Tratamos de hacer un experimento con mi luz negra y marcadores, pero de repente la luz negra dejó de funcionar. ¡Qué extraño! Por lo menos, ahora un rinconcito del aula “es” Puerto Rico.

January:Esta semana, construimos un bosque tropical de Costa Rica en el armario de mi salón de clase. Los niños hicieron casi todo, y luego exploraron el lugar. Este es el ENLACE a la banda sonora (de los monos aulladores).

November (1B): Hoy, un grupito de niñas aprendió sobre los muñequitos quitapesares/de las preocupaciones (“Worry Dolls”) y empezó a hacerlos en clase con palitos y fieltro. Las niñas oyeron un cuento llamado, “Silly Billy”. Al final de la clase, ¡casi todos querían hacerlos también!

August Update: Students reviewed key terms from last year, and jumped into center work. Here, first graders dance around to the Song of the Month, settle on the carpet to read the Daily Letter aloud as a class, and then sign up for activities of their choice: “¡Hola! Yo me llamo ______. Yo quiero [jugar] y [pintar]” (Hi! My name is ______. I want to play and build“). Students are currently motivated to clean up said centers after working so that they can watch a very silly “baño/bathroom song” before their teacher arrives at the end of class. Soon, you will be receiving information on how to create a Señor Wooly account at home through the school’s subscription so that you can watch it at home as well.

Year Recap

READING & WRITING: ¡Hola! ¡Buenos días! Yo me llamo ____. Quiero ____ y ____ [jugar y colorear] con mis amigos. Necesito ____ [marcadores, cobijas, peluches, comida, ropa, libros, etc.]. ¡Adiós! ¡Hasta luego!

(Hello! Good morning! My name is ____. I want to ____ and ____ [play and color] with my friends. I need ____ [markers, blankets, stuffed animals, food, clothing, books, etc.]. Goodbye! See you later!)

*CENTERS: jugar, colorear, pintar, construir, tocar el piano, volar [un avión de papel], limpiar, dibujar, cantar, hablar, dormir, bailar, trabajar, ver.

*MAP MASTERS: Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico.


  • Guatemala- Worry Dolls
  • Mexico- Day of the Dead & make natural chewing gum
  • Panama- trace Mola designs
  • Spain- Don Quijote/Picasso painting & El Camino (pasaportes)
  • Costa Rica- rainforest
  • Argentina- outdoor markets/mercados
  • Peru- build highest city in the world (La Rinconada)
  • Dominican Republic- play dominoes, a national pastime
  • Bolivia- paint Salar de Uyuni reflections & taste salt
  • Puerto Rico- bioluminescence
  • Ecuador- sneezing iguanas
  • Different currencies and values (~money!)

Newsletter 18-19, 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 how they were feeling that day. To enter the room, prior to any of this, they were required to repeat the fruit or vegetable password of the week (that is, naranja/orange, plátano/banana, zanahoria/carrot, espárrago/asparagus, melocotón or durazno/peach, arándano/blueberry, cebolla/onion). Students’ end-of-class routine was to try and clean up before their teacher arrived and then wait, crouched down in line with the lights off, so that they could jump up and shout, “¡Sorpresa!” (surprise), once their teacher returned—the surprise being that they had cleaned up on time.

In the linguistic realm, in order to build their noun vocabularies, first graders focused on completing the sentence, “Necesito…” (I need). First graders presented at the class podium in front of their peers (¡Hola! Buenos días. Soy X. Hoy quiero X. Necesito X. ¡Próximo!/Hello! Good morning. I’m X. Today I want to X. I need X. Next!), and some of these new nouns quickly became class jokes. For example, one girl uses the word, “cobija” (blanket) at home with her Spanish-speaking nanny, and as a result, took this opportunity to teach it to all of her classmates, repeating, “Cobija-cobija-cobija-cobija-cobija” nonstop whenever anyone asked her. In 1.A, the word, “Chocolate” (‘cho-koh-lah-tay’) reduced everyone to giggles. The ‘chocolate’ piece came about after learning a Mexican rhyme (Bate, bate chocolate, tu nariz de cacahuate/stir, stir the chocolate, your nose is a peanut!), and seeing a video about how the tool used to stir the chocolate—un molinillo—is carved out of wood. It is absolutely gorgeous.

