Definitely a Kiwi.


There is something about working with children that allows you to see beyond the Realm of the Ordinary on a daily basis. That ruler is a lightsaber. That mango and those markers are perfect for an indoor game of bowling. That table is a house (below), train (above), or bunkbeds (top and bottom).

That cardbox box is not merely a cardboard box, it is a–well, see The Adventures of a Cardboard Box for ideas (have a tissue on hand for the end). I can’t compete with this one!


More to the point, educators search for creative ideas to increase student engagement in the subject matter, to get out of a rut, to stay motivated and passionate about teaching, and even to diffuse heated arguments amongst first graders. For example, this week two students were discussing shouting back and forth about one of the plastic fruits in my room. “It’s a cantaloupe!” “No! It’s a kiwi!” “No, it’s a cantaloupe!” and so on.

They bustled over to me as six-year-old boys sometimes do, both clearly agitated. “What is this, maestra?” I was being consulted as the deciding factor, the Omniscient Adult. Oh, boy. Someone was not going to be happy with my answer. “It’s a cantaloupe. Kiwis are much smaller.” One of the boys bolted across the room in response, collapsed to the ground, and began sobbing hysterically. I looked at the other boy: “But what else could it be?” He thought for a moment. “I know!! HEY [so-and-so]!! It’s THE LARGEST KIWI IN THE WORLD!The other boy liftted his head and started to giggle. I even started to giggle. “That’s brilliant!” Imagination had saved the day, once again.

You might be wondering now where this blog post is headed, and question my use of English in the Spanish classroom. The thing is, everything is a teachable moment–but not everything we teach is our subject matter. Character, kindness, grit–all of these things matter. Maybe our students won’t be fluent Spanish speakers as adults (*sad face*), but the skills they learned along the way in our classrooms will stick with them in different ways.

That said, I also try to use these moments as fruit for storytelling. If The Largest Kiwi in the World becomes A Thing in general conversation–if it is trending among six-year-olds–then let’s create a class story around it.

Accordingly, and as this kiwi incident just occurred, I am thinking that we might need to include it in our current story. Do I remember how the following story began? No. Honestly, not at all. Do students love it and does it have potential? A big YES! So let’s get down to the more interesting part of this post, The Plot.


NOTE: While I love TPRS, my first graders are not literate enough for this to be practical quite yet. Instead, I sort of combine PQA (Personalized Questions and Answers) with repetition and the AIM methodology of gesture-storytelling.

What does that mean? It simply means that each day, we add a new sentence to our class story, but we always tell it (with gestures for each word and phrase) from the very beginning. If there are interruptions, we have to start all over again. Some days, I tell a short anecdote from my travels to ingrain new vocabulary, such as the time when I was on a train in Spain, and overheard a man’s conversation that [I kid you not] lasted twenty full minutes and consisted of only one word, “Vale/ okay” [“BAH-lay”] inflected in myriad ways. Okay? Okay. Okay! OKAY!!!


La cebolla malvada, Cap. 1

Luces, cámara, acción [alguien apaga las luces].

Una noche, en un castillo en el bosque de España, una princesa está durmiendo–CUANDO (todos saltan) entra LA CEBOLLA MALVADA. 

La cebolla malvada TOMA sus pantuflas y se escapa… a La ARGENTINA!!!!!!! (1-1) and al polo norte (1-2).

La princesa está enojada, muy enojada. Habla con su amiga. “¿Qué hago?” What do I do??? MIENTRAS…

La cebolla malvada recibe una llamada. “¡Rin rin!” 

“Esta es tu madre. Devuelve las pantuflas.”

La cebolla malvada dice, “¡Pero no quiero!”

“¡¡¡AHORA MISMO!!!” dice su mamá.

“Vale,” dice la cebolla malvada.

Pero, ¡oh no! ¡Qué problema!

Las pantuflas empiezan a bailar.

Bailan mucho, mucho, mucho. “Para bailar la bamba” song.

La cebolla malvada llora.

The Evil Onion, Chapter 1

Lights, camera, action [someone has a job of turning off the lights].

One night [duh-duh-duuuuh!], in a castle in the forest of Spain, a princess is sleeping–WHEN (everyone jumps) THE EVIL ONION enters.

The evil onion TAKES her slippers and runs away… to ARGENTINA!!!!!!! (1-1) and to the North Pole (1-2).

The princess is angry, very angry. She talks to her friend. “What I do?” What do I do??? MEANWHILE…

The evil onion gets a call. “Ring ring!”

“This is your mother. Return the slippers.”

The evil onion says, “But I don’t want to!”

“RIGHT NOW!!!” says her mom.

“Okay,” says the evil onion.

But oh no! What a problem!

The slippers begin to dance.

They dance a lot, a lot, a lot. “Para bailar la bamba” song.

The evil onion cries [because the irony here is too delicious, ha!].

TO BE CONTINUED…


I know, I know. This is a photo of La Torre del Oro in Spain, while in the story, the Evil Onion escapes to Argentina/ the North Pole. Maybe this is where the LARGEST KIWI IN THE WORLD comes in. ???

On second thought, perhaps the slippers dance all the way to Spain!

Panama- Canal


PANAMA: The Panama Canal is an iconic piece of maritime history, and yet, somehow–despite our country focus in Spanish class–I have never spent any real time on it in class. Today, that changed! Was it pretty? No, not at all. Did my students learn a ton and love what we did? No, most unfortunately. But sometimes, I am learning, you have to be okay with that as an educator. You have to try new ideas to grow, and sometimes, those new ideas just don’t work. Sometimes kindergarteners prefer to be kindergarteners, and can’t get excited about your ideas. Sometimes, they would simply rather stick to the routine. Today was a perfect example of that.

In order to explain what the Panama Canal was to my young students, I used a Popsicle stick boat (that my stuffed animal sails around in periodically) to dramatically portray two separate routes. “Ufff, this way around South America is soooo long! I am tired and really BORED!!!!” My interpretation was overly dramatic because I was describing it all in the target language. “But this route is so much shorter and faster!”


Next, we went outside to the playground to “dig” it in the sandbox with spoons. This was supposed to involve teamwork and emphasize how much physical work it must have taken to make it in real life (which was why I gave them plastic spoons and not shovels!).

However, kindergarteners were feeling moody and out of sorts (let’s blame the full moon), so it didn’t go as smoothly as anticipated. Regardless, I think there is potential for the project to expand into something really great in the future. But if all else fails, this alternate project below just might take the cake. HA!

The Art of Subtraction


I remember subtraction being a big deal in first grade. There were dinosaur eggs on the classroom bulletin board with our names on them and, although I distinctly recall not liking subtraction (addition was so much easier!), I loved my teacher and school and wanted to do well. I don’t know what the dinosaur eggs were about, but I do remember that I got pretty competitive with a boy in my math class and desperately wanted to beat him. Conclusion? Subtraction was important–in fact, wholly fundamental to my six-year-old self’s sense of success.

Continue reading “The Art of Subtraction”

Masculine/ Feminine Words


In case you hear blips of this at home, today in Spanish class we talked about how some words are “boy” [or “el” words], and other words are “girl” [or “la” words]–in grammatical terms, we call these masculine and feminine articles, but students won’t know them as this. Third graders kept asking how to know whether it was an “el” or “la” word because they had to type it in on Duolingo; so we pushed pause on everything else and did a quick activity to help explain.

First, I scattered my flashcards around the room on the floor, and girls were allowed to pick up any of the “la” flashcards (la manzana/ apple; la casa/ house; etc.) and boys were allowed to pick up any of the “el” flashcards (el pan/ bread; el perro/ dog; etc.). We studied the words, and students discovered that most (but not all) “girl” words end in -a, and most (but not all) “boy” words end in -o.

At this point, I emphasized that the el or la has nothing to do with the noun in question (tables are not ‘girls’ because it’s la mesa/ table); but it is a fun trick to help you remember, especially if you pretend that girls “get” such and such (la pizza/ pizza) and boys “get” such and such (el helado/ ice cream, ‘el-LAH-doe’). We proceeded to divide up the universe (i.e., el universo/boy word) into its respective categories. “Who gets the planet?” El planeta (boys). “What about the earth?” La tierra (girls).

Third graders bombarded me with questions, and anyway, if any of this makes its way home, now you know! I don’t usually teach grammar explicitly in Spanish class, but this lesson is a classic and always gets them thinking! 

Going to Spain.


Before PK4 enters my classroom each day, we sit in the hallway and say together in a sing-songy voice, “¡Yo hablo español!” (I speak Spanish), like the other grade levels do. We might chit-chat about this or that, but eventually put our hands in the middle (similar to a sports huddle), and shout, “¡Vamos!” (let’s go!).

Today was a special day and the culmination of several lessons: we went to Spain! Now, before I explain why we went there, let me point out that this process involved several steps. First, PK4 students chose where they were living on my carpet–in a red house? or a blue house? or maybe a green one? It’s a nice neighborhood, don’t you think? Could use some trees, though.

We started this a few weeks ago, but yesterday I was in a rather silly mood, so we said that the yellow lines represented the “roof” of the house. Who is sitting on el techo/ the roof of their house today?! You never really know what will become “a thing” with four-year-olds, but this did, and we ended up spending way too much time drawing on the board (stick-figure style), deciding who was inside the house and who was sitting on the rooftop.

The teacher part of me did this for two reasons: one, to have defined spaces on the carpet where students sit, and two, to begin teaching colors in context (don’t get too comfy with rojo/red! Sometimes it’s roja or rojas or rojos! E.g., una casa roja/ a red house). The rooftop piece was about directionals and spatial relationships. Or it might have been about the silliness that ensues when Pato turns on the “rain and thunderstorm” sound effects on the board, and everyone “rushes inside their houses” to avoid the fake agua/water. Teeheehee. I digress.

So after we talked about the casas/ houses, students built cozy 3D versions of them with chairs and blankets. They rested up, listening to a favorite from last year on loop– Los solecitos. But daylight came much too early: before we knew it, the tren/train was about to leave the station, which meant that we had to hustle, quickly packing a snack (comida/ food), their backpacks (that they had brought to class today for the special occasion), a stuffed animal from my toy bin, and dinero/ money. Plus scissors and more faux currency to cut out on the way. It’s a long trip, after all.


Now I must admit, there has been some Spanglish this week. Here and there, when I need students to fully grasp a concept (foreign currencies, geography, culture projects, etc.), I will incorporate some English/ Spanglish into the lesson. Students knew that we were going to a place called Spain because we had talked about it the other day. I showed PK4 students a map and pointed out how much ocean water is between us and Spain. Once they had that background knowledge, I started slipping back into Spanish– We’re going to Spain! We’re going to España! ¡Vamos a España! Yipee!

We took the train to the coast (teachers pushing tables on wheels across the room, with students and all of their stuff on top), to meet up with Pato on his [Popsicle stick] barco/ boat.


While yesterday I wasn’t certain how to differentiate the train from the boat, today I had a plan. The students stayed on the train as we pushed the two tables-on-wheels together, and voilà: we had a boat. Next, I put a loud ship horn sound effect on loop, along with a video of dolphins jumping. Look!! Dolphins, guys! So cool!! Did you get a picture? We took as many photos as we could on our pretend phones.

A minute after they all started getting antsy about being on the barco/ boat for so long, I said, “LOOK! ¡MIRA! I see land! It’s España!” In the dolphin video, you can see land at certain parts, so I waited until a good moment.

We got off the boat, left my room, walked down the hallway looking for the hotel in Spain, and then walked back to my room and pretended that their newly constructed casas were now, in fact, the hotel.

Phew! It’s amazing what you can do some days in thirty minutes. And what, now? Why did we go to Spain [other than to ascertain that the Popsicle stick boat floats]? Only Pato knows… 🙂

Columbus Day & Word Loans


A few weeks ago, my best friend lent me a heating pad after I injured my back. It was a very thoughtful gesture and much appreciated; but eventually, I returned it. The heating pad wasn’t mine to keep, after all.

Objects and ownership are pretty straightforward, in that sense. I can lend you something, and after a while, you give it back. Now, depending on how [dis]organized someone is, this timeframe might be longer than you originally anticipated; but physical things are clearly here or there, yours or mine. The idea of lending money begins to get a bit more abstract when you are talking about credit (not cash); and to further complicate matters, sometimes the owner of that couch (~that you happened to ‘borrow’ for two years) no longer wants it anymore, which begs the question: did s/he lend or gift it to you?

What happens when we extend this to language? To jumpstart this conversation in my classroom, I like to ask first graders a deceivingly simple question, “So, does anyone know how to say, ‘taco’ in Spanish? What about mosquito? Papaya?” This throws even the native speakers off. Wait a second… (For older students, you can add in concepts, like déjà-vu.)

I can loan you a papaya to take a picture of it and you can give it back (well, you might eat it…), but what about the word papaya? Where did it come from? You see, word loans are not like other loans; they are, arguably, their own category and beast. But let’s back up.


My professional focus as a Spanish teacher is, of course, Spanish and everything that entails (culture, language, all 21 countries, music, food, etc.). But I am also equally interested in fascinated by other languages and particularly, what occurs when they interact or come into contact with one another. So… what happens when languages meet?

Is it like a meet-cute, where they walk off together in the sunset? Or more a ninja style battle, flying from roof to roof at dusk across the city? Or perhaps they don’t even notice each other at first?

Can we personify languages? Do they behave like humans? Every culture and word–and person–has its own story, that is for sure; but unlike people, I think it can be tricky to delineate exactly where one language ends and another begins… particularly when we take word loans into account.

For instance, today: [Christopher] Columbus Day. Now, many have (and had) strong opinions about this Genoese sailor from the 1400s–did you know that he was extremely religious but also thrown in jail for six weeks?–but today we will focus primarily on what happened to the Spanish language when he sailed across the ocean and unknowingly acted as a catalyst for languages to interact.

Let us start with the fact that, according to his diary entries, Columbus wrote in castellano (Castilian Spanish)–although, as philologist and historian Ramón Menéndez Pidal posits here, this was likely not his first language:

« nota reiteradas veces que el Almirante revela ‘ser natural de otra lengua, porque no penetra del todo la significación de los vocablos de la lengua castellana ni del modo de hablar de ella’ ».

Source (6)

Many hypothesize that Columbus’ native tongue was Ligurian, but he was clearly also familiar with Portuguese, Italian, and Castellano, among others. He presumably interacted with the monarchs Isabel and Fernando in Spanish when asking them (repeatedly, until he succeeded) to fund his overseas ventures and [four] voyages to the New World.


I mention this linguistic context and background because the subject of word loans comes up in his castellano diary entries. When languages meet for the first time, there is of course some general confusion. Columbus was actually prepared for this and brought along several interpreters–which was a great plan, except that he did not land in India, and therefore encountered over 600 indigenous languages in lieu of the expected Greek, Latin, Arabic, and Aramaic. Whoops!

