Newsletter 20-21, Oct. (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 aligned with society’s definition of “every week”, but rather, whenever a lesson circles back around and all of the dots are connected. At times, even Pato is unsure of where all of this is going–metaphorically stumbling through the fog–but in the end, the sun brings a clear sky, everything makes sense, and it all works out (“In the end, it all works out. If it’s not working out, it’s not the end!”). Fortunately, this happened today. But let me rewind a few classes and start from the beginning.

After discussing how many Spanish-speaking countries there are in the world (21), second graders adjusted to starting class with “El mapa” (the map). Here, all of the countries of South America are outlined with masking tape on a 6’x9’ canvas painter’s drop cloth, so that students can simultaneously jump on and name the places (one at a time). The first week, we started with España/Spain, then added Chile and Argentina, and this morning we added Uruguay. We are moving from south to north, but since we had already talked about Spain in conjunction with the Camino (the long hike), students ‘swim’ or ‘fly’ across the room to a corner designated as España.

Today began with students spreading out the tape floor map silently–no words or sounds allowed! I explained in English afterwards that while it always shows good character to be quiet and considerate of other classes, the reason for this activity was primarily linguistic: if you are dropped in a foreign land and do not speak the language, you will rely heavily on gestures and body language. These are all clues and should not be disregarded! I socially distanced myself from them, slid down my mask, and made an angry face, crossing my arms. How am I feeling right now, class? Mad! Did you need to know the word, “enojada” (angry) to understand that? I want to give students tools to navigate another language, and being observant can be enormously helpful when it comes to comprehension.

Anyway, while second graders jumped on the map, I showed those waiting in line a slideshow of photos highlighting said countries, and answered their questions, adding personal travel anecdotes when relevant or necessary. What are those animals? A capybara and a coati! Is that Easter Island (Chile)? Yes! Can you play that video? The video was actually a song of classic Argentine and Uruguayan Tango music, to which students listened and then did the basic T-A-N-G-O step. (For any ballroom dancers out there, Argentine Tango is beautiful but too complex for our purposes, so I teach the American Tango step to students.) 

We connected this to our previous conversation about the “angry face” because the character of the Tango dance is angry and hostile, with sharp movements and defined steps. It is a great dance to do when you are mad!

Switching to Spanish, we continued recounting The Adventures of Pato. Here, I was nervous that the story was losing a bit of steam, so I knew we had to spice it up and connect all of the dots. You see, each lesson, second graders are excited to see and ‘talk’ with Pato. He visited second grade last week and was sopping wet (it literally took three days to dry him out) and they all wanted to know why. As a result, he began to explain the–as one student so eloquently phrased it–“grossly exaggerated” tale. Embellishment might as well be his middle name.

In 2-1, it was a scorchingly hot summer day (hace calor/ “AH-say kah-LORE”), and Pato could not tolerate the heat: he jumped into the ocean (agua/water), feeling the cool waves beneath his wings, and smiled–until a huge shark zoomed into the picture (literally: I created a slideshow after we came up with the story), with a voice booming four malevolent syllables, “TENGO HAMBRE” (I’m hungry). Thought-bubbles of a scrumptious “duck sandwich” came to mind as he swam closer and closer. Clearly, we had a situation.

In 2-2, a similar plot ensued, except that Pato was peacefully sleeping in his bed, dreaming of an ice cream cone with not one, but TWO scoops of chocolate (helado de chocolate), when all of a sudden, a group of shark-ghosts/tiburónfantasmas (and shark-foxes and shark-black cats/tiburones-gatos negros (what?!), etc.) snuck into his dream, ravenous as all get out and ready to chow down on a duck sandwich. (We won’t get into the logistics of what happens when the dreamer who initiated the dream gets eaten. Does everyone disappear? And if so, was the dreamer really eaten, when none of it is reality to begin with? I digress.)

Point being, both classes ended up on the same page re: a duck sandwich, so it seemed an appropriate time to insert a smidgen of cultural knowledge about food: “bocadillo” (sandwich/ “bow-kah-DEE-yo”) and “tapas” (snacks or appetizers in Spain/ “TAH-pahs”). Students pretended to physically become “bocadillos” or “tapas” around the room here (stretched out or curled up). We also played a “tiburón” (shark) vs. everyone game several lessons ago, where the “everyones” had to say, “¡No me comas!” (don’t eat me) as a response to, “Tengo hambre” (I’m hungry).

Students also listened to their class songs, namely, Rompe Ralph/ Wreck-It Ralph and La Roja Baila, and 2-1 made sure to voice their–mostly fabricated–complaints (once they realized that I was over exaggerating absolutely everything to elicit a “Me duele/it hurts” response from them). They also practiced writing a few sight words in the target language.

BUT BACK TO the story! Pato decided that the only way he was going to be able to escape was by flying. However, flying is an art–even for a young duck–and he needed some assistance here. Second graders helped rig up a string zipline in the classroom for the stuffed animal and away he flew, out of danger’s grasp.