After first graders asked how to say, ‘fox’ in Spanish, they learned that ‘zorro’, or fox, was also the name of a fictitious character who used to save people in trouble (that took place in the Mexico/California region), and would carve the sign of the “Z” wherever he went to let the villains know he had been there. Students watched the black and white introduction and theme song to this show from 1958; some were even overheard afterwards declaring, “¡Soy Zorro!” (I’m Zorro!). Later, they played Musical Chairs and a game from Colombia called Tingo-Tingo-Tango, and calmed down with a “siesta” (nap) after hearing about this custom in Spain—all of the businesses really do shut down in the middle of the day! Last but not least, they enjoyed marching around to Spain’s National Anthem; watched Pocoyó: Piratas and El perro y el gato; and—as you already know—cooked and tasted fried plantains (patacones or tostones), which are eaten in many Spanish-speaking countries.

**Note that my definition of “month” here is not necessarily aligned with society’s views on temporality…

December/January: This month, students in first grade began differentiating between “¿Qué quieres ser?” (What do you want to be?) and “¿Qué quieres hacer?” (What do you want to do?). This was actually an unintentional wordplay that grew out of the class activity of pretending to be príncipes/princes, princesas/princesses, reyes/kings, reinas/queens, unicornios/unicorns, futbolistas/soccer players, caballos/horses, perritos/puppies, and bufones/jestors from last month. As a result, “Quiero ser…” (I want to be) became the new rage; but phonetically, it was a challenge to hear the difference between ser (“s[air]”/to be) and hacer (“ah-s[air]”/to do). First graders alternated days writing and speaking in the target language, while continuing their map practice. The majority can now name fourteen of the twenty-one Spanish-speaking countries—bravo! Their official class song has changed as well: the translated version of Wreck-It Ralph/Rompe Ralph (by Auryn, a pop group from Spain) had been a favorite for many months, but with the clean slate and fresh air of 2019 came a new beat—Hoy es domingo (Today is Sunday) by Diego Torres. It is about how wonderfully relaxing Sundays can be, and students have already started singing along with the words. Last but not least, and as part of an all-of-Lower-School project, first graders painted and colored tiles for the class fort, aka La Alhambra, which is based on an actual Moorish palace/fortress in southern Spain.

November: This month, students in first grade continued naming more Spanish-speaking countries and adding new centers to their Spanish sight word collection (e.g., dormir/to sleep; trabajar/to work—students get to use the fake dinero/money and ‘work’ at the bank). They also began using lapices/pencils instead of marcadores/markers when signing up for centers, and explained with whom they were planning on playing (Quiero jugar con…/I want to play with…), both to learn the word ‘with’ as well as how to spell their classmates’ names. As part of the beginning-of-class routine, first graders also jammed out to Feliz Navidad and pretended to be príncipes/princes, princesas/princesses, reyes/kings, reinas/queens, unicornios/unicorns, caballeros/knights, caballos/horses, and more (the teacher went around and placed an invisible crown on their heads). Students have become masters at the daily routine and enjoy adding new, creative pieces to the ever-evolving puzzle each week.

Newsletter 18-19, 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 RalphMoana in Spanish, and “¿Puedo ir al baño?” [Can I go to the bathroom?]). Their primary focus, however, was on signing up for centers in the target language, and adding new sight words each week. Centers are teacher-guided but ultimately student-created. For example, when “construir” (to build) was added, first graders grew this into a complex fort-building project—with chairs, blankets, flags, cardboard boxes, a spinning disco ball, etc.—until “Quiero construir una fortaleza” (I want to build a fort) rolled off their tongues. When they tired of that, soccer games and paper dragon-type creature crafts became the new rage. Later, students worked on leading group discussions with the question, “¿Qué quieres hacer?” (“K key-air-race ah-s(air)”/What do you want to do?). They also took a day to learn about El Día de los Muertos/Day of the Dead, and made connections with the movie CocoGracias for a great first trimester.