Soon after sailor Rodrigo de Triana famously shouted, “¡Tierra! ¡Tierra!” (Land! Land!) upon sighting an island in the Caribbean, his fellow crew members and Columbus were to make initial contact with the Taíno natives. The Taínos spoke a language called Arawak. (Jean-Benoît Nadeau and Julie Barlow even explain in their book, The Story of Spanish, that Columbus captured indigenous Taínos and brought them back to Spain for the original intention of teaching them castellano so that they could act as interpreters for the Europeans.)

Spanish historian Bartolomé de las Casas accompanied Columbus on his third voyage and described this “language of the Indians [as with] the most elegant and abundant of words, and the sweetest of sounds (original: “la lengua de los indios [con] la más elegante y más copiosa de vocablos, y la más dulce en sonidos”). I read somewhere that Columbus himself had used the word, “apacible” (~pleasant, gentle, calm, peaceful) to describe Arawak, but I can’t find the source right now.

Anyway, this is where things get interesting. You see, the beautiful fruit of linguistic encounters is that new ideas are exchanged. As with any voyageur, Columbus and the other sailors learned and were exposed to so many new things in their travels. For example, the Europeans had never seen a canoe before. This is apparent in his diary, where Columbus starts out using the word, “almadía”, or raft in Spanish, to describe what he sees; but over a period of weeks, switches to the Taíno canoa and eventually drops almadía altogether (The Story of Spanish, pp. 99-101).

Here, we see one of the original dictionary entries (1505): canoa, boat of wood; from the Caribbean. How crazy is it that we have access to this information nowadays?

In addition to canoa, the Spaniards took many word loans from Arawak, such as canoe, shark, papaya, iguana, hurricane, corn, hammock, potato, barbecue, and mangrove for foods, animals, and ideas that they did not already have in their own language (i.e., castellano). Can you imagine not knowing what a huracán/hurricane was and experiencing one for the first time? Or seeing a tiburón/ shark or iguana? Or eating a papaya? Or having a barbacoa/ barbecue?


Now, to be fair, none of this is new: linguistic contact occurs all of the time, and we are constantly acquiring new words in our own language on both a cultural and individual level. Whether that is because of a new invention (iPads were invented in 2010, might I remind you), or simply because you moved to the country and someone said, “It’s spitting out” (instead of drizzling), our vocabularies naturally expand over time.

Nevertheless, it is fascinating to ponder how one word can be loaned or “borrowed” into another language and end up comfortably living in two places at once. Why are some terms bifurcated? Why is bread bread in English, pan in Spanish, and מָן (mān/ manna) in Hebrew; but barbacoa is shared by Arawak and Spanish, and papaya by Arawak, Spanish, and English? Conversely, how has Icelandic remained relatively untouched, linguistically speaking–(if you speak Icelandic, you can easily understand a text from the 900’s)–whereas English has undergone so many changes it is difficult to pinpoint a time period when it has stayed still?

There are linguistic answers to these questions (Iceland, for one, is geographically isolated as an island, which helped keep the language in one place; whereas English is sort of like your friend’s messy apartment: stuff is just spread out everywhere!)–but all of this still begs the question, how can some words be loaned or borrowed from other languages, while still remaining their own entity? Why did Arawak and Spanish not become one in the same? How many words can a language borrow before it loses its identity, or essence?

Regrettably, I do not have the answers to those questions today. However, I can share [below]–and just for fun–a chart from my FAQ page, if you wanted to delve a bit deeper. In the meantime, Happy Columbus Day!

P.S. Another fun fact: jaguar, petunia, and tapioca, among others–come from the Tupí-Guaraní languages, thanks to later expeditions through South America.

Gold of the Morning


I love the gold of the morning, those scintillating flecks of light peppering the ever-changing canvas of the night sky, as the latter slowly fades from view; mystical dew-filled cobwebs dotting the grass for reasons unbeknownst to me; birds’ cheery songs greeting the world, welcoming the dawn; the sensation that everything is new and fresh, has been rebirthed overnight–and yet, I dread the raw truth of day, the sharp wind slicing my thoughts to pieces, intimating that I am not enough; the clock on the wall ticking away the minutes, rhythmically chanting that I have wasted my days; the brooding thoughts that creep in, carrying the baggage of yesteryear, a lifetime ago.

I live all of these thoughts in the space of a few seconds–and reflect, at last, on how divine is this, the textured quilt of human emotion and experience. The swelling wave of emotion crests and washes onto shore: a new day has arrived. I exhale the past and inhale the present, and thank God for the opportunity to put pen to paper. I don’t know why, but writing is a therapeutic release.

Language-Learning Ideas

While you can explore hands-on Culture Projects for educators, families, and/or home schoolers on another page, I thought I’d group more linguistically oriented ideas here.


Chile- Valparaíso


CHILE: The coastal city of Valparaíso in Chile is perhaps most known for its colorful landscape and 43 cerros/ hills. Commonly known as the “La Joya del Pacífico,” (The Jewel of the Pacific), the street art scene here proves astounding.

Valparaíso wasn’t always quite so colorful, but in response to the dictatorship of the 1970’s, artists wanted to make their voices heard, forming underground groups to get their message out to the world. It would seem a wholly turbulent past, but the origin of the colorful houses is actually distinct from that of the street art:

“As Valparaiso is a port city, the short story goes that the “Porteños” (meaning the inhabitants of a port city) used the abandoned metal in the port to cover and protect their houses made of adobe bricks (a kind of clay mixed with water and straw).

And as with wind and humidity the [metal] tended to rust, people started painting their houses with the paint used on the boats. And you will have understood it, these [paints] are very resistant and especially very colorful (it is necessary to see the boats from far). This is what would be at the origin of this ‘coloured metalic’ touch that makes Valparaiso so original.”

Source

Part 1

Dependent on the grade level, we go in a few different directions here. For starters, the street art history is too heavy for kindergarteners, so in class, students focus solely on the vibrant colors. I sing a calming song, “Azul, blanco, rojo, violeta, amarillo, anaranjado, verde y rosa [rosado],” and point to crayons as I go, so as to associate the proper color with each word.

Students are then given large coffee filters, and I show them the food coloring (yipee!); next, students choose which colors, how many droplets, and where they want them, to create their own designs. I always narrate what is happening and ask questions continuously in the target language as I go around from student to student. In the background, I put on a different color song, called Los colores.

This year, I had a set of goteros/ eyedroppers, so kindergarteners used them to mix agua/water and the colors even further. It was great fun, however beware: this can make a huge mess! (No, I don’t say this from experience, haha!) The art teacher got in on this for International Dot Day, and the next phase of this project was to transform the colorful coffee filters into Chihuly Sculptures in her class. Very cool!

Part 2

To extend this project, and 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!

Older students announced this as “Breaking News” on their class Spanish News Show, watching a Spanish BrainPop video on volcanoes and learning about the Calbuco volcanic eruption in Chile. This connected to their classroom science unit on volcanoes.


Image #1, Image #2, Image #3, Image #4, Image #5

Paraguay- Bottle Dance

PARAGUAY: La Danza de La Botella, or Bottle Dance, is a traditional Paraguayan dance with unclear origins- although many say it is an offshoot of the galopa (a different folk dance). Dancers begin at a young age, balancing one glass bottle on their heads. As they gain more skill, more bottles are added. While four or five bottles is an absolute feat, some advance to as many as ten or eleven–see videos below. The top and final bottle has a ribbon of the flag colors of Paraguay tied on to it.

In class, students admired the Ñandutí lace on the dresses, enjoyed listening to the traditional Paraguayan polka music, and then attempted to balance books on their heads and walk around the room. (Not quite the same- but safety always comes first.) Regardless, it is harder than it looks!

Above: Image #1, Image #2


The Dancing Pineapple

The “Pato” Play (2022-23)

{movie trailer will go here}

Plot Summary

Pato is growing up, and now has his own personal secretary! The Spanish play musical begins with our stuffed animal duck hero dancing to traditional Spanish music from the 1500’s: a calm, mature tone is established. When the phone rings and his secretary answers, we learn that Oso is calling, but Pato is clearly busy–prancing around, ballet-style (how do pointe shoes work on webbed feet?)–and can’t take a call right now, thank you very much; so Oso decides to try again later.

He waits about five seconds and calls again, but in the meantime, Pato has changed the radio station (or Alexa, or whatever!) and found a catchier tune–conveniently for us, about the phone ringing. Poor Oso listens to the phone ringing as everyone else jumps up for a dance number onstage. The landline is modeled after Salvador Dalí’s famous surrealist sculpture (#culture).

When the secretary finally regains order and answers the phone, Oso claims to be The King of the World, so that he can talk with Pato. There is no way that Pato wouldn’t pick up for The King of the World!

After a little chitchat, Pato is invited to Spain with his friends, Oso (Bear), Caballo (Horse), and Pollito (Baby Chick), among others. As they are all stuffed animals IRL (haha), their mode of transportation is a paper airplane, which they get from someone backstage named Javier–this task interrupts the entire play, and Javier is mortified but reluctantly agrees to oblige the characters after he observes Pato trying to [unsuccessfully] fly to Spain in the background. Ay yie yie!

They finally get on the plane, but end up landing in Canada, not Spain. Whoops! It is really cold there, and when a Talking Book starts chatting with them, there is no denying that we have been transported to Stuffed Animal Land. The friends are amazed at the Bilingual Talking Book, but quickly move on to another more pressing matter, when a group of wolves appears in the distance. Oh no!

We break to a Special News Report, commentating on the sad state of affairs, namely, that Pato and friends are surely to meet their end in the face of the ravenous wild creatures. HOWEVER!, Los Lobos (the wolves) are actually a band who perform Para bailar la bamba in a live outdoor concert. (The band name really is Los Lobos, but obviously, it’s a joke, since the band was people and we have “wolves” singing.) The Dancing Pineapple makes his debut as the lead singer at this point–which, no, is not a historical fact.

Following the concert, the friends continue on their way to Spain, but wind up in Cuba. Oh my goodness! Who is driving this plane?! Naturally, Pato confuses bananas with La Habana (the capital of Cuba), and everyone ends up Salsa dancing in the streets. Will they ever get to Spain? Come watch the show to find out!


Soundtrack

Car Rides to the Jungle


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!

A Far Away Galaxy

Drone footage credit to mixkit.co, but I made the video. 🙂

The Firefly

Language has always been a story for me. You can go macro, the story of the world–or micro, the history of a single word. Or you can travel to another galaxy! With 7,000 languages on our planet, the possibilities are endless. My dissertation actually traced the evolution of the word, “luciérnaga” (firefly/ ‘lou-see-AIR-nah-gah’) in dictionaries, from its first appearance in 1251 through present day.

The definitions varied over the centuries, dependent on our collective scientific and cultural knowledge. Before we knew much of anything about entomology, many believed that those tiny lights flashing on and off in the night were… magic or sorcery. When there was a mini ice age in Europe for a few hundred years, a huge gap ensued: luciérnaga was absent from Spanish dictionaries, presumably because the lightning bugs all traveled closer to the equator, and were no longer a part of daily life.

Point being, I love language(s) and I love sharing my joy for words and communication with students. The cinematography above is meant to emphasize that your children do not merely study language in my class: they live it. They experience words and immersion and culture and all of the things. Words are everywhere, and it is my job to help them discover the magical, linguistic, and/or scientific [however you view language] light and spirit within each child.

The firefly’s light flashes on and off, but it is always there.

Spain- Caves

SPAIN: As you may know, the name of my website–The Spanish Cave–has its roots in the year I was moved into a tiny classroom with absurdly high ceilings. After a while, we started calling it La cueva/The Cave–and for whatever reason, the name stuck. Despite their prevalence around the world, caves are, after all, pretty cool.

It is no surprise that Spain has its fair share of fascinating caves. From the Caves of Nerja in Andalucía (largest stalactite in the the world), and the Caves of Altamira in Cantabria (beautiful prehistoric paintings and engravings), to the Drach–or “Dragon”–Caves in Mallorca (one of the world’s largest underground lakes), these natural subterranean chambers highlight yet another layer of our extraordinary world. Click on the article below for a project!


Uruguay- Casapueblo

URUGUAY: Obviously, we need to do some sort of amazing artistic project on this art studio turned hotel with no straight lines (in the entire edifice, as per the artist’s preference, Carlos Paez Vilaró). I was thinking of using marshmallows as our medium, but the temptation to eat them is just too great for elementary aged students. I will keep you posted.

LINKS: Wondermondo (Uruguay)Hotel Art Casapueblo (Uruguay)Casapueblo Video (Uruguay), Home of Carlos Paez Vilaró

Image Credit

Quarter Update, 22-23 (4)


Term
1This term, students in fourth grade began with Daily Language Trivia outside of my classroom. (This is the official “English/ Spanish/ Spanglish” zone, as opposed to the “Spanish-only zone” inside my room.) Here, students learned basic facts such as: How many Spanish-speaking countries are there in the world? (21); How many languages are there in the world? (7,000); What are the top three most-spoken languages in the world? In what order? (Mandarin Chinese, Spanish, English); What about online? (English reigns!); etc.

Inside the classroom, fourth graders were transported to another world–or Spanish speaking country, at least. Immersion can feel like another world, though; sans words, you lose your personality, your sense of identity, your power to express yourself how you want to. Students did really well with this. First, they reviewed a Spanish News Show from last year and made a miniature volcano as a “news story” to tap into their science unit (Calbuco, Chile). Next, they learned about Easter Island all in the target language, and even made clay sculptures of the famous statues and Rongorongo tablets.

In the tech realm, students continued (from last year) working on the Duolingo language- learning app; but this time around, they are working as a team to earn a huge number of XP (points) over an eight week timespan, in what is called a Classroom Quest. All of this is in preparation and gearing up for the main event this year, THE SPANISH PLAY. Near the end of the quarter, fourth graders made and submitted audition videos for the play, and were given a broad overview of the plot. They are all excited to begin the work! Gracias for a great term.
2This term, fourth graders continued working on the Duolingo language-learning app, eventually completing the Classroom Quest after eight weeks of hard work–congratulations! Other than Duolingo, the bulk of their efforts was spent on preparing for THE SPANISH PLAY performance in February. Fourth graders began the quarter with a general plot overview, learning who the main characters were, and alternating parts until we found the right casting fit.

Following the official casting, students delved into the music and dance choreography–the play is actually more of a musical this year–and began rehearsing their lines as a class. There are so many layers when it comes to theater here: fourth graders are focusing on initially knowing what it is they are saying (Spanish words with English meaning); but also simultaneously fine-tuning their pronunciation for a different sound system [phonetics]; adding expression and intonation; coordinating movement, dance, and actions on stage with their lines; and mastering timing, as timing is everything! Oh, did I mention managing props and voice projection and mics? Theater really does have All The Things!

Each lesson/ rehearsal brought with it a different angle and focus–which helped keep the 15-page script fresh and exciting for fourth graders. They are deep into rehearsals at this point, and already looking forward to the final performance! For a plot overview, please click HERE. And mark your calendars for February 15, 2023. You won’t want to miss it!
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August Notes

Objective: acclimating to daily routines, expectations, and an immersive Spanish environment!