When you hear about each day individually from your child, it might be difficult to follow all of this; but when the lessons invariably come together and the pixelated view becomes a panoramic view one magical, cloudy Tuesday morning, my hope is that you see where we are going. To sum up, in Spanish class our goal is to incorporate both language and culture.

The end beginning. Have a great week and thanks so much for reading!

Newsletter 20-21, Aug. (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” while wearing his Christmas sweater and scarf, regardless of the fact that it is August (and not December) and a million degrees outside.

By the third day, Pato was dressing more appropriately for school but insisted on wearing his mask on his head/cabeza because, in his words, “No me gusta” (‘no may goose-tah’/I don’t like it). After looking around and seeing that everyone else was wearing one–and being told sternly that he would have to go home (read: get stuffed in my backpack and not hang out with the cool second graders) if he did not wear it–he decided to follow directions. He was much too excited about the class project to bother arguing, anyway (thank goodness!).

PHOTOS: Pato not wearing his mask. Pato wearing his mask.

The class’ project began with students learning about a 500-mile hike through northern Spain called El Camino de Santiago (see link for video and photos). Grades 1-4 are starting with this because students will be able to earn miles on the hike all year long by completing Weekly Spanish Challenges. The trail is marked by arrows and shells, so second graders grabbed their backpacks (mochilas) and water bottles (agua/water!), walked up and down mountains (read: stairways) all over campus, and helped the older grades draw chalk shells and arrows on the ground. To ascertain that they would not get lost in the dark, students also colored in shells (on paper), painted them with glow-in-the-dark paint, and added glitter. We will obviously add more glitter next time. (…because Pato likes glitter. A lot.)

While listening to THIS SONG and THIS SONG in Spanish as background music, they noticed that their markers had Spanish translations on them in tiny print (red/rojo, blue/azul, etc.). The official colors of the Camino are blue and yellow in real life, which are also the school colors– perfecto!

Silliness with Pato and launching straight into a hands-on (and masks-on) cultural project have allowed for a [mostly] Spanish-immersion type of classroom environment–which is the goal. I want students to begin the year by listening to a lot of the target language, recalling any passive vocabulary from previous years, and getting excited about learning Spanish. We will be focusing in on specific words and phrases soon.

Whether they realize it or not, I am also constantly testing students in class simply by asking questions in the target language: Which color paint do you want to use next? Can you shake off the glitter over the trash can, please?! What do we do now? Cut out the shells and paste them on this strip of paper. Pato is thirsty– could you bring him a water bottle? (Students pretend to give him water.)

Many second graders are answering all of these questions and more. When a question is too abstract or the class gets lost, I return to English to clarify. This does not mean that students are already fluent or can translate all of these questions; it merely indicates that the language is comprehensible and that they are intuiting what I am saying in the moment by the context and visual cues. Language acquisition is a fascinating combination of science and art, with a slice of magic on the side! I don’t know exactly how or why this happens; I just know that it does. By the end of the year, students will be able to follow the same conversation but this time, it will be because they have acquired the vocabulary.

Long story short–short story long!–I am looking forward to an amazing year!

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 above; 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; 2) sign up for a Duolingo account and do a lesson or two; and/or 3) watch a movie or cartoon in the target language (Spanish voiceover and English subtitles). Just get used to hearing a lot of Spanish!

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, 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 _________ [Chile, España, Argentina, etc.].”

(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.]. I am going to ________ [Chile, Spain, Argentina, etc.]).

The phrase, “Yo voy a _______” (“I’m going to ________) came about for two reasons. First, there is a Señor Wooly song called, “¿Adónde vas?” (Where are you going?) which became a major hit among second graders, so obviously we needed to take that and run with it–and learn how to answer the question. Second, the class wanted to create a pueblo/town, and well before we began designating certain parts of the Spanish room as different countries (our current reality), second graders had divided the space into sections–el gimnasio/the gym, el teatro/the theater, la fábrica/the factory, el hotel y restaurante/the hotel and restaurant, el cine/the movie theater, etc.

When students signed up to jugar voleibol/play volleyball, they would have to explain that they were going to the gym to do said activity. Likewise, the factory was for arts and crafts, or building pretty much anything; the theater was for singing, playing the piano, dressing up, and performances; the movie theater was for watching Pocoyo shows or Señor Wooly songs; and the hotel & restaurant were for sleeping and eating. As time went on, we began saying that the gym was located in Argentina, the hotel in Peru, the theater in Colombia, etc. It was actually a very neat (and unforeseeable) evolution of a project!

Moreover, all of these activities recycled and built on vocabulary from last year–e.g., jugar/to play, pintar/to paint, construir/to build, tocar el piano/to play the piano, comer/to eat–and students began expanding their sentences. It was no longer just “I want to play”, but rather “I want to play soccer with my friends outside” (quiero jugar al fútbol con mis amigos afuera), or “I want to build” became a little more polite: “May/Can I build a fort? I need blankets and the clothes and books.” (¿Puedo construir una fortaleza? Necesito cobijas y la ropa y libros.)