*Spanish-speaking countries on the tape floor map: Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela.

KEY VOCABULARY: Quiero pintar/I want to paint; Quiero construir una fortaleza/I want to build a fort; Quiero jugar (al fútbol)/I want to play (soccer); Quiero colorear/I want to color; Quiero cantar/I want to sing; Quiero bailar/I want to dance; Quiero hablar/I want to talk; ¿Puedo ir al baño?/Can I go to the bathroom?; las tarjetas/cards (index); los marcadores/markers; la bandera/the flag; la cinta/tape; el papel/paper; por favor/please; este partido, lo vamos a ganar/we’re going to win this game (chant/only 1.A); and much, much more. Newer: ¿Qué quieres hacer?/What do you want to do?

September: This month, students in first grade continued acting out their password cards and reading the daily letter from Pato. By the end of September, students were able to recite the letter as a class group effort—bravo! First graders also watched a silly video called, “¿Puedo ir al baño?” (Can I go to the bathroom?), and practiced naming Spanish-speaking countries on the tape floor map: Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay. They continued to add centers to the daily Letter from Pato as well (who managed to fit in a quick trip to Argentina while first graders were working hard and he was, ahem, hardly working). Centers—i.e., sight words—up to this point include: colorear/to color; jugar/to play; pintar/to paint; construir/to build; cantar/to sing; and the newest addition, hablar/to talk. To start building short sentences in the target language, first graders added, “Quiero” (I want/‘key-arrow’) when signing up for centers: for example, Quiero pintar/I want to paint.

As their list of centers begins to grow, students learn vocabulary specific and relevant to each center. For example, in one class, the porristas/cheerleaders learned a cheer for the soccer game (este partido, lo vamos a ganar/we’re going to win this game), whereas students more interested in coloring or painting learned words like papel/paper, cinta/tape, tarjetas/cards, marcadores/markers, etc. As a result, and when first graders want to try a new center, they are encouraged to teach each other new words. That way, it becomes a genuine community of learners where knowledge is not hoarded but rather shared for the growth and advancement of all.

August: This month, students in first grade chose individualized password cards, and then practiced thinking up ways to physically act out each one as part of their beginning-of-class routine. Later, students read the daily Letter from Pato—a very lovable, stuffed animal duck who is learning how to read Spanish himself; jammed to the theme song from Rompe Ralph/Wreck-It Ralph; and signed up for centers in the target language (colorear/color; jugar/play). Each week, a new center (and sight word) will be added, so that by the end of the year, first graders will have a substantial word collection.

First graders have already demonstrated ownership and agency within these centers, as in one class, the “jugar/play” center morphed from a golf course spread out across the Spanish room (with plastic white balls and paper cups) to a bowling alley (stacking the cups and knocking them down with colorful, oversized dice). Another day, “jugar/play” became a class parade, complete with students marching around the room to Spain’s National Anthem, all while dressed up in scarves and sombreros, and carrying a huge flag of Spain. Language grows ever deeper within a meaningful context; when its layers and roots begin to connect with real-life experiences and memories, “jugar/play” is no longer a translation, but a breathing, living entity in students’ minds.

Newsletter 16-17, Sept. (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 continuously add new islands—aka sight words—to their repertoire throughout the year.  These ‘play days’ will also be interspersed with ‘project days’, which build community, expose students to other cultures and perspectives, and/or reinforce sight words with a fun, hands-on assignment.  The first project day was based on Don Quijote, the 900-page, 400+ year-old Spanish literary masterpiece by Cervantes.  In a nutshell, the adventures begin when Don Quijote goes crazy from reading too many books and decides to become a knight in shining armor like the ones he reads about.  First graders became so excited about the novel that one project day turned into a week—and the Spanish classroom transformed into a stage, where student actors and actresses acted out multiple chapters.  They even made a two-tone copy of Picasso’s famous black and white painting depicting the two main characters.  Impressive!