  • Welcome Back!: intro to daily routine and general overview. We will spend the first semester preparing for the Fourth Grade Spanish Play. The lines in the play will be reinforced via class activities; games; songs; videos; and Culture Projects.
  • News Show: Soy fuerte & Soy valiente auditions. News Show Skit- vocabulary review from last year. Pato and the mini volcano (Chile- Calbuco).
  • Colorful Volcano: News Show Skit review. Top news is Chilean volcano. Class helps Pato make a miniature volcano model (with food coloring), all in the target language. ¡Lo hicimos!
  • Easter Island Intro: Language trivia. News Show. Why are we talking about Chile? Two reasons- the volcano (Calbuco) and Easter Island. Lesson on La Isla de Pascua and walking statues video, all in the target language. Facts and slideshow with pics and video in Spanish.
  • Easter Island, Day 1: skip News Show. Students have time to create air-dry clay sculptures from Easter Island (moai and tablets).
  • Easter Island, Day 2: skip News Show. Students have time to paint air-dry clay sculptures from Easter Island (moai).

September

Objective: begin to work on verbal output, increase speaking confidence in the target language.

  • Introduce Duolingo: Daily trivia. Introduced Duolingo language-learning app. Time to work on the app, work out the kinks/ any glitches, and record vocabulary in mini Spanish notebooks. Also overview of XP progress this year.
  • Cognates: Daily trivia/ Firefly backstory. Time to work on Duolingo app and record vocabulary in mini Spanish notebooks. Word search and lesson on cognates (words that look the same in English and Spanish).
  • The Theater: Daily trivia. Time to work on Duolingo app and decorate mini Spanish notebooks. Look ahead to SPANISH PLAY auditions. Teatro Colón in Argentina.
  • Auditions, Day 1: Time to work on Duolingo app. SPANISH PLAY auditions will be in video format. Read lines with exaggerated emotions. Combine in iMovie.
  • Auditions, Day 2: Time to work on Duolingo app. DAY #2: SPANISH PLAY auditions will be in video format. Read lines with exaggerated emotions. Combine in iMovie. Individual surveys for type of role in play desired (e.g., big/ small part, tech, etc.).
  • Auditions, Day 3: Time to work on Duolingo app. DAY #3: upload audition videos to Google Classroom, if you haven’t already. Casting bios. Preview of Spanish play!
  • THE PATO PLAY: Time to work on Duolingo app. Pato Play Plot Premieres!
  • No class: No sub available.
  • Substitute: Worked on Duolingo. Reviewed names of Spanish speaking countries (all 21). Spanish word search.
  • Substitute: Worked on Duolingo briefly. Bulk of time spent on writing “Casting Bios” for Spanish Play performance.
  • The PATO Play, for real: Apologies for being out! Ack! Time to revise Casting Bios from Friday (sub). Anecdote about year EVERYONE got violently ill before the production and we had to reassign parts the morning of. Lesson: be prepared! You will have an assigned part, but you will also be responsible for having a good idea of everyone else’s part, too. Down to business- overview of Spanish Play begins today, for real.

October

Objective for October: continue working on verbal output, increase speaking confidence in the target language.

  • No class: hurricane.
  • No class: hurricane.
  • THE PATO PLAY & Don Quijote: Overview of Spanish Play continues. Character list now includes: Narrator, Secretary, Pato, Oso, Everyone, Baby Chicken, Horse. Don Quijote review and interjection in musical.
  • THE PATO PLAY: Overview of Spanish Play continues.

Quarter Update, 22-23 (3)


Term
1This term, students in third grade began with Daily Language Trivia outside of my classroom. (This is the official “English/ Spanish/ Spanglish” zone, as opposed to the “Spanish-only zone” inside my room.) Here, students learned basic facts such as: How many Spanish-speaking countries are there in the world? (21); How many languages are there in the world? (7,000); What are the top three most-spoken languages in the world? In what order? (Mandarin Chinese, Spanish, English); etc.

Inside the classroom, third graders were transported to another world–or Spanish speaking country, at least. Immersion can feel like another world, though; sans words, you lose your personality, your sense of identity, your power to express yourself how you want to. Students did really well with this. First, they learned about Easter Island all in the target language, and even made clay sculptures of the famous statues and Rongorongo tablets.

As part of this unit, third graders began rehearsing their lines for a Spanish News Show, which is actually part of a long-term project. The project is a story within a story within a story: a boy is late to watch his favorite show, the news/ las noticias, on which there is a segment about Chile; and following the news, there are Spanish commercials and a movie trailer about “Alan” and hungry Easter Island statues that come to life. “Alan” is completely ridiculous but a hilarious story starter!

In the tech realm, students started working on the Duolingo language- learning app; they are working as a team to earn a huge number of XP (points) over an eight week timespan, in what is called a Classroom Quest. It should be noted that they are doing an outstanding job with this. Third graders also learned a card game called Mano Nerviosa. Gracias for a great term.
2This term, third graders continued working on the Duolingo language-learning app, eventually completing the Classroom Quest after eight weeks of hard work–congratulations! Partway through the quarter, they were also introduced to the “Language Guessing Game, which we did as a class for a warm-up activity. Listening to other languages helps students train their ears and identify sounds that are distinctly Spanish; an unexpected consequence of this game was that several began exploring other languages (in addition to Spanish) on Duolingo–which is fantastic! The more languages, the better! Their most recent challenge from the tech world has been trying to figure out the daily Spanish Wordle. It has been amazing to see how many five-letter words they already know in Spanish (e.g., queso/ cheese, amigo/ friend, mujer/ woman, quiero/ I want, puedo/ I can, vamos/ let’s go, coche/ car, jugar/ to play, adiós/ goodbye, banco/ bank, leche/ milk, ahora/ now, etc.)!

Third graders also spent a few lessons learning about how some words are “boy” [or “el” words], and other words are “girl” [or “la” words]–in grammatical terms, we call these masculine and feminine articles, but students won’t know them as this. The el or la has nothing to do with the noun in question (tables are not ‘girls’ because it’s la mesa/ table); but it is a fun trick to help you remember, especially if you pretend that girls “get” such and such (la pizza/ pizza) and boys “get” such and such (el helado/ ice cream, ‘el-LAH-doe’). We proceeded to divide up the universe (i.e., el universo/boy word) into its respective categories–“Who gets the planet?” El planeta (boys). “What about the earth?” La tierra (girls)–and so on and so forth.

When hurricanes, the Halloween Carnival, Grandparent’s Day, field trips, and other school events canceled Spanish, our “Alan” story from the first quarter was put on pause. However, I took the days that we did meet to teach students how to dance the Salsa [as a mini unit]. Third graders were brilliant, and even started making up their own choreography after they had mastered the basic steps.

The schedule finally calmed down and we started meeting more regularly, at which point Center Work made a reappearance from years prior; students get to choose which activities they do, and learn corresponding vocabulary in the target language. This has been expanded to include “licenses” for everything, which are basically sight word flashcards that students have to have near them when using my materials. For example, if they sign up to “drive the car” aka “Quiero conducir el coche negro” [I want to drive the black car, that is, my teacher chair on wheels], they have to have their “license” (el coche/ car or el camión/ truck card). It is a fun game we play to encourage contextualized, meaningful language in action. Gracias for another great quarter.
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August

Objective: acclimating to daily routines, expectations, and an immersive Spanish environment!

  • Welcome Back!: intro to daily routine and general overview. We will explore legends from around the Spanish-speaking world, and create a semester-long News Show in Spanish, adding a few new lines each day. The lines in the show will be reinforced via class activities; games; tongue twisters; songs; videos; ‘free choice’ center work days; and Culture Projects.
  • News Show: News Show Skit in Spanish. Testing their focus and concentration today- how far can we go in the target language?!
  • Easter Island Intro: News Show Skit, very quick run-through. News Show piece on Chile; intro to Easter Island, but all in the target language. Facts and slideshow with pics and video all in Spanish.
  • Easter Island, Day 1: skip News Show. Students have time to create air-dry clay sculptures from Easter Island (moai and Rongorongo tablets).
  • Easter Island, Day 2: Students have time to paint their air-dry clay sculptures from Easter Island (moai and tablets). Ms. C visited today and made her own sculpture as well!
  • Exports & Alan: Daily Trivia. Students brought air-dry clay sculptures to cubbies. Comment “everything comes from China” led to a mini review from last year re: imports/ exports. Students checked shirt tags and shoes for country names, and we found them on the map. STORY STARTER: Alan video, Easter Island statues, train, statues move when not looking (acted out).

September

Objective: begin to work on verbal output, increase speaking confidence in the target language.

  • Overview-English: Took a step back to explain in English the big picture of this first unit. We are creating a story (boy running home, late to watch news show) within a story (the actual news show on TV) within a story (movie trailer about Alan and Easter Island statues, that the boy sees on TV). “Ohhh….!” 🙂
  • Introduce Duolingo: Daily trivia. Introduced Duolingo language-learning app. Time to work on the app, work out the kinks/ any glitches, and record vocabulary in mini Spanish notebooks. And decorate notebooks with stamps!
  • Duolingo: Time to work on Duolingo app and record vocabulary in mini Spanish notebooks. Set up app with students who were absent. Reviewed News Show skit, with names. Students requested scripts, so easier to follow along (than on board).
  • Schedule/Alan!: schedule as follows- Mondays will be story days (treasure project, movie trailer with Alan); Thursdays will be commercials/center days; Fridays will be News Show/center days. Duolingo. Alan rehearsal and treasure project overview.
  • Commercial Time: Daily Trivia. Duolingo. Commercial. Center work introduction and The Town, Part 2.
  • The Town, Part 2: Daily Trivia. Duolingo. News Show skit- five minute rehearsal. Center work.

October


Term
1This term, students in second grade began with Daily Language Trivia outside of my classroom. (This is the official “English/ Spanish/ Spanglish” zone, as opposed to the “Spanish-only zone” inside my room.) Here, students learned a few basic facts (How many Spanish-speaking countries are there in the world? 21!; How many languages are there in the world? 7,000!); and then focused on memorizing common phrases: yo hablo español (I speak Spanish); yo hablo inglés (I speak English); yo no hablo español (I don’t speak Spanish); yo no hablo inglés (I don’t speak English); hablamos español (we speak Spanish).

Inside the classroom, second graders began a massive task: creating their own Spanish-speaking town. So far, there is el supermercado/ supermarket, el banco/ bank, el museo de arte/ art museum, la granja/ farm, la tienda de carteras/ bolsas (purse or wallet shop), el aeropuerto/ the airport, and a train station, for which you must have a train license and license plates (el tren/ train; Spain/ España) to drive. Students use euros in monetary transactions (as opposed to pesos from last year), and have discussed currency conversion rates–although this will be an ongoing conversation; it is challenging to understand why the rates can change every day, however slightly. Second graders decide quiénquiénquién/ “who-who-who” (owl mneumonic device!) is going to work at the supermarket, bank, etc. each day– and then get to work.

NOTE: Now that we have established a strong base, the overarching goal here will be to pair memorable experiences with language. Students will begin to pick up vocabulary such as, “Necesito eso” (I need that); or “Boleto, por favor” (ticket, please); or “Quiero ir a España” (I want to go to Spain); or “¿Dónde está la cinta?” (Where is the tape?); or “¿Qué? ¡No comprendo! (What? I don’t understand!) in meaningful contexts.

Students also had fun playing with the Duolingo and/or FunSpanish app, and learned a Q-U-E-S-O, or ¿Qué es eso? ¡Eso es queso! (What is that? That is cheese!) rhyme. To end the quarter, they had a comparative language lesson about Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, and word loans to connect with their classroom unit on China. Gracias for a great term.
2This term, second graders continued learning basic phrases outside of my classroom, in the form of a fun “echo” dialogue. This is a simple warm-up exercise to start class, which helps students to work on expression and intonation. Hablamos español en la escuela. We speak Spanish at school. ¿Solamente español? Only Spanish? ¡Sí! Yes! ¿En serio? Seriously? Claro, mira el mapa. Of course, look at the map! Es obvio. It’s obvious. Estamos en España. We’re in Spain.

Next, they chose “where they wanted to live” each day on my carpet–a red square was a red house/ una casa roja; a blue square was a blue house/ una casa azul; etc.–and told me if they lived at the beach/la playa, or in the mountains, or in the jungle, in a big or small house, etc. The point here is to ask personalized questions, and then later build their answers into a creative storytelling unit. For the time being, students are gesture-telling a scripted (and ridiculously overdramatic) story about a wolf who keeps crying after “Evil Pato” steals his lunch and eats it (song: Canta y no llores/ “sing and don’t cry”).

After this “circle time group immersion” segment, Spanish class lessons rotated in our routine each day: sometimes, students reviewed the Floor Map (in preparation for the all-school map competition in May) and pretended it was “raining” in Spain (está lloviendo/ it’s raining– my mist spray bottle created this effect). Other days, they listened to a song in the target language (¿Puedo ir al baño?; Billy la bufanda; Me encanta), or recited a silly Spanish Halloween Rhyme. Other days, I spent a minute or two asking them tricky spelling questions (hace frío/ it’s cold– “AH-say FREE-oh”; ¡Mira!/ look!), oftentimes with a focus on words that are spelled like an English word, but have a different pronunciation and meaning (e.g., come/ eats– “KOH-may”; dice/ says– “DEE-say”). And last but not least, second graders practiced telling me sentences in Spanish of activities and things they loved to do (me encanta jugar al fútbol/ I love to play soccer; me encanta construir/ I love building; no me gusta el chocolate, me encanta/ I don’t like chocolate, I love it).

Students also talked about the World Cup (Los Estados Unidos/ USA) and Día de Muertos (Mexico); mimicked a Colombian street artist’s fingerpainting style (Quiero pintar/ I want to paint); and began turning in written requests for what they wanted to do each day for Center Work (“Hola, yo me llamo XX, quiero + infinitive + [something extra from my bulletin board]“). They were introduced to upside down question marks and exclamation points as well. Center Work and the town–(new businesses: el café/ cafe; el restaurante/ restaurant; el cine/ movie theater)–have expanded to include “licenses” for everything, which are basically sight word flashcards that students have to have near them when using my materials. For example, if they sign up to “drive the car” aka “Quiero conducir el coche negro” [I want to drive the black car, that is, my teacher chair on wheels], they have to have their “license” (el coche/ car or el camión/ truck card). It is a fun game we play to encourage contextualized, meaningful language in action.

Class ended with the line leader saying, “¿Está aquí?” /is she [the teacher] here? and peeking out the door. If they tidied up my room before she arrived, we celebrated with a “¡Lo hicimos! We did it!” dance and shouted, “¡Sorpresa!/ Surprise!” when she got there. Second graders are working with a wide pool of receptive vocabulary now in a variety of contexts, which is great to see. Gracias for another great quarter!
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August

Objective: acclimating to daily routines, expectations, and an immersive Spanish environment!

