The day begins sitting outside my classroom in the hallway. “This is English,” I say. “I am speaking in English right now, but when I–*clap, clap*–yo cambio de un idioma a otro [I change from one language to another]. *Clap, clap.* Strange, isn’t it?!“
This game progresses a bit farther each day. We look at our shoes, the colors of our shirts, the spider crawling up the wall. “You say, ‘blue’–clap, clap–yo digo, ‘azul’[I say azul]”. All classes are learning to say, “Yo hablo español” (I speak Spanish), so that we can compare/contrast it with “Yo hablo inglés” (I speak English). After a minute or two of chitchat, we stand up, put our hands in the middle and say, “¡Vamos!” (let’s go!) like we mean it, and then travel into my room. Inside, everything is narrated and taught in Spanish.
Students sit in their assigned seats, and I ask the three-year-olds how they are: ¿Cómo estás? There are funny emoji faces on the board, and they come up one at a time and point to how they are feeling. I acted out the faces very dramatically the first few days for PK3 (feliz/happy, triste/sad, enojado(a)/mad, tengo frío/I’m cold), and we were very silly! So now it is a joke, and they will respond, “enojado(a)” (angry/mad) when I ask them, just to be silly, and with a huge grin on their face.
We move on to a song break at this point, usually one in particular from Encanto, or their newest favorite, Los solecitos(put it on loop!). They can move and dance around here, but some just watch–a bit fixatedly, trying to figure out how it is that the screen speaks the same language their Spanish teacher does. Hmm…
The first few classes, we did a science/ group activity on the carpet following the song. These lessons were sensory-happy, meaning that I brought in a hairdryer to levitate a ping-pong ball and teach the word, “caliente” (hot), and students got to feel the hot-hot-hot air; we melted a few crayons with the heat to “paint” a picture; I brought in ice cubes the next class to contrast and connect with, “frío” from above; and we put white plastic [temperature- activated] spoons in the cold water/ice cubes, which then ‘magically’ turned blue.
After the mini-lesson, students take turns ‘riding’ in my teacher chair (which is on wheels), and I sing a calming song, “Va-mos a España, va-mos; va-mos a Nicaragua, va-mos,” etc. as I push them across the room in the chair. I ring a windchime, we admire the beautiful sound, and then I push them back; but this time I ask if they want to go rápido/fast or not. The answer is, invariably, YES!
As we have settled into this routine, the ideas have started to expand. For example, in lieu of a science lesson et al, someone might say that they are “tired” (cansado/a) during the how-are-you Q&A, so we all take a 10-second nap with the lights off. Then I turn the lights back on, and announce that wow am I hungry. Hey! We should have a picnic! So we go to the carpet with a few blankets on the floor as a table, and pretend to eat the plastic food. I announce that there is a storm coming (I put rain sound effects on the board)–oh no!–so we have to go somewhere else. Then we take the “car rides” to the beach/ la playa or the jungle (la selva/la jungla), and students get to decide which video I put on the screen to enhance the general ambiance–tranquil waves, or howler monkeys in the rainforests of Costa Rica!
When our thirty minutes together is over, we say that the “train” is leaving, and students line up. I’m writing this now a bit out of guilt, because I never know how to put this in a nice, neat lesson plan on Veracross. We do a lot of fun things in Spanish every day, and the lessons are always evolving; but I wanted to give you a quick update before any more time passed. Otherwise, I would have started with the howler monkeys and chair cars two months from now, and you wouldn’t have known what I was talking about!
ASIDE: Your children may or may not bring home Spanish words; do not worry either way. The focus at this point is comprehension and following along in class. If you want to support/ encourage your child’s linguistic journey, feel free to watch cartoons or listen to music in Spanish with them at home. Don’t worry if you don’t understand; just watch/listen and have fun, and their brains will do the rest!
NOTE: This page is a synopsis of challenges sent to families back in the 2020-2021 school year.
Weekly Language Challenges below.
Watch a movie in Spanish. Change the voiceover to Spanish and the subtitles to English. It is okay if you don’t understand everything! Your brain does a lot of work just by listening. The movie can be one you have seen a thousand times, or a brand new one. Animated films are great!
ASIDE: If you don’t know how to do this, Google “how to change voiceover for [XXXX device/ Hulu/ Netflix/ etc.]”, or play around on the “Settings” page to change the language. You can also search on YouTube for full length movies.
NOTE TO NATIVE SPEAKERS: Fluent Spanish-speakers are welcome to change the voiceover AND the subtitles, and notice the differences in translation. This can be pretty interesting because the translations are often done in different countries. That means that someone might say, “¿Cómo estás?” but the subtitle will read, “¿Qué tal?” (or vice-versa). Food for thought!
Read more here about La Tomatina— a festival that takes place in Spain every August.
Your challenge is to try making GAZPACHO, a cold tomato soup from Spain that is incredibly refreshing on hot summer days. ¡Qué rico!
This week, look at your clothing tags, the sticker labels on your fruits and vegetables, and the labels on cans and other food products, and notice where these things were made and where they came from. For example: clothing “Made in Guatemala”, bananas from Costa Rica, avocados from Mexico, etc. Parents: This can be a great detective game/ activity for your children at the grocery store!
Then, find 3-5 products from Spanish-speaking countries**; or fill in my chart on the following slide (blank chart HERE). Be sure to take a picture of the stickers/tags you find and have your parents email me so that you get credit for your work.
**Spanish-Speaking Countries: Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia, Perú, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Panamá, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, México, Cuba, La República Dominicana (Dominican Republic), Puerto Rico (technically a territory), Spain (España), Equatorial Guinea.
Take 15 minutes and listen to all five of these classic songs that have been translated/ adapted to Spanish (below). Let your child guess which movie it is by LISTENING to the first few chords before watching the video!
Next, vote on which Spanish song translation is your favorite (parents, please email me so that your children will get credit). Note: your favorite song in Spanish might not be the same as your favorite in English, but that’s okay!
Decide what Spanish-speaking country** your bedroom represents, and then decorate a sign for that country and hang it on your door. If you share a bedroom, you can pick two countries! Make sure to spell the name right. HERE is a link to the country flags. Email me a photo to get credit!
Now after dinner you can say, “Bye Mom and Dad, I’m going to Bolivia! See you later/ ¡Hasta luego!” Happy travels!
**Spanish-Speaking Countries: Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia, Perú, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Panamá, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, México, Cuba, La República Dominicana (Dominican Republic), Puerto Rico (technically a territory), Spain (España), Equatorial Guinea.
Plantains appear very similar to bananas, but are not the same food at all: they are starchy and much harder, and cannot be eaten raw. Your challenge is to make tostones or patacones (“tohs-TOE-nays”/ “pah-tah-KOH-nays”, aka plantain chips) to munch on this week. These are a very popular snack in Spanish-speaking countries and really easy to prepare: RECIPE and more info HERE.
This week, the Spanish Challenge is more linguistically oriented: watch the video below, starring the one and only Pato. It is action packed, fast-paced, and well worth 3 minutes and 46 seconds of your time. Email back the answer to this question: who (do you think) actually robbed the bank?
In preparation for Day of the Dead, or El Día de [los] Muertos, you may do one (or both) of the following activities:
Watch the movie Coco in English–or in Spanish with English subtitles–and email me to receive credit. You have to watch it in October for it to count!
Ask your parents or relatives if they have ever traveled to another country. If they have, see if you can find tickets, receipts, foreign currency, brochures, postcards, magnets, or anything else from their trip. Make a decorative box to store all the treasures in. Be sure to interview/ask them all about their trip! What was the weather like? What was their favorite moment there? Did anything surprise them? What language do they speak there?
If your parents or relatives have not traveled abroad, use a decorative box as a “Vision Board”, where you put names and photos of all the places in the 21 Spanish-speaking countries that you would like to visit one day. Note that these cannot simply be country names—they need to be names of specific places in those countries! To complete this challenge, let me know where you have traveled or want to travel to. For those of you who are data-oriented, here is a fun INTERACTIVE MAP to chart where you have visited or want to go. #Wanderlust!
Spanish Challenge #’s 12 & 13
Listen to all three Spanish Christmas songs below, and then send me the name of your favorite. Easy peasy!
Instead of just one Spanish Challenge this week, I am also sending a letter detailing different Christmas and holiday traditions around the Spanish-speaking world. HERE is the link.
Spanish Challenges for the Second Semester
At this point in the year, the entire school started tapping into a Spanish “Culture Project” each week, and I would send home slides and videos about what students were learning. I also included a recipe from each country, as an optional extension of the project at home. Each of the links represents one week:
It is quite possible that I am the only Spanish [elementary] teacher on the planet who has yet to watch the movie Encanto. That said, because some of my students sing the songs nonstop, I have had fun searching for official translations and adaptations of the soundtrack in the target language.
My searching this afternoon led me to reading a beautifully rich YouTube comment under the song, La Familia Madrigal. As it is written in Spanish, however, I thought I would provide a translation for all of the anglophones out there. And yes, I will get around to seeing the movie eventually! Many thanks to @jumpp10 for commenting on the richness and depth of references in this video.
@jumpp10 – Aquí las referencias a Colombia en la canción/ Here [are] the references to Colombia in the song:
0:04 – La arquitectura de la casita está inspirada en las casas coloniales, como las encontradas en la región cafetera y las de Cartagena con sus famosos balcones con flores.
The architecture of the casita is inspired by colonial houses, such as those found in the coffee region and those of Cartagena with their famous flowered balconies.
0:41 – La mochila de Mirabel está inspirada en las mochilas de los indígenas Wayuu, que viven en la costa norte de Colombia (frontera con Venezuela). El traje de Mirabel está inspirado en el traje típico de la ciudad de Vélez, en el departamento de Santander.
Mirabel’s backpack is inspired by the backpacks of the indigenous Wayuu, who live on the north coast of Colombia (border with Venezuela). Mirabel’s costume is inspired by the typical costume of the city of Vélez, in the department [section, region] of Santander.
It is written “Colombia”. [Aside: People often confuse and misspell Colombia the country with Columbia, the clothes brand name, so the correct spelling is noteworthy!]
1:21 – A la izquierda, pasa una mujer usando chaquiras en el cabello, elementos comunes en peinados de la comunidad afrocolombiana.
On the left, a woman passes by wearing beads in her hair, common elements in hairstyles of the Afro-Colombian community.
1:40 – A la izquierda, una mujer con una ruana, un tipo de poncho colombiano, la diferencia es que es abierto. El hombre del centro come una mazorca asada, que se venden en las calles.
On the left, a woman with a ruana, a type of Colombian poncho, the difference is that it is open. The man in the center eats a roasted corn on the cob, which is sold on the streets.
1:51 – Julieta tiene una cesta de buñuelos, un pan dulce y salado que se come muchísimo en navidad, aunque a veces también en los desayunos. El hombre al que cura lleva un poncho, usados en zonas frías.
Julieta has a basket of buñuelos, a sweet and salty bread that is eaten a lot at Christmas, but sometimes also for breakfast. The man she heals wears a poncho, worn in cold areas.
1:54 – El hombre tiene un sombrero vueltiao, típico de la costa Caribe colombiana.
The man has a vueltiao hat, typical of the Colombian Caribbean coast.
2:11 – Calles empedradas similares a las calles de la ciudad de Barichara, en Santander.
Cobbled streets similar to the streets of the city of Barichara, in Santander.
2:15 – Félix usa una guayabera, un tipo de camisa muy usada en el Caribe. Mariano también usa.
Felix wears a guayabera, a type of shirt widely used in the Caribbean. Mariano does also.
2:25 – Los trajes de Pepa y Dolores están inspirados en la vestimenta de las mujeres palenqueras, que habitan en el Caribe colombiano.
Pepa and Dolores’ costumes are inspired by the clothing of Palenquera women, who live in the Colombian Caribbean. [Aside: Palenquero is an endangered language but absolutely fascinating. I learned a bit about it in graduate school.]
2:33 – La abuela le entrega un bloque a un hombre que lleva un sombrero aguadeño, típico de la región paisa (Antioquia, Caldas, Risaralda, Quindío).
The grandmother gives a block to a man wearing an aguadeño hat, typical of the Paisa region (Antioquia, Caldas, Risaralda, Quindío).
2:44 – Los silleteros, son personas que llevan en sus espaldas unas estructuras cargadas de flores, conocida como silletas. Cada año, se hacen desfiles y concursos en Medellín donde se pueden apreciar hermosas silletas.
The silleteros are people who carry structures loaded with flowers on their backs, known as silletas. Every year, parades and contests are held in Medellin where beautiful silletas can be seen.
3:12 – Silletas exhibidas para que el público vea los diseños hechos con flores.
Silletas displayed for the public to see the designs made with flowers.
3:14 – Entre todas esas flores debe haber orquídeas, que son la flor nacional de Colombia.
Among all those flowers there must be orchids, which are the national flower of Colombia.
3:24 – El puente que Luisa levanta es muy similar al puente de Boyacá, donde ocurrió la última batalla de la independencia colombiana.
The bridge that Luisa builds is very similar to the Boyacá bridge, where the last battle of Colombian independence took place.
3:33 – Palmas de plátano, comunes en Colombia, sus hojas se usan para envolver algunos alimentos como los tamales.
Banana palms, common in Colombia, their leaves are used to wrap some foods such as tamales.
3:47 – El acordeón es el instrumento principal del vallenato, un género musical colombiano, y de hecho esta canción está inspirada en ese género. El hombre de la derecha sostiene un tiple, instrumento colombiano con 12 cuerdas, usado en varios ritmos colombianos. Y la mujer toca un tambor alegre, usado en ritmos del Caribe.
The accordion is the main instrument of vallenato, a Colombian musical genre, and in fact this song is inspired by that genre. The man on the right holds a tiple, a Colombian instrument with 12 strings, used in various Colombian rhythms. And the woman plays a lively drum, used in Caribbean rhythms.
4:11 – Personas jugando tejo, considerado deporte nacional de Colombia. Consiste en arrojar un disco metálico con el objetivo de hacer explotar unos pequeños sobres con pólvora.
People playing tejo, considered the national sport of Colombia. It consists of throwing a metal disk with the aim of exploding small envelopes with powder.
4:18 – Montañas, debido a que tres cordilleras atraviesan el país.
Mountains, because three mountain ranges cross the country.
Yes, I was that Spanish student who went home and memorized any and every list of vocabulary my teacher gave me. Believe it or not, my nickname in ninth grade was, “Diccionario” (dictionary)! While this system worked for me, I have a slightly photographic memory and enjoy mathematical formulas, so conjugations and the like came more easily than not. This is not to say that I didn’t work hard–because I definitely did–but I would come to class the following day and not understand why my classmates did not even recognize the new words. Or maybe they knew them for the test, but forgot immediately thereafter.
When I became an educator, I remembered those students that had difficulty mastering vocabulary lists and, after learning more about the brain and observing how children process information, decided to eliminate said lists from my classroom.
Families will request from time to time a list of words their child is learning in Spanish class. While I appreciate their interest in the language program, vocabulary lists are just not my style. Students in an immersive environment pick up new words and phrases at different rates and paces. Some speak from day one, while others won’t say anything for months–and then, when you least expect it and have given up all hope, they blurt out a sentence or paragraph. Go figure!
Point being, I want my classroom to be a place where students feel comfortable to take academic risks; the technical term for this is a ‘low-affective filter’. If a [well-intentioned] parent is constantly quizzing their child on vocabulary, many students will start to freeze and clam up, mentally. We are not going for perfection at this point in time–our goal is to communicate basic ideas as efficiently as possible; and I want this process to be as natural as possible. We observe, we quietly assess, we listen, we encourage; but just as with a baby, we don’t pressure students when it comes to linguistic production. They will talk when they are good and ready!
That said, I like lists. I like being organized. And I am extremely interested in what I call linguistic chronology. Generally speaking, we know that babies and toddlers typically say things like, “Mama, Dada, up, down, water, apple” as some of their first words (when learning English, at least). As we are trying to mimic and parallel this natural language acquisition process in my classroom–based on immediate and practical needs and wants–the vocabulary lists I create are constantly evolving.
While I said that I do not send home vocabulary lists, I will give you a glimpse HERE into the type of words and phrases your child is working on. Perhaps the biggest difference here is that they rarely, if ever, see these words in list form; they acquire the vocabulary in meaningful contexts and when working on projects. Moreover, I listen constantly to what students say–to the words they use–and then we take the most practical and versatile phrases and learn the Spanish equivalent.
I know that people–especially language teachers!–can have very strong feelings on this topic, which is fine; but please take a moment to recall your own language learning journey, and whether or not the ‘vocabulary list’ method worked for you and/or your classmates. Are you fluent in another language (from this method)? Are they?
Yesterday, I subbed for Library class, but got the times mixed up–and consequently, first graders were only able to hear the beginning of a story after checking out books. As I am a huge proponent of reading, I felt it my duty to take some class time today to finish the story, especially as it is pertinent to the Spanish curriculum.
There are moments in your life when you have to make serious decisions. And then there are moments in your life when the PSA (Professional Stuffed Animals) in your classroom have to make serious decisions.
One of the latter waddled along and had to choose this morning.
Let me explain. You see, students in kindergarten have been working hard to learn all of the names of the 21 Spanish-speaking countries. We start in Chile and work our way north, travel a little west to Mexico, sail through the Caribbean, and then fly over to Spain and Equatorial Guinea.