Newsletter 15-16, Year (1)

Quarter 1: This term, students in first grade read and translated the daily letter from Pato, learning which ‘islas/islands’—[read: activity centers]—were open that day. First graders then submitted written requests expressing what they wanted to do. As a constantly changing mix of toys spark students’ imaginations, the archipelago comes alive with creativity and authentic linguistic exchanges between teacher and students. It should also be noted that they are all hard-core fans of the silly song, “¿Puedo ir al baño?” (Can I go to the bathroom?). Gracias for a great quarter.

Quarter 2: This term, students in first grade continued submitting written requests expressing what they wanted to do and reasons to support their choice. First graders also spent time learning about the 900-page, 400-year-old Spanish literary masterpiece, Don Quijote, and had fun imagining and acting out various chapters. Later on, they identified a painting by Picasso based on the novel; chose individualized professions-passwords; constructed a model of Machu Picchu out of clay as a class (Peru); heard about La Tomatina, an annual, giant tomato fight in Spain; and listened to a hilarious chipmunks-voiceover of their class song, “¿Puedo ir al baño?”, as mimicking and dance choreography evolved quite naturally in response to the video. Gracias for another great quarter.

Quarters 3 & 4: This semester, students in first grade worked on understanding the difference between a statement and a question in Spanish (quiero/I want vs. ¿puedo?/ can I?), through context cues and punctuation. Later, they were given age-appropriate worksheets in the target language and, via use of logic, sight words, and teamwork, had to deduce the instructions themselves! Additionally, students composed both silly and serious sentences; chose food nicknames; tasted Mexican candies; made Me gusta/I like collages; learned a soccer chant from Spain; earned (fake) euros for cleaning the classroom (limpiar/to clean); built an impressive 3-D model of part of Chichen Itza out of colorful paper cubes, in an “assembly-line” type of factory (Mexico); and had fun playing Hangman and Spanish Bingo. First graders also increased their clean-up routine productivity by imagining the trashcans as “Monstruos de la basura” (Trash Monsters), and then feeding the ravenous creatures with papers and scraps at the end of class. Gracias for a fabulous year.

Newsletter 14-15, Year (1)

Quarter 1: This term, students in first grade alternated between Story Days and Activity Days, although the two oftentimes overlapped and blended into one. For example, once Pato mentioned that he would like to visit the piñata hanging from the eighteen-foot ceiling in the Spanish Cave. But what could he use as a mode of transportation? The class decided on an avión de papel/paper airplane, and after making one for their friend, joined in on the fun themselves and made their own models. Another day, he couldn’t get his beak out of a book, rather, novel—Don Quijote (the 900-page, 400+ year-old Spanish literary masterpiece)—and students pestered him to share the story. As a result, the Spanish Cave transformed into a stage where student actors and actresses had fun acting out the famous windmill chapter with Don Quijote, Sancho Panza and, of course, the windmills. As the first quarter winds to a close, students have become confident with both writing and explaining what they want to do each day (Quiero colorear/jugar/ construir/ pintar/dibujar/ir afuera/ver; I want to color/play/build [with Legos]/paint/draw/go outside/see [a video]), and also reading the daily letter from Pato. In addition to the stories and activity centers, first graders also watched a silly song called “¿Puedo ir al baño?” (Can I go to the bathroom?), and practiced lining up backwards in number order.