  • Welcome Back!: intro to daily routine and general overview. Students will participate in a town simulation in a Spanish-speaking country; class activities; games; songs; videos; ‘free choice’ center work days; and also tell a semester-long story in Spanish.
  • What is that?: Daily Trivia. Classroom numbers. What is that? That is cheese! rhyme introduction. Mini activity to move tables for supermarket simulation. Establishing routines.
  • Supermercado: Daily Trivia. Setting up the class town. Supermarket and bank introductions. What is that? That is cheese! rhyme again with markers on fingers. Cut out euros and spend at town supermarket. “Paid” in euros when class cleans up/lines up in under two minutes (timer).
  • Let the Town Begin!: Daily Trivia. Setting up the class town. Supermarket, bank open today. “Paid” in euros when class cleans up/lines up in under two minutes (timer). Carrefour: Argentina:: Mercadona: España.
  • Euros vs. Dollars: Daily Trivia. Supermarket and bank are open today. Also begin a short discussion re: currency conversions- this conversation will be ongoing. Several made purses and wallets to store dinero/money.
  • Open or Closed?: setting up the class town. Supermarket and bank are open today. ABIERTO/ open (“ah-bee-AIR-toe”). CERRADO/ closed signs (“s[air]-RAH-doe”). Quién/ who-who-who is going to work at the supermarket, bank?

September

Objective: begin to work on verbal output, increase speaking confidence in the target language.

  • Double Class: Daily Trivia. ¡Es viernes! dance. “Hablamos español” practice. Double class. Establishing routines. Town was open today.
  • The Farm: Daily Trivia. “Hablamos español” practice. Tell me in English how you say… banco/ supermercado/ museo de arte. “Picasso” scribbles to demonstrate art museum. Quick chat: what is a bank? You don’t BUY money; you earn it. Where does the food/ comida from the supermercado come from? Several opened a farm/ la granja as a result of this conversation.
  • The Train: Daily Trivia. “Yo no hablo español/ inglés”. Tell me in English… is this a town/ pueblo or a city/ ciudad? Who-who-who is working at the farm, supermarket, bank, art museum, or wallet/ purse- making business? THE TRAIN returns. Taxes/ impuestos introduced. ¡Sorpresa! at end of class. One class also did the ¡Lo hicimos! dance for cleaning up before their teacher arrived.
  • Bathroom Song!: Daily Trivia. ¿Puedo ir al baño? video. Name wallet/ purse shop. Mapa- set locations for businesses- this part of the room, this part of the room. Train monitored closely. License plates and licenses to drive.
  • Non-Negotiable Vocab: Daily Trivia. ¿Puedo ir al baño? video. Business location review. Begin list of non-negotiable vocab (words you need to start replacing the English for Spanish!). Por favor/ please, gracias/ thank you, muchas gracias/ thank you so much.

October

Quarter Update, 22-23 (2)

Quarter Update, 22-23 (1)


Term
1This term, students in first grade began with daily language warm-ups outside of my classroom. (This is the official “English/ Spanish/ Spanglish” zone, as opposed to the “Spanish-only zone” inside my room.) Here, students focused on memorizing basic phrases: yo hablo español (I speak Spanish); yo hablo inglés (I speak English); yo no hablo español (I don’t speak Spanish); yo no hablo inglés (I don’t speak English); and differentiating between español/ Spanish and España/ Spain (language vs. place).

Inside the classroom, they learned about El Camino de Santiago, a 500-mile hike across Spain that their teacher completed a few years ago. Students got their mochilas/backpacks, botella de agua/water bottle, plastic food/comida, and faux currency from Spain (dinero/money; euros for Spain), and set out around campus–‘climbing mountains’ (stairs) and drawing shells and arrows with chalk to mark the trail.

Each class, we added something new; for example, one day, students pretended to sleep in their bunks at hostels (picnic table benches as bunks) after a long day of hiking, and would ‘awaken’ to the sound of the rooster in Spanish: “¡Quiquiri-quí!” (cock-a-doodle-doo). A highlight was the day we talked about how much your feet hurt after 10 hours of hiking a day (for 30 days straight), but that a ‘foot pool’ makes everything better–first graders dipped their toes into a small bucket of cool water to simulate this. They also made abanicos/ Spanish fans out of paper for the super hot days.

When stormy weather ensued (¡Tormenta!/ storm!), first graders eased out of this introductory unit and launched into center days–the heart of the curriculum. Here, students sign up for what they want to do each day (Quiero jugar, colorear, construir /I want to play, color, build), and then, well–do it! Currently, several are building boats out of Popsicle sticks to sail to faraway lands (preferably, Spanish- speaking countries!). This center work begins as a sight word review from last year, but picks up pace quickly. The goal, ultimately, is language in action- pairing memorable experiences with vocabulary. Last but not least, first graders took a week to learn about Don Quijote and then made a copy of Picasso’s famous sketch. Gracias for a great term.
2This term, first graders continued building their daily warm-ups dialogue outside of my classroom, layering on expression and intonation, in addition to pronunciation and meaning. ¡Hola! Hi! ¿Cómo estás? How are you? ¡Estoy muy bien! I’m very well! Yo hablo español. I speak Spanish. Yo hablo inglés. I speak English. Espera un momento. Wait a minute. Yo no hablo español. I don’t speak Spanish. Yo no hablo inglés. I don’t speak English. ¡Qué problema! What a problem! Bonk! **face palm** ¡Ay! Ow! [singing]: ¡Me due-le tanto! / it hurts me so much / ¿Qué puedo hacer? / what can I do? / […] ¡No sé! I don’t know!! Voy adentro/ I’m going inside. ¿Por qué?/ why? Hace calor/ it’s hot OR hace frío/ it’s cold (dependent on the weather!)

Inside, students reviewed the Floor Map from last year (Spanish- speaking countries in South America; this is part of the curriculum for all of Lower School, as there is an annual competition for mastery at the end of the year). They also learned about and then built and painted a model of La Alhambra, a famous fortress in España/ Spain, complete with floor to ceiling, meticulously colored azulejos/ tiles.

When they were not signing up for Center Work–(¡Hola! Yo me llamo __ y quiero jugar/ colorear/ construir/ trabajar/ volar/ pintar. ¡No, no quiero dormir, maestra! /Hi, my name is __ and I want to play/ color/ build/ work/ fly/ paint/ etc. No, I don’t want to sleep, maestra!)–first graders also began brainstorming ideas for a storytelling unit. First, they sat on a square on the carpet and pretended that it was their casa/ house; from here, we would have Q&A sessions, where I would ask students a series of questions in the target language– do you live in a big house or a small house? A REALLY big house, wow! Do you have a cat or a dog? No? You have una vaca/ a cow? 19 cows?! And they are on a very strange diet? What do they eat? Spaghetti, pineapple, and sugar? Fascinating!

This was all in Spanish, and once students realized that it was much more fun to give creative answers, we started making up wild mini stories aurally as a class. Currently, this has morphed into one about an EVIL ONION [“La cebolla malvada”] who goes to a castle in a forest in Spain, takes the princess’s SLIPPERS/ pantuflas, and escapes! Oh no! She is very angry! Tune in next quarter to find out what happens!
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August Notes

Objective: acclimating to daily routines, expectations, and an immersive Spanish environment!

  • Welcome Back!: intro to daily routine and general overview. We will tell a semester-long story in Spanish, adding only a sentence or two each day. The words in the sentence will be reinforced via class activities; games; songs; videos; and ‘free choice’ center work days. Country focus on Spain. 
  • El Camino de Santiago: Clarify “Spain/España” (place) vs. “Spanish/ Español” (language)- an ongoing discussion. Symbols of El Camino de Santiago include arrows and scallop shells. Color paper shells. “Mini hike” around classroom, up and down mountains.
  • Shells/Arrows: Hike around campus, complete with backpacks/ mochilas and water bottles/ botellas de agua. Mark ‘the way’ with chalk arrows and scallop shells. Stop for snack and water breaks and stay at a [faux] hostel for the night.
  • Double Class: Continue with hiking unit. “España” anecdote (boy saying name of his homeland on plane). Practiced responding to “¡Tormenta!” (storm). Took volunteers to throw their zapatos. Outside hike, albergues, and gallos.
  • Abanicos: Continue with hiking unit. Students learned about abanicos/Spanish fans and made their own in class. The intention was to hike today as well, but the acordian style folding was a challenge for them, and the hike was shortened, if not cut altogether.
  • Foot Pool, Day 1: Continue with hiking unit. Students learn about Wonderful Foot Pools available along The Way. Pato especially appreciated these in the heat (so many feathers, you know). Naturally, they had to “scale four mountains” and stay the night at an albergue before dipping their toes (or feet) into a bucket of cool water. Splashing fun was had by all. Shoe tying at the end of class was A Thing. Mea culpa.

September

Objective: begin to work on verbal output, increase speaking confidence in the target language.

  • Double Class: yo hablo espa-ñol/inglés. Double combined class for first today. Practice hike inside and outside. First graders pretended to hike El Camino de Santiago in Spain/ España. They carried their backpacks (mochilas) and water bottles (botellas de agua) up and down FOUR huge mountains (montañas). I spied some expert climbers! As the sun began to set, they found a bunk at a local albergue and did not awaken until before dawn–to the sound of the rooster: “¡Quiquiriquí! ¡Quiquiriquí” (cock-a-doodle-do). Students had fun being overly dramatic with the mountain climbing!
  • Foot Pool, Day 2: yo hablo espa-ñol/inglés. First graders continued their 500-mile hike through Spain. Today, they scaled four more mountains/ montañas and slept at an albergue. The FL sun is just like Spain/ España– HOT! (hace mucho calor), so the simulation felt very realistic. Stopped to experience a “foot pool” (bare toes in water), since we ran out of time on Wednesday to do this. We brought along Pato today (and his miniature bag), as well as a pet vaca/ cow (I don’t remember why) and a lot of euros to “buy food” along The Way.
  • Tormenta/Storm!: yo hablo espa-ñol. Two problems: 1) no hiking and first day indoors, due to the “tormenta!!” (storm); and 2) you need a “pasaporte” (passport) to go to Spain! (stamped their hands). Had “indoor” day of El Camino, where students set up albergues, used the comida/food and dinero/money, and went to the “beach” (sand and water sensory station) at the end of the Camino. Began establishing indoor routine, as storms are in the forecast for the near future.
  • Centers, Day 1: yo hablo espa-ñol. Written work, the letter “m”. Centers, day 1 (quiero jugar/ quiero colorear). Establishing routines. Paid in faux euros if the class cleans up and lines up before the timer.
  • Centers, Day 2: yo NO hablo espa-ñol. Written work, the letter “c”. Centers, day 2 (quiero jugar/ quiero colorear/ El Camino). Establishing routines. Paid in faux euros if the class cleans up and lines up before the timer.

October

Quarter Update, 22-23 (K)


Term
1This term, students in kindergarten began with daily language warm-ups outside of my classroom. (This is the official “English/ Spanish/ Spanglish” zone, as opposed to the “Spanish-only zone” inside my room.) Here, students focused on memorizing basic phrases, such as: yo hablo español (I speak Spanish); yo hablo inglés (I speak English); yo no hablo español (I don’t speak Spanish); yo no hablo inglés (I don’t speak English).

Inside the classroom, students began the year with a coffee filter project, that reviewed numbers and colors in Spanish and in context, but was also a collaborative project with their art class (Chihuly Sculptures). They turned out beautifully! Later, kindergarteners began learning the names of Spanish- speaking countries on my Floor Map. They jump on the map, and then we do a short artistic or scientific project (something highly visual, to aid in comprehension) that relates to a cultural point of said country. For example, so far, kindergarteners have done projects on the following: Coffee Filters (Chile), Southern Lights (Argentina), Punta del Este (Uruguay), Andean Condor (S. America), the Bottle Dance (Paraguay), and Salt Flat (Bolivia). They also tried to outline the Andes Mountains and all of South America with blocks and dominoes. Wow!

As the quarter came to a close, kindergarteners started a storytelling unit. Here, they integrate cultural knowledge and a common pool of vocabulary to tell creative class stories in the target language. More on this later! Gracias for a great term.
2This term, kindergarteners continued building their daily warm-ups dialogue outside of my classroom, layering on expression and intonation, in addition to pronunciation and meaning. ¡Hola! Hi! ¿Cómo estás? How are you? ¡Estoy muy bien! I’m very well! Yo hablo español. I speak Spanish. Yo hablo inglés. I speak English. Yo no hablo español. I don’t speak Spanish. Yo no hablo inglés. I don’t speak English. ¡Qué problema! What a problem! Está bien, estoy aprendiendo. It’s okay, I’m learning.

Inside, students learned [many to mastery!] the names and locations of all of the Spanish- speaking countries in South America on the Floor Map: Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, and Venezuela. They continued doing a small class project for each country, including Rainbow Mountain and La Rinconada (Peru), Galápagos Islands (Ecuador), Colorful Town (Colombia), and Ice Cream (Venezuela). Once kindergarteners got comfortable with the content, they had fun playing with words, such as the day Pato searched high and low for the door/ puerta leading to Ecua-DOOR! Where could it be?! For Colombia, there was also a special parent presentation about Christmas traditions there. Thank you so much!

Last but not least, the class was introduced to Center Work. The Spanish class routine rotates every other lesson–(more or less, dependent on holidays and whatnot)–in that some days are Project Days (per country), and other days are Center Work. On the latter, students can continue with the same country project from the day prior, or pursue another interest.

Currently, open centers [aka sight words] include: colorear/ to color, jugar [‘who-GARR’]/ to play [with stuffed animals], construir/ to build [with boxes], trabajar/ to work [with money/ dinero], volar/ to fly [paper airplanes], and pintar/ to paint [fingerpaint on the whiteboards & make a print]. They sign up verbally with me re: what they want to do; however, unlike in other classes, students can switch centers as frequently as desired in Spanish–because the more they switch, the more they have to practice speaking the target language! Some students will change four times in a day, just to keep talking with me, while others will stick with one center (e.g., painting), but go more in depth and learn the names of the paint colors, or say, “¡Mira!/ Look!” when they want someone to look, or request “más papel, por favor” (more paper, please), etc. When they know all of the colors in Spanish, we start substituting to add more words, and pretend that the pink is not rosado/ pink, but rather chicle/ bubble gum! The goal is an immersive, experiential environment; and students have done a great job this quarter!
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August Notes

Objective: acclimating to daily routines, expectations, and an immersive Spanish environment!

  • Welcome Back!: intro to daily routine and general overview- English/Spanish. We will tell a semester-long story in Spanish, adding only a sentence or two each day. The words in the sentence will be reinforced via science experiments involving all of the senses; class activities; games; songs; videos; and ‘free choice’ center work days.
  • Chile- Floor Map: Intro to Floor Map. Vinegar/baking soda vs. water volcanoes, to prep for Dot Day project.
  • Dot Day, Day 1: Floor map, Chile and Argentina. Coffee filters plus food coloring (color/number review)–and how all of this relates to their Dot Day art project!
  • Dot Day, Day 2: Floor map, Chile and Argentina (timed). Coffee filters plus food coloring (color/number review) and WATER with goteros.
  • Argentina- Lights: Floor map, Chile and Argentina. Even more colors! We did THIS LESSON to make a connection with Argentina on the floor map.