As a final linguistic note, second graders also integrated their suffix and prefix study from their regular classroom with the target language, learning that there are “boy” (masculine/el) and “girl” (feminine/la) words in Spanish, and that this can be determined by studying the suffix. The class had fun discovering which words were on the “boy team” or “girl team”. We get ice cream (el helado)! But we get cake (la torta)! And so on… The point here is for students to begin to notice details about Spanish. This will help their study later on.

In as far as culture goes, second graders truly outdid themselves. They saw what older students were doing, jumped on board the train, and then, in addition, proposed their own projects. Here are a few examples.

  1. Students noticed an image of the Noche de los Rábanos/Night of the Radishes festival (Mexico), and then took a day in December to carve actual radishes into beautiful creations, copying what they saw.
  2. Second graders made a truly outstanding iMovie of the Camino de Santiago 500-mile hike through northern Spain.
  3. Several students helped cover a soccer ball with gold paint, and then built a trophy stand for it out of Popsicle sticks and hot glue, for Messi and to represent the importance of fútbol/soccer in many Spanish-speaking countries.
  4. Other students contributed to the fourth grade project of sunken Spanish treasure, dying paper with coffee and blowdrying it to make it look old, and drawing treasure maps on it.
  5. Others were inspired by the third graders’ presentation on instruments made out of trash in Paraguay, and made their own maracas, drums, and more for the LS Spanish Museum.
  6. Second graders were VERY EXCITED about minerals and gems for a long time. Here, they spent time learning which minerals come from South and Central America, and then painted rocks to create amethysts and lapis lazuli look-a-likes. Several filled little cups of water and dyed the water various shades with food coloring.
  7. 2B began ‘selling Cuban coffees’ (café cubano), made by filling mini cups with jabón/soap and water, and then painting rainbows on top of the soap bubbles. When the business started taking off, we would stop the soccer game across the room for halftime, so that the players could come ‘buy’ and ‘drink’ the Cuban Coffees from the café.
  8. Second graders learned about Volcano Boarding in Nicaragua, and declared whether or not they would be brave enough to participate in such an extreme sport. Eeek! Not me!
  9. Last but not least, students were given assigned centers one week, along with first graders. The choices were as follows: 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; 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!); and/or 5) paint a famous Xul Solar Argentinian painting, mural-style, on the bulletin board outside of the Spanish room (*in progress!).

Second graders have also traveled outside several times to play Policías y ladrones/Cops and Robbers (a la cárcel/go to jail, no quiero ir/I don’t want to go, libertad/freedom), in addition to a Freeze Tag version of queso, helado (cheese, ice cream). Bits and pieces of these games and cultural projects may have made their way home, so hopefully this gives you a bigger picture and panoramic view of what students have been learning in Spanish class.

Year Recap


¡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 _________ [Chile, España, Argentina, etc.].

(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.]. I am going to ________ [Chile, Spain, Argentina, etc.]).

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


  • Spain- El Camino de Santiago (iMovie & presentation)
  • Mexico- Day of the Dead; Night of the Radishes; Cinco de Mayo
  • South America- gemstones/minerals
  • Nicaragua- volcano boarding
  • Argentina- outdoor markets/mercados; Xul Solar painting; soccer (Messi)
  • Cuba- ‘café cubano’
  • Peru- build highest city in the world (La Rinconada)
  • Dominican Republic- play dominoes; dancing Merengue
  • Bolivia- paint Salar de Uyuni reflections & taste salt
  • Guatemala- Sawdust Carpets (Easter)


  • Policías y ladrones (Cops and Robbers) & Freeze Tag: a la cárcel = go to jail; no quiero ir = I don’t want to go; libertad = freedom; queso, helado = cheese, ice cream
  • ¿Adónde vas? = where are you going? (song); Tengo hambre = I’m hungry (song)
  • Pueblo/town– el gimnasio/the gym, el teatro/the theater, la fábrica/the factory, el hotel y restaurante/the hotel and restaurant, el cine/the movie theater

Newsletter 19-20, 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 grupo de chicas escogió usar arena para dibujar los “geoglyphs” de las líneas de Nazca en Perú.

December: For the Mexican celebration of Night of the Radishes, students printed out their favorite Google search images and then tried carving their own creations out of–yes!–real radishes.

October: Segundo grado presentó hoy sobre El Camino en “Friday Morning Meeting”. ¡Felicidades en una presentación fenomenal! Haz clic para ver el video. ¡Disfruta!

“But El Camino is more than just a walk. It heals broken friendships. It brings people together. It makes you stronger. Sometimes, all of our problems can be solved just by taking a walk. It is a symbol of hope. In Spanish, hope is ‘Esperanza’. El Camino… just keep walking.” [very last lines of the presentation]

August: Students began by reviewing the names of the Spanish-speaking countries in South and Central America from last year, and then proceeded to paint the two 6’x9′ cloth maps. To go along with the new rule of, “Un-dos-tres, ¡no inglés!” (One-two-three, no English!), second graders started out slowly by reviewing color names and then deciding as a class which country would be which color, before diving into the project. Aside: The maps are beautiful! Now that the project is finished, second graders will continue with their center work from last year, while reading and writing skills in the target language are turbo-charged. Let’s do this!

August: ¡Qué mapa tan hermoso! Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia y Venezuela.

Newsletter 18-19, 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 a day to welcome seventh graders and listen to Powerpoint presentations of mini-stories that students had written in the target language. After phasing out their center work (e.g., quiero trabajar en la máquina del tiempo/I want to work on the time machine; quiero jugar baloncesto, ajedrez/I want to play basketball, chess; quiero ser una espía/I want to be a spy), second graders launched into several new culture projects with the question and song, “¿Adónde vas?” (Where are you going?).

First, they “went” to Salar de Uyuni (Bolivia) and tasted sal/salt—and azúcar/sugar, just for fun!—because it is the largest salt flat in the world. The interesting thing, is that during the rainy season, a thin layer of water over the salt allows the sky to be reflected perfectly, which is especially gorgeous during sunrises, sunsets, and starry nights. Second graders recreated these symmetrical reflections with watercolors by folding papers in half. Later, students began assembling paper cubes to build a replica of “El Castillo”, a pyramid in Chichen Itza (Mexico), which is famous for its extraordinary mathematical calculations: every year, exactly on the equinox, a shadow of a tail appears on the side of the pyramid, which aligns perfectly with a snake head. While recreating the shadow itself would be difficult, second graders worked together to try to build the pyramid as a class. They also tasted fried plantains (patacones or tostones) that first and third graders had made (a popular snack in many Spanish-speaking countries), and were encouraged to make them at home. Last but not least, they played a game called Tingo-Tingo-Tango (Colombia).

More recently, second graders have been building their vocabularies by playing Policías y ladrones (Cops and Robbers) outside: quiero ser un policía/I want to be a police officer; ¡a la cárcel!/go to jail!; no quiero ir/I don’t want to go; ayúdame/help me; soy inocente/I’m innocent; libertad/freedom; no evidencia/no evidence; juez(a)/judge). 2.A also took a day to act out a very exciting pirate play in the target language, with kings, queens, a boy named Target and a pirate named Jimmy, a shipwreck during a terrible storm/tormenta, and an evil forest allergic to maíz/corn. It has been an exciting few months. (*Note that my definition of “month” here is not necessarily aligned with society’s views on temporality…)

December/January: This month, students in second grade worked on naming and jumping on all of the twenty-one Spanish-speaking countries on the tape floor map independently. Many have demonstrated complete mastery of this skill—bravo! In the written world, they began differentiating between statements and questions “quiero/I want and ¿puedo?/can I?”, in both speaking and writing (e.g., intonation, punctuation). Here, second graders chose various (differentiated) modes to express themselves; while some opted for a fill-in-the-blank style letter or posting to Seesaw, others preferred to “text” back and forth to a friend in Spanish on printed out phone templates (not sure if this counts as tech integration or not!). In order to emphasize why spelling and details matter, they learned about a true translation disaster: once, shirts were printed for the Pope’s visit, but the translator messed up and the shirts ended up saying, “I love potatoes” (la papa/potato, el Papa/the Pope, el papá/dad)—whoops! Translations are funny things: we like “see you later, alligator” in English because of the sound, but in Spanish, in order for it to rhyme, you say, “Adiós, corazón de arroz” (goodbye, heart of rice). Second graders had a good laugh at that one!

Once second graders became pretty comfortable with naming the Spanish-speaking countries, they took a day to redesign the Spanish room for a more project-based approach. Some days, culture was merely a fun fact or short activity. For example, when students saw a thirty-second video of sneezing iguanas (Ecuador), they physically reacted—jumping and sneezing around the room for a few minutes, mimicking the reptiles’ action. Another class, they ate twelve grapes and hoisted a plastic disco ball to celebrate the New Year in Spain.

On other days, however, culture was a full-fledged project: students cut out feathers to create a bulletin board display of the Andean Condor, a bird with a wingspan of nearly eleven feet; built a replica of the Alhambra (Spain) out of cardboard boxes and massive amounts of tape, and then decorated the Moorish palace with painted geometric tiles (a lot of LS classes helped with this!); and drew out the Nazca Lines (Peru) with masking tape all over the floor—designs in the desert that you can only see from an airplane.**

November: This month, students in second grade continued naming more Spanish-speaking countries and developing new businesses and locations in their class pueblo/town. For example, one day a student created an enormous soccer field in the classroom out of masking tape and asked to play (¿Puedo jugar al fútbol?/Can I play soccer?). Next, some second graders at the class hotel/hotel hung paper television frames to watch the game and videoed it all on an iPad, while others took it upon themselves to make banderas/flags for the Spanish-speaking teams playing (i.e., Colombia vs. España/Spain) and cheered on the sidelines (golazo/goal; por acá/over here; pásala/pass it; casi/almost; vamos/let’s go; rápido/quickly). Later, the team decided to stand for Spain’s National Anthem before starting the game. Amazing!

Students also recently created an art museum/museo de arte and zoológico/zoo (with feeding stations and live pets as well as toy animals; one day, a bunny escaped from the zoo and ended up on the soccer field (2.A), which caused a bit of chaos until animal control was able to handle the situation). Another week, a few talented street musicians even entertained on the keyboard for tips. Last but not least, students learned that the map of their town was created on an authentic map of downtown Buenos Aires, Argentina, home of the widest avenue in the world: 16 lanes of traffic. Second graders also tasted dulce de leche, a sweet, caramel-type of spread eaten in Argentina and many parts of South America. HERE is a recipe if you would like to try to make it at home.

**NOTE: Parents with children in multiple grades may notice that there has been some overlap in terms of content between the grades this past month and half. The purpose here is twofold. First, when children realize that they know the same Spanish vocabulary, a conversation begins—a door opens between grade levels where everyone is invited to the Party called Learning! If everyone in the world only knew segregated vocabularies, no one could talk to anyone.

Second, in the cultural realm, and now that students have more or less mastered the map, projects have begun popping up all around the Spanish room. When a class enters and there are suddenly masking tape designs all over the floor and a cardboard box tower in the corner, they naturally want to learn why and who and where and how and what. Of course, lessons are differentiated and age-appropriate, but it is absurdly exciting to hear first and fifth graders reference La Alhambra (Spain) or ‘jugar’/play in conversation. I feel that it builds a more inclusive, Spanish language-learning community when there are a few common building blocks.

Newsletter 18-19, 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 Camino both down the Lower School hallway as well as outside, with arrows, shells, and rock piles. They also acted out one of the chapters of Don Quijote, a renowned 900-page novel from Spain; spent a day talking about El Día de los Muertos/Day of the Dead (Mexico); learned that children in Guatemala put Worry Dolls under their pillows at night to take away their worries while they sleep; and watched a video from Pato about his travels in Argentina.

In the linguistic realm, students began the term with a class story about an evil penguin who falls off a (student-constructed) paper clip and Popsicle stick bridge and transforms into a ghost after stealing from a student (what?!). Later, they signed up for centers, or sight words, which morphed into a class town. At this point in time, the town’s most popular destinations include the aeropuerto/airport (international flights available) and teatro/theater (watch mini Don Quijote and Coco plays performed). The dinero/money situation is developing, as second graders begin to demand compensation for products and services. One class also incorporated a cemetery and ofrenda after learning about the Day of the Dead, while the other started up a street market/mercado (without realizing that mercados are actually very culturally relevant and present in many Spanish-speaking countries). Gracias for a great first trimester.

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

September: This month, students in second grade continued acting out their password cards, and added a few more centers (¡Mira!/Look!), paying special attention to the upside-down question marks in the target language when signing up for one (¿Puedo hacer un avión de papel?/Can I make a paper airplane?; “¿Puedo hacer un comecocos?/Can I make a fortune teller?). Later, they learned that their beloved stuffed animal duck friend, Pato, had been listening when they were jumping on the tape floor map in the Spanish room (naming Spanish-speaking countries)—and decided to travel to Argentina… without them! However, he was kind enough to send a text and video informing of his whereabouts, and claimed he would be back soon. He is currently exploring Iguazu Falls, or one of the world wonders, which is made up of an amazing 275 waterfalls! Song lyrics: “Where is Pato? Where is Pato? ¿Dónde está? ¿Dónde está? / ¡Dime, por favor! ¡Dime, por favor! Tell me, please! Tell me, please!”

Students also learned that their teacher hiked a famous 500-mile long walk in northern Spain this summer, called the Camino de Santiago, and decided to make their own Camino down the Lower School hallway (2.B) with flechas/arrows and conchas/shells—symbols of the actual Camino. Later, they walked it, complete with backpacks, walking poles (hockey sticks), and water bottles.

When Pato returned from his travels the following week, he had no interest in sharing stories about Argentina, but instead, was already planning another trip. Apparently, the stuffed animal duck is jetting off to España/Spain next to walk the Camino de Santiago (he must be telepathic, although neuroscientists need to explain this one to me). However, he personally informed that directions are not exactly his forte; and thus requested second graders’ help (2.A) in creating a faux Camino outside, with chalk arrows and shells, and piles of rocks to help guide him. Second graders even built a ‘chair mountain’ for him to practice climbing in the Spanish Cave. Later, they listened to a fast, upbeat song (in Euskara, a language spoken in Northern Spain) about the Camino as well.

In other news, students continued with their class story. Update as follows: the protagonist is upset that evil Pingüino has stolen his/her things, but decides to think before acting; in fact, s/he thinks and thinks (piensa y piensa) for ten years (2.A) and ten centuries (2.B). To represent this passage of time, students made paper beards and moustaches, at which point the main character finally comes up with step one of a brilliant plan: to build a bridge (construir un puente)—but the bridge is a trick. ¡Peligro, peligro! (Danger, danger!) Students built said bridge in class with Kleenex, paper clips, tape, and many, many, many Popsicle sticks, and then watched a slow-motion video of Pingüino falling off the [intentionally] poorly constructed bridge… and then transforming into a fantasma/ghost (i.e., the teacher trying to introduce Halloween vocabulary before Halloween).

August: This month, students in second 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. They also began rehearsing a class script for what will eventually be a news show, with famous, real-life Univisión anchors, Jorge Ramos and María Elena Salinas, as leads (all the boys played Jorge; all the girls were María).

Later, second graders worked on a teacher-asked, student-led class story: here, an evil penguin with an unbearably evil cackle flies to a student’s house and steals a sword (2.A) and hat (2.B) from the protagonist during a tremendous rainstorm; the two characters do slow-motion karate, but in the end, the enemy escapes—oh no! Obviously, this crime will make its way into the news show at some point in time. Last but not least, students read a letter from their trustworthy but silly, stuffed animal language-learning companion, Pato (duck), and signed up for centers in the target language—construir/build; pintar/paint. Each week, a new center (and sight word) will be added, so that by the end of the year, second graders will have a substantial word collection. Gracias for a great month.

Newsletter 16-17, Sept. (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 all mentally on our toes (neurons?).   Second graders were also given cuadernos/notebooks in which to record important vocabulary, such as their new names and individual passwords.  It should be noted that the latter are primarily sea creatures, but with a dinosaur, bumblebee, and fox thrown in there just for fun.  In fact, “fox” is “zorro” in Spanish, which led to a fun mini-lesson about Zorro, the fictional character from Mexico (now California) who “defends the commoners and indigenous peoples of the land against tyrannical officials and other villains” (Wikipedia), and makes sure to mark the letter “Z” wherever he goes.  Second graders seemed to get a kick out of Disney’s black-and-white 1958 theme song introduction to the show.  Finally, students practiced and presented a silly dialogue with puppets in the target language, which emphasized the importance of expression: ¡Oye-oye-oye-oye!/¿Qué?/Pues, nada/¡¿En serio?! (Hey-hey-hey-hey you!/What?/Well, nothing/Seriously?!).

Newsletter 15-16, Year (2)

Quarter 1: This term, students in second grade read and translated the daily letter from Pato; responded to the stuffed-animal duck in their class notebooks; rehearsed and presented silly mini-conversations in the target language with puppets; chose individualized fruit or vegetable passwords; were introduced to the Merengue, Salsa, and Tango ballroom dances; played a hot/cold type of game called “Busca el murciélago” (Look for the bat); and jammed to various beginning-of-class tunes, including Madre Tierra/Mother Earth and ¡PAN! (BREAD!). Gracias for a great quarter.

Quarter 2: This term, students in second grade traveled around the globe [virtually] to check out the weather forecast in a variety of locations; discussed military time; had fun pronouncing the twelve syllables in Spanish—estacionamiento prohibido—that signify ‘no parking’; identified typical Hispanic foods, such as empanadas and tamales; creatively acted out their sea creature and animal passwords; chose Spanish names; made comecocos, or chatterboxes; practiced naming the Spanish-speaking countries on the tape floor map; and transitioned to a storytelling unit, where plastic insects were placed in culturally-authentic settings but highly unlikely scenarios. In the latter, students had fun role-playing parts of the story and dramatically responding to class cues. Gracias for another great quarter.

Quarters 3 & 4: This semester, students in second grade continued with their daily journal entries. Here, they wrote about how they were feeling (emotions), included the day and date, and described the weather, paying special attention to accents, spelling, and punctuation. They also made sure to note which geography-level they were working on: levels one through three deal with naming the Spanish-speaking countries on the tape floor map, and level four involves flag identification (independent work). In addition, second graders had fun acting out their new animal passwords; built an impressive 3-D model of part of Chichen Itza out of colorful paper cubes (Mexico); talked about the concept of Spanglish; practiced reading their lines in a Spanish mini-play script; learned about Cinco de Mayo; and played a variety of games in the target language, including Charades, Pirinola, Bingo, Game Show, and Cops and Robbers. Gracias for a fabulous year.

Newsletter 14-15, Year (2)

Quarter 1: This term, students in second grade had fun learning about The Adventures of Pato—one of the most mischievous stuffed animals in the Spanish Cave. When necessary, they also helped discipline the sometimes quite rebellious and stubborn duck: ¡No puedes hacer eso!” (You can’t do that!). Second graders also played the “¿Qué haces?” (What are you doing?) class game from last year; learned how to say “I love/I’m lovin’ it” or “I don’t love/I’m not lovin’ it” via the McDonald’s tune in Spanish: (No) me encanta ♫; rehearsed a mini-play in the target language; played a hot/cold type of game called “Busca el murciélago” (Look for the bat), to integrate with their regular classroom bat study; learned about accent marks in Spanish; worked on experiencing pure boredom in order to associate the emotion with the word ‘aburrido(a)’; and wrote out what they wanted to do on their miniature whiteboards, commenting on each other’s ideas in Spanish. Additionally, students made a cultural analogy—Ohio:football::Argentina:Tango—and saw photos of an Argentine milonga band, heard the song La cumparsita to give them a sense of what Tango music sounds like, discussed the differences between Tango and Salsa, and then used all of their muscles to maintain good posture and take their first steps… T-A-N-G-O (American style Tango basic). Gracias for a great quarter.

Quarter 2: This term, students in second grade spent the bulk of their time reading, practicing, and later presenting humorous mini-dialogues in the target language. They worked on adding expression (‘talk with your hands!’) and vocal inflection so as to better understand the emotion behind the words. Here is a sample script: Estoy aburrido(a)./¿Quieres comer un tomate?/No, gracias./¿Quieres comer cinco tomates?/No me gustan los tomates./¿Quieres comer mil tomates?/¡Te dije que no! (I’m bored/Do you want to eat a tomato?/No thanks./Do you want to eat five tomatoes?/I don’t like tomatoes./Do you want to eat one-thousand tomatoes?/I told you no!). The last line is from the Sr. Wooly song, ¡PAN! (BREAD!), and is pronounced: ‘tay-DEE-hay-k-no’. Second graders had fun pretending to be frogs and jumping on every syllable to practice the tricky phonetic combination. Additionally, students made comecocos, or fortune tellers; taught Pato how to sound out words in Spanish (a rather exigent task, considering his general inability to focus on anything relevant); learned how to dance the Merengue in a circle with their peers, while shaking a pair of authentic maracas from the Dominican Republic (aka place of origin of the Merengue); and had fun jamming to a few of their favorite songs (Colores, colores; Botas perdidas; Billy la bufanda).

Quarter 3: This term, students in second grade were given a certain radical freedom—to choose any word in the universe as their new password. The results were impressive and not always literal. For example, one student choose, “Something” (algo) so as to cleverly include everything, while another decided on something more concrete but rather ephemeral: “Fireworks” (fuegos artificiales). Later, and as a creative thinking exercise, students tried to ‘become’ these words in their action commands. For the password, “pollo polaco” (Polish chicken), second graders clucked the Polish word for chicken [kurczak] as they strutted around the Spanish Cave. After practicing naming the Spanish-speaking countries on the tape floor map, students were assigned a country in which to park themselves after each action, and had twelve syllables—estacionamiento prohibido­—to get there. No one else was allowed to park in their space, rather, country, hence the translation, ‘No parking’. In-between snow/cold days, second graders also worked on reading a class script, (an extension of their mini-dialogues from the second quarter); learned about the concept of ‘Spanglish’; discussed the differences between translation (written) and interpretation (spoken); tried their hand at pronouncing a mouthful of syllables: La República Dominicana/The Dominican Republic (‘lah ray-POO-blee-kah-doe-me-knee-kah-nah’); and danced to the song Madre Tierra ♫ by Chayanne.

Quarter 4: This term, second graders transitioned to a storytelling unit, where student-created characters and culturally authentic settings created a unique blend of fiction and non-fiction. Plot: Bobby/Shù the grasshopper/saltamontes is flying in his paper airplane [or: surfing on his surfboard], when a sudden and violent thunderstorm causes him to crash off the coast of Brazil. Most unfortunately, he lands in a ‘no-parking/estacionamiento prohibido’ zone in the backyard of a gigantic butterfly who, up until the crash, had been sleeping quite peacefully. The blast jolts him awake and naturally initiates a few karate battles between the two insects. In fugitive-mode, our protagonist hightails it to La Tierra del Fuego (Land of Fire) archipelago off of Chile and Argentina, and then Monte Fitz Roy (Fitz Roy Mountain) in Argentina. At some point, he also disappears into a Time Machine Void to visit the dinosaurs. Oh no! Second graders had fun traveling around the globe [virtually] to check out the weather forecast in these places as well as other locations (chubascos/downpours; tormentas/storms; nublado/cloudy). Later on, students inspected real Argentine pesos and tried to wrap their brains around why money is worth different amounts in different countries; discussed military time; saw a video of a recent volcanic eruption in Chile (Calbuco); repeatedly listened to the songs Madre Tierra and ¿Adónde vas?; and played Policías y ladrones outside. Gracias for a fabulous year.

Newsletter 13-14, Year (2)

Quarter 1: This term, students in second grade had fun learning about The Adventures of Pato—one of the most mischievous stuffed animals in the Spanish Cave. When necessary, they also helped discipline the sometimes quite rebellious and stubborn duck. One day, second graders watched as Pato created an enormous mess of toys, and then decided that he wanted to play with his stuffed animal friends instead. When he later asked to play, the class responded, “Pues, déjame ver… ¡no, no puedes!” (Well, let me see… no, you can’t!). Because he claimed he had to read the answer in order to understand it, the class spelled it phonetically on the board—“p(ways), day-hah-may-bear”. Naturally, his response was not to clean up his toys but rather, “A BEAR! Oh no! Run, everyone, run!” When they weren’t putting him in a time-out or teaching Pato to read, students learned about the Spanish literary masterpiece, Don Quijote; talked about el and la words in the target language; played a game called “Busca el murciélago” (Look for the bat); decorated a house and car for Pato; practiced reading action words on the board; rehearsed their lines in a Spanish play; and learned the basic step to two Spanish dances, the Salsa and the Tango. Gracias for a great first quarter.

Quarter 2: This term, students in second grade continued practicing the basic steps to the Salsa and Tango. When second graders felt confident, they presented this knowledge, as well as a Spanish mini-play, in front of an audience (Wintersteller: Upper School Spanish I class; Lipowski: Lower School Assembly). Subsequently, students continued hearing about The Great Adventures of Pato and teaching their friend that puedo (I can) and PlayDoh are not the same word. And then one day… Pato vanished. A week later, students read in a handwritten postcard that their beloved protagonist had flown south of the equator, to Argentina, in order to escape the polar vortices and drab, hoary landscape of winter in Ohio. In his absence, second graders took some time to get a feel for the South American country, looking at pictures of the famous Iguazú Falls (waterfalls) and typical Argentine foods (beef!), and listening to Argentine Tango music. In addition, they made and then colored ‘talking-bookmarks’ of either Don Quijote or an Aztec warrior; listened to Mayan, Náhuatl, and Quechua tunes (indigenous languages); watched the movie Wreck-It Ralph/Rompe Ralph in the target language (Spanish voiceover with English subtitles); and sang along with two very catchy Señor Wooly songs: “¿Puedo ir al baño?” (Can I go to the bathroom?), and “¡PAN!” (BREAD!).

Quarter 3: This term, students in second grade spent time reading postcards from their beloved stuffed animal friend Pato and learning about all of the places he traveled. First, he flew to Argentina and saw Iguazú Falls; then he went to Machu Picchu in Perú (students were able to explore a 360⁰ panoramic views of the Incan ruins online at; and finally, he visited an active volcano in México named Popocatépetl (“poe-poe-KAH-tay-peh-tle”). Second graders practiced pronouncing the mouthful of vowels, and decided that should it erupt, the threat of red hot lava rushing toward him would surely encourage Pato to return home. Imagining the very real perils of this possibility, they had fun creating a soft chanting-beat with the words “Peligro/danger” (i.e., the boys repeat peligro-peligro-peligro, while the girls repeat danger-danger-danger; and then they switch words). When Pato finally returned, the class celebrated with a “Play Day” to welcome him back to the Spanish Cave. In-between the numerous snow days this quarter, students also took several translation tests; watched a new Señor Wooly song called Las excusas; posted a ‘brick’ to the Spanish Word Wall Castle; and made comecocos, or fortune tellers, using tijeras/scissors and green or yellow paper. Note: Next year, Pato needs to have a serious chat with Punxsutawney Phil…

Quarter 4: This term, students in second grade approached their language study through a variety of games, creative class stories, and written activities. The students’ most-requested game was when the teacher pretends to give a boring addition lesson, and one second grader is secretly given permission to ‘act out’ and be silly. When the teacher looks at her list of students and decides to call on the one who is acting out, she ‘finds’ said second grader and demands, “Qué haces?” (What are you doing?), to which s/he responds, “Nada” (nothing). Later on in the quarter, students created a spooky plot around the word pesadilla/nightmare, which is not to be confused with quesadilla. While both classes had very different ideas, they agreed that including the powerful magical chant, “Abracadabra, pata de cabra, ¡chiquitipuf!” was a must. Students were tickled pink to learn that ‘pata de cabra’ means ‘goat foot’. In addition, second graders created their own comics; demanded the password from their peers (dime la contraseña o no puedes pasar/tell me the password or you can’t come in); practiced counting backwards from ten in the target language; pretended to buy items from the toy shelf with faux euro bills; and learned the names of all of the Spanish-speaking countries in South America by jumping from one to the next on a tape map on the floor of the Cave.