They jump on a “floor map” and say the countries aloud, and we add a new country or two each day. After a while, they get pretty good at it–at which point, I introduce The Timer and we go for both speed and accuracy. Most have mastered South America at this point in the year–Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela–and so recently, we have moved onto the second map, starting with Panama.
This activity is especially challenging for younger children because the majority–understandably–have very minimal background knowledge here; many kindergarteners have never heard the word Mexico before, so they are grappling with a lot all at once (word in English; different pronunciation in Spanish; location on the map; concept of another country; etc.). It is my job to make this information not only accessible, but also memorable to students. Enter Pato, my Professional Stuffed Animal Duck.
Point being, students reached “Panama” on the floor map last class. I love geography and travel, and how we can layer on culture so much more easily when students already have a place in their brains for the names of these Spanish-speaking countries.
Ahem, maestra! F-o-c-u-s! Right. So anyway, Pato started explaining that he LOVES Panama, and when asked why, he proceeded to describe his diet: pan (bread), pan (bread), pan (bread), and more pan (bread). What about special occasions, Pato? ¡Pan y papas fritas! (Bread and french fries.) Oh my.
After a long tangent about how it is pronounced, “pahhhhn” and not “tahhhhn”–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.—Pato continued.
“Why do I love it? It’s ‘cuz THERE’S A BREAD CASTLE IN PANAMA!” He was practically shrieking, he was so excited.
“Pato, that’s not true at all.”
“Of course it is. Listen: TAN-ana [read: PAN-ama].” ASIDE: When I split apart the word and read it backwards now, the linguist in me sees, “loves (ama) bread (pan)”, which is quite funny in itself; however, the actual origin of the word Panama is derived from a Guaraní word that means, “the place of many fish”. But we’re not there yet.
Fast-forward to the following day. To the tune of Frère Jacques, I sang: Where is Pa-to, where is Pa-to? / ¿Dónde está? ¿Dónde está? ¡Dime, por favor! / ¡Dime, por favor! / Tell me, please! Tell me, please!
Young ducks require an enormous amount of rest, so it was not unexpected to find him sound asleep in his casa/house [read: a drawer in my desk]. What was unexpected was the stubborn, whiny response at 11:30am: an emphatic, “NO!”
“Pato, everyone is here to see you. You need to get up now. It’s practically noon!” [this was all in the target language] This was the defining moment: a tough decision.
“Mmmfff.” He mumbled something unintelligible and rolled over. Uh-oh.
I motioned to the class to be very quiet, and proceeded to grab a flashcard with the word, “pan” on it. Attempt number two, in a quiet, sing-songy voice.
“Oh Pato, cariño, it’s time to get up now. I made your favorite: pan.”
He rocket-shipped out of bed at the last word. “PAN-PAN-PAN, ¡¡¡¡¿DÓNDE ESTÁ?!!!! I LOOOOOVE PAN! ¡¡¡ME ENCANTA!!!“
Well, that was, umm, #Effective.
Thoroughly convinced that there was more pan hidden somewhere, he followed his nose beak and did, indeed, find a massive stack of high resolution images of pan. Loaves of bread, empanadas, medialunas [croissants], sliced bread, baguettes, Challah, bread rolls, the works.
And so, long story short, we built a BREAD CASTLE for Pato. Ours looked like this:
If you wanted to make your own Bread Castle (castillo de pan) at home, the tiny door route is pretty cool. DuPont Nutrition and Health has proven that any food is game here- you are not limited to pan!
Ultimately, the lesson here is that if Pato hadn’t made the decision to get out of bed, he would not have made an #AwesomeBreadCastle. He also would not have had another important decision on his plate (bad pun, since we’re talking about food, plates…): that is, what exactly do you do with a Bread Castle after you make one?
As I don’t have an answer to the latter yet, we may now conclude with the moral of the story:
So make sure to rocket-ship out of bed in the mornings. You never know what might happen.
NOTE: This post is sponsored by The Non-Existent Bread Castle Company of PAN-ama. Thank you for reading.
Sub plans for language teachers are always a bit tricky. I remember once when I was told that my sub would be Spanish-speaking. Thoroughly delighted, I typed up three pages of plans, all in the target language. Naturally, that particular individual ending up canceling at the last minute, and my new sub wrote, “I don’t understand what this says” at the top of my carefully curated plans. Oh no!
I am not out often, but when I am, I’ve always dreamt of having plans in place, instead of writing them frantically the night before (read: @4am the morning of). How can we, as language teachers, prepare meaningful sub plans well in advance of any absences, planned or not? Keep reading for a few ideas.
Read-alouds in English are simple plans for Spanish class substitutes who don’t speak Spanish and/or don’t have Internet access in a classroom. Many folktales offer a glimpse into another country and culture, and a carefully curated list can blend seamlessly into and supplement any curriculum, with a little creative thought. NOTE: My books are in the white magazine holder on my desk.
For a playlist of Scholastic read-alouds in Spanish, click HERE;
First, tell students that the book they are going to hear today is a folktale from the [Andes] mountains of Peru. In Peru, most people speak Spanish, but many people also speak another language there called Quechua. (I mention this because in the title of the book, ‘Quwi’ is the Quechua word for ‘guinea pig’; Quechua is spoken by 9-14 million people in South America; zorro means fox in Spanish.)
Next, read the book ZORRO and QUWI. Feel free to take a stretch or brain break part way through if they are getting antsy. I tend to stop and ask comprehension questions throughout a story, as well.
After you read it, see if they can retell the tale going around the circle—everyone gets to say one sentence–or just discuss the tale and ask more questions. What would they change if they had written the story? If you/they don’t want to retell it, students can draw out the story (regular white paper is on the black shelf in the corner of the room).
First, ask [younger] students if they know any words in Spanish. They may offer a lot or nothing at all. You can say that one example is hola. We say hello in English, and in Spanish, we say hola!
Next, explain that Spanish is spoken in many different places around the world. One faraway place is called Spain. The story they are going to hear takes place in Spain. You can use the black outlined map with golden stars on it on the wall (with the fairy lights) to point to our state and then Spain–far across the ocean.
Read The Story of Ferdinand. Read more slowly than not. I tend to speak too quickly and always need to remind myself to slowwwww down!
Read La Mariposa (‘mariposa’ means butterfly) to class. Take a stretch break part way through if they are getting antsy. Discuss—how would you feel if you were the main character? I tend to ask comprehension questions throughout a story, as well. The last page has a list of Spanish words and pronunciations.
Knuffle Bunny does not seem to fit in this list of folklore, but the book could launch an interesting discussion about language itself from a more philosophical viewpoint, and how much we rely on verbal communication in our day to day lives. How are Trixie’s attempts to communicate any different than someone dropped in a country whose language s/he does not speak? Does language give us power? What kind(s)? What makes some words “real” and other words not?
On Thursday, fourth graders performed a play in Spanish about our beloved stuffed animal hero, Pato (Duck). This was a play within a play about two best friends, “Pato” and “Oso”, who travel to Peru; meet Ariana Grande and her dog Fluffy, along with an alpaca named Mr. Hashbrown; and turn many “problems” into solutions along the way.
The Fourth Grade “Pato” Play begins with a director who needs to cast the part of “Pato” (my stuffed animal duck) in a movie, but there is a lot of confusion. The first actor that shows up auditions as a gato/cat, not a pato; the second actor auditions as a plato/plate, not a pato/duck; and then there is a delivery of zapatos/shoes, all of which infuriates the director, since he is in search of someone to play the part of a pato/duck and nothing else. Finally, the REAL “Pato” makes an unexpected appearance–he is a super famous, very cool actor–and everyone is aghast! The director offers him the part and he accepts.
However, the actors that do NOT get the part of “Pato” are disgruntled and will continuously interrupt the show with cultural commentaries and the like, to try and steal the limelight. The play (within a play) begins with Pato/duck and his friend, Oso/bear, galloping on horseback in Peru to [a real place called]Rainbow Mountain. There are 14 minerals in the soil there that create a very colorful, layered rainbow look. This tourist attraction is not too far from Machu Picchu, but Pato and Oso are actually in Peru because they want to visit their friend Mr. Hashbrown (an alpaca). Obviously.
The first interruption of the play deals with a parallel comparison of Pato/duck and his friend, Oso/bear, to the world-renowned, 900-page Spanish novel, Don Quijoteby Cervantes–and a quick blip of the song, listen HERE. Classes had fun acting out the famous windmill chapter, where Don Quijote “fights” windmills, thinking they are an army of giants.
ACT #2: The saga continues! After the show is interrupted for the first time [re: Don Quijote], we learn that Mr. Hashbrown’s house is near the Amazon River- cue second interruption! The actors trying to interrupt the play this time add a fun fact, namely, that a man (from England) actually walked the entire length of the Amazon River back in 2012, setting a world record. It took him three years! After they are shushed off stage, Oso becomes visibly agitated and nervous, stating that there is a problem. Pato replies that “there are no problems, only solutions“, which ends up becoming his catchphrase throughout the play.
Anyway, while Oso is getting increasingly anxious as he sees an Army of Bacon Monsters slowly approaching on the horizon, Pato starts blabbering about how hungry he is and that he would really like a sandwich. Cue interruption number three: bocadillo [‘bow-kah-DEE-yoh’] is how you say “sandwich” in Spain! Pato always knows what’s going on, even when it seems like he doesn’t, so when he describes the sandwich he is craving, he lists the ingredients- lettuce, tomato and… BACON! The Army of Bacon Monsters (who have been inching closer the entire time) recognize their fate–a BLT sandwich! NOOOOOO! And a chase scene with all parties involved ensues, to music from the Nutcracker. **INTERMISSION**
The two [stuffed animal] friends excitedly arrive at Mr. Hashbrown’s house, but quickly learn that their alpaca friend is quite livid. When prompted, Mr. Hashbrown provides visual and auditory evidence that his neighbor, Ariana Grande, is not the quietest person in the world and, in fact, quite the opposite–which means that he can’t sleep. Ever. Our hero Pato continues believing that, “there are no problems, only solutions“, but as the friends peer out of the window to observe, even he perhaps begins to doubt himself. A modicum of Madness with a capital M follows.
Through the window, they watch as Ariana Grande warms up her vocal chords with the scales–but is horribly tone deaf. Then, she starts yelling for her dog, Fluffy, who runs away every Monday. He doesn’t like Mondays, so he tries to run away from them. (Incidentally, Monday is also the name of a neighborhood cat, which causes the next chase scene to be that much more confusing.) Oso tries to help out and catch Fluffy, but he doesn’t run very fast and stops every two inches to eat honey; and Fluffy keeps running and barking whenever he hears the word, “Monday”, or lunes (“lou-nace”) in Spanish.
Meanwhile, Ariana Grande is talking on the phone with her #BFF, Jennifer, and loses it completely–collapsing to the floor, sobbing hysterically–when she learns that Fluffy may be lost forever. Everyone sings the first eight seconds of this song, “Ay yie yie yie, canta y no llores“ (sing and don’t cry!). The Bacon Monsters reappear not long afterwards, this time as flash mob backup dancers for a music video rehearsal at Ariana Grande’s house to THIS SONG. Pato watches all of this, and finally takes control of the situation, telling Fluffy that it is Friday (viernes/“bee-AIR-nace”), not Monday.
Pato talks with Fluffy and says that they need to find a solution to his problem. Everyone pitches in to build him a new fence so that he doesn’t run away. Ariana stops talking on the phone about her lost dog and stops yelling at Fluffy, so Fluffy the Dog is happy. Mr. Hashbrown is happy because his neighbor only sings now and he can sleep. Oso is happy because he found more honey and doesn’t have to run after Fluffy anymore. And Pato is happy because he has proven to everyone that there are no problems, only solutions. THE END.
During the month of December, students in first grade have focused their attention on Spain, or España. While this is part of the first grade curriculum, I decided to introduce the unit before Christmas because Party the Partridge rehearsals resulted in a few double [combined] first grade Spanish classes, and a focused project seemed the best route to take.
Anyway, as with most of my lessons, I give students a little information the first day, and then just keep adding more details each subsequent lesson. Initially, students learned that La Alhambrais a fort/palace in Spain that was built a LONG time ago. It is a beautiful fortress, with hand-painted tiles inside and stunning architecture on the outside.
First graders had the option of building the Alhambra (out of cardboard and blankets, based on a model); or coloring in different outlines and perspectives of the fort and surrounding gardens, or the tiles inside. Several builders found printouts of the Spanish flag and pasted them on the cardboard walls–which was great, considering that 1) I didn’t know I had the printouts (they were mixed in with other coloring sheets); and 2) they [correctly] deduced it as relevant iconography!
The next layer was to talk a bit about the Arabic language, and compare and contrast it with Spanish and English. Spanish and Arabic have a rich linguistic history, primarily due to the fact that Arabs ruled the Iberian peninsula for around 700-800 years. Even today, Moorish culture is strongly present in Southern Spain.
Students were introduced to the Arabic script, learning that Spanish and Arabic share some 8,000 words. Wow! Some even practiced copying the foreign symbols [alphabet] as part of the “writing” center (escribir/to write), while others handed out tickets to visit La Alhambra and/or drive tourists there on the class trains.
Today, I received confirmation that the cultural piece had settled into students’ vernacular, when I overheard two boys arguing. The subject of their argument? “No, you can’t live in a condo INSIDE the Alhambra! That’s not allowed!” #TrueStory
During our last class before break this afternoon, several first graders also took turns with a plastic fishing pole, trying to “fish” in the gardens surrounding the Alhambra. If my memory serves me correctly, I don’t recall anyone actually fishing there when I visited (haha!), but we combine play and reality in Spanish class; and, honestly, who wouldn’t want to go fishing with a plastic fishing pole, loads of tape, and plastic food in a fake pool? I mean, seriously. Unless, of course, you just want to watch from your condo in–that is, across the street from–La Alhambra. Ahem.
In other news, most students can also name and identify on a map at least five Spanish-speaking countries in South America at this point (Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia).
And last but not least, if you would like to get a better feel for Southern Spain, you are welcome to check out my narrative prose piece/essay on the topic HERE. Thank you so much for reading and have a MERRY CHRISTMAS and Happy Holidays!! See you in 2022!!!
By far, my favorite lessons are the ones that begin with a plan, veer off course completely, and then somehow end up at the final destination, relatively unscathed. Today had a plan, but unfurled so beautifully that I had to share.
First, we finished–FINALLY!!–our class story. If you recall, we do storytelling most Fridays, but as we missed multiple Fridays due to half days and holidays, our story stretched into a saga of over a month and a half. Here, “evil Pato” keeps taking a wolf’s lunch and eating it. As a result, the wolf cries. And cries. And cries. (cue THIS SONG, first eight seconds only/”sing and don’t cry”/canta y no llores). Finally, the wolf puts a shoe in the sandwich, “evil Pato” eats it, and the wolf laughs. The end. #YesIKnowItIsARidiculousPlot!
Someone wanted to know if there was a “hamburger song“, not to be confused with the “pizza song“, since it would be more relevant- and wouldn’t you know, their wish came true (see below).
There are gestures for every single word in the story, so it requires a lot of movement and energy. But second graders ROCKED IT this morning and we told and acted out the entire narrative in 12 minutes. Bravo!
Next, second graders shifted to centers. This week, I have been trying to “trick” students by asking them different and unexpected questions in the target language, to make sure they are listening and comprehending, as opposed to repeating memorized phrases. They have made good progress with this.
Other grade levels have gotten excited about “train rides” in Spanish class, and recently we decided to extend this to second grade. Here, students climb on top of my long tables [after paying]–and we push the tables and students verrrrry slowly across the room. The tables are on wheels, and make a very soft “hum” sound when moving, much akin to the soft hum of trams at airports.
I play realistic train sound effects on loop in the background; there is an old-school bell they ring to get off the train; the train drivers have licenses (which can be revoked); and students “travel” in circles around my room on the trains [moving tables] to different places in the town, while studying a [real] map of the metro system in Madrid. “Do we switch to the red line now? Is that train #5?” etc. Some students even tie yarn around my stuffed animal dogs as leashes, and “wait” at the train stations, walking their dogs and “talking” on rectangular pieces of plastic, err, I mean, cell phones; and take the train to the “office”, where they work furiously on cardboard laptops until it is time for the commute home in the evening.
Other students use huge cardboard boxes to “build” up the neighborhood, or work at the supermarket, waiting for customers to get off the train and spend their hard-earned cash. Some days, students’ Spanish is lacking, but today was not one of those days!! Spanish just kind of fell of their tongues so naturally that I was absurdly delighted and smiling head to toe!
Thank you for your general support of the language program and for raising such great kiddos! Have a blessed and relaxing Thanksgiving and break.
In class, we cover a lot of territory. I am constantly throwing culture, geography, grammar–first graders don’t know it’s grammar, but it is–songs, new vocabulary, and more at them, with confidence that they will catch at least one new thing each day.
In the last update, you learned that students simulated walking the Camino de Santiago (a 500-mile hike across Spain), and then traveled to Peru to see Rainbow Mountain and also make and pan for oro/gold (aka tesoro/treasure). ASIDE: six weeks later, I am still discovering specks of gold fairy dust glitter everywhere!
As the weeks progressed, these culture projects morphed into optional centers: those that wanted to continue walking the Camino or sluicing sediment for gold could; and those that wanted to do something different also had that choice. My theory is that if students are interested and personally invested in an idea, they will be more likely 1) to retain the information; and 2) to apply that information to their daily lives, so that Spanish becomes a part of them, as opposed to ‘merely a class’.
First graders ‘sign up’ for these centers in one of two ways each class, via either speaking or writing. To build their confidence, we begin with written work: they will write, “Hi! This is So-and-So*. [Today] I want to build/play/work/walk [the Camino]/ sing/dance/draw/ fly/clean/paint/etc.” (¡Hola! Soy ___. Quiero construir/jugar/trabajar/ caminar/cantar/bailar/dibujar/volar/limpiar/pintar.) The focus as of late has been on “Quiero” (I want) and “y“. Note that the latter means “and” in Spanish, but is pronounced like the English letter “e”. *Students also chose Spanish names a while back, so sometimes they write their real name, and other times they will write their Spanish name. First graders are also now required to sign up for talking (hablar/to talk, speak). This has been extended recently to include specifying in which language–español/Spanish or inglés/English.
To make written work more enticing to six-year-olds, there were a few requirements: one, they had to glue or tape on a colorful stamp from a Spanish-speaking country (Mexico, Costa Rica, Argentina) to their notecard; and two, they had to drop it in a basket pulley-system (that went up to the ceiling and down again) in order to “send” it to me at the Post Office. When this got old, we switched to writing on pizarras/ whiteboards, which was conveniently also a vocabulary word in the “Bathroom Song” (¿Puedo ir al baño?/Can I go to the bathroom?), a classic for first grade.
For each center, there are recommendations and suggestions, but they are also open-ended to allow for student agency and creativity. For example, “construir” (build) began quite literally, with first graders building towers out of blocks; this progressed to building houses and forts out of cardboard and blankets.
One day, however, someone wanted to “build” a computer out of cardboard. Another day, the “building” center became more of factory, in which students “built” paper fans (abanicos) and then tried to sell them to others (fake pesos). Yet another day, someone found a “sewing” center card (coser/to sew), and asked how to do that: we used a hole-puncher to make a ton of holes on a piece of folded paper, and students wove yarn through the holes, making their own wallets to stash dinero/money. We have even had mini ice-hockey tournaments in one class, and dance choreography lessons in the other! I will hide the puck and force linguistic interactions here: ¿Dónde está el disco?/Where is the puck?! You must understand, EVERYTHING is about language in my class!
The center work builds from kindergarten to spiral vocabulary and, gradually, first graders begin to see that the sky is the limit when it comes to creativity. Vocabulary is scaffolded to be as versatile as possible here; learning “hold-puncher” is not as useful as learning, “I want/I need that” (Quiero/Necesito eso), especially as students switch centers frequently, based on their interests.
More recently, students have practiced leading the class as the “teacher” (maestro/a) by asking and reading, “¿Cómo estás?” with several possible answers:
casado(a)/married (class joke);
tengo hambre/I’m hungry;
tengo frío/I’m cold;
muy bien/very good; or
Students will watch 2-minute Bluey shows in Spanish at the beginning of class as a listening activity as well; here, they raise their hand when they hear a word or phrase they know. First graders really enjoy this! A newer song is called Botas Perdidas/Lost Boots; here, first graders sit under the tables to watch the song, as the singer looks for thingsunder the table (debajo de la mesa), on top of the chair, etc.
Students also spent a day sorting flashcards (masculine/feminine nouns). This lesson usually comes about when I notice some getting sloppy with spelling; my goal is simply for first graders to pay more attention to words but also to expose them to grammar.
In class, it is a silly game, where there are “boy” words and “girl” words, and boys “get” ice-cream (el helado) but girls “get” pizza (la pizza), and then they try to figure out–detective work!–what the pattern is (“el” words are considered “boy” words; “la” words are “girl” words–but it is completely nonsensical in terms of the noun itself–merely a grammatical construction).
Last but not least, first graders were introduced to a language-learning app called Fun Spanish. This is also now a center option. Whew! Thank you for reading all of this. I did not intend for it to be so verbose. I hope you are having a great weekend!
You see, in Spanish class, we start simple–building a foundation of basic words and phrases–but then continuously spiral and recycle the words in all different ways. For instance, the “luz roja, luz verde” (red light, green light) lessons led to naming and reviewing colors with games and word associations (there are four ways to say “red” in Spanish, depending on what you’re talking about- so this is ongoing and not mastered in a day).
The traffic lights, in turn, led to various modes of transportation. Our ‘cars’ are cardboard boxes and go both rápido/fast and lento/slow. When our ‘cars break down’, I attach masking tape to one end, and the student takes the roll part of the masking tape and ‘pulls’ the cardboard car to the garage/mechanic to be fixed. Obviously.
When we ran out of cardboard cars, I offered train rides (sometimes public transport is faster, anyway). Now just so you fully understand, ‘train rides’ have become ‘A THING’ in PK3 Spanish as of late. Students got free rides the first day, but since then, they have had to pay for their pretend tickets with dinero/money. Students climb on top of my long tables after paying–and we push the tables and students verrrrry slowly across the room. I say, “¡última parada!” (last stop!), and then they have to get off. The tables are on wheels, and make a very soft “hum” sound when moving, much akin to the soft hum of trams at airports.
This week, students were also able to purchase peluches/stuffed animals and comida/food with their dinero/money, along with the train tickets. As the number of passengers has increased, so have the number of stops on the route… meaning, one stop was at la playa/the beach!! Students got colorful blankets and sarapes, pretended to sun themselves, and played with their stuffed animals. Whenever they are on the train–zooming along at five feet per hour–they wave to their friends/amigos in the room, shouting, “¡Adiós!” and sometimes blowing kisses (besos), the latter of which is perhaps the most adorable thing I’ve ever seen!
Today, I started using sound effects and images on the Smartboard to enhance the linguistic experience. When they went to la playa/the beach, I projected a picture of white sands and the ocean–and played a sound effect of waves lapping at the shore. When they went to the jungle, I hung plastic green vines around the board, and showed and played THIS video. Our third destination was las montañas/the mountains. I’m still working on a sound effect for this one!
At this point, I quietly asked the assistant to lower the lights, and I explained that we had taken so many train rides, that it was already nightfall! So they took their formerly-beach-towels, now turned blankets, and chose either the “top” or “bottom” bunk of the bunkbeds in my room (aka train aka tables). Then I put on this37-second SONG, with which they are very familiar and love, and cuddled up with their stuffed animals. They like to say, “¡Otra vez!” (again) and watch the song repeatedly some days. With the overcast sky and the lights off today, it felt so cozy in the Spanish room! I put on fairy lights sometimes as ‘night lights’ so they don’t get scared by the darkness. 🙂
Anyway, when it was finally time to wake up the ‘next morning’, I stretched–yawning–and said, “¡Buenos días!”. We were all pretty ravenous, so we took the train–which has now become more of a subway/metro–to a restaurant for breakfast (Tengo hambre/I’m hungry!). Then our 30 minute class was over and it was time to clean up and for them to be on their way.
If you have a student in PK4, you will note that there is definitely crossover in terms of content between the two grades, but PK3 has a different and much softer tone, in the sense that every experience is brand new and innocent. They are full of joy, in a way that’s hard to describe; and I truly cherish my time with them. Not every day is perfect by any means, but today the pieces all fell together and joy was had by all. Have a wonderful long weekend. I hope this gives you a peek into my/our little Spanish world.
We left off last time with Pato (my stuffed animal duck) going on a treasure map adventure with pirates, rough ocean seas, and baking soda & vinegar volcanoes (fuerza/force). The initial idea was that he was traveling from one Spanish-speaking country to another, but the conceptual piece of this took a bit of time to sink in.
Since then, we have moved on to center work, where students “sign up for” centers/activities in the target language. Because literacy levels vary significantly in kindergarten, their written work is very simple–one word, plus their name; but they can always write more if they so desire.
At this point, kindergarteners can sign up for one of five centers. They write one (or more) of the following– “jugar/ play (“who-gar”); colorear/ color; pintar/ paint; construir/ build; volar/ fly” –depending on what they want to do that day; and if they want to switch centers, they just have to ask in Spanish (we only write for the first center they choose). Each activity has materials, and students are expected to use and ask for those materials in Spanish, or ask me how to say the word of the thing they need if/when they forget.
For example, if students sign up for “jugar/play”, they play with stuffed animals and food or little puzzle games. For “construir/build”, kindergarteners use large boxes and pieces of cardboard to “build” houses, and then decorate the inside with colorful blankets and sarapes. If they want to bring comida/food or peluches/stuffed animals into their casa/house, they have to pay for it with fake dinero/money (by buying it at our Argentina-style outdoor markets).
This week, we added “volar/fly” to the list. Here, kindergarteners bring me papel/paper and while I am folding them a paper airplane, they pick a flag on the wall (from the Spanish-speaking world) of where they want to travel. I have emphasized a few countries this week–Costa Rica (jungle pic); Colombia (pink dolphins); Argentina (waterfalls of Iguazu); and Perú (tesoro/treasure)–but they can choose any of the 21 Spanish-speaking countries. Next, students have to draw a flag (e.g., una franja azul/a blue stripe) on their paper airplane of where they are going, and… well, fly there! This morning, to emphasize the countries, I was asking where they were going to build a house (construir una casa) or paint (pintar) or play (jugar): in Peru? Argentina? Colombia?
There are also whole group routines at the beginning of class (with student-teacher helpers) who lead the lesson (por favor/please; gracias/thank you; pizarras/whiteboards; marcadores/markers; borra/erase). One class this week has also become wholly obsessed with pollos/chickens, so much so that I have to ask if the chicken is going to build or play or paint or fly or color! We did add a tortuga/turtle to the mix this morning, so there is hope on the horizon to move on from this phase, ha!!
Point being, their creativity never ceases to amaze me… I hope you are having a great day!
This morning, students in PK4 danced to our newest class song called Chumbala Cachumbala, and then went through the “How are you?” daily routine. Next, I asked in Spanish, “What is this?”, pointing to images of different currencies from various Spanish-speaking countries (but also including the US dollar as a reference point). After several responded “money”, I then asked, “And what is money for?” One brilliantly intuitive soul shouted out, “To buy stuff!”, and following a half second of complete shock–[they just understood what I said in Spanish! Holy Moses, that’s awesome!]–I proceeded to give a few examples.
This is where the fun actually began. I called a student over, and gesture-narrated that they were allowed to choose a stuffed animal from a bin. Just when they were about to walk away, I said, “No-no-no!” and gesture-explained [this all happened in the target language] that s/he needed to go to the ‘bank’ and pay me dinero/money to purchase said stuffed animal. (I had a ton of faux bills that we had seen the previous week.)
After everyone had had a turn and began playing with the little animals and finger puppets, I slyly asked a student if he would like to buy a car (our ‘cars’ are cardboard boxes and go both rápido/fast and lento/slow). When our ‘cars break down’, I attach masking tape to one end, and the student takes the roll part of the masking tape and ‘pulls’ the cardboard car to the garage/mechanic to be fixed. Obviously.
Anyway… said student bought the car (after going back to the bank to take out more faux money), and the others quickly began to understand what was happening: EVERYTHING IS FOR SALE TODAY!!!
When we ran out of cardboard cars, I offered train rides (sometimes public transport is faster, anyway. All of those red lights and traffic, you know; you can start to see, perhaps, why we started with red and green lights back in August).
Now just so you fully understand, ‘train rides’ have become ‘A THING’ in PK4 Spanish as of late. Students got free rides the first day, but since then, they have had to pay for their pretend tickets. Students climb on top of my long tables after paying–and we push the tables and students verrrrry slowly across the room. I say, “¡última parada!” (last stop!), and then they have to get off.
Today, this idea was extended: as the train had a maximum of four passengers (plus the stuffed animals), we ended up making multiple runs… meaning, one stop was at la playa/the beach!! Students got little colorful blankets, pretended to sun themselves, and played with their stuffed animals. Whenever they are on the train–zooming along at five feet per hour–they wave to their friends/amigos in the room, shouting, “¡Adiós!” and sometimes blowing kisses (besos).
One student was not interested in la playa/the beach, and I whispered in English, “Do you want to go back to the toy store?” He said yes, so the train–which is now becoming more of a subway/metro–traveled back to the toy store (with the stuffies). At some point, our 30 minutes was up, and I began wondering how to make a bell sound to ring for next week so that students could indicate where on the tram line they want to get off with pull-cords. Hmmm. They might need to be Pull-Cords of the Imaginary Variety.
Point being, I hope this gives you a glimpse into The Microcosm/ World Known As Spanish Class. Not every day runs quite so smoothly, but today the pieces fell together quite nicely, experiential learning was had by all, and your children spoke gobs of Spanish to me. Kudos! Have a lovely evening!
P.S. Yesterday, we watched a very silly Pocoyo cartoon about monsters. Your child is welcome to watch it again at home HERE.
Some days in Spanish class, we lollygag and I allow time for vocabulary and Culture Projects to sift through students’ minds. It doesn’t feel–at least on paper–like we accomplish all that much, but I know that they are processing. I am intentional about making time for these “lazy Sunday” lessons because on other days, we go 180 miles per hour, and I jampack their brains with so much information that everyone is overloaded!
Today was one of those 180mps (Freudian slip “miles per second” in lieu of mph, but I think I’ll leave it since we accomplished a ton in 30 minutes today!). Let me explain.
Class began with our Friday dance (“¡Es viernes!/It’s Friday!) and a quick recap of the previous lesson on dinero/money; several students had been absent but I also just wanted to review everything from Tuesday. Second graders had learned that other countries use money that may have numbers we recognize, but those digits do not usually represent the same value or have the same worth as our US dollars. This feels convoluted as I write it, but we took time on Tuesday to give a million examples so that students were able to grasp the concept. They handed me fake bills from Spanish-speaking countries (pesos, euros, bolivianos, etc.), and I used an online currency converter to tell them how much money they were holding (since the value changes continuously). Conversation as follows:
And so on and so forth. Students were both fascinated and perplexed by the idea. I shared a chart with the same number of pesos/euros on one column, with the corresponding value in USD on the other to drive home the point.
This only took a few minutes to review since most students were already familiar with the concept. Next, I asked a pregunta/question– Where is our ‘class town’ located?”–while slyly stroking and holding a shoulder bag that had, “MADRID MADRID MADRID MADRID MADRID” written all over it (which I had purchased in Spain a number of years ago). Students looked at a few photos of Madrid, Spain (the capital city), and made connections with the movie Vivo (they recognized an iconic image of Madrid that apparently is one scene).
We shifted gears at this point, and I said that while we will still continue building and working in our town on Mondays and Tuesdays, Fridays will be our “Story Days”. These stories are highly interactive and told in Spanish, but we had to do some prep work today beforehand.
PREP WORK & BACKSTORY: Second graders had seen a very silly 3-second video of a squirrel the other day (put on loop!!), so I decided to build this into our first story of the year. Students watched a cartoon of a “flying” squirrel and then lined up and took turns pretending to fly and then “epic-ly failing” by falling down on the carpet. I sang, “Puedo volar” (I can fly) to the tune of R. Kelly’s song in English, and then we watched a 34-second cartoon and they listened for key words (sí-sí-sí-sí/yes-yes-yes-yes; más/more; sé que puedo volar/I believe I can fly).
In the actual story, we haven’t gotten anywhere near the flying squirrel, but I like to pre-teach language for future use and have students wondering how this will all fit into the plot.
Anyway, for Day #1 of interactive storytelling, students spread out around the room and repeat and mimic what I am doing. We attach a gesture to EVERY SINGLE word in the story, so there is a lot of movement and energy, but it is controlled and intentional.
We began by turning off the lights and setting the stage: “Una noche… duh-duh-DUUUUH!” (one night + overly dramatic air piano sound effects), and then learn that it is Monday in our story (we do a lunes/Monday cheer, and spell it out, YMCA-style), and that there is a lobo/wolf (main character) who runs to McDonald’s. I told students that they can absolutely love or hate McDonald’s–your opinion is your opinion!–but that we mention it in class because jingles stick in your head, and restaurant chains all have jingles that have been, yes, TRANSLATED! (Me encanta/I’m lovin’ it/I love it), which makes language easier to remember [if they already have a reference point in English]. Class was about over by this time, so they lined up for the habitual, “¡SORPRESA!” (surprise) for their teacher, and said our goodbyes!
Well, this was not the most concise update (“Oh me, oh my, pumpkin pie! That was not concise at all, maestra!!), but seeing as we have started to layer on a new unit, I wanted to share and provide a glimpse into the Spanish classroom/empire/world/planet/universe/something, HA! 🙂
I hope you have a truly wonderful Fri-YAY! and thank you so much for reading!
This morning, third graders tapped into their “One Voice Can Make a Difference” theme in Spanish class. First, they learned some basic linguistic facts: there are about 7,000 languages in the world; that Mandarin Chinese is the most spoken language in real life (but English is most used online); and that some languages in the world are considered endangered. Many students were very interested in this concept (how would it feel to be the only person in the world who spoke your language?), and so I shared a few other anecdotes with them on the topic.
They heard the story of one 14-year-old girl from Peru who wanted to make her native language, Quechua**, more popular and accepted in her country. Younger people were wanting to speak “only” Spanish and not Quechua, and she wanted to change that. This is her cover of a Michael Jackson song (see below), which has received over 2 million views: her one voice is literally making a difference! Thanks to the internet, many now want to learn Quechua.
**NOTE: Quechua is an indigenous language spoken in the Andes Mountains and highlands of South America (and NOT Spain).
Third graders also made pretend gold (covering tiny rocks with glue and glitter—oh my! so much glitter! Glitter, glitter, everywhere! Even in my hair! But what fun!)—like a few other classes this week, learning about La Rinconada, or the highest city in the world (also in Peru). What they don’t know is that the legend they are learning has a surprise ending with GOLD as well! So this all ties together nicely in the end.
Weather permitting (no tormentas!/no storms!), tomorrow will be a soccer game day. While we began the year with a soccer unit, at this point in time we are starting to add many other layers, which is one of my favorite aspects of the third grade curriculum. We will take a few days this year to talk about endangered languages, untranslatable phrases, and just language in general–I like for students to think about language(s), too–and then layer on Culture Projects, legends from the Spanish-speaking world (current unit), storytelling, soccer games, tongue twisters, jokes, dance, food(!), and more, to create a tiered Spanish cake of knowledge, reading, writing, listening, and speaking, culture, etcetera. It is a big metaphorical cake. I might need to go eat some real cake now. Or tapas.
Anyway (ha!), thank you for reading. I hope you have a supercalifragilisticexpialidocious type of awesome day! (When she says it backwards in the video clip, it is just hilarious!)
In class this afternoon, first graders came to Spanish and happened to notice that my classroom was–almost literally–coated in glitter: from the carpet to the tables, to even the teacher’s chin [I learned that after class], specks of gold fairy dust were everywhere.
BACKGROUND: If you have a child in kindergarten, you already know why–but a quick recap is that Pato had to escape from an erupting volcano, and used a boat, treasure map, and telescope to make his way to an island, which had a treasure chest full of gold there (convenient how these things work out in Stuffed Animal World, right?!).
Anyway, first graders collected tiny rocks, squished them around in glue, and coated them with gold glitter (the same activity as kindergarten), but LEVELED UP!! and alongside a much more culturally-based lesson.
Here, students learned that while the Camino (500-mile hike) is located in Spain, today we would be traveling to Peru, another Spanish-speaking country. We used Google Maps to locate Peru with respect to Spain, Mexico, our state, and more. In Peru, there is a place called Rainbow Mountain, or Vinicunca, that has a unique composition–14 different, colorful minerals–which make the mountain range appear like the inside of a jawbreaker.
A day or so away from Rainbow Mountain in Peru is [arguably] the highest city in the world, or La Rinconada, at a whopping 3 miles high! We did a little math, and that would be a student who measures 4 feet, standing on top of 4,183 of his/her own clones, going straight up. REALLY HIGH! This location is of interest because the town was built on top of a–you guessed it–GOLD MINE! First graders watched a 43-second video of how gold is mined, and then (as described above) created their own little pieces of gold to bring home. It was an exciting start to the week!
Waves of cerulean lapped onto the shore, back and forth, back and forth—carelessly, yet with purpose and intention. My toes reveled in delight at the mixture of wet sand and water, so distinct from their claustrophobic shoe shell. Change could be wonderfully refreshing.
Traveling has always been in my blood. I love exploring and want to share this excitement with my students.
So in class, students don’t just talk about going places- we actually travel! Well, via simulation, at least. Let me invite you into our world. One of my favorite lessons of the year is The Day We Do All The Things. This day is planned about 24 hours in advance (I’m one of those 11:59.57 types), and particularly after a student makes an offhanded comment about wanting to travel. Okay, well let’s go!
I prepare plane tickets, complete with realistic times, dates, and airports (thank you, Snipping Tool!), and hand these out along with faux currency of our final destination. One year, we spent a week creating crazy-realistic looking passports beforehand, with student photos pasted in and a world map as the background. Needless to say, travel involves some paperwork!
At the airport, students go through ‘customs’, taking off their shoes, handing over their passport, walking through the creepy scanner, etc. (quítense los zapatos, pasaporte, por favor)
Lesson plan- plane tickets, customs- ; stewardess/plane simulation with snacks & iPad movies available in Spanish only; QR codes around campus, “taxi ride”, riding the metro (hey, look! there’s the Prado!), etc.
Gain confidence speaking the target language (~shouting as opposed to speaking).
Simplify thoughts to communicate a basic message in the target language.
Students learn about the cultural importance of fútbol/soccer in the Spanish-speaking world, and play “Spanish-only” games outside with specific vocabulary they are expected to use.
Somehow, this unit always ends unexpectedly. Last year, the ball was kicked over the fence by accident and lost forever. This year, a student fell into a bush, from which emerged a swarm of very angry bees. Oh my! Ah well, c‘est la vie…
Create and build the habit of studying a language in short spurts, on a regular basis.
Work independently at his/her own pace.
Students began the year working on the Duolingo app in class for five minutes a day, 3x/week. Partway through the year, this was assigned as homework; fourth graders were expected to be working on Duolingo 3x/week. There was a very wide range here: some students went crazy, earning more than 16,000 XP over the year (rockstars!, some had streaks of 100+ days in a row), while others ended the year with less than 1,000 XP.
The overarching goal was to give those extra-motivated students an outlet to work at their own pace–which they most certainly did–and to gently encourage and build the habit of studying a language a little bit each day. I will structure this differently next year for more accountability on the students’ part (~the homework piece was more a lack of maturity, since some were not even 9 years old at the beginning of the year!).
NOTE: The commentary above is directed toward fourth graders only. We tried using the app with third graders as well, but it fizzled out–those who were not on grade level for reading in English were discouraged. That said, I had the native speakers choose a different language to study (in lieu of Spanish), which was a good challenge for them.
The majority of second & third graders preferred the Fun Spanish app, but we did not have the paid version this year (I will look into that for the future) and the free version was very limited.
Name and locate all 21 Spanish-speaking countries (jumping on a floor map).
Transfer knowledge to other maps (find countries on globe, paper, poster, etc.).
Connect country names with class Culture Projects.
Apply map knowledge in free play.
Actual quote: “No, you can’t drive to Puerto Rico- it’s an island! You have to take a boat! ~first grader proceeds to ‘row’ himself in cardboard box across the room.
Students jump on and name Spanish-speaking countries on tape floor map. Many also become familiar with the flags of said countries, more through osmosis than anything else!
Grades 2-4 completed/mastered all 21 countries.
Some classes looked at clothing tags in class (e.g., shirts, shoes) and food labels at home to identify imports/exports from Spanish-speaking countries: bananas from Costa Rica, shirts from Honduras, avocados from Mexico, etc.
Grade 1 learned all 21 Spanish-speaking countries on the map, and loved trying to better their times with an online timer.
Kindergarten learned all of South America on the map, and recognizes names of several other countries from projects.
PK-4 recognizes “Puerto Rico”, “Guatemala”, “Mexico”, and “Colombia” from projects.
Spanish-Speaking Countries: Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico (technically a territory), Spain/España, Equatorial Guinea.
NOTE: The “x”‘s on the map for Spain & Equatorial Guinea indicate that the geographical distance between the latter and all of the other countries is not accurate (~they are across the ocean!).
Make connections with the written and spoken word in the target language (e.g., phonetics).
Combine and relate new and old ideas, especially in written work.
Apply memorized key phrases in meaningful contexts, especially in spoken work.
Express wants and needs in the target language.
Students “sign up” for a center work activity of their choice. Here, they write a letter (similar to the town simulation written work in grades 2&3), and check in with the teacher for immediate feedback re: the written mechanics, punctuation, spelling, etc. of their work. Feedback is personalized and differentiated to/for each student, dependent on literacy and reading levels.
When the majority of students are comfortable with a grammatical concept or phrase, new information is provided. Partway through the year, students are given the option to write OR speak/voice aloud their requests (hablar/escribir). By the last quarter, students are encouraged to just speak; by that point, their confidence with the language has grown tremendously. Many continue writing their requests and enjoy reading them aloud to the teacher!
Following 5-10 minutes of written work and check-ins, students proceed to said activity and work on asking for items and using key phrases in the target language with their classmates and teacher. Most days, there is constant linguistic interaction between students>students and students>teacher and teacher>students.
Kindergarten: Students write, “Soy + [their name]”; the name of a Spanish-speaking country (those less literate draw the flag stripes instead); and an activity (jugar/play; dibujar/draw; construir/build). Focus on the letter “j” and that it is pronounced like the letter “h” in English.
Grade 1: Students write, “Hola, yo me llamo + [their name]; Quiero + [infinitive]; and work on using and pronouncing “y/and” and “con/with” properly and in context. Conversationally, they worked on adding discourse fillers such as pues/well…, and también/also.
Grades 2 & 3: Students write, “Hola/buenos días”; “Yo me llamo + [their name]”; Quiero + [infinitive]; work on using and pronouncing “y” and “con” properly and in context; Necesito + [one or more nouns]; and something for the closing, like un abrazo/adiós/hasta luego. Second graders learned, “Yo voy a + [noun or country name]”, while other grades used, “Quiero ir a + [nouns or country name]”.
Combine new and old knowledge of the target language.
Repeat key phrases and vocabulary and create movements/gestures to match each one.
Follow and comprehend short stories in the target language.
Apply words and phrases in everyday conversation (spoken).
Read lines of mini stories in the target language.
Students experience immersion in the target language and learn about The Adventures of Pato (my stuffed animal duck). Some of these stories are class conversations and wordplays and have ridiculous outcomes! Keep reading for a few examples.
Kindergarten: Pato starts the year off in a more low-key than not fashion, calmly singing a song to learn the names of the colors in Spanish. This quickly turns more exciting when he brings food coloring and coffee filters to the next class, so that kindergarteners can make their own designs. There is a lot of comprehensible input here: “How many drops of blue? Two more of red? Where? Which color over there? No, I don’t have purple, but is there a way we could make it? What happens if we mix blue and red?” etc.
The following class, Pato brings both vinegar/vinagre and water/agua, and students take turns smelling the identical-looking liquids, and commenting on whether they like the smell or not (me gusta/no me gusta). The story/conversation just keeps growing, complete with wordplays (a boy named Kai became the caimán, or alligator, in a mini story, where Pato is out on a boat with pirates looking for treasure when he is suddenly surrounded by alligators and must learn how to fly in order to escape (cue pulley/polea lesson and up/down directionals).
Grade 1: While some lessons evolve into crazy, unanticipated projects that span several classes, other silly stories are intentional class projects, as a means to an end. For example, when Pato wants to visit Spain, the class is divided into small groups and has to build him Popsicle stick boats with paper flags; this becomes a mini unit on floating and sinking objects (flota/se hunde).
Students later take a faux plane ride to Spain, have to go through customs/aduana, take off their shoes, show their pasaportes/passports, etc. When they arrive in Spain, Pato wants to see La Alhambra, the famous red fort, so first graders actually ended up painting huge swaths of cardboard red and building a very cool kid-sized model of the actual fort and gardens. They made tickets to visit and charged euros to enter the large fort. Wow!
Grade 2: A memorable day was when Pato thought fútbol, or soccer, was “food-ball”; this became a class joke and new sport, called, “Comida-ball”, wherein students took turns rolling [raw!] eggs on a soccer type field on the floor of their regular classroom (rompe el huevo). You lost if you cracked the huevo/egg, of course.
Somehow the class ended up building Pato a massive zipline outside and we experimented to see if the raw egg could make it down in one piece (it did, miraculously!). This led to the creation of a papier-mache hot air balloon. Pato was pretty fixated on modes of transportation that first quarter.
Students experienced immersion in the target language via TPRS methodology. We co-created (as teacher and students) a number of mini-stories in the target language. The teaching style of these stories evolved over the year, in that some were pure TPRS, others were more script/play/ acting/theater style, and yet others were more AIM (gestures and repetition, but less of a focus on PQA). The latter seemed more effective for this age, mostly because processing levels (of reading and written translations on the board) varied significantly, based on their L1 reading levels.
**Note that students did not do much, if any, writing during this unit; the focus was on using language in meaningful contexts and encouraging them to apply words and phrases in everyday conversation. Students were exposed to proper spelling and punctuation/reading on the board, of course, but I did not require any written output. That said, I framed the TPRS story more as a class play, so that students had the opportunity to volunteer and read their lines aloud if they so desired.
We also incorporated well-known song classics into the story/play; for example, when an actor had “lost all hope” and was crying, the class would sing, “Ay yie yie yie, canta y no llores” (sing and don’t cry) and hear a short clip of Cielito lindo. They won’t know the name of the song, but they will recognize that line! Freewrites in the target language on a regular basis will be a goal for next year.
Locate country on the map and identify as Spanish-speaking.
Combine and relate new and old ideas, especially in written work.
Create a relevant product or business pertaining to said country.
Apply memorized key phrases in meaningful contexts.
Understand that countries use different currencies and that the value of bills with the same number on each one is not necessarily worth the same amount (e.g., 500 pesos does not equal 500 dollars).
Students participate in a town simulation. First, they choose a country as a class in which to “live”. Next, they set up businesses, make transactions with the local currency, do mini-projects relevant to said country, and really try to live the language, utilizing words and short phrases in everyday interactions as much as possible (e.g., mira/look!; necesito ayuda/I need help; necesito eso/I need that; por favor/please; gracias/ thank you; dónde está/where is it?; quiero/I want to…; etc.). Businesses evolve based on student interests. To prepare their minds each class for the task at hand, students compose short letters to the teacher (based on a sample/model) explaining who they are, what they want to do that day, and where they are going, along with the appropriate salutations.
Sample businesses this year included banks, restaurants, art museums, factories, and more. Key verbs included the following, among others: trabajar/to work; ir/to go; construir/to build; dibujar/to draw; etc.
I believe in multi-sensory and experiential learning, in involving all of the senses on a regular basis and in meaningful contexts.
I want students to not only see and think about the textual appearance of the word, “lemon”, but also to see and touch the thick outside yellow rind of the fruit; squeeze it in their hands and listen as citrus droplets fall into a glass; pucker their cheeks when they taste the uniquely sour flavor; smell the dirt as they plant lemon seeds; and begin to understand the tremendous complexity of a single word.
I believe in the power of play, that kids should be allowed to be kids for as long as possible.
I believe in wonder, joy, and curiosity.
I believe in creativity and thinking creatively, especially when there are boundaries and constraints or limitations in place.
In the classroom, I do not instruct students to simply “be creative”. I give them a problem, provide limited materials, and ask them to come up with a solution within those constraints.
I believe in hard work. I encourage developing the strength and perseverance that comes from working through challenges.
I believe in risk-taking and in the inevitability of failure. Learning how to fail is one of life’s greatest lessons.
I believe in teaching students to be self-directed and lifelong learners.
I believe that language is a beautiful canvas and mosaic with countless layers of meaning; but without context, it becomes a pile of randomly grouped Scrabble letters.
I believe that we can do anything we set our minds to.
Be smart. Be strong. Be kind. Work hard. Have fun.
1) Expectations: Students will be reminded of the academic and behavioral expectations on a regular basis. Students in my class are expected to be smart, kind, and strong (have ‘grit’), and to work hard and have fun.
2) Passwords: For some grade levels, students are given a “special word”, or Spanish password, which can determine where they sit each day. They think up creative ways to physically act out vocabulary (e.g., flower). If classes have assigned numbers, there may also be more math-related games included in the curriculum.
3) Tongue Twisters, Rhymes, & Poems: Other languages require that you move your mouth differently than in your native tongue. Tongue twisters and rhymes give students time to become aware of and play with sounds and phonetics.
4) Actions: Students physically act out nouns and verbs to reinforce and recycle vocabulary, and also to move around and get the ‘wiggles’ out of their systems. They may play fútbol/soccer outside, and learn several authentic ballroom dances as well, including the Salsa, Tango, Merengue, and Cha-cha.
5) Announcements & Advertisements: Students learn translated slogans, such as, “Me encanta” (I’m lovin’ it/McDonalds) and “Come más pollo” (Eat more chicken/Chick-fil-A) to make connections outside of the classroom. Announcements are code for public speaking practice in the target language, and will be worked in gradually as the year progresses.
6) Floor Map: Students jump on an interactive floor tape map of South and Central America to learn the names and locations of the 21+ Spanish-speaking countries and to reference the map in stories/culture.
7) Games: Students play authentic and translated versions of a variety of games in the target language. These are meant to build class camaraderie, and teach students to respond instinctually in Spanish.
8) Experiments & Projects: Science experiments emphasize order and step-by-step instructions, and allow students to participate in a hands-on way with the language. Projects are often cultural by nature. For example, students might study and then build a model of Chichen Itza (Mexico); simulate an authentic mercado (Argentina); mold Easter Island statues and tablets out of clay (Chile); or even create Salar de Uyuni mirror images with art, cameras, and technology (Bolivia).
10) Cultural Tidbits and Facts: Culture is woven throughout the curriculum. Sometimes, cultural tidbits will emerge as answers to students’ questions in class discussions. Other times, facts will be included in class stories.
9) Partner Stories & Scripts: Students read and/or create mini-stories in the target language, and also read class scripts. With the former, the idea is to develop literacy skills and spontaneous linguistic output. With the latter, the focus is on expression.
11) Storytelling (TPRS methodology): Every conversation is a story. Here, students help the teacher “tell” a story in the target language. The teacher asks personalized questions, searching for details, and then lets the class decide (usually!) where the story will take them. Stories for the younger grades are presentational linguistically but interactive in that students may participate in certain parts (e.g., students might take turns hoisting a stuffed animal duck up-up-up to the sky on a pulley so that he could learn how to fly).
12) Apps: Grades 3 & 4 will be using Duolingo this year. The goal here is to create a habit and routine of studying the target language. Students are expected to spend 3x/week, for five minutes each day on the app. For more apps and resources, please visit the “Movies & Cartoons” page HERE.
To wrap up the year and review several units all at once, third graders hosted their very own news show in Spanish. Students enjoyed adding something new to the rehearsals each class, and even tried to create iMovies of their particular segment (in small groups). Unfortunately, we ran out of time to finish the latter, but it was fun while it lasted!
On Wednesday, fourth graders performed a play in Spanish about our beloved stuffed animal hero, Pato (Duck), who was (gasp!) framed for robbing the bank. Students not only excelled academically–impressing the audience with native-like accents and natural intonation in the target language–but also delighted everyone with their theatrical stage presence, humor, and tech work. A huge thank you to all involved- it takes a village! A shout out to upcoming fourth grader Henry, who created this iMovie trailer for the show. ¡Muchas gracias!
“Pato” (duck) is a stuffed animal duck of mine that has a ridiculously squeaky voice and innocent but silly personality. He is always getting into mischief, and students in all of the grade levels know him.
This year, he has ziplined down to the flagpole from the second floor of the new building (with grades 1&2). He has his own [faux] Instagram page and TV series. He has crazy ideas, and always wants to have fun, and would come out and play every day, if it weren’t for the stress his squeaky voice causes on my vocal chords (self-taught ventriloquism has a downside).
In the play, our friend and hero Pato is framed for a crime hedidn’tdid commit: robbing the bank. While he sits in a jail cell with his BFF (#BestAmigoForever), a turkey, they recount what happened the day prior… and thanks to a “ghost”–what else do I do with a silver graduation gown?!–the two friends realize that Pato was POISONED! With “Meantonium”, a new element on the periodic table that makes you “mean”. In fact, a “Bad Apple” (~Manzana/Apple) poisoned the Mate tea Pato was drinking when Pato wasn’t looking, which made Pato “mean” and caused him to follow Bad Apple’s orders to rob the bank.
So… the two friends escape with the ghost’s help (#JailBreak), and go to Cuba to visit the witches, who are good and will help clear their name. In Cuba, Pato is severely distracted by all of the Salsa dancing, and wants to join the fiesta (party), even though they have work to do. The police show up suddenly, and this changes his mind rather quickly. A chase scene ensues.
Conclusions- It turns out that Manzana/Apple stole the Meantonium from the witches, who only had it on hand for emergencies. There is also a surprise ending with a Banana, which is a theme of sorts, as “La Habana”, the capital of Cuba, sounds like “Banana” to Pato. Obviously. This film is rated G.
This year, I changed schools and began writing blog posts about lessons, as opposed to quarter summaries. Our school also did a mix of hybrid learning, with some students 100% on campus and others learning virtually from home.
As a result, I struggled with finding the best way to organize my curriculum on paper, as well as trying to blog regularly and post for virtual students: much like the fireworks image above, my thoughts were everywhere. It was a year of intense professional growth. Below, you can read blips about what we did. My two favorite posts are at the top, namely, Yes to Pizza and Pato Who?.
Once upon a time, there was a Spanish teacher who awakened very early one Friday morning and knew–without a doubt–that it was going to be an amazing day: no ifs, ands, or buts. As if cyberspace wanted to confirm this fact, by 5:30am the algorithms had led her to perhaps the #BestSongEverWritten.
She left the room and nearly missed the surprise ending, but ran back just in time to see it (watch to the end!). She felt an immediate and strong urge to share it with everyone who crossed her path that day; fortunately, she would meet with eight classes, so that wouldn’t be too difficult. It didn’t exactly align with the curriculum, but… yes to pizza. Always yes to pizza.
Then again, did it align? Could it? She wracked her brain. Classes were studying the Nazca Lines–massive geoglyphs in the Peruvian desert that appeared to be roads or trenches in every direction at ground level, but from the air… holy guacamole! They were designs of plants and animals, the longest a whopping 12 miles (20km) long!
The crazy thing was that they had been around for 2,000+ years, but weren’t really discovered or documented until aircrafts were invented. She imagined what it would have been like: “Flying over Peru, Roger that. Wait! A giant hummingbird, there is a giant hummingbird! And a spider! Mayday?!” [pause] “No, I don’t believe they intend to eat me.” “Should we send backup?” “No, I repeat–they do not appear to be an immediate threat. Over.”
In fact, drones and AI are helping to uncover new lines, previously gone unnoticed. In October of 2020, as explained by this article, a faint outline of a huge cat was discovered on the side of a mountain. 143 new geoglyphs have been discovered in the past two years, including one of a humanoid.
Students had been having difficulties imagining just how large these images were, so she planned to have them find the vehicles in the following photo. That would surely impress upon classes the immensity of their size. Wow!
So, pizza. Hmm. There had to be a way in; the song was just too good to hide away in a metaphorically dusty folder in the cloud. Another algorithm led to an animated gif, with a monkey, hummingbird, spider, and a… pizza?! Bingo!
The results of this Spanish lesson about pizza, ahem, Peru, speak for themselves, but she, for one, was very impressed.
Third graders tried making their own miniature deserts and geoglyphs with real sand and red paint (to mimic the reddish desert sand), but it was messier than anticipated: she wound up with red paint IN her hair, students all had red hands from dyeing the sand red, and thus the class switched from The Pizza Song on loop to Elmo’s Para bailar la bamba (because Elmo is red, in case you didn’t follow that non sequitur train of thought).
And since they were all in Peru, it felt like spending a moment at the sand dunes would be an inspired end to the week (best footage starts @3:09 below). After all of that virtual sand dune skiing, who’s hungry for pizza? Happy Friday! ¡Feliz viernes!
LANGUAGE IS weird. Bizarre. Quirky. Odd. Let me clarify: yes, language encompasses all of those things–each and every language has its own particular quirks and oddities (in the grammatical sense)–but I am referring here more to language acquisition, or the process of how a child learns another language.
You see, much of my job as a language teacher involves talking. I talk and talk and talk, filling young minds with Spanish babbling: the different rhythms and cadence, the syntax, the intonation, the words that sound the same as English and mean the same thing in Spanish, the words that sound the same as English but don’t mean the same thing in Spanish, and the words in Spanish that don’t sound like anything in English. There is a tremendous amount of input that must occur before you can expect any output.
Students listen and absorb, absorb and listen, don’t listen and don’t absorb, don’t listen and do absorb, and then just when I’m about to lose all hope–because sometimes I feel like I’m having a conversation with the wall or an inanimate object–they don’t say anything. But on the day after that, THEY DO! It is a bit magical.
Initially, it is a word here or there. “¡Hola!” “Could I go to the baño, I mean, bathroom?” “Wow, that is really grande (big)!” These phrases gradually–and ever so casually–are elongated over time: “¡Hasta luego, maestra!” and “Tengo hambre” (I’m hungry). “Quiero pintar” (I want to paint).
And then on some days, the conversation lulls: silence returns, deafening in every sense of the word, a lonely desert stretching as far as the eye can see. Wind whips across the dunes: English abounds. My conversation with the Inanimate Objects resumes. What happened?, I wonder. Is language like the tides? Did Spanish just go back out to sea? I don’t understand.
This is the fabulously irrational cycle, the pattern-less pattern, the inconsistent chain or sequence of events of language acquisition which lead to circles and spirals that appear at first to be a child’s scribbles. Nonsensical and incoherent, we not only allow but in fact encourage and invite the scribbles–the practice–because we know it’s leading somewhere. This Somewhere arrived for students in first grade today. Note that while “Somewhere” does not equate to fluency, it is a definite mile marker on the yellow brick road of their journey to proficiency, and should be congratulated.
In other words, the amount of Spanish in meaningful contexts–and complete sentences, at that!–that I heard this afternoon was astounding. Stars and planets aligned, the tide came in, the “English desert” disappeared, and WOW! “Quiero eso (I want that)”, “Ayúdame, por favor, maestra” (help me please, teacher) “¿Dónde está?” (where is it?) “Yo me llamo ______ (My name is _____).” Quiero ir a Guatemala con ____” (I want to go to Guatemala with so-and-so), “¡No quiero escribir!” (I don’t want to write!) “¡¡MIRA!!” (LOOK!) “Necesito rojo y azul, por favor” (I need red and blue [food coloring], please), “Vamos, amigos” (let’s go, friends!), “¿Puedo ir al baño?” (Can I go to the bathroom?).
It could just be the stifling heat–perhaps they are delirious and don’t realize they’re speaking in Spanish–but progress is being made, however intangible and unquantifiable. They are doing a wonderful job, and I just wanted to let you know that the class’ Spanish output today was truly incredible!
LET ME BEGIN with a general (but sincere) apology for not sending out thank-you notes yet to acknowledge your incredible generosity throughout the holiday season. Below please find a detailed list of excuses for the time lapse, along with a multi-step, absurdly elaborated enumeration of thought processes of fantastical concoctions of the imagination. #TooManyPrepositionsAlready #ForYourEntertainmentOnly
PART I: Detailed Excuses
1) So I went to the store to buy new thank-you notes because the ones I had weren’t artistically sufficient, but
2) I was running late as it was and then
3) my Train of Thought took me to other places and I missed the actual exit and
4) then there weren’t any parking spaces available and I couldn’t believe my eyes when
5) I saw a Bear–a REAL BEAR–but it was only as real as the VR videogame portrayed it to be (they say HD is clearer than real life, right?) and anyway, the bear appeared out of nowhere when I started playing on my phone while I was waiting for the guy to leave his parking spot and
6) then somebody honked at me and I got all flustered and stressed out and ate a chocolate bar and remembered that I needed milk at the grocery store so I pulled away but
7) then the gas light came on and I went to the station but it only took cash and so I went to the ATM and took out a few bucks but
8) by that time it had gotten dark and I decided that it was time to get going but then out of nowhere
9) I got caught in some quantum weirdness of a wormhole–a temporary condition?–and
10) a Grammarian Cop stopped me for writing this insanely long run-on sentence and then I finally made it home but
11) for the fourteenth time since the day before yesterday, I forgot to buy thank-you notes.
PART II: Absurdly Elaborated Thought Processes
(Several weeks later, after finally purchasing a set of cards to express my deepest gratitude.)
Step 1: I sit at my desk, pen in hand, and start, quite simply, with a handwritten note. Genuine, meaningful, and from the heart:
Mon Cher Ami (My Dear Friend)…
Step 2: And then think– No! I need a better idea, a fun idea, something that the students will appreciate. Yes, that’s it! A 3D (4D?) pop-up Scrabble board type thank-you note that spells out “Thank you!” in 14 different languages!
Step 3: … that is covered in glitter and Dr. Seuss zig-zag staircases…
Step 4: … and is attached to a balloon that inflates by an automated voice command control when said family receives the package in their mailbox…
Step 5: … but that has a dart included to throw so that it doesn’t float away…
Step 6: with all the safety precautions in place, of course.
Step 7: And maybe a drone could live-stream their reaction!
Step 8: And we could have a contest in real time of who throws the dart the fastest to pierce the balloon that was inflated by an automated voice command control to lower the package containing a card covered in glitter and Dr. Seuss zig-zag staircases that pops up into a 3D (4D?) Scrabble board that spells out “Thank you!” in 14 different languages.
Step 9: Hmmm, I wonder if I have the necessary coding skills to program an automated voice command. [Inner voice: Absolutely not.]
Step 10: BRRRRRING!!!!! The alarm clock sounds. It is 5am. Again.
(Loud, automated voice over the intercom system):“Attention, all Gift Givers and Genuinely Thoughtful People. There will be a significant delay in the arrival of your personalized thank-you notes. They most certainly will not arrive on time. There is a slight chance that they may not arrive at all. With a swirl of hope and pixie dust, however, they may possibly arrive in the coming decade, in the time zone of Soon-ish. Again, we are not making any promises. Have a lovely evening.”
All kidding aside, your thoughtful gifts and kind words brought me much light and love, and for that I am inexpressibly grateful. Thank you, thank you, thank you, from the bottom of my heart.
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 (heladode chocolate), when all of a sudden, a group of shark-ghosts/tiburón–fantasmas (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!
UPDATE: Students in PK-4 have been experiencing a 100% immersive classroom environment in Spanish class. We begin each day with a song, followed by knocking on the “door” (read: ground) to see if Pato is ready to visit them. I ask them where he is (¿Dónde está?) and they point to my small backpack (mochila). When they have a lot of physical energy, we do action commands (corre/run, salta/jump, marcha/march, baila/dance, etc.).
The reminder of class tends to be presentational-conversational, meaning that I am presenting a lesson and constantly asking questions in Spanish, but students are also responding in English or with body language (e.g., thumbs up or down). This is called the “silent period” in language acquisition; learners are absorbing, absorbing, absorbing. They are absorbing the cadence and rhythm of the language, and they are intuiting, comprehending, and internalizing contextualized language and new vocabulary. I gesture, I change the intonation of my voice, I use props, I turn on and off the lights (we have a ‘class game’ where I ask a student to turn off the lights, they respond and everyone else pretends to fall asleep–buenas noches/good night!); I do pretty much everything I can think of, but I do not pressure students to produce language at this stage in the game. If they want to, fantastic; but if not, that is perfectly natural (think of a baby learning his/her native tongue–you don’t force them to speak day #2 out of the womb!).
Anyway, PK-4 students were exceptionally in the zone this morning, and so our general conversation with Pato turned into a gripping story about a gato/cat who wanted to eat Pato (a duck). The cat did not want pizza, strawberry or chocolate ice cream, or a banana; however, it considered cat food and four fish. Ultimately, the cat chased after Pato (who put a tissue over his head, pretending to be a fantasma/ghost), but a student suggested that I use the three stuffed animal dogs I bring to class to bark and scare away the cat. Thankfully, this scared away the cat. Phew!
The suggestion was–ironically–very similar to a Cuban tale about the importance of learning another language (in the story, a mouse barks to scare away a cat; video ends at 4:21). Gracias and have a great day!
VIRTUAL STUDENTS are strongly encouraged to get as much linguistic input as possible– watch cartoons in the target language, listen to the radio in Spanish (even if you don’t understand!), just listen-listen-listen! Your child’s brain is doing a ton of work, even if they can’t verbalize or articulate it quite yet.
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.
WEEKS 3-4: After spending one lesson last week identifying objects that float and sink–and adding food coloring to plain water/agua (not vinegar/vinagre) to observe the ‘lava lamp’ effect–Pato decided that the day had come to learn to fly. He felt ready. Prepared. Brave. Courageous! A pulley system was therefore erected in class (arriba, abajo, de lado a lado/up, down, side to side), and kindergarteners helped him get over his fear of heights (¿Listos?/Ready?). At a certain point, he would shriek that he didn’t like it, and we would let him down; but he soon became accustomed to the idea (Sí me gusta/no me gusta/ para nada; yes, I like it, no I don’t, not at all). A series of P.E. lessons in Spanish class then ensued (combining action words from our beginning-of-class routine with other exercises to help increase the duck’s upper body strength). He was able to lift a marker by the end of the lesson, bench-press style. ¡Muy bien!
Today in class–and building on a genius idea from second graders–students helped hold up a zipline for Pato, so that he could practice flying while harnessed in. After a few runs, he had had enough; and so we returned to the class’s first mini-story of the year. The goal here is to combine vocabulary from all of the lessons, in a comprehensible and interactive way. The story included Pato floating on a boat in the water (read: a box big enough to fit one student) with caimanes/alligatorsall around. Students shouted, “¡Mira!/Look!” when they saw one (other students acting), as the teacher dragged the box-boat across the ocean, err, room. Rain, thunder, and wind sound effects were added in the background via noisli.com and a portable Bluetooth speaker, to complete the scene.
VIRTUAL LEARNERS are encouraged to rig up their own string zipline at home, and harness in their favorite stuffed animal to practice directions/action commands (arriba/up, abajo/down/“ah-BAH-hoe”, and ¡vuela!/fly!) in the target language. Materials needed: string (a taut line) and a cylindrical piece of pliable cardboard, such as a paper towel or toilet paper roll. They are also welcome to build their own cardboard box boat/barco with a sign that says, “BARCO/BOAT”, and continue practicing colors and numbers (0-10, forwards and backwards) in Spanish.
WEEK 5: On Monday, students used paper telescopes to look for tesoro/treasure, practicing the phrase, “¡MIRA!” (“MEER-rah”/Look!). Later, they watched Pocoyo: Piratas to understand these words in context. This was also the first time this year they’ve heard someone else speaking Spanish, other than their maestra.
To extend our class story, kindergarteners traveled outside this morning to help Pato search for ‘real’ tesoro/treasure. (It is assumed that he got past the alligators safely.) Students practiced saying, “¡Mira!” (Look!) again while picking up shells and small rocks and pretending that they had discovered TESORO (“tay-SORE-oh”)/treasure.
VIRTUAL LEARNERS are welcome to make paper telescopes (roll up a sheet of colored paper) and then create their own treasure hunt (real or imagined) at home! Painting rocks gold and then hiding them might be a fun activity. Drawing a treasure map on the inside of the telescope is another idea.
Week #2: This week, students in fourth grade had another dance party–see video below–making sure to sing, “Es viernes (‘bee-AIR-nace’)/It’s Fri-day” as they settled into their seats. The former is our “class song” and was the official anthem for the 2016 European Championship (soccer/fútbol). By Friday, fourth graders began to take a look at the lyrics and delve a bit deeper, learning that while rojo means red in Spanish, in the song, “La Roja” refers to the soccer team because Spain’s flag is red (and yellow).
Before jumping into the lesson, however, I wanted to take a moment to explain why I’ve repeated, “¡Camino!” four million times throughout the past few classes. The Camino is a long hike, yes–but it is also a metaphor. Simply put, language-learning is a journey. The Weekly Spanish Challenges (paralleling the 500-mile Camino de Santiago hike in Spain) are meant to reinforce that fact.
You see, some days feel like we’re walking straight up a mountain. Life is one problem after another–interjection: no! There are no problems, only solutions!–and all of our studying feels for naught. How come I’m not fluent yet? Other days, we are coasting. Spanish makes sense; there is growth: I remember that word! It is crucial to understand here that fluency does not occur overnight. It is a process where, after many successes, failures, and moments of uncertainty, coupled with much determination, grit, and hard work, progress is made. Plateau-ing is normal at a certain point. But don’t give up, ever!
The important thing is to keep going–just keep walking. You are making progress, even if you can’t articulate it quite yet, even when you don’t feel like it. If the class is going too slowly for you, then hike faster!: ask the teacher questions, explore Duolingo (a language-learning app already on your iPads), look up words in a Spanish dictionary, listen to music in the target language. There are myriad opportunities!
After this pep-talk of sorts (and encouragement to complete the Weekly Challenges)–along with a brief reenactment of La Tomatina, the tomato-throwing festival in Spain–students continued with their storytelling/ theater unit. Here, the teacher provides the bare-bones outline of a scripted story, and asks questions to personalize and cater the story to each particular class. My goal is to ingrain certain vocabulary structures in their minds each day through memorable experiences, comprehensible input–students understanding/ intuiting what is being said, even if they don’t know the words yet– and repetition (the average learner requires 70-150 repetitions of a word and/or phrase before it is stored in long-term memory).
NOTE: As I touched upon last week, the stories are grounded in actual cultural facts and places, but the idea is to layer imagination and creativity over them to create a personalized play with student actors and actresses. The stories tend to grow from class to class, but on occasion they will reach a “No Outlet” sign and we will begin anew (the phoenix re-birthed!). New vocabulary is constantly presented and old vocabulary is constantly spiraled and recycled. A full report on each class plot will be forthcoming: we are in the midst of the creative process!
One final note–students are gradually being exposed to the written word, but the focus right now is on listening and aural comprehension. This will be our next step (on the Camino… ha!).
VIRTUAL LEARNERS are encouraged to print and cut out their own euros in color from the template below. Next, if you have any change in your piggy-bank, count all of it, and then type that number into this online currency converter to see how much it would be in a Spanish-speaking country**. For example, $100 US dollars today is about 84€euros in Spain, but 365,645 pesos in Colombia. WOW! (Students did this in class last week.)
**Spanish-Speaking Countries: Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico (technically a territory), Spain/España, Equatorial Guinea.
If there are any vocabulary words I would like you to focus on this week, they would probably be dinero/money (‘dee-N(AIR)-row’), la casa de _____/so-and-so’s house (‘lah KAH-sah day ________”), and tengo mucha hambre/I’m really hungry (‘tango MOO-chah AHM-bray’). HERE is a great song (though admittedly a bit silly…) to get tengo hambre stuck in your head forever and ever. Make sure to say these words aloud with a lot of EXPRESSION! and in context at mealtimes, too. Hope you’re having a great week!
Week #2: This week, students in third grade entered the wonderful world of storytelling. Here, the teacher provides a bare-bones outline of a scripted story, and asks questions to personalize and cater the story to each particular class. My goal is to ingrain certain vocabulary structures in their minds each day through memorable experiences, comprehensible input–students understanding/ intuiting what is being said, even if they don’t know the words yet– and repetition (the average learner requires 70-150 repetitions of a word and/or phrase before it is stored in long-term memory).
NOTE: The stories are grounded in actual cultural facts and places, but the idea is to layer imagination and creativity over them to create a personalized play with student actors and actresses. If, for example, we learn that student “Fred” hates tomatoes in real life, then we would fit this into the story somehow. The stories tend to continue and grow from class to class.
The story today began in Spain/España, but started with a few questions and answers, game-show style (tú ganas/ you win), and–after voting–the class had abrief dance party. The song is our “class song” and was the official anthem for the 2016 European Championship (soccer/fútbol). Students in the second class delved a bit deeper, learning that while rojo means red in Spanish, in the song, “La Roja” refers to the soccer team because Spain’s flag is red (and yellow).
Both classes had to use “La fuerza” (‘fwear-sah’), or “the force” to get my Bluetooth speakers to work for the song. It only works it everyone says the word in Spanish and outstretches their hands toward the device, sending energy to the technology. Obviously.
With respect to storytelling, 3-1 focused on the logistics of the trip: Where are we going? Spain! How do we get there? Plane! What do we need? Backpacks/mochilas, water/agua, money/dinero (I handed out color copies of euros). Later, students proceeded to grab their stuff, boarded a socially-distanced airplane (chairs rearranged in the room), took an eight-hour flight, passed through customs (passports/ pasaportes), and hiked for about two minutes on the Camino before someone started complaining that they were hungry (maestra, tengo mucha hambre) and we had to stop at a restaurant (i.e., class was over).
3-2 went on a bit of a linguistic/travel tangent when someone asked if we could study Brazil. (I love when these conversations invariably pop up in third grade; there is something about this age that makes them so curious about the world on a global scale.) Anyway, we talked about how Portuguese and Spanish are closely related (I can understand a good deal of the former even though I don’t speak it), but that while there are 21 Spanish-speaking countries–and while they do speak Spanish there–Brazil is not officially a Spanish-speaking country. However, we will focus on the other 21 countries this year.
The story in 3-2 went as follows: Lights/luces, camera/cámara, action/acción, drum-roll/redoble… a famous actress is hiking the Camino de Santiago but gets really hungry (tengo mucha hambre). She wants a pizza and so calls Domino’s. The delivery guy drives his super fast red car to Spain to deliver the pizza. BUT, his car tips over, he gets hurt (¡AY!) and he has to call an ambulance. The doctor comes and stitches him up. PHEW! (Students were tickled pink that ambulances say, “Ni-no-ni-no” in Spanish, not “Wooo wooo wooo”. Gotta love onomatopoeia.)
ASIDE: these stories take place in the target language, but students should not be expected to produce all of this language independently at this point. The goal right now is comprehension and following along in class. Acquisition takes time: patience, my little grasshoppers!
VIRTUAL LEARNERS are encouraged to print and cut out their own euros in color from the template below. Next, if you have any change in your piggy-bank, count all of it, and then type that number into this online currency converter to see how much it would be in a Spanish-speaking country**. For example, $100 US dollars today is about 84€euros in Spain, but 365,645 pesos in Colombia. WOW!
**Spanish-Speaking Countries: Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico (technically a territory), Spain/España, Equatorial Guinea.
If there are any vocabulary words I would like you to focus on this week, they would probably be dinero/money (‘dee-N(AIR)-row’), agua/water (‘AH-gwah’– but you may already know this!), and tengo mucha hambre/I’m really hungry (‘tango MOO-chah AHM-bray’). HERE is a great song (though admittedly a bit silly…) to get tengo hambre stuck in your head forever and ever. Make sure to say these words aloud with a lot of EXPRESSION! and in context at mealtimes, too. Hope you’re having a great week!
Week #2: This week, students in kindergarten experienced 95% immersion in the target language. They usually begin class with some sort of movement warm-up, either dancing as a group to the Wreck-It Ralph/Rompe Ralph song, or copying action words as the teacher does them (e.g., run, jump on one foot, raise your hand, etc.).
Next, they chat for a few minutes with Pato, my stuffed animal duck who–yes–wore his mask this week and–no–was not wearing his sock pajamas (like on the first day of school). He was still not wearing a school uniform, but at least he had on a yellow knit sweater as more appropriate attire. Several students complimented him today in Spanglish–“¡Pato is so GUAPO today! [handsome]”. One class also practiced counting to ten in Spanish (which most of them seem to already know how to do). The other class wants to teach Pato how to fly… [COMING SOON TO A THEATER NEAR YOU!].
Then, we launched into the project of the day with a song to review colors: “Azul, blanco, rojo, violeta, amarillo, anaranjado, verde y rosa [rosado]“. I pointed to crayons as I sang, so as to associate the proper color with each word, and then referenced the food coloring bottles that we had used last class with the coffee filters.
After smelling seemingly identical cups of clear liquid–water/agua and vinegar/vinagre [‘bee-NAH-gray’]–students responded in Spanish with either, “Sí me gusta” or “No me gusta” (I like it/I don’t like it/’no may GOOSE-tah’) and proceeded to ooooh and aaahhh when Pato added baking soda, droplets of food coloring, and vinegar to a bowl–resulting in a colorful volcanic eruption!
We repeated this experiment several times. Each time, I narrated what was happening and asked questions continuously; the class voted on which color should be added next, how many droplets, etc.
They ended class by writing their first Spanish sight word of the year on their whiteboards: Hola. Thanks for a fabulous week!
VIRTUAL LEARNERS, HERE is a video narrated in Spanish to help you follow along. Be sure to gather the materials for the coffee filter project (see below) and perhaps a bit of baking soda, vinegar, and a bowl so that you can do the experiment along with me!
Week 1: This week, students in kindergarten learned that “Señorita” speaks Spanish, which sounds a little different than English. They were not sure at first that they could follow the strange mix of sounds, but after a few “tests”, (toca la cabeza/touch your head, salta/jump, etc.), students realized it was not so difficult–even if it still sounded funny!
In terms of content, the class dove right in to reviewing colors and numbers in new contexts. Most knew that “uno-dos-tres” (etc.) and “rojo, azul, verde, amarillo” were Spanish words, even if they couldn’t all produce them. (NOTE: This is perfectly normal and a great place to start the year. The average person requires 70-150 repetitions to acquire a word or phrase before it goes into their long-term memory.)
All students followed along–frequently repeating words and phrases they heard in the target language–as we began a brief class activity. Here, students were individually asked a series of questions in Spanish about which food coloring “Señorita” should open first (azul/blue; rojo/red; amarillo/yellow; verde/green); how many drops she should add to the coffee filter (uno/one; dos/two; tres/three); and where the drops ought to fall (“over here or over there”/¿Por acá o por ahí?). They also met a Professional Stuffed Animal (PSA) named Pato, who is a silly duck with a very big personality; and listened to a song from Wreck-It Ralph in Spanish (see embedded video below).
To continue reinforcing colors and numbers in a meaningful context, kindergarteners will begin their own coffee filter project next class.
VIRTUAL LEARNERS are encouraged to do the following: 1) listen to the Wreck-It Ralph/Rompe Ralph (‘rom-pay Ralph’) song in Spanish; 2) get a head-start on next week by checking out THIS POCOYO episode exploring the opposites big/small (grande/pequeño); and 3) gather materials for the individual project next week. You will need: one white coffee filter and a box of food coloring (red, yellow, blue, green), and something to protect the table (from food coloring stains). I will be creating a step-by-step video for virtual learners this weekend to guide them through the process in Spanish.
Week #1: This week, fourth graders embarked on a whirlwind adventure of language and culture. The first class was spent almost entirely in the target language: here, students traveled to Spain to walk the Camino de Santiago (a 500-mile hike that will directly correspond with the Weekly Spanish Challenges). Fourth graders began ‘hiking’ around the room as they watched THIS VIDEO I made (“Spain, Part 1”), but quickly realized they needed their backpacks and water bottles–the Spanish summer sun is very similar to our state, with 110*F temps!
As they walked over mountains and through valleys, their guide would periodically get lost. Students learned that the trail is marked by [scallop] shells and arrows. When you see one, you know that you are on the right path. Phew!
Whether students realized it or not, there were constant comprehension checks along the way: “What is this in English? How do you say this ___?”. I am throwing A LOT of Spanish at them in the first few classes, to gauge exactly where they are linguistically (including how many minutes they can actively listen to the language before their brains tune out!) and move forward from there. If your child is newer to Spanish and feels lost, please reassure them that I am only testing where the class is right now and to try their best to watch and follow along. It is okay if they don’t understand every word! Part of the language-learning journey is to RELAX when hearing another language. The brain actually does a lot of work subconsciously when students are actively listening. We will talk about all of this next week.
Anyway, students began creating a “Camino” around campus by drawing shells and arrows with chalk. We hiked up and down a few mountains (read: staircases) with our bags and water bottles, and then decided to retire to the hotel/hostel (their classroom!) for the evening. One section was able to do more of this than the other, due to time constraints.
The following day, students learned that Spanish classes will bounce back and forth between 1) learning about real places/monuments/ history/ traditions/realia–that is, culture–in the Spanish-speaking world; and 2) imagination, where we take pieces of this real culture and combine it with other fantastical ideas, in order to create personalized plays and tell stories in the target language. They also began class with a Friday dance party (Merengue!) to THIS SONG. Note that the English translation here is not a professional translation, but you get the general idea. It was the official anthem to the 2016 European Championship, and a great song!
On Friday, fourth graders launched into a storytelling/theater unit. I did not tell them any of the rules of Spanish storytelling because I wanted to see how they would respond; we will go over these next time. The gist of it was that a famous actress–walking the red carpet–starred in a movie about THE CAMINO (the 500-mile long hike in Spain). Luces, cámara, acción, redoble, toma uno /lights, camera, action, drumroll, take one!
In 4-1, the actress walked and walked and walked, was famished (tengo hambre/I’m hungry), and wanted to go to a restaurant to eat (she had three choices). This part of the story was put on hold or pause as students were given dinero/[fake] money and talked for a minute about euros vs. dollars and different conversion rates.
In 4-2, three famous actress auditioned for the main part. However, it was soon discovered that they were mortal enemies/enemigas. The class voted on this and then paused at a crucial moment when the girls were walking THE CAMINO and realized that their arch-nemesis was behind them. FIGHT?! Oh no! What a problem!
The goal for both classes was to jump into storytelling. We will hone in on specific vocabulary next week and ‘how to play the game’; the goal for this week was simply to listen to a lot of Spanish and gauge what students did and did not understand.
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. You might outline an arrow using some rocks or palms, or simply draw 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!
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-danceCLASS 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 alwaysgetting 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 the south! 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.
Week #1: This week, students in PK-4 were officially introduced to Pato, a stuffed animal duck who has a big heart but always seems to be getting into mischief. The first day of school, he overslept. When students tried to wake him up around 12:30pm– AHEM, THE AFTERNOON?! (toca a la puerta/ knock on the door)–he was wearing his sock pajamas and had little to no interest in changing into his uniform. This argument conversation in the target language continued for some time. He finally settled on a yellow knit sweater and, after much persuasive talk, removed his nightcap. When Pato began complaining–almost immediately–that he was too hot in the sweater, the teacher pulled out an abanico (special fan from Spain) to cool him down (hace calor- ‘AH-say kah-LORE’/it’s warm/hot).
PHOTOS & STAGES OF NEGOTIATION: First choice (pajamas). Second choice (nightcap and sweater uniform). Third choice (sweater uniform and mask). #notfair
The following class, he was more prepared–and wearing a mask, as per another class’s insistence that he follow the rules. However, he was still complaining pretty incessantly about the heat. This probably had something to do with him trying to wear his sock pajamas underneath his real clothes. (Aside: are they real clothes, when he is a stuffed animal? Hmmm.) Anyway, following an ice-cream (helado) break, he wanted to learn how to fly. This led to a variety of trial-and-error type attempts to lift the stuffed animal high-high-high up into the sky.
Flapping his wings was to no avail. The poor stuffed animal became so exhausted from the huge effort that he had to take a mini-siesta (nap) during class time to recover. The second attempt seemed more realistic: build up your speed, run as fast as you can towards a small ramp runway (aka a tilted book), and let the wind take you: lift-off! ¡Vamos, vamos! #FAIL.
Round three of PATO versus GRAVITY had something to do with a paper airplane and a one pound stuffed animal. Let me repeat: a PAPER airplane and a ONE-POUND stuffed animal. Newton and all of his silly laws. Attaching paper wings likewise proved ineffective.
The fourth attempt dealt with tying a harness around his belly and hoisting him up, pulley-style, to get him used to being so high up in the air. (Could he be afraid of heights, I wonder?) PK-4 students provided much-needed assistance in this last endeavor in particular (arriba, abajo/up, down).
Methinks we are getting closer.
Along the way, students responded to action commands in the target language (e.g., stand up, sit down, run, march, spin around twice, walk on your tiptoes, [pretend to] drive a car, etc.); giggled when Pato did something silly; and demonstrated comprehension through both words and expressions.
Kudos to your children for listening to nonstop Spanish babble and dealing with all of my stuffed animal’s crazy antics. They are sweethearts and their listening skills are top-notch!
VIRTUAL LEARNERS are strongly encouraged to watch a few short cartoon episodes in the target language this week. THIS and THIS are excellent choices, but more options can also be found HERE. The goal for the first few classes is not necessarily vocabulary-oriented; it is more adjusting to the idea of staying focused while hearing a stream of [currently] unintelligible babble. Meaning will come in time. We must be patient, above all else!
Week #1: Today in third grade, students first told me about their favorite places, and then I shared about one of my favorite trips, during which I hiked a famous 500-mile (877 kilometer) trek across northern Spain. The hike is called the Camino de Santiago, and takes about a month to complete (hiking about 10 hours a day).
Students began ‘hiking’ around the room as they watched THIS VIDEO I made (“Spain, Part 1”). Naturally, they had to get their backpacks and water bottles–the Spanish summer sun is very similar to our state’s, with 110*F temps!
Next, third graders learned that the trail is marked by [scallop] shells and arrows. When you see one, you know that you are on the right path! Students began creating a “Camino” around campus by drawing shells and arrows with chalk. We hiked up and down a few mountains (read: staircases) with our bags and water bottles, and then decided to retire to the hotel/hostel (their classroom!) for the evening.
Just for fun, their word of the day was, “La fuerza” (‘fwear-sah’), or the force, which third graders say to magically make the Promethean boards turn on again after they have fallen asleep (they time out periodically).
NOTE: Just so you know, we will be easing into an immersive Spanish classroom very soon, but I wanted to start the first day in English to get to know the students and for them to feel comfortable with me. Learning a language can be overwhelming, and experience has taught me that in a low-stress [but engaging] environment, students are more likely to want to learn and produce language. Learning should be a healthy combination of hard work and great fun!
VIRTUAL LEARNERS are encouraged to check out the video and photos at this link, and to create their own “Camino” (‘kah-ME-know’) at home. The arrows and shells are oftentimes made out of things in nature as well. You might outline an arrow using some rocks or palms or grass, or simply draw 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!
Virtual learners are also welcome to share with me via email their favorite place in the world (the beach, a city or country they’ve traveled to, a tree fort, their room, etc.). We will include this information in a project later on.
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!
As a child, I played “school” a lot. My mother says that in kindergarten, I would coerce others to be my students and scribble lessons on a Raggedy-Ann chalkboard. Even as a teenager, I lived in a world of ideas. I remember wanting to figure out how to convert the human body into pure electrons so that I could travel over the phone wires (circuit) to visit my friend in a town twenty miles away. For the record, I never figured that one out, but school was rarely boring; there was always more to learn and do. If anything, I felt overwhelmed at times with the quantity of information available and a serious surplus of interests. Suffice to say, teaching has always been in my blood.
The current political/media state has brought to the world’s attention how incredibly dependentand interdependent we–along with millions of people–are on other country’s products and services. An Apple iPhone does not just magically make its way into our hands: the physical hardware comes from somewhere, along with the intelligence, coding, encryption, and software inside the device. And what about the box it is shipped in? Or the paper label on the box? Where was that paper made? What forest did it come from? Which tree? How long ago did this process begin?
In what seems like a lifetime ago, I used to take ballroom dance lessons. This “phase” lasted for close to seven years. While my dance journey began gracias a mi padre—“You really need to know how to Salsa if you speak Spanish!”–my takeaways were much more than just proficiency in rhythm and smooth dances. What I remember most, perhaps more than gliding around the floor in a Viennese Waltz or sweating profusely from an impossibly long eight-minute “Proud Mary” Jive, was the poise and class of it all. I appreciate and admire everything classy, from the wisdom of our elders and ages gone by, to black and white Audrey Hepburn/George Peppard films and Jane Austen novels. As much time as I have dedicated to this site, I also long for those pre-Internet days where life had a much slower and enjoyable pace.
For the 100th Day this year, we wanted to see if students in Lower School represented 100 or more countries, by heritage. By “heritage”, we mean any country in your bloodline: where are you from? Where are/were your parents or grandparents from? What about your great-grandparents?
While we did not reach the 100th country, the results were staggering: as a Lower School, we represent 58 countries. Wow! Thank you so much for responding. Please check out the interactive map (link above) and pie chart (below) for a more visual representation of the survey results.
Data in List Form
Puerto Rico (territory)
*Native American: Black Foot Indian, Cherokee,Mohawk
**NOTE: I forgot to keep tally marks for the USA, ergo, data was not included on pie chart (mea culpa). Native American data was also not included because it is an ethnicity but not a country in itself.
November: Because children are experiencing immersion in the target language, it is difficult to know when to send an update. They respond to me in class but may not bring home words to you; while frustrating, this is also completely natural: why would they speak to you in Spanish if you don’t speak it? They probably do not associate you with the target language. I hesitate in sending home word lists because in an immersive environment, each child will pick up something different each day. That said, I wanted to give you a general synopsis of what a day looks like for JK.
The 15-minute long class starts with a beginning-of-class song–Yo me llamo; Buenos días; or La araña pequeñita/Itsy Bitzy Spider; and as of this week, Feliz Navidad (Merry Christmas) and Mi hombre de nieve (Frosty the Snowman); progresses to actions (stand up, sit down, run or spin around, jump, etc.) and rhymes–Arriba, abajo, de lado a lado; Sí me gusta, no me gusta, para nada/Yes I like it, no I don’t, not at all–where we discuss things they like or dislike (e.g., fruit, ice cream, pizza) and do a quick weather report (this emerged because of the Itzy Bitzy Spider and sun/rain vocabulary); and then there is a magical chant–Abracadabra, pata de cabra, ¡chiquitipuf! I will call on a student to bring me a magic wand, and then we transform into various animals.
Some days, I choose the animals; other days, I will ask for suggestions/sugerencias. If they answer in English, I am happy they comprehended; if they answer in Spanish, I know that they have fully internalized the vocabulary and it is time to move on (too easy!). For example, at this point they have ALL mastered “tiburón“, or shark, and I have to think of creative ways to avoid this word or else the entire lesson reverts back to hungry sharks (Tengo hambre is another song here). When they can’t agree on an animal as a class, we will do a “lotería/lottery”, and they can do any animal they want (for about three seconds). I count up or down from five and they have to get back to their letter or animal on the carpet by the last number (cero/zero or cinco/five).
At this point, we are about halfway through the lesson, and it is time to continue our Adventures in Stuffed Animal World with their stuffed animal friend, Pato (a duck with a strong personality and ridiculous squeaky voice). Pato is always getting into some sort of mischief, and while not every lesson has a “moral of the story”, I try to lead it in that direction. The stories range from mini-stories, where I introduce new vocabulary, to full-on five-minute long sagas where I leave the JK room sweating from having exerted so much energy (between ventriloquism for the various stuffed animal characters and what can only be described as “extreme adventures”).
For example, I had been trying to shift their focus away from sharks to fish/pececitos, and so we went fishing with magnetic fish last week (another song here: Diez pececitos nadando en el río… link on Seesaw). The fish lesson led to water, where I sprinkled droplets of water/agua on their head/cabeza or hands/manitas (they chose), which led to me bringing an ice-pack to pass around and Pato taking on and off his sweater and scarf/bufanda because he couldn’t decide if he was hot or cold (tengo frío/tengo calor). I also brought a hair dryer so that they could feel the heat and experience the contrast between hot and cold.
Naturally, there was a Pocoyo cartoon episode about fishing–and one about pirates–and the pirate one was such a big hit that JK-A began a story about a pirate who lived on a boat and Pato needed help because he was swimming in the water but there was a ravenous shark nearby (which he saw through a telescope/catalejo)–and then I randomly received a phone call during the lesson (#truestory)–and claimed that it was the pirate calling me on his cell (of course!), and we took Saywer’s boot and used it as a boat for Pato to swim back to the main ship with his mapa/map–which tied in nicely with their map and community study in their regular classroom (*breath*). There was also a tesoro-tesoro-tesoro-TREASURE, but we have yet to flesh out that part of the story.
Students have been requesting to draw parts of the story on the board, so I will ask them tons of comprehension questions (Does he live in a big house or small house/casa grande o casa pequeña? Are there turtles/tortugas and snakes/serpientes and fish/pececitos in the water? Where is the pirate/pirata?, Is the house red/roja or azul/blue?, etc.), and they get to decide. Again, whether they respond in English or Spanish determines where we go. That said, comprehension is the most important thing right now, not production or output of the target language (though obviously, that makes my day when it happens).
Note: In JK-B, we have not gotten to a full story (only mini-stories), but we have started playing with names and nicknames because they wanted to know what their names were in Spanish. Some names translate directly–Josephine to Josefina–while others are actual words: Isla means “island” in Spanish. And some are just silly class jokes–fresa/strawberry for the Berry boys.
Anyway, at the end of class, we sing another song–Te amo, me amas and now this week, Estrellita/Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star–and then the children sit up straight and tall with their hands in their laps and we whisper to their classroom teacher, “Sorpresa” (surprise!) because they are so quiet and ready to continue with their day.
Are you beginning to understand how it would take me three hours every day to explain what has happened in our 15-minute Spanish class? I do apologize for the lack of Seesaw posts, but I tend to feel overwhelmed when trying to explain it all. Each day, I focus on recycling or spiraling old vocabulary and feeling out where they are and what they know, connecting new and old vocabulary, and/or adding brand new information. The latter can be in the form of a mini-story, science experiment, book, or Pocoyo cartoon. HERE is the Pirate episode link.
ASIDE: I do not like teaching colors, numbers, etc. explicitly in the traditional sense because it does not feel natural. You did not test your baby out of the womb on a list of colors, so neither will I. I will describe what is happening and what we are doing, and tell stories and ask questions in the target language, just as you spoke to your children before they knew how to talk. If your child is not bringing home words yet, please be patient.
We have had 39 classes so far this year, which is equivalent to 585 minutes, or 9.75 hours. Do you remember pressuring your child to speak less than 10 hours after they were born? I’m not trying to be cheeky here, just realistic. Remember to put things in perspective and celebrate anything they bring home! If you want to supplement their language study at home, make a habit of watching a Spanish cartoon every day for five or ten minutes with your child.
Whew! If you have read this far, thank you SO MUCH for taking the time to do so. And please let me know if you would like me to start putting recordings from time to time of songs we are working on in class, or vocabulary videos. Thanks and have a WONDERFUL WEEKEND!
Recently, I have had several questions about native (and heritage) speakers and how to improve their reading and writing skills in the target language. In list form, here are a few ideas:
Doblajes, o covers en inglés. Es que, ¡me encantan! Alejandro Cázares es buenísimo como cantante y sus videos tienen toda la letra escrita, para que los nativos puedan leer y cantar a la vez. Encima, durante el proceso de escuchar, pueden aprender cómo es una adaptación–no resulta una traducción directa en muchos casos. Para empezar, una de las canciones de Ed Sheeran está aquí (por Kevin Karla y la banda) y hay otra aquí de Alejandro.
Nuestra escuela tiene una suscripción a BrainPop, la cual incluye la versión española de BrainPop. Pueden aprender y ver videos relevantes a lo que están aprendiendo en clase (o de lo que les interesa) y LEER los subtítulos. Esto es un poco más académico–depende de lo que buscas en cuanto a la lectura.
Educatina es otra opción educativa y muy semejante a Khan Academy, pero desafortunadamente, no hay cuenta del colegio.
En cualquier momento, los niños pueden utilizar los libros bilingües y españoles en la biblioteca de mi aula. No hay problema–solo le pido que ellos me avisen antes de tomar uno.
Esta PÁGINA de mi sitio web tiene un montón de chistes y enlaces. Hay un slideshow de mis chistes favoritos. Se ve mejor en un escritorio (desktop). Yo recuerdo que aprendí tanto vocabulario de Calvin y Hobbes cuando era niña (en inglés, claro, pero la traducción es muy buena) y ¡es muy divertido! Lo mejor es reír y aprender, en mi opinión.
Si está permitido en casa, dales la libertad de colgar pósters o imágenes con dichos/refranes que a ellos les gustan en sus recámaras.
Una idea más: crear/recopilar una carpeta llena de sus poemas favoritos, chistes favoritos, dichos/refranes favoritos, historietas favoritas, cuadros favoritos, adivinanzas favoritas, etc. Les paso unos enlaces aquí abajo para empezar su viaje. A lo mejor, ¡lo hacemos en clase! Para más ideas, piensen en lo siguiente:
Ojalá que esto les ayude un poco. Hay que darse cuenta que esta no es una escuela de inmersión y muchas veces solo nos juntamos UNA VEZ a la semana. Por lo tanto, aprecio mucho cualquier apoyo pueden darles a sus hijos en casa ya que en primer lugar, no los veo con mucha frecuencia. Voy a requerir pronto que los hispanohablantes escriban en un diario (‘diary’) cada clase, algo semejante a un “RJ”. Escribir, escribir, escribir. Y cuando se cansen de eso, ¡A LEER!
*To see the digital collection and your child’s work, please visit THIS LINK.
Students in Lower School have been working for the past few weeks on creating a Spanish museum with a wide variety of science, art, and history exhibits in preparation for GGD. In some classes, children are working individually or with a small group, while in others, the entire class is working together towards one goal.
For example, in 4.A, students are ‘living’ in Spain, and are therefore recreating famous Spanish works of art that are currently in El Prado Museum in Madrid (image above). In 4.B, students are ‘living’ in Mexico and creating artifacts for a sunken treasure display, based on the Spanish Shipwreck of 1715. In K.B, students made a model of Angel Falls in Venezuela, by collecting bark, small stones, and leaves outside, and adding water. In 1.B, a group of girls were inspired by seeing another class’ Worry Dolls from Guatemala, and wanted to make their own. Other classes are jumping on board as they see new projects pop up around the room.
In second, third, and fifth grade, students have chosen and created projects based on real-life images in the Spanish room. Some students are creating an underwater museum in Mexico; others are creating a gold trophy for Messi to represent the importance of soccer in many Spanish-speaking countries; some are trying to make the Basilisk Lizard from Costa Rica run on water, as it does in real-life; others are building a model of the “Tren a las nubes/Train to the Clouds” (skip to 3:45 in video) in Argentina; some have been creating instruments out of trash and recycled materials, like this town in Paraguay; and one even made a life-sized model of the Andean Condor–which has a wingspan of eleven feet, wow!
To learn more about these projects, please visit the PROJECTS page, now under the Home drop-down menu. I have been decluttering and reorganizing my website this week, in the hopes of making it more user-friendly–feel free to check it out HERE and let me know what you think!
NOTE: For all of my Language Challenge friends, posts are now divided into two different categories on the INSPIRATION page: Duolingo motivation (“Language Challenge”) and thoughts on culture (all other posts).
This year, students in grades 3-5 have been using the language-learning app Duolingo to supplement their Spanish study. I want to lead by example, and therefore have chosen German to study alongside my students. While I have already invited faculty and staff to join me in a friendly in-house Language Challenge, I thought that it might be fun to include our parent community as well.
Here, participants (aka Language Ninja Warriors) are challenged to work on the Duolingo app for three days a week, for only five minutes each time. The goal here is frequency. Two hours a day is not sustainable long-term, anyway, unless you are a hyperpolyglot. (More about Timothy Doner HERE.) Point being, this could be a lot of fun for everyone if a lot of us participated, and it would start a lot of conversations with students as well. We could have pockets of language teams–people who are studying the same language–throughout the community.
That said,if you are interested: 1) choose a language to study; 2) download the Duolingo app; and 3) send me a quick email so that I know you are participating.
While this is only a 15-minute commitment per week, I completely understand and respect the fact that sometimes you have to say, “No”. This is merely a chance to grab onto that lifelong dream of wanting to learn another language… and encouraging you to get started. I will send quotes and messages from time to time to keep you motivated and on track. PLEASE keep in mind that this process should be primarily enjoyable. If you have had negative language-learning experiences in the past, or have ever said, “I took four years of XXX and can’t say anything”, let this be an opportunity to clear the slate and begin anew. Here is a quote from Kató Lomb (an amazing Hungarian hyperpolyglot) to consider:
“We should learn languages because language is the only thing worth knowing even poorly. If someone knows how to play the violin only a little, he will find that the painful minutes he causes are not in proportion to the possible joy he gains from his playing. The amateur chemist spares himself ridicule only as long as he doesn’t aspire for professional laurels. The man somewhat skilled in medicine will not go far, and if he tries to trade on his knowledge without certification, he will be locked up as a quack doctor.
Solely in the world of languages is the amateur of value. Well-intentioned sentences full of mistakes can still build bridges between people. Asking in broken Italian which train we are supposed to board at the Venice railway station is far from useless. Indeed, it is better to do that than to remain uncertain and silent and end up back in Budapest rather than in Milan.” (POLYGLOT: HOW I LEARN LANGUAGES– book in PDF, by Kató Lomb)
Please let me know if you would like to participate. Happy language learning!
-Your Resident Linguist
Week #2: Jump!
DUOLINGO: The Language Challenge is picking up speed. I have already talked with many parents, faculty, and staff interested in joining this friendly competition. Thinking about everyone beginning a language-learning journey and working towards a common goal is motivating in itself, but I thought I might share a few tips or pieces of advice each week, to help keep you–and me!–on track.
WEEK #2: This week, commit to a set timeduring the day when you will either 1) work on the Duolingo app; or 2) listen to your target language for five minutes (e.g. Pocoyo cartoons, radio, internet, podcast, YT channels, etc.). This exercise could easily be built into a family routine–before or after dinner, during your commute–or, alternatively, a more private practice (before anyone gets up in the morning). Remember, five minutes 3-4 times per week is more than enough. Commit to establishing a routine. Just do it–jump!
When you listen to the target language, the idea is to become accustomed to hearing a bullet train of unintelligible sounds pass you by at the speed of light (squared), and simply enjoy the cadence and rhythm. Relax. As the days pass, your brain will begin to pick up on details and cognates (words that sound similar in English), and do a lot of subconscious work. If you studied your target language in school at some point, you might begin to recall vocabulary from a lifetime ago, or distinguish between accents from different countries. Duolingo will build your vocabulary phrase by phrase; listening to the target language will train your ear.
Anyway, thank you for reading. Until next time, create and stick to your language-learning schedule. YOU CAN DO IT! And last but not least, remember that, “We should learn languages because language is the only thing worth knowing even poorly” (-Kató Lomb, hyperpolyglot).
Week #3: Setting a Pace
DUOLINGO: I have just discovered that you can follow people on Duolingo in order to compete by number of EXP points. If you are the competitive type, search your friends’ emails and add them. I didn’t think I was that competitive… until I saw the division I was in [shield icon] and wanted to get to number one! Try it on for size, if you like.
WEEK #3: Hopefully, you have started to establish a language-learning routine. Now, the race has truly begun. After a few dozen times around the track (metaphorically speaking), you will begin to notice oddities, or so-called quirks in your target language. Many of these will fall in the category of syntax–the arrangement of words and phrases in language; or, how language is organized–that differs from your native tongue. “Juice of orange/jugo de naranja” instead of orange juice (Spanish); “I doctor/Я доктор”, instead of “I am a doctor” (Russian); “Electric brain/电脑“, instead of “computer” (Mandarin Chinese). You may not be here yet, but when you arrive, try to be flexible in your thinking. “We” are not any more right than “they” are. This is where the beautiful flower of language begins to blossom.
In addition, there can also be more nebulous types of translations, or even completely untranslatable phrases. Regarding the former, Spanish does not have as many words as English, so one word can encompass numerous meanings and nuances; in English, we might have a more specific term. In fact, I have heard before that Swahili is incredibly metaphorical because it only has 5,000 words. Spanish has many more than 5,000 words–rough estimates might say 150,000 words in Spanish. Below, see a few more thoughts on the subject:
With respect to untranslatable words, komorebi/木漏れ日 (in Japanese) means ‘sunlight that filters through the leaves of trees’; there is no English equivalent. Pisanzapra (in Malay) is the time needed to eat a banana. In case you are interested, Ella Frances Sanders has two books devoted entirely to this fascinating topic. Here is one of my favorite untranslatable words:
Week #4: Climb the Mountain
DUOLINGO: You have courageously jumped into a new language. You have begun to set a pace. Now is the time to make some serious progress and climb the mountain. If you are a numbers person, note that staying in the top 10 of your division (by number of EXP points) in Duolingo allows you to advance each week to a new division. Moreover, earning a gold, silver, or bronze shield this way earns you A TON of gems. Climb to the top!
WEEK #4: This week, visit your local library and take some time to see what language-learning resources are available. I would highly recommend checking out the children’s foreign language section, along with the 400’s (Language) in the adult section, and also DVD’s, CD’s, and audiobooks for your target language. Be a Word Detective and scan the children’s books for words you know, not words you don’t. They will jump out at you! I checked out some audiobooks for German (Pimsleur) recently as well, and they are so much fun to listen to and repeat aloud, both intentionally and randomly.
Repeating words aloud allows you to get a sense for the feel, character, and personality of a language. For example, when I repeat a word, it helps me to get into the character of that language. Not only does your language have its own personality, but you also have a slightly different personality with each language you speak: that said, do not shy away from a ‘you’ that is more bold, or less so, in your target language. I tend to be more introverted in English and more extroverted in Spanish, while German feels strong and robust: I may not know what I am saying, but I will be confident, that is for sure–ja, voll! What personality traits does your new language bring out in you? What does it feel like?
Shouting random words and phrases aloud may seem silly at first, but it builds confidence and is also a technique used by some hyperpolyglots (people who speak and have studied an extreme number of languages). Accomplished linguist Alexander Arguelles employs this technique: “In [shadowing], students listen to language recordings on a portable player while briskly walking in a public place, gesticulating energetically as they shout out the foreign words and phrases they are listening to” (Babel No More, Michael Erard).
If you do not feel comfortable shouting in a public place, a more private venue is equally effective. Just make sure to repeat the words out loud. Queens, NYC has the most concentrated number of languages spoken in the world–simply imagine that you are there. You won’t understand everyone around you, ergo they won’t understand you, either. For more ear training, feel free to check out these videos by Amy Walker, an American actress and accent specialist: 21 Accents and Fun Tour of American Accents. She is amazing!
This week’s focus, then? Remember that yes, you are climbing a mountain, and yes, it will be tough to keep to a schedule some days. HOWEVER, that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun along the way. Enjoy the climb!
Week #5: Numbers
WEEK #5- NUMBERS: Learning a language is not an overnight project. It is not even a project where there is a clear telos, or end point. You just keep chipping away at your own pace, and the graph naturally swings up and down: you make a lot of progress, a little progress, plateau, and then make more progress. At some point, you are able to communicate the bare minimum to survive in another land. Later on down the road, your thoughts drift into the target language. Your confidence improves, and you start to feel good, really good, about your proficiency level. Fluency is somewhere out there, but it is not easily defined (see this post).
Now on this journey, life can get in the way. You must deal with more pressing matters and day-to-day tasks, and before you know it, language-learning has slipped between the cracks. Duolingo? Oh yeah, that… whoops. Taking a break and allowing your new language to settle into the long-term memory portion of your cerebral region is actually crucial to success. (Isn’t there a weird satisfaction in knowing that not doing anything is justified?!) Why you took a break is irrelevant. Maybe you broke a toe last week (true fact). Maybe you are just being lazy (partially true). Maybe cleaning the house took precedence (most definitely). Whatever the reason, give yourself permission to pause and then, get back on the horse. Picking yourself up and continuing where you left off is key to success; this is where and when you will make the most progress.
It can be helpful to visualize your daily highs and lows to keep things in perspective. Initially, the language-learning process probably sounds like this–Yesss, progress! Nooooo, I forgot that word. Yes, now I remember! Up-down-up-down ad infinitum–and looks like the graph below, or f(x)=(cosx^2+3).
Fastforward a few weeks later. Despite your studying, you feel like you’re going in circles, so many circles. You know it’s all leading somewhere–where [0,0] is your target language–but it feels like nothing is happening. X means apple, Y means eats, Z means girl, A keeps popping up but the exact translation remains unclear. Rules are scattered in your mind, and none of the pieces seem to fit together. I just want to speak! You attack the language from all sides, but there seems to be no progress, just a pretty design and neat mathematical function [r > (sin (a/b)(θ)), where 0 < θ < 12π and a=5 and b=6].
And then, finally, your two-dimensional rose becomes a spiraling logarithmic beauty! Something clicks inside, and you begin to connect the dots; information that seemed irrevelant suddenly has a place; you create your first sentence in the target language! It is magical! You are no longer spinning in circles but rather, living in 3D, spiraling out into the universe, empowered by your language-learning prowess, ready to take on the world, maybe even ask a native speaker a question. Wunderbar/wonderful! [r = a^θ, where 0 < θ < 12π and a=1.25].
This is, undoubtedly, a Math Tangent on this weeks’ Language Blog, but… sometimes you need a new perspective. You need to step back, recognize your progress, and then consciously decide to keep moving forward toward your goal. Your task this week, then, is about moving past fear, moving past failures, moving past guilt, just keep moving. Forgive yourself for the breaks and silly excuses, and get back on the horse. There is a whole world (read: language) out there to explore!
Today, kindergarteners and third graders had a special presentation about Mexico [from Regina and Isabella’s mom and grandmother]. In it, students learned that the Aztecs were warriors, or guerreros, who needed to eat very good food to keep them strong. Corn tortillas provided just the strength they needed, and this food acted as their main source of energy, especially when combined with chili, meat, beans, and vegetables. They also saw a short video about Mexico that you are welcome to revisit at home.
Students learned that making homemade tortilla shells is very easy. All you need is warm water and ground corn (flour) to create the dough/masa. Knead it together into small rounded balls, press it flat in a tortilla press, cook it on a cast-iron skillet, and… time to eat!
During the presentation, childen ate quesadillas, and then balled up the dough and put it in the press (one at a time) to make (and eat) their own Mexican tortillas. Later, they were given a surprise treat of Mexican candy, Paletón de Cajeta (a goat milk caramel lollipop). What a lovely and informative presentation–thank you so much for your time! ¡Mil gracias!
This morning, first graders heard a special presentation about Honduras [from Marcelo’s mom]. She intertwined authentic realia and artifacts, photos of the colorful guacamayo and orchid (national flower), and videos of Tegucigalpa and Lenca weaving to give insight into this beautiful Central American country.
She also told a Mayan legend about the hummingbird; explained the flag’s significance (blue represents the water on each side of the country; the five stars are for the five original Central American countries); talked about the Mayan calendar (see photo of glyphs below); and ended by teaching a Honduran folkloric dance to students. There was a brief Q&A as the class came to a close. Thank you so much for your time! ¡Mil gracias!
Yesterday, Junior Knights had a combined art and Spanish class so that they could hear a special presentation about Venezuela [from Eva’s mom]. Class began with a brief discussion about, “What is culture?” and children deduced on their own that they speak Spanish in Venezuela (quote: “I think they speak Spanish there because Eva speaks Spanish, and that is Eva’s mom!”). Excellent!
In the presentation itself, students learned about animals native to Venezuela, including the cabybara and the most poisonous snake in the world; saw a video emphasizing how tall the famous waterfall Angel Falls actually is; made arepas; heard about the water balloon fight tradition for Carnaval; folded their own paper hats and reenacted a parade to celebrate their own mini Carnaval; and received a goodie bag of Venezuelan treats. Thank you so much for your time. ¡Mil gracias!
As the year has progressed (we are already in the third trimester!), I have learned that many families have a connection with one or more of the 21 Spanish-speaking countries in our world. Some of you speak only Spanish at home with your children, others speak a mixture of Spanish and English, and others have a strong cultural presence, in the sense that you celebrate certain traditions, play childhood games, tell stories, sing songs, or make recipes from many of these places.
I love learning about different cultures and adore the Spanish language, but I did not grow up speaking Spanish at home; therefore, I would love to hear from those of you who have, and feel that it would be valuable to our student body if you were able to share some of your wisdom and experiences. That said, I am now formally inviting any of you who feel passionate and knowledgeable about some aspect of Spanish and/or Hispanic culture (e.g., music, food, games, sports, holidays, traditions, etc.) to come speak and present to a class or classes, to be scheduled after spring break.
If this piques your interest, please let me know by the end of March**, so that I have time to work on a schedule. If there is a lot of interest, perhaps we could schedule some sort of assembly or have weekly speakers. And if you are interested but have not decided on a topic yet, just let me know the country and we can figure out the details later. Thanks for reading and have a great week. ¡Muchas gracias!
**For 2019-20, the invitation to present is open and ongoing throughout the year.
Happy New Year! It is a new year, and a new you. Fifth grade is a fabulous class, but because we only meet twice a week, there is a lot of time during the week without Spanish (boo hoo!); so we are going to level up and try to change this for 2019.
That means that for all of January, I would like you to 1) find a Spanish language-learning app that you like; 2) sign up for it on the device of your choice; and 3) spend three times a week leveling up and learning Spanish at home on the app. It is much better to spend five or ten minutes each day learning a language than two hours on Saturday… so think more in terms of baby steps–five minutes a day is plenty.
We will beta-test these apps as a class, and vote later on about which one is the best and why. However, for January, I would like you to choose only one of the following. In February, you will have the opportunity to switch to a new app, if you so desire. Here are your choices:
*Guess the Languageis also a really fun and highly addictive game, but it is not just Spanish and therefore does not count for this homework challenge. Maybe it could be a prize/reward activity at the end of the week when you log three days in a row. Just a thought!
PLEASE NOTE that if you already speak Spanish at home, you are welcome to spend the five minutes a day, three days a week watching cartoons, movies, news, sports games, YouTube videos, etc. in the target language. Apps may not be developmentally appropriate here, as they are geared more towards beginner language-learners and not native speakers. The goal is to enrich your Spanish study at home and learn at your own pace.
If you have questions, we can talk more tomorrow. In the meantime, have fun exploring! I am excited to see what you choose. And one last note, please do NOT pay for any of these apps. We are beta-testing the free versions!
LANGUAGE-LEARNING IS HARD- TRUE OR FALSE?: We live in an ‘instant-gratification’ society these days. In a way, the time it takes to pronounce the word ‘instant’ is counterproductive to the actual definition of the word. When people claim that language-learning is hard, they tend to mean that they have to wait for what they want. We can’t instantly download every aspect of a language–grammar, syntax, vocabulary, intonation, tones, etc.–into our brains [at least not yet], so the language-learning process becomes frustrating. We have to wait for these linguistic pieces, or ‘documents’, to load and then synthesize… which gives the impression that language-learning is ‘hard’. In reality, it just takes more time to ‘download’ than many are willing to wait. But we all accepted dial-up at one point in time, so just wait it out. It will be worth the tried patience.
How We Learn Language
When friends or relatives hear that you are learning a foreign language, the first question they invariably ask is, “What can you say?” Unfortunately, and although usually well-intentioned, this is the wrong question. As you stammer and mutter about what you are learning in your class, instead of producing actual language, mortification settles in and you ask to be excused. What a pity, right? You know you are learning, but you can’t say anything.
Stop for a second now and think about how you learned language as a baby. Did anyone ask you on Day #1 what you could say? What about Day #200? If you are the student, give yourself a break. Babies must hear a lot of language before they begin speaking; the same is true for you. Likewise, if you know someone who is learning a new language, give them a break. Show your enthusiasm and encouragement, but avoid pressuring them to produce language. Keep in mind that the emotional connection grows deeper and more profound as you grow older (and spend more time with a language). The same is true in your native tongue. You gain more insight and knowledge of cultural nuances every day. Fascinating, isn’t it?
As there are new students in nearly every grade level in Lower School this year, please be assured that your child is not the only one adjusting to being immersed in a brand new language three times a week. Several of you have expressed concern and inquired about extra work that your children can do outside of class to ‘catch up’ to their peers, hence this blog entry!
To begin, I believe strongly in cultivating a love for learning–and specifically, language-learning–which means that I would like any extra work outside of class time to be more enjoyable than not. Therefore, just jump in, as the image above illustrates. My number one suggestion for new students is to check out this website and spend time watching cartoons in the target language, so that they feel more comfortable being immersed in the language (see “Cartoons” on the sidebar). The goal right now is for your child to overcome his/her discomfort with not being able to comprehend everything. Aside from that, new students are also strongly encouraged to be proactive during class time, both by watching when I point to bilingual signs as well as asking their classmates questions (“How do you say…?”). I am going to reiterate to ALL classes next week (in English!) the importance of teaching one another, particularly since we have a lot of new students this year. I believe in building a classroom culture where students learn not only from me but also from each other.
As far as specific suggestions go, many students in Lower School are familiar with and adore the show Pocoyo. Have “Spanish Saturdays” or “Taco Tuesdays”, where your child spends twenty or thirty minutes listening to and watching Spanish cartoons. (If any links don’t work, please let me know; I have to update them from time to time. Or, if your child has a favorite show not on the list, email me and I will try to find a translated version.) Your child does not need to ‘do’ anything here, just sit and be with the language; his/her brain will begin internalizing the rhythm and cadence of the language on its own, unconsciously. For more ideas, please see the “Summer Packet Letter” on the sidebar.
While it is true that other students have been taking Spanish for many years now, I have repeatedly seen new students at every grade level exhibit tremendous success in the past (this is my ninth year teaching). Give it some time (it is very early in the year!), and encourage your child to be patient, ask questions, and practice being ‘okay’ with not understanding everything. The vocabulary will come. I do not pressure students to produce language until they are ready, and remind them that babies do not speak on Day #2 out of the womb; language takes time.
A Conscious Effort: Use Spanish as much as possible, wherever you go. Make it a game. Are you waiting in line? At the mall? At the grocery store? Online waiting for a website to load? In a traffic jam? Train your brain to use those ten second blips of nothingness to be productive and stay mentally active. Try to remember a word or phrase–or several–in the target language while you are waiting. A minute here or there will prove much more effective in long-term retention than an hour or two of studying. When your skills begin to advance, work on translating what you hear in your head. Learning a language might be a challenge, but it should be a fun challenge! Make a conscious effort to incorporate Spanish into your daily life.
Bilingual Technology: Fiddle around and change your iPod, iPad, iPhone, Facebook page, laptop, email or any other gadget you may have to Spanish. You can usually find the languages under “Settings”, “International”, or “Control Panel”. Note: Only change your technological devices to Mandarin Chinese if you have some spare time on your hands and a lot of patience–sometimes it can be tricky finding your way back to English. (And yes, I do say this from experience.)
Spanish Channel: Find the Spanish channel on your television. For that matter, find the Portuguese and Italian and Russian and Mandarin Chinese channels, too. See if you can hear the different cadences/rhythms/intonations between the languages. Most importantly, have fun guessing!
Number Challenges: Count to twenty in Spanish when you’re brushing your teeth every morning. Too easy? Count backwards. Still too easy? Skip count forwards and backwards (0-2-4-6-8-10-12, 11-9-7-5-3-1, etc.). Do mental math. Don’t just memorize numbers in order; make them meaningful. How do we use numbers in the real world? Count change in Spanish, say the total of the restaurant bill in Spanish, jump rope or play hopscotch in Spanish. Numbers are everywhere…!
Three Levels: 1) Recognition: you can’t remember the word, but when you see or hear it, you know what it means; 2) Production: you remember the word in both English and Spanish, and can translate it on the spot; 3) Emotional connection: you not only know the word in English and Spanish, but you also understand it…when you say it, you mean it and aren’t just translating (example: please= poooor faaaaaavvvoooooooor)
“El ‘ahora’ que es ahora, ese momento, nunca ha existido antes, desde que el mundo fue creado. Y ese momento no existirá ya nunca más. Antes había otro ‘ahora’ y más tarde habrá otro ‘ahora,’ y cada ‘ahora’ tiene su propia importancia y su función particular.”
AP SPANISH THEMES: Families and Communities; Beauty and Aesthetics; Global Challenges; Science and Technology; Contemporary Life; Personal and Public Identities.