Quarter 2: This term, students in first grade began exploring the Spanish written word in greater depth. In addition to reading the daily letters from Pato and their own individualized password cards (aka sight words), they also wrote out their Activity Center wishes each day on the mini class whiteboards. This process involves all students requesting whiteboards (pizarrón, por favor), chatting with their neighbors—“¿Qué quieres hacer?” (What do you want to do?)—and then completing the sentence Quiero… [dibujar] pero necesito… [papel] (I want [to draw] but I need [paper]) at their own pace, while student helpers ask their peers what color marker they would like to write with. Sentences vary from day to day and week to week, which allows first graders to see the possibilities of linguistic versatility as well as get a lot of practice. To enforce the idea of ‘versatility’, students also made “Me gusta” (I like) collages with their favorite infinitives (jugar/to play, dormir/to sleep, etc.) and an excess of glitter sprinkled all around the page. Last but not least, they played Luz roja, luz verde (Red Light, Green Light) in the target language; asked one another what they wanted to do and recorded the information, survey-style; and worked on possessive articles (Lego station: ¡Mi caballo! My horse! Art station: ¡Mi papel! My paper!). Gracias for a great quarter.

Quarter 3: This term, students in first grade continued learning through the ‘continuously evolving’ activity centers. First graders focused on honing their writing skills—e.g., not looking at the bilingual signs to spell a word in the target language (tarjetas/cards)—and building their vocabularies. Words take on a new level and layer of importance when they are acquired in a meaningful context, and so while some are learning ‘caballero’ (knight), others are learning ‘cinta’ (tape), depending on their interests. When the caballero-student decides to, quite literally, connect two knights in shining armor with tape, s/he learns from the cinta-student. During this process, first graders are frequently subjected to unanticipated follow-up questions, to work on linguistic spontaneity. For example, “¿Qué quieres construir? ¿Por qué? ¿Qué haces?” (What do you want to build? Why? What are you doing?). While students begin the year with a very basic Q&A in the target language, this conversation grows, builds and continuously spirals throughout the months so that by the beginning of April, students feel confident with a variety of questions and answers. In-between snow/cold days, they also practiced naming the Spanish-speaking countries on the tape floor map in the Spanish Cave; made Mi libro password booklets; and read La Mariposa by Francisco Jiménez. From “Creative Crafts”, stickers, and colored paper, to rubber ducks, tire swings, and scaly crocodiles, it has been a fun quarter!

Quarter 4: This term, students in first grade decided as a class either to listen to (escuchar) their peers express their preferred activity for the day, or write (escribir) down their ideas on the miniature whiteboards. Students focused on including their reasons for wanting to do an activity—“Porque es mi amigo(a); porque es amable; porque me gusta” (because s/he is my friend; because s/he is kind; because I like it), and then traveled to their centers. Some like to stick with the same-old, same-old, while others rotate stations weekly or choose rather arbitrarily. Regardless, it is fascinating to see where their creative minds take them. From scary monstruos/monsters hiding out in their cuevas/caves and piano players insistent on turning up the keyboard’s volume, to emoticon drawings, buried treasure and a class bank (banco/bank; comida/food), first graders clearly work best when playing. Students also began incorporating the Spanish-speaking countries on the tape floor map into their free play—knights invading Bolivia, a rubber duck boda/wedding in España/Spain, a gigantic tower of cajas/boxes in Brazil, etc. Finally, first graders read Corre, perro, corre; listened to La Invitación; and worked on two free play projects that extended beyond one class period: a formal wedding ceremony with invitations, dress-up clothes, and more (Huck); and the construction of an enormous fort made of boxes and blankets, with accompanying Japanese ninja music playing in the background (Ranallo).

Newsletter 13-14, Year (1)

Quarter 1: This term, students in first grade alternated between Story Days and Activity Days. On the former, students tended to ask Pato was he was doing, and oftentimes he would invent a wild adventure (that coincidentally included Activity Day vocabulary). Once, though, he couldn’t get his beak out of a book, and students pestered him to share the story. Because it was either that or a time-out from Señorita, Pato began to relate the adventures of his hero, Don Quijote de La Mancha, to first graders. He started with the renowned windmill chapter, and conveniently, students were able to make connections with the windmills in this novel and the windmill in The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind. The class so enjoyed hearing about the Spanish literary masterpiece, that from that point forward, Pato focused all of his energy on the book. Students also translated the daily message; played Luz roja, luz verde outside; read two books in the target language; and practiced answering the question, “¿Qué quieres hacer?” (What do you want to do?), on Activity Days, with one of four choices: Quiero jugar/I want to play; Quiero dibujar/I want to draw; Quiero ir/I want to go; or Quiero pintar/I want to paint. Gracias for a fun-filled start to the year.