September

Objective: begin to work on verbal output, increase speaking confidence in the target language.

  • Uruguay- Hand: Floor map. Project on La Mano de Punta del Este to make a connection with Uruguay on the floor map. Started to build Andes Mountain range out of blocks on map.
  • Andes Mountains: Project on La Cordillera de los Andes to make a connection with South America on the floor map. Also Atacama, Chilean desert.

October

Quarter Update, 22-23 (PK)


Term
1This term, students in PK3 & PK4 began with daily language warm-ups outside of my classroom. (This is the official “English/ Spanish/ Spanglish” zone, as opposed to the “Spanish-only zone” inside my room.) Here, students focused on memorizing basic phrases, such as: yo hablo español (I speak Spanish); yo hablo inglés (I speak English); and separating English and Spanish words (rojo/ red, hola/ hello, etc.). Before going in each day, everyone puts their hands in a circle– akin to a sports huddle– and we say, “¡Vamos!” all together.

Inside the classroom, students take a seat and I ask them, “¿Cómo estás?” (How are you?). We act out little scenarios- what would make you triste/sad or enojado(a)/ mad? Are you feliz/ happy right now? ¡Yo tengo frío! (I’m cold!), etc. For PK3, this is all new; for PK4, this was an easy vocab review to start the year. Next, students listen to a song (Encanto; Los solecitos; Rompe Ralph; Con un beso gigante; ¿Te Gusta El Helado De Brócoli?; ¿Te Gustan Los Milkshakes De Lasaña?), and either dance or pretend it’s naptime– the “Solecitos” song!

For the first month at this point in the lesson, students would meet on the carpet and do some sort of science experiment together. This was anything from levitating a ping-pong ball with air from a hairdryer (caliente/hot), to submerging temperature- actived white spoons into ice cubes and cold water so that they turned blue (frío/ cold), to melting crayons (PK3), to miniature baking soda, vinegar, and food coloring volcanoes in a bowl (PK4).

Here, the two grades diverge a bit: PK3 takes “car rides” across my room in the teacher chair on wheels (coche/ car; rápido/ fast), and pretends to go to the beach/ la playa or jungle/ la selva; while PK4 taps into this fun every once in a while, but mostly chats with Pato about his latest adventure. In fact, PK4 recently helped color Popsicle sticks to build a barco/ boat for the stuffed animal duck, and we are all on pins and needles to find out where he is going. He has packed… everything, so it must be a long trip! Gracias for a great term. *For more info, please read Car Rides to the Jungle (PK3).
2This term, students in PK3 & PK4 spent the first few minutes of class outside, examining the colors they were wearing with a “fashion focus”–wow, una camiseta azul con zapatos negros, qué guapo!/ a blue t-shirt with black shoes, how handsome!–and so on and so forth. PK3 also showed me all of their scrapes and scratches each class, after I told them a Spanish rhyme that many Hispanic mothers say to their children when they get a boo-boo: “Sana, sana colita de rana, si no sanas hoy, sanarás mañana” (heal, heal, little tail of a froggy, if you don’t heal today, you will heal tomorrow!).

Next, students continued with the routine of putting their hands in the middle and saying, “¡Vamos!” all together. Both grade levels also continued with a Q&A inside, discussing how they were feeling–more vocabulary was added this quarter (¿Cómo estás?/ How are you?; ¿Cómo te sientes?/ How are you feeling?; ¡Cuéntamelo todo!/ tell me everything!; [estoy/ I am] feliz/ happy; triste/ sad; enojado(a)/ angry; tengo hambre/ I’m hungry; tengo frío/ I’m cold; cansado(a)/ tired; bien/ well; mal/ bad; enfermo(a)/ sick; emocionado(a)/ excited; ¿por qué?/ why?).

Both PK3 and PK4 began learning La araña pequeñita (The Itsy Bitzy Spider) around Halloween, in order to collaborate with the art teacher: in art class, students worked on artistic spider creations, while in Spanish class, we gesture-sang the song, and I “spritzed” students with a mist water bottle when it started raining at those lyrics (está lloviendo/ it’s raining!)!

PK3 also listened to a few songs each lesson, oftentimes with the opportunity to vote on their favorite (the list is growing: Encanto; Los solecitos; Rompe Ralph; Con un beso gigante; ¿Te Gusta El Helado De Brócoli?; ¿Te Gustan Los Milkshakes De Lasaña?; Contando del 1 al 20; Pocoyo: Ven a la carrera; Chumbala Cachumbala; Feliz Navidad; Cascabeles). PK4 listened to some of these as a review from time to time, but tended to use this time to extend the Q&A above instead. We talked about casas/ houses and sitting on the techo/ roof–wait, what if it is snowing?! are you inside or outside of the house? And where is Pato?!)–and general chitchat. Here, the fork in the road appeared.

PK3’s “car rides” across the Spanish room evolved to “train [and bus] rides”, or students paying me fake Spanish money to sit on top of the table on wheels as the assistants and I pushed them across the room, with either train sound effects or Las Ruedas Del Autobús (The Wheels on the Bus) playing in the background (¡Espérame!/ wait for me!). We took rides to the playa/ beach, montañas/ mountains, and selva/ jungle again, adding small variations each day. Sometimes, we would go for a picnic with the fake food, but there would be a tormenta/ storm! (thunder and rain sound effects on my board) Other days, students would push themselves around on pieces of cardboard [their “coches/ cars”] and then “go through the car wash” (under a table with blankets, as I spritzed them with the spray bottle! Ha! Another day, we made a huge house out of paper and tape (grande/pequeño [big/small]; más, por favor/ more, please). Students also got to paint a couple of times, to practice their colors and switch up the routine.

Meanwhile… PK4 took a different route. They had started building a Popsicle stick barco/ boat for Pato during the first quarter, and wanted to know where he was going. It turned out that he was headed to España/ Spain–and, of course, students all wanted to accompany him there. For pics and details of this adventure, click HERE. When everyone finally arrived in Spain, there was so much to see and do! PK4 students made Spanish abanicos/ fans out of folded paper; visited La Alhambra, a famous fortress there; paid for everything in euros (dinero/ money from Spain); built casas/ houses out of chairs and blankets; painted a castle blanco y negro/ white and black; colored toros/ bulls, Spain’s national animal; and listened to Paso Doble music. As the term progressed, we started adding more destinations. On Día de Muertos, we listened to Chumbala Cachumbala and they colored papel picado and calaveras from México (“MAY-he-koh”). When the World Cup started, we spent a week playing fútbol/ soccer, and I painted their hands with the flag colors of the teams playing. Students would “take the bus” (my table on wheels) to various Spanish- speaking countries, and/or “fly” there, by drawing the flag colors of Spain, Mexico, or Argentina on paper airplanes (so everyone knew where they were headed!). Gracias for a great term!
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QUARTER SUMMARIES will be posted here at the end of the term. Until then, this page will be a scrambled egg mess of notes.

August

Objective: acclimating to daily routines, expectations, and an immersive Spanish environment!

  • Welcome!: intro to daily routine and general overview. We will tell a semester-long story in Spanish, adding only a sentence or two each day. The words in the sentence will be reinforced via class activities; games; songs; videos; and more. NOTE: On the first day, PK3 students visited my room and got accustomed to the space. Formal lessons begin next week. We compared English and Spanish as languages, and then sang a song about going places “¡Vamos!” (let’s go!).
  • The Car: review- English vs. Spanish. Sing going places song. Practice following directions. Color in a picture of a car. Paint with crayons. Listen to a song in Spanish. (lesson flowed beautifully and was much more organized than it sounds here!)
  • Ping-Pong Ball!: review- English vs. Spanish (two quick claps, and I change languages!). VAMOS!, hands in center. Transition inside. How are you today? Happy, sad, angry. Practice following directions. Hairdryer and ping-pong ball- caliente/hot. Sing going places song with car rides. VAMOS! Line up.
  • Blue Spoons!: review- English vs. Spanish/espa-NOL (two quick claps, and I change languages!). Rojo/red. Azul/blue. VAMOS!, hands in center. Transition inside. How are you today? Happy, sad, angry, (cold). Practice following directions. Repeat hairdryer and ping-pong ball- caliente/hot. Ice cubes and temperature- activated spoons. Sing going places song with car rides. VAMOS! Line up.

PK4

  • Welcome Back!: intro to daily routine and general overview. We will tell a semester-long story in Spanish, adding only a sentence or two each day. The words in the sentence will be reinforced via class activities; games; songs; videos; and more. NOTE: On the first day, PK4 students visit my room and get accustomed to the space. Formal lessons begin next week.
  • The Return of Pato: intro to daily routine and general overview. As per usual, Pato (my stuffed animal duck) has something up his sleeve, involving a miniature beaker, miniature spoon, miniature funnel, and a whole lot of vinegar, baking soda, and food coloring. Uh-oh…
  • More Science: review- English vs. Spanish. Sing ‘Where is Pa-to?’ song. How are you today?! Pato blows them all kisses (we try not to eat too many). Practice following directions. Watch song in Spanish (from Encanto). Transition to carpet. Science experiment repeat/extension lesson from yesterday (at students’ request).
  • I’m Cold!: review- English vs. Spanish (espa-ñol!). How are you today? Tengo frío (I’m cold!). Took blankets and danced to song from Encanto and Rompe Ralph. Sing ‘Where is Pa-to?’ song. Transition to carpet. Ping-pong ball with hairdryer (caliente/hot). Ice cubes (frío/cold). Temperature-activated spoons (azul/blanca). ¡SORPRESA!/ Surprise!
  • Swimming Pool: review- English vs. Spanish (hablo espa-ñol!). How are you today? Tengo frío (I’m cold!). Took blankets and danced to song from Encanto and Rompe Ralph. Sing ‘Where is Pa-to?’ song. Transition to carpet. Review: Pato, blue volcano science experiment is not a swimming pool! Hairdryer and ice cubes: will the agua/water be hot or cold? Traveled outside to faucet to fill 5-gallon bucket with water for Pato to jump into. We also splashed a bit, too. 🙂 Watered the plants. Came back. Lined up. SORPRESA!/ Surprise!

September

Objective: begin to work on verbal output, increase speaking confidence in the target language.

  • Drama- Paper: Daily routine, espa-ñol (outside). ¡Vamos! ¿Cómo estás? Acted out words dramatically, if you took the paper from me I would be…. happy/ sad/ angry/ etc. Song- Encanto. Dance time! Hairdryer at the carpet, caliente/hot and frío/cold.Where are we going? The beach? I sing, vamos a la playa, vamos. Car rides there. Is the agua at the beach caliente o fría? Is that the train? Time to go! Line up at door.
  • Beach or Jungle?: Daily routine, espa-ñol (outside). ¡Vamos! ¿Cómo estás? Q&A inside. Acted out words. Song- Encanto and Los solecitos. Dance time! Hairdryer at the carpet, caliente/hot and frío/cold. Where are we going? The beach or the jungle? I sing, vamos a España, vamos. Car rides there. Is that the train? Time to go! Line up at door.
  • Picnic, Day 1: Daily routine- yo hablo español (outside). ¡Vamos! ¿Cómo estás? Q&A inside. Most are pointing now; I am providing the verbiage. Song- Los solecitos. Nap time! ¡Otra vez! Again! Good morning! We should have a picnic! Let’s go! Do you want sopa? It’s caliente/ hot! Oh no, there’s a storm! (rain and thunder on board) Quick, get in the car! ¡Suban al coche! (chairs in a row) Where should we go (to get out of the storm)? Vamos a la selva. Let’s go to the jungle. Car rides there. Red light/ green light. Is that the train? Time to go! Line up at door.
  • Picnic, Day 2: Daily routine- yo hablo español (outside). ¡Vamos! ¿Cómo estás? Q&A inside. Most are pointing now; I am providing the verbiage. Song- Los solecitos. Nap time! Jobs for lights and board today. ¡Otra vez! Again! Good morning! We should have a picnic! Let’s go! Do you want sopa? It’s caliente/ hot! Oh no, there’s a storm! (rain and thunder on board) Quick, get in the car! ¡Suban al coche! (chairs in a row) Where should we go (to get out of the storm)? Vamos a la selva. Let’s go to the jungle. Car rides there. Red light/ green light. Is that the train? Time to go! Line up at door.
  • Red/Green Lights: Daily routine- yo hablo español (outside). ¡Vamos! ¿Cómo estás? Q&A inside. Song- Los solecitos. Nap time! Jobs for lights and board today. ¡Otra vez! Again! Good morning! We should have a picnic! Let’s go! Do you want sopa? It’s caliente/ hot! Oh no, there’s a storm! (rain and thunder on board) Quick, get in the car! ¡Suban al coche! (chairs in a row) Where should we go (to get out of the storm)? Vamos a la selva. Let’s go to the jungle. Car rides there. Red light/ green light activity today. Is that the train? Time to go! Line up at door.

PK4

  • The Boat, Day 1: review- English vs. Spanish (hablo espa-ñol!). How are you today? Tengo frío (I’m cold!). Took blankets and danced to song from Encanto and Rompe Ralph. Sing ‘Where is Pa-to?’ song. Transition to carpet. Pato wants to go in the water but doesn’t know how to swim and doesn’t want to get wet. How about a boat/ barco, Pato? Students colored in Popsicle sticks and used tape to put them together. Will continue with this next class. Lined up. SORPRESA!/ Surprise!
  • The Boat, Day 2: review- English vs. Spanish (hablo espa-ñol!). How are you today? Tengo frío (I’m cold!). Took blankets and “slept” during Los solecitos song. Sing ‘Where is Pa-to?’ song. Transition to carpet. Students colored in more Popsicle sticks and used tape to put them together. We have two sides of the boat now! Will continue with this next class. Lined up. SORPRESA!/ Surprise!
  • The Storm: Daily routine- yo hablo español (outside). ¡Vamos! ¿Cómo estás? Q&A inside. Song- Los solecitos. Nap time! Jobs for lights and board today. ¡Otra vez! Again! Good morning! We should have a picnic! Let’s go! Do you want sopa? It’s caliente/ hot! Oh no, there’s a storm! (rain and thunder on board) Quick, pack up the food! Where should we go (to get out of the storm)? Everyone huddled under the tables, as if it were their “house”. Phew, the storm is over! And we have time to work on our boat/ barco for Pato. YAY! Colored Popsicle sticks (fine motor). End of class, ¡SORPRESA! Surprise!
  • Class Story, Day 1: review- English vs. Spanish (hablo espa-ñol!). How are you today? Estoy cansado(a) (I’m tired!). Took blankets and danced to song from Encanto and Rompe Ralph. Sing ‘Where is Pa-to?’ song. Transition to carpet. Students colored in more Popsicle sticks and used tape to put them together. We start our first class story of the year. Lined up. SORPRESA!/ Surprise!

October

Spanish Constitution


I did not grow up in the city, and accordingly, sometimes I think my lessons sprawl out everywhere, like the rolling countryside. When does one lesson end and another begin? No one really knows. Let me provide an example (for detailed examples, see HERE).

The school year is about to commence, and for perhaps the fifteenth year in a row, I am excited but also a bit panicky and nervous. How do I teach, again? Do I remember? And, most importantly, where to begin? The age-old questions haunt me at night: do I start in English on day one to provide structure and a curricular overview, and allay students’ fears that Spanish class is not impossible but rather exciting and project-based–but thereby risking that I will slide into English when the going gets tough? Or do I begin in Spanish and set the tone for an immersive classroom, but struggle later on in the year when expectations and rules have not been clearly stated understood and the curricular flow is not obvious to students?

Now, don’t get me wrong: I aim for a 90-100% immersive classroom experience. This is and has always been the goal. Some classes are closer to 99%, others less so. While I love the idea of 100% immersion, we only meet two to three times a week, which means that our learning targets must be adjusted accordingly; I do not teach at an immersion school. True fluency is idealistic but not likely, given the time constraints. However, this year I have a solution, at least for this seemingly annual query.

Enter THE SPANISH CONSTITUTION. Wait, what? How in the world are you teaching La Constitución Espanola to elementary-aged students? Don’t worry, I created an abridged version! Here was my step-by-step process:

  1. Get a piece of normal computer paper. Crumple it up and then flatten it back out.
  2. Fill a pan with strong tea or coffee, and soak the paper in it for several hours.
  3. Dry the paper with a hairdryer.
  4. Decide on your top 3-5 most important qualities you want students to strive for in your classroom, all year long. You can do this with your students, too, of course, but I chose not to this year to save time.
    • Soy amable. (I am kind.)
    • Soy inteligente. (I am smart.)
    • Soy fuerte. (I am strong.)
    • Soy valiente. (I am courageous/ brave.)
  5. Write them in your best print or cursive with a black Sharpie on the now tea-stained paper.
  6. Discuss as a class (in English) what being kind/ smart/ strong/ brave looks like in your room. I like to use questions here. How can you be brave in Spanish class? Ask questions! How can you be strong? Never give up, ever!
  7. Have students sign an attached page with their fanciest signatures, as though it were the Declaration of Independence. Post in your classroom.
  8. Repeat the Spanish words like a mantra at the beginning of each class period, as a quick reminder. You will, of course, still need to remind and discipline, but this provides a nice structure where you can focus on the Spanish.
    • If you teach more advanced levels, the “Soy...” sentences could be written up with more complex sentence structures and vocabulary; and when classes have mastered these phrases, you can likewise ‘level up’ however you see fit.
    • That could mean asking, “¿Cómo eres?” at the beginning of class, and students’ job is to provide those four answers (and/or more), or prompting them with, “Primero/ Antes que nada, …. [soy amable]”, “Segundo, [soy inteligente]”, etc.

Image #1, Image #2

Welcome Back 2022-23!

Image Credit: Xomatok

My Dear Friends, Fellow Linguists, and Citizens of the World:

Welcome back! As we look forward to the start of another school year, I thought I would share a quick post of frequently asked questions. For any new families, I am the Spanish teacher for grades PK-4.

NOTE: Students typically address me as “Maestra” (‘my-ACE-trah’/teacher) or Señorita M., (Miss M), but I am also called “Spain” and “Español” (Spanish) from time to time. Feel free to clarify this at home with your child.

  1. What is the painted staircase image about?
  2. Why did you start with that?
    • I wanted to start here because if there is any conversation that you have with your child(ren) about Spanish class before school begins, please remind them that–much like climbing an enormous staircase or mountain–language-learning is a journey. 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. If your child can learn just one new thing each day in class, they will be well on their way.
  3. What curriculum do you use?
    • I use a variety of curricula to teach language. From gesture- based storytelling methodologies (such as AIM and TPRS), to culture projects, geography, center work, science experiments, soccer games, theater, and more, we cover a lot of territory in Spanish class. For more info, see THIS PAGE.
    • ASIDE: You may also hear about “Pato” (duck), a mischievous stuffed animal duck of mine with a big personality (and squeaky voice), who is always on some silly adventure.
  4. How much Spanish do you speak in class?
    • My goal is to speak Spanish 95-100% of the time; however, I can get sidetracked with sharing cool culture projects in English and adore goofy English/ Spanish wordplays (especially as mnemonic devices to ingrain vocabulary!). This year, we are physically dividing the space, so “English” tidbits will be taught in the hallway outside of my classroom, and everything else inside my room will be in Spanish.
  5. Do you only teach about Spain?
    • Definitely not! There are 21 official Spanish-speaking countries. Students in grades 1-4 become familiar with these country names and participate in Culture Projects throughout the year.
  6. What can I do at home to help support my child?
    • Encourage, encourage, encourage!
      • Point out the names of Spanish- speaking countries on t-shirts tags, fruit stickers, can labels, warranties, manuals, and bilingual signs out in public.
      • Make/ bake RECIPES from Spanish-speaking countries.
      • Visit the children’s world language section at the library.
      • Listen to Spanish tv and radio, for the sole purpose of appreciating foreign sounds– no comprehension necessary.
      • Change the voiceover on movies to Spanish (and subtitles to English).
      • Explore Little Passports & Universal Yums!, which are fun, educational, world-culture subscription boxes that your child might enjoy.
      • Incorporate the language and culture into your daily life!
  7. If I want to learn Spanish alongside my child, what resources do you recommend?
    • More than anything, learning another language is about developing the habit. Working on an app regularly is a great way to start. Last year, I organized an independent study “Adult Class” for parents and faculty. Feel free to check out those resources and posts HERE.

And last but not least, for anyone wondering why you should learn another language, please read THIS for a hearty laugh.

Enjoy the rest of your summer and see you soon!

Fondly,

Your Resident Linguist ❤

~aka Maestra aka Señorita M. aka Spain


Spanish Class: The Return of Pato

Weekly Spanish Challenges

NOTE: This page is a synopsis of challenges sent to families back in the 2020-2021 school year.


Weekly Language Challenges below.

Challenge #1

  • 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!


Challenge #2

  • 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!

Challenge #3

  • 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.


Challenge #4

  • 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!

Challenge #5

  • 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.


Challenge #6

  • 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.

Challenge #7

  • 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?
THE PATO SHOW, EPISODE #4

Challenge #8

  • 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!
    • Color a Day of the Dead skull (more printable sheets HERE) and be sure to play this traditional song from Mexico in the background.

Spanish Challenge #9

  • Dance is a very important part of the culture in many Spanish-speaking countries. Check out THIS PAGE HERE, and then choose a song to jam out to!
  • In addition to the music on the link above, below are a few more high energy songs to enjoy.

Spanish Challenge #10

  • The Yucatan in Mexico is known for its hammock culture, especially amongst the indigenous Maya people.
  • See THIS PAGE for the rest of this challenge.

Spanish Challenge #11

  • 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!
  • For more Christmas songs, see THIS PAGE.
  • 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

Snacks/Meals

More recipes HERE.

Snacks

  • Fried plantains (patacones/tostones) –> More info HERE
  • Homemade Spicy Fries (Andes Mountains)
  • Tapas (Spain) –> History HERE
  • GuacamoleI chop up avocado, tomatoes, onion, cilantro, and add a lot of freshly squeezed lime juice; mix; and enjoy with chips!

Meals

Desserts

More recipes HERE.

Desserts


Churros*

“History is divided on how exactly churros came to exist. Some say they were the invention of nomadic Spanish shepherds. Living high in the mountains with no access to bakeries, the Spanish shepherds supposedly created churros, which were easy for them to cook in frying pans over fire. Lending credibility to this version of history is the fact that there exists a breed of sheep called the ‘Navajo-Churro’, which are descended from the ‘Churra’ sheep of the Iberian Peninsula; the horns of these sheep look similar to the fried pastry.

Another story says that Portuguese sailors discovered a similar food in Northern China called ‘Yóu Tiáo’ and they brought it back with them. The Spanish learned of the new culinary treat from their neighbors, and put their own spin on it by passing the dough through a star-shaped tip which gives the churro its signature ridges.”

SOURCE

Recipes- Central America


Central America & Beyond

Recipes- South America


South America

Pirahã

MIT News

Let’s travel to South America, specifically to the indigenous tribe called the Hi’aiti’ihi, who speak the Pirahã language deep within the Amazonian jungle. This tribe has been the source of much controversy and discussion among linguistics professors. Why? Because, as [linguist] Dan Everett’s research reveals:

“The Pirahã live from moment to moment, and the language reflects that. […] No stories exist that haven’t either been experienced by the speaker or by someone the speaker knew personally. If anything is spoken of that isn’t within that principle, it isn’t credible to the tribe and therefore is not accepted. Stories don’t travel more than one or two generations because one must experience subjects personally. No stories or fictional tales are passed on.”

Source

Of even greater linguistic interest, however, is the fact that their language does not have any numbers. Let’s back up. I’m not sure you heard me. This language is unique in several ways, but primarily world-renowned in linguistic communities because it contains no numbers. None, whatsoever. Not a single one. Not even one. Sorry, what?

Can you imagine such a world? I look at the clock, and see digits. I do my taxes, and write numbers. I use an iPad, cell phone, desktop, laptop–essentially any device–and know that somehow, “01010101” and an enormous amount of coding lets me communicate with nearly anyone in the world. A world without numbers? What about synesthetes? What about birthdays? What about money? Or addresses? What about time? Does no time means no past or future? How many jobs would not exist if there weren’t numbers? I am speechless, wordless, number-less…

To clarify, these hunter-gatherers** do have smaller or larger amounts (the concept of more or less), but no numbers. I have read before that in order to barter, one might turn a palm skyward to indicate more, and downward for less–but there are no numbers, either to quantify what is being bartered or to exchange currencies.

**Some have suggested in recent years that our cyber habits closely parallel hunter-gatherer societies and thought, in the sense that we skim information quickly, only searching for what we want to catch, or gather. Hmmm.

Atlantean & Basque


My initial encounter with the Basque language (Euskara) was a bit of a shock, particularly since I was in Spain and, well, expected Spanish/ Castellano to be the default. I was hiking across the northern part of the Iberian peninsula and had not anticipated the, “How, what…?” linguistic shock. I didn’t even know the question. Perhaps something along the lines of, “Why don’t I see any common word roots in something like tabakalera?” was what my brain wanted to ask.

Or, better yet and upon later research, what are the root words in, “Euskararen Txantxangorria’ren“? (It means, “the Basque red robin“, in case you were wondering, and is a song–see below–as part of a campaign to encourage the use of the Basque language.)

Basque is, without a doubt, unrelated to any other Latin language, which would explain my confusion. In fact,

Moreover…

“[Atlanteans] believed that if something was written down, it encouraged forgetfulness and simultaneously discouraged the cultivation of memory.”

Shirley Andrews

Talk about a different perspective! I admit that I get up in the middle of the night to write down a thought on a Post-It so that I won’t forget in the morning. Imagine how strong our minds would be if we did not write anything down! Ever. How would our understanding of history change? In what would our days consist? Certainly not blogging like this. Even the syntax is quite distinct:


Songs in Euskara

A Serious Rabbit Hole: Language & The Brain

The following was originally presented to faculty as a professional development talk. It is now in written form, for your reading pleasure!

Introduction

It all began with a couch. If it hadn’t been for that blue couch, I don’t know what would have happened. You see, when I was small, I used to love to lay upside down on the cushions. I remember how the ceiling and the clock and the trees through the window looked foreign, somehow; everything was different, but it was also the same. Suffice to say, I have always been fascinated by different perspectives. At age 8 or 9, I read Alvin’s Secret Code, a book about spies, codes, and ciphers. I played ‘spies’ all the time after that and would invent my own codes.

This coding practice became a game of substitution when I stumbled onto Spanish class in high school. Little did I know that that was just the beginning. To this day, listening to languages–especially music–I don’t understand simultaneously awakens something in me and allows me to relax.

Many polyglots, or people who speak multiple languages, describe their relationship with languages as, quite literally, a relationship: personally, I am married to Spanish, seriously dating French, had a yearlong fling with both Russian and Mandarin, and have been on a few dates with Arabic and Swahili. I saw Hungarian in a bookstore once and was intrigued, and occasionally flirt with German and Italian on the street. 

English and I have a fascinatingly complex but strained relationship. I am ashamed to admit that I cannot identify Swedish no matter how many times we meet out in public. Icelandic is beautiful but way out of my league (read: I can’t pronounce ANYTHING!!!!). I wish I had the opportunity to meet Japanese, Turkish, Greek, and Latin, but we can’t seem to make the long-distance thing work. That said, I have traveled to at least 13 countries now, including IcelandChina, and Argentina, and spent two summers hiking across northern Spain.

Point being, while I certainly don’t know everything, I do have a bit of a background and history with language(s), and therefore feel qualified to speak on the subject. (Then again, cognitive scientist Lera Boroditsky knows quite a bit more.)


Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis

If we are going to embark on a serious discussion about language and the brain, it is incumbent upon us to begin with the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis: “a hypothesis, first advanced by Edward Sapir in 1929 and subsequently developed by Benjamin Whorf, that the structure of a language determines a native speaker’s perception and categorization of experience” (source).

This sounds a bit highfalutin, but it basically just taunts linguists with the following question: “Does your language shape or influence how you think?” You might have an immediate answer if you’re the decisive type, or perhaps you never considered the thought. I really don’t know what you’re thinking right now! But let’s take a look at a few different languages and cultures before deciding too definitively. After all, linguists argue about this all the time; it is unlikely that we will solve this query today.


Different Perspectives

Each of the following images below is a link to a brief article, exploring different perspectives of other languages and cultures. Click on them to explore–they are really interesting, I promise!–and then come back to this page to continue reading. I originally had all of this on one post, but it became too difficult to follow. (#dissertation!)

English


Hyperpolyglots

“The hyperpolyglot is someone who is both a gifted and massive language accumulator. They possess a particular neurology that’s well-suited for learning languages very quickly and being able to use them.”Michael Erard

IN THE LATE 1500’s, a man named Thomas Coryat decided to hike across Europe. He ended up walking over 2,000 miles and “picking up” 14 languages along the way. He was a talented linguist and considered one of the world’s first backpackers and true tourists. With 14 languages under his belt, he is also considered a hyperpolyglot, or “massive language accumulator”.

In the 1800’s, there are legends that a Cardinal named Mezzofanti was fluent in at least 38 languages. According to linguist Michael Erard, when two prisoners were about to be put to death, Mezzofanti even learned the Lord’s Prayer (“Our Father”) overnight, heard their confessions and offered forgiveness in their language the following day, prior to the executions. Although seemingly impossible, there are numerous accounts of his unbelievable abilities, as well as boxes of flashcards stashed away in the historical archives of a library somewhere in Italy.

Modern-day hyperpolyglots include Timothy DonerAlex Rawlings, Richard Simcott, Kató Lomb, and Alexander Argüelles, to name a few. All of these hyperpolyglots have different methods and beliefs in terms of how best to learn a language. Some imagine wearing different colored lenses when they study: red-tinted glasses for Chinese, blue for Russian, yellow for Portuguese, and so on and so forth to separate languages and facilitate in code-switching. Others walk through parks shouting unintelligible phrases, over and over again, until far on the horizon, their brain begins to pick apart the sounds, and suddenly, they have discovered a way in the back door.

Some listen to music on loop, ‘downloading’ and memorizing chunks of language, and then searching for translations after the fact, to see what they have learned and where they can apply said lyrics in everyday life. Still others rely on the old standby: the rote, drill and kill grammar of flashcards and verb conjugations. And some don’t necessarily learn the entire language, but have fun playing with accents and imitating foreign sounds (see Diego J. RivasSAARA, & Amy Walker). While the latter are not hyperpolyglots, their unique skillsets are certainly admirable.

*To read the rest of this post, click HERE.

Aside- Do you think your language influences you MORE or LESS in your thinking, if you speak multiple languages? Are you more aware of what could potentially shape your thought?

Article: Queens Has More Languages Than Anywhere Else in the World


Translation & Interpretation

  • Translation = written
  • Interpretation = spoken

Both translation and interpretation would seem to be prime examples of how language influences or shapes your thought–that is, when trying to navigate from one language and culture (and frame of reference) to another. I have the utmost respect and admiration for translators and interpreters, but cannot imagine such a task: how could my native or non-native language not influence me?!

If you would like to explore these topics in greater depth, check out the articles below. I spent some time on “Translations Gone Wrong” below for humor/ comic relief, but rushed through this section a bit during the presentation, due to time constraints.

More Than Words


Neurology

For parents and teachers alike, let’s take a look at how it comes to be that I am able to communicate with you, and you with me. What is going on in the brain? And how, as language educators, can we best approach our lessons so that the information is retained?

Read the articles below for more information. I focused on “Linguistic Development” and “Rate of Speech & Spaced Repetition” during the presentation, but included the post, “When Will My Child Be Fluent?” here because I addressed this in the Q&A at the end with faculty.

The Brain Dictionary


FAQ

  • How many languages are there in the world?
  • There are about 7,000 languages in the world, but it really depends on how you define “language”. For example: do languages that are only spoken (and not written) count? What about dialects or slang? What about endangered languages that only have one or two speakers left– do they count? Suffice to say, there are many factors involved, but 7,000 languages is a fair estimate. How many can you name?
  • What are the best apps to start learning a new language?
  • There are a lot of language-learning apps on the market; really, any app that gets you into a habit and routine of practicing another language is useful. For both kids and adults, Duolingo and Memrise are very popular. Busuu and FluentU are also very well-known, but you do have to pay after the free trial. LinguaLift has a detailed commentary on each of apps in the infographic to compare and contrast them. If you are looking more for your child(ren), here is a list of 20+ Spanish Games and Apps for Kids, starting with toddlers. This article has even more ideas: 20 Amazing Apps for Kids in 2022.
  • Is English the most-spoken language in the world?
  • No, in real life, English is not the most-spoken language in the world. Chinese is number one, Spanish is number two, and English is number three. Online, however, English dominates the digital world.

**More Frequently Asked Questions and Answers on THIS PAGE.


Conclusion

So, what do you think? Does your language shape or influence how you think? I still cannot answer definitively, but I would tend to lean more towards yes than no. Regardless, if you’ve read this far, you know that language isn’t just a hobby for me. It’s #Obsession.

“What you’re about to see is real: 1 band, 567 printers, and a lot of paper.”

Optional Activity

To put your new perspective taking into practice, try your hand at copying the non-Roman alphabets and languages below.

Thank you in Thai (“kop kun”, masc.):

ขอบคุณ

Thank you in Mandarin (“xièxie”):

谢谢

Thank you in Russian (“spah-SEE-bah”):

Спасибо

Thank you in Arabic (“SHOE-krahn”):

شكرا


Extra- Lera Boroditsky

Lera Boroditsky- Twitter

The Moken

The Moken

If people without numbers are not enough for you today, the Moken Tribe–living near Thailand and Burma–will fix that. They do not have a word for “want” in their language. Likewise, “worry” is not a concept in their language; nor are “take”, “hello/goodbye”, or “when” (no time/ages). This is the same tribe that knew a deadly tsunami was coming in 2004 and saved themselves. Aren’t languages fascinating? What we understand as reality is not always the case for the rest of the world. No time, no wants, no worries…

For beautiful photos that, due to copyright law I am not allowed to publish here, please visit THIS SITE.

“Baggage is not good for nomadic people. It ties you down. They have no notion or desire for wealth.”

Source

Study: Japanese and Mandarin

To continue with the theme of grammatical and syntactical differences between languages, and whether or not that could possibly determine if language shapes or influences how we think, we travel to the far east. Now, the general character-based appearance is obviously different from alphabet-based languages, but let’s take it a step farther.

If I gave you six objects to categorize, as pictured below, how would you group them?

Arguably, this is highly dependent on which language(s) you speak. English-speakers are more likely to group by category, “pen and pencil” (for writing), “cup and plate” (for eating), “car and Legos” (for playing), whereas Japanese speakers might group more by material, “pen and car” (metal), “pencil and plate” (wooden), and “cup and Legos” (plastic).

Japanese and Mandarin both have classifiers, or “measure words”, which attach themselves to numbers–so how you say, “one tree” is different than how you would say, “one car”, since trees are in the “wood” category and cars are more in the “metal” category.

To learn more, check out the following linguistic studies:

Aymara & Quechua

About Time

Aymara and Quechua are spoken in the Andes mountains and highlands of South America. While many fewer people speak Aymara compared to Quechua (2.4 million to 8-12 million, respectively), both are relatively unknown to much of the world.

I love that learning about other languages and cultures always gives us new perspectives. It is like when you stand on a chair: the room is still the same room, but you notice different things about it. As we deepen our language study, we begin to notice new perspectives embedded in other languages and cultures. What is especially unique about Aymara and Quechua, is their understanding of time.

“[T]he Aymara call the future qhipa pacha/timpu, meaning back or behind time, and the past nayra pacha/timpu, meaning front time. And they gesture ahead of them when remembering things past, and backward when talking about the future.” 

“The past is known, so it lies ahead of you. (Nayra, or ‘past’, literally means eya and sight, as well as front.) The future is unknown, so it lies behind you, where you can’t see.”

Consumer Behavior (book)

In other words, everything we can see is considered the past, and therefore in front of us; everything we cannot see and is therefore unknown, is the future and behind us. This is actually very logical when you think about. Could that one unique linguistic perspective influence how we think?


Quechua

While Quechua still has a significant number of speakers, it is actually considered an endangered language. However, the internet is helping to popularize and revitalize Quechua (along with other endangered languages), so that more people learn to speak it.

Renata Flores, for example, sang a Michael Jackson song in Quechua to help her native language become more popular, and the video went viral. If you’ve never heard Quechua before, I recommend listening!

Colors In Other Languages


When it comes to colors, it is easy to assume that the associations we were once taught in art class–blue is paired with sadness, yellow with happiness, red with love, etc.–are true for everyone the world over. As we learn in the tables and video below, however, that is not always the case.

The color green, for example, signifies luck and progress in Western cultures (think: four-leaf clover!), and in Hindu, it is associated with love; whereas in South America, green is associated with death, and in Indonesia, it has such strong negative connotations that it is forbidden altogether. Wow!

(With that in mind, I cannot imagine the conversations that must be had when it comes to advertising for international companies and the colors on their logos.)

LINKS: The Beauty of Data Visualization, Infographic: Cultured Colors, David McCandless Color Chart Culture, The Meaning of Colors Across Cultures, Colors Across Cultures




Linguistic Development


Before Birth

“About 3 months before birth, while still in their mother’s womb, babies start to hear. Consequently, every day of the last few months before birth, the baby can hear people speaking – this is the first step in language learning! This first step, in other words, is to learn the melody of the language.” –Source

  • “German word for daddy is “papa” with a stress on the first syllable: papa. 
  • The French word for daddy is “papa” with a stress on the last syllable: papa
  • Cry melodies of newborns follow these speech stress patterns!” –Source

Vocabulary

Following learning the melody of a language, toddlers gradually begin to output language– initially, this is a word or two, but quickly afterwards they begin saying short sentences and then longer, more complex ones (evidence they are acquiring grammar and syntax, in addition to vocabulary). The curve is pretty exponential at a certain point, based on the data below.

If you were to graph it, it would look something like this, but the “receptive vocabulary” kind of throws it off. If graphs make more sense to you than tables, however, it does provide a pretty strong visual. Intense growth!


LINKS: The Ultimate Brain Map, What Happens to Your Brain When You Learn a New Language, How Your Brain Files Away Words, 5 Key Facts About Language and the Brain, Web Resources for Neurologists and Neurosurgeons, Adult Language Learning Literally Reworks Brain Networks, Neuroscience for Kids, Learning Language: New Insights

Rate of Speech & Repetition

Rate of Speech

“The trick to get children to listen to really hear and comprehend, whether they’re toddlers or high school students, isn’t speaking up, Hull says.

It’s slowing down. According to Hull, the average adult speaks at a rate of almost 170 words per minute. But the average 5 to 7- year-old processes speech at a rate of only 120 words per minute. […]

The average high-school student processes speech at a rate of about 140 to 145 words per minute, still slower than most adults speak. ‘So when an algebra teacher is speaking at 160 or 180 words per minute and is introducing a new math concept… that is a problem,’ Hull said.”

5-7 Years Old120 wpm
High School Student140-145 wpm
Average Adult170 wpm

“[Mr. Rogers] kept children’s attention because he practiced speaking at a rate of about 124 words a minute. The pace may sound awkward, even ridiculous, to adults.

But to children accustomed to hearing only bits of sentences or garbled phrases, it is sheer relief. ‘Some children’s central nervous systems have matured, and they can do it. They can cope. But many can’t.’ ”

SOURCE

Spaced Repetition

When it comes to teaching, the average language learner needs 70-150 reps before a word gets into long-term memory. Repetition can be presented in novel ways (reading, singing, etc.), but it must be the same information. The graphs below indicate just how important spaced repetition truly is.

1885 study by German psychologist, Herman Ebbinghaus

Ebbinghaus’ Forgetting Curve

Colombia- Encanto

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.



@jumpp10Aquí las referencias a Colombia en la canción/ Here [are] the references to Colombia in the song:

  • 0:04La 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.
  • 0:41La 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.

Famous Wayuu mochila bags. Image #1, Image #2, Image #3, Image #4.


  • 1:00Arepas y café. Las arepas se comen en toda Colombia, aunque hay muchos tipos, y el café, producto insignia del país.
    • Arepas and coffee. Arepas are eaten throughout Colombia, although there are many types, and coffee, the country’s insignia product.

  • 1:16Palmas de cera, son las palmeras altas que se ven en el paisaje. La palma de cera es el árbol nacional de Colombia. Los Madrigal viven en un lugar inspirado en el Valle del Cocora.
    • Wax palms are the tall palm trees that are seen in the landscape. The wax palm is the national tree of Colombia. The Madrigals live in a place inspired by the Valle del Cocora.
They can grow up to 200 feet tall!

  • 1:19Está escrito “Colombia”.
    • 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!]
  • 1:21A 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.
  • 1:40A 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.
  • 1:51Julieta 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.
  • 1:54El hombre tiene un sombrero vueltiao, típico de la costa Caribe colombiana.
    • The man has a vueltiao hat, typical of the Colombian Caribbean coast.
  • 2:11Calles 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.

Photos of Barichara, Santander, in Colombia. Image Credit.


  • 2:15Félix 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.
  • 2:25Los 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.]
  • 2:33La 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).
  • 2:44Los 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.
  • 3:12Silletas exhibidas para que el público vea los diseños hechos con flores.
    • Silletas displayed for the public to see the designs made with flowers.

  • 3:14Entre 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.
  • 3:24El 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.
  • 3:33Palmas 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.

  • 3:47El 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.
  • 4:11Personas 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.
  • 4:18Montañas, debido a que tres cordilleras atraviesan el país.
    • Mountains, because three mountain ranges cross the country.

Venezuela- Angel Falls


VENEZUELA: Angel Falls is the highest uninterrupted waterfall in the world. Did you know that “Paradise Falls” in the movie Up was based on the real life Angel Falls? As the video below explains, the falls are known as Kerepakupai-Merú (or Parekupa Vena) amongst the Pemón-Carib people; the name means, “waterfall from the deepest place”. It would be amazing to visit, but its location is very remote and in the jungle, 600 kilometers (373 miles) away from civilization.

More specifically, the falls are located in Canaima National Park (Parque Nacional Canaima). This park is also famous because of its tepuis, which are sandstone plateaus in South America. In the Pemón language, tepui means, “house of the gods”. The literal translations below give you a glimpse into the language. As a linguist, I love this sort of thing!

Father Cesareo de Armellada was the author of the first dictionary of the Pemón language (published in 1943). At the time it was called Taurepan. Many words in this language show interesting patterns of formation.

For example, the word for “sugar-cane” is kaiwara-kún-imá , which means “pineapple with a very long leg.” The word for “pineapple” itself, kaiwara, means “a sweet with wrinkles.” The Pemon word for “dew” is chirké-yetakú, which means “star’s saliva.” Yetakú is “saliva” or, more precisely, “juice of the teeth.”

There is no word for “year” in the Pemon language. The day is divided into “dawning,” “morning,” “noontime,” “afternoon”.

Source

In class, students made a model of Angel Falls in Venezuela, by collecting bark, small stones, and leaves outside, and adding water. (I had a sink in my room that year!) This mini project mostly came about because kindergarteners had learned that other classes were making Museum Exhibits, and they wanted to participate.

LINKS: Airpano, Angel Falls Coloring Page


Duolingo- All The Posts

**ADULT CLASS page link here.**

Posts 2021-22

Week
33Earn 50 XP on the app before Thursday (May 26th). You got this! Check out THIS LINK to see your place on the leaderboard.

LANGUAGE-LEARNING TIP
I have never led a Duolingo parent/adult class before (at least not formally with an XP classroom), so this was a first for me. I hope that this year has proven fruitful for at least some of you, despite my inconsistent posts. If anything, I think that developing the habit of working on an app reinforces 1) how much of a journey language-learning really is, and 2) how much motivation matters.

Perhaps it makes more sense to you now that I should want my [Lower School] classes to be “exciting” and “fun” and “novel”: you see, I know how long the road to proficiency/ fluency is, and I know that students will need a backpack of motivation and some serious inspiration to get them where they want to go. It is easy to start off like a rocket; but language-learning is not a sprint: you can’t train for 14,000 Ironman marathons in only one or two nights! It doesn’t quite work that way. We need to build the habit, and then somehow push ourselves to keep going.

As adults, this doesn’t really change all that much. We have jobs and dishes and laundry and bills and grocery shopping and kids running all over the house and appointments and soccer games and this and that and the other; maybe we started out very competitively in the fall and then our sprint fizzled out and we abandoned the app. But let’s be honest: if we really want to accomplish a goal, we have to make it a priority. And a habit. And we have to have a serious reason and motivation for doing so. Why is this important to you? If your “why” is lukewarm, it is unlikely that you will accomplish said goal, or at least you will not reach your goals on the original timeline.

It may seem like I am babbling on like a brook here, but my final language-learning tip of the year is, simply, a question: Why are you trying to learn another language? What is your reason? Mine can be summed up by the following quote, which I have shared before, but absolutely love. If you have learned a lot this year, or only a little, know that it has been time well spent, and that you can always revisit it when you are ready. Have a wonderful summer, and see you in the fall!

QUOTE
Here is a motivational quote by the Hungarian hyperpolyglot, Kató Lomb: “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)
29THIS WEEK
Earn 50 XP on the app before Monday (May 2nd). You got this! Check out THIS LINK to see your place on the leaderboard.

LANGUAGE-LEARNING TIP (reflection)
This week, get one of those $0.97 miniature notebooks, and start making lists of words you know in your target language. I am not a huge fan of memorizing vocabulary lists as a teaching methodology, but I do think that it can be a good exercise to reflect (in retrospect) on how much you have learned. You might start thinking, “Oh, I haven’t gotten much out of this app. I’ll never be proficient or fluent.“, but when you sit down and really take a look at all of the progress you’ve made, and all of the words you recognize or can verbally produce–provided you’ve been chugging away at it consistently–it can be astounding! Holy Moses! I do know a lot!

As the [school] year begins to wind down, take a minute after you complete each lesson to record a few words you know in your notebook. You can organize the lists by a separate category on each page–food, travels, etc.–or write them randomly as words or phrases occur to you. Handwriting words uses a different part of the brain than clicking and, IMHO, the more neurons involved, the better! Dr. K, feel free to correct me on this one. 🙂

ASIDES: 1) I recommend a tiny notebook so that it can fit in your purse or pocket and you can bring it with you everywhere; and 2) for a little extra inspiration, check out this article!
26THIS WEEK
Earn 50 XP on the app before next Monday (Apr. 11th). You got this! Check out THIS LINK to see your place on the leaderboard.

LANGUAGE-LEARNING TIP (all the words!)
This week, you are challenged to try the Wordle game in your target language. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Wordle, you try to guess the [typically 5-letter] word of the day in as few tries as possible.

Instructions: First, search your target language HERE. Programmers around the globe have made it available now in at least 63 languages–amazing! Just click out of the directions, and then try to figure out the word. This changes daily and is challenging, but if my third and fourth graders can figure them out in Spanish, I bet you can, too! Have fun!

**NOTE: the Spanish Wordle actually has three versions: normal, accents, scientific.
25THIS WEEK
Earn 50 XP on the app before next Monday (Apr. 4th). You got this! Check out THIS LINK to see your place on the leaderboard.

LANGUAGE-LEARNING TIP (translation/interpretation)
This week, I would like to draw your attention to two very different careers: translation, which is written, and interpretation, which is spoken (read more HERE). Now you are going to choose one of the two and imagine that this is your job. For those of you who settled on translation, pick up a book and try to find at least five words on a page that you know in your target language. Write them down. Look a second time at the same page, and see if you can get close for a few more words.

For instance, you might read, “I would like” and not know that yet; depending on the context, however, this could be simplified to mean, “I like” or “I want” in your target language, which you might remember. Push yourself to find synonyms that could work: you might not know eye shadow yet, but do you know eyes? You might not know delighted, but do you know happy? You might not know truck or vehicle, but do you know car? Train your brain to look for the meat and potatoes of a sentence. When you are learning a language, the goal is to get your point across. It may not be grammatically pretty or as precise as you’d prefer, but if the other person gets the general idea… mission accomplished!

For those of you who chose interpretation, turn on the radio. In your head, listen to spoken English and try to pick out key words that you know in the language you are studying. Say them aloud. Mentally “scan” the sentences you are hearing, and force your brain to search for words you do know. Just as with translation, work on simplifying what you are hearing.

If you had to communicate this to someone, what words do you know that could get the job done? When my students ask, “May I pretty please with a cherry on top go to the bathroom with my friend but take a buddy with me, too?”, I say, “Absolutely not!”–and then proceed to explain that in Spanish class, you need to simplify your thoughts and use words you know: “¡Baño, por favor!” (Bathroom, please!). (Okay, now you can!) Will I have higher expectations (a complete sentence/question) down the road? YES! But in the meantime, let’s start with getting your point across and decreasing the amount of English you are using. If you would like to learn more about translation and interpretation, check out this video HERE. Have a great week!
24THIS WEEK
Earn 50 XP on the app before next Monday (Mar. 28th). You got this! Check out THIS LINK to see your place on the leaderboard.

LANGUAGE-LEARNING TIP (be observant)
This week, focus on being hyper aware and observant when you are out in public: start scanning anything and everything [written] for your target language. I see Spanish everywhere I go. Stuck in traffic one day, I noticed that someone had spelled with their finger on the back [dusty] window of a truck, “Lávame” [‘LAH-bah-may’]. If you don’t speak Spanish, you might not have noticed; but I laughed because it means, “Wash me!”

My t-shirts say, “Hecho en…” (“A-choh-en”/Made in…)The label on a bottle of wine at the supermarket said, “Cielo rojo“, or red sky. The lunch buffet at my grocery store offered, “Ropa Vieja“, which literally means, “old clothes”, but refers to one of Cuba’s national dishes, recipe HERE. The Jeep brand, “Leer” (“lay-air”) means, “to read” in Spanish. When you see a Chevy “Nova”, read it as two words–no va–which means, “doesn’t go” in Spanish (NOTE: that the car sold poorly in Latin America is a legend, but it is still a nice mental check to practice your target language on the go!).

If you are studying another language, you can still keep your eyes peeled. So many signs are translated these days (more on this HERE), and words will jump out at you when you really start looking. This morning, I stopped to ask two people what language they were speaking. (Albanian!) I see Braille everywhere, when I look for it. Fun fact: Did you know that they intentionally made euros different sizes [of bills], so that the blind and visually impaired could tell the difference in value?

If you stay in more than go out, scan your kitchen. Look at the tiny print on products, warranties and instruction manuals, stickers on electronics, phones, directions, etc. I love trying to guess which language(s) I see in translations and hear out in public. If you want an “extra credit” ear exercise for this week, check out this game HERE. You can choose “audio” to guess the language by listening, or “alphabet” to guess what language is written.

Look for the language, and it will find you! As Rumi writes [literal translation], “Anything in search of instant, instant“; or, more poetically, “What you seek is also seeking you“.

Originally, in Persian (aka Farsi): هر چیزی که در جستن آنی، آنی
20THIS WEEK
Earn 50 XP on the app before next Monday (Mar. 7th). You got this! Check out THIS LINK to see your place on the leaderboard.

LANGUAGE-LEARNING TIP (resources + personality)
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 (#OldSchool!), 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) once for fun, and they were 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?
19THIS WEEK
Earn 50 XP on the app before next Monday (Feb. 28th). You got this! Check out THIS LINK to see your place on the leaderboard.

LANGUAGE-LEARNING TIP (the process)
Here is a motivational quote by the Hungarian hyperpolyglot, Kató Lomb: “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)
18THIS WEEK
Earn 50 XP on the app before next Monday (Feb. 21st). You got this! Check out THIS LINK to see your place on the leaderboard.

LANGUAGE-LEARNING TIP (the process)
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, 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. Check out the chart below to see what you’re “up against”. And see HERE if you are really interested in the topic.
17THIS WEEK
Earn 50 XP on the app before next Monday (Feb. 14th). You got this! Check out THIS LINK to see your place on the leaderboard. Extra: Have you ever wondered what is one of the most difficult words to translate? If so, check out THIS video. Fascinating!

LANGUAGE-LEARNING TIP (a conscious effort)
This week, use your target language 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 [or any language you are studying] into your daily life.
16THIS WEEK
Earn 50 XP on the app before next Monday (Feb. 7th). You got this! Check out THIS LINK to see your place on the leaderboard.

LANGUAGE-LEARNING TIP (motivation)
This week, I leave you with a–hopefully inspirational and motivational–article I wrote a while back paralleling Hiking & Hyperpolyglots, the latter being “massive language accumulators”. It is a longer read, but if you are still working on the Duolingo app at this point, it may be of interest. Enjoy!
15THIS WEEK
Earn 50 XP on the app before next Monday (Jan. 31st). You got this! Check out THIS LINK to see your place on the leaderboard.

LANGUAGE-LEARNING TIP (tech)
This week, try changing either A) all of your devices, or B) just your email account to your target language. The time frame is up to you. Want to explore for 10 minutes? Great! Want to level up and keep your device in [Russian/ Spanish/ Greek/ etc.] for a full 24 hours? Awesome! Want to go hardcore and change all of your devices and accounts to your target language for an entire week or more?

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious! While there may be a learning curve and some momentary frustration, so many of the apps and sites we use are pictorial, in the sense that we recognize and click on things based on the image, and not the word. How many brands do you know just by their icon? (Extended discussion- how many acronyms can you list? Zoikes! Language is constantly evolving!)

TECH- Not sure how to change the language? For Gmail, go to “Settings” – “General” tab – and “Language” is at the very top. For iPads, go to “Settings” – “General” – and scroll to “Language and Region”.

NOTE: If you are switching to a language that does not have the Roman alphabet, make sure to write down somewhere how/where you changed the language; otherwise, it can be a headache to switch back to English. Every device is a little different, but it is always somewhere around “Settings” and “Language”.
14THIS WEEK
Earn 20 XP on the app before next Monday (Jan. 24th). Easy peasy! Check out THIS LINK to see your place on the leaderboard. Note that the order has changed significantly.

LANGUAGE-LEARNING TIP (math)
If you have learned the numbers 0-20 in your target language, try playing with them out of order and using the digits in context. It is fun to be able to count to ten or twenty in a language, but if you can’t identify “seven” outside of that memorized sequence, it is ultimately not very useful information.

Instead, practice counting backwards; practice skip counting (2-4-6-8-10; or 10-8-6-4-2; or 1-3-5; etc.); count your change; look at license plates when you are at a stoplight; look at a digital clock and say the numbers that you see in your head (or aloud); look at prices in the grocery store and say those numbers. If this is too much to handle initially, pick a number, like seven, or “siete” (“see-EH-tay”) in Spanish, and focus on that: whenever you see a seven anywhere, say “siete” in your head. The goal is to make the language you are learning useful.

OTHER
Thanks to all of you who kept working on the app, even without my weekly emails. For those of you who took a break (like me!), it is a new year and time to get back into the routine. Remember your reason for studying your target language, and if you don’t have a strong one, think about that this week. The stronger the reason, the more likely you will stick with your study. You can always “update” your reason at any time, too.

For example, I used to want to learn Russian so that I could talk with my ballroom dance hero, Yulia Zagoruychenko, in her native tongue when I met her at a competition; however, I never made it to the world finals:) […that she won], so my reason and motivation for learning Russian needed to be updated at a certain point.
9-13Extended:) Christmas Break. Work at your own pace or simply enjoy the time off!
8THIS WEEK
Earn 30 XP on the app before next Monday (Dec. 13th). Check out THIS LINK to see your place on the leaderboard.

EXTRA: Click to slide #5 (see link above) to see “where” you are geographically on our XP/kilometer map. Click on the “Instagram” pics to read more.

LANGUAGE-LEARNING TIP (linguistic production)
Many of you have been working consistently on the app for at least six weeks now, and hopefully you feel like you are making progress. That said, it can be frustrating during the language-learning process when you understand your target language, but are not yet producing it. My students and I play a game when they have “center work” [directed free play] during Spanish class. Here, we have “off limits” words, meaning that there is a common pool of vocabulary that everyone knows, and whenever you are speaking freely in English, you must replace said English words with the Spanish. You are “charged” fake pesos (and/or “Spanish taxes”) if you break the rule and say, for example, “money” in lieu of “dinero“.

For children, it is a game to hold everyone accountable; for adults, it is simply forcing yourself to be hyper-aware of the thoughts and words you use. In the previous sentence, for instance, I have learned children (дети), you (ты)and words (слова) in Russian on Duolingo. So as I am typing, I am replacing those words in my head with the equivalent in Russian. When I am talking with others or listening to the radio, I monitor and translate in my head as much as possible. It can be an interesting exercise to note which words or phrases you hear yourself using regularly in your native tongue. (And if you don’t know how to say those words/phrases, start looking them up!)

Point being, try not to compartmentalize your language study: include it in all parts of your life. When you do so, the linguistic output will come faster and more naturally. You have to train yourself more consciously as an adult learner. As a final note, consider that a baby listens to language for nearly two years, 24/7, before producing any intelligible language. By comparison, what percentage of your week are you working on the app? Patience, my little grasshoppers!

DUOLINGO (specific tips)
TIP #1- try to limit yourself to working on three “circles” at a time, until you reach the gold or purple (Legendary) level. If you skip around too much to other units, the app will start testing you on things you haven’t actually learned yet.

TIP #2- If you are learning Spanish on the app, I have received excellent reviews from adults for the “audio” and “live” lessons. These are not available in all languages yet, as far as I can tell- but if you see those tabs near the bottom of your screen, be sure to check them out.
7THIS WEEK
Earn 30 XP on the app before Monday, Dec. 8th. See your place on the leaderboard on the slides above (click to slides 2-5).

EXTRA: In case you haven’t yet, explore the area “where you are traveling to” by clicking on the outlined “Instagram” pictures above (click on the leaderboard link if the slides don’t load). We are equating XP with kilometers, on a yearlong journey through all of the 21 Spanish-speaking countries. Each color corresponds with a Duolingo league.

LANGUAGE-LEARNING TIP (syntax/grammar)
Hopefully, you have started to establish a language-learning routine. If you took a break this past week, now is the time to return, renewed, refreshed, and rejuvenated! The challenge during this busy season will be sticking with the habit of studying your language on a regular basis, despite the myriad distractions around us. As I’ve mentioned before, try to “pair” your language-learning habit with something else you do every day; that way, you will be more likely to stick with it.

When you do this, 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!

The “tip” this week is just to think about how things are organized… your physical surroundings, your thoughts, language, the world (?!). Do you think your language shapes or influences how you think? (Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis)
6Thanksgiving Break. Work at your own pace or simply enjoy the time off!
5THIS WEEK
Earn 50 XP on the app before Monday, Nov. 29th (after break). See your place on the leaderboard on the slides above.

EXTRA: Explore the area “where you are traveling to” by clicking on the outlined “Instagram” pictures above (click on the leaderboard link if the slides don’t load). We are equating XP with kilometers, on a yearlong journey through all of the 21 Spanish-speaking countries. Each color corresponds with a Duolingo league.

LANGUAGE-LEARNING TIP (cartoons, radio)
This week, it is time to expand our horizons: listen to your target language for five minutes on something outside of the app (e.g. Pocoyo cartoons, radio, internet, podcast, YT channels, etc.).
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.

Last but not least, remember that, “We should learn languages because language is the only thing worth knowing even poorly” (-Kató