Quarter 2: This term, students in first grade continued adding and expanding upon their various activity centers. For example, one week first graders built structures out of Legos and/or popsicle sticks, and the following week, they deepened their understanding of ‘construir’ (build) by molding and later painting various structures out of air-dry clay. Partway through the quarter, first graders practiced using their new ‘connecting’ words to combine activities—y/and; con/with—and either read, wrote, or voiced their preferences aloud. Many students seemed to appreciate the official nature of submitting what they wanted to do in written form (e.g., “Quiero jugar con mi amigo Fred/I want to play with my friend Fred). In addition, they also chose new professions passwords to integrate with their regular classroom; read the daily letters from Pato and the book, El artista que pintó un caballo azul (The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse); discussed the difference between amigo and amiga; made postre/dessert collages to practice asking for materials; played Spanish Bingo and Roca-papel-tijeras/Rock-paper-scissors in the target language; and were introduced to the witty ‘class conversation’ games that will reappear throughout the remainder of the year.

Quarter 3: This term, students in first grade played a variety of games to escape the ugly winter doldrums. In one, the teacher pretends to give a boring addition lesson, while one first grader is secretly given permission to ‘act out’ and be silly. For example, students can sit in their chair upside-down, take a sombrero and maracas from the toy shelf and start dancing, or even hide underneath the table. When the teacher looks at her list of students and decides to call on the one student who is acting out, she ‘finds’ said first grader and demands, “¿Qué haces?” (What are you doing?), to which s/he responds, “Nada” (Nothing). Students also played Spanish Bingo, Simon Says, Hot Potato with practice counting backwards from ten, and Pato-pato-oca. The latter quickly morphed to “Tomate-tomate-tocino” (tomato-tomato-bacon) for the sheer delight of being able to make ‘sopa de tomate’, or tomato soup, when someone was tagged and sent to the ‘soup’, and as an extension, first graders learned a rhyme to accompany the game: “Bate-bate-la sopa de tomate” (Stir-stir-the tomato soup). Students also listened to the ever-popular Rompe Ralph (Wreck-It Ralph) theme song, and learned that rompe means break. To illustrate this point, the class made an inedible soup with broken rotten eggs, slime, baking soda, vinegar, and food coloring (¡Qué asco!/Gross!; ¡Chévere!/Cool!). Adiós, winter blues!

Quarter 4: This term, students in first grade participated in an interactive class drama presentation in the target language. In the story, a police officer was guarding a pile of stuffed animals, but decided to take a short siesta. Meanwhile, multiple thieves dressed up in silly disguises stole stuffed animals as well as the police officer’s key. All of the ladrones/thieves were sent to la cárcel/jail, but ended up playing with the toys there because the police officer fell asleep again. Students wrote out and made a video of this class drama on the SMART board. Later on, first graders ventured downstairs in the tunnels to hang up pictures of monsters and goblins on the wall, and searched for each others’ frightening creatures; read La Mariposa (The Butterfly); were introduced to the Sr. Wooly song ¿Puedo ir al baño? (Can I go to the bathroom?); had fun forming words and mathematical equations with their bodies; made boats out of Popsicle sticks, cinta/tape, and pipe cleaners (requested by color and quantity desired); and finally, made a bar graph of what they wanted to do—x axis, ideas; y axis, number of votes. Based on the data, students’ favorite activity was traveling outside to play Policías y ladrones/Cops and Robbers (descanso/rest or break, when out of breath; libertad/freedom, when escaping from jail). Gracias for a fantastic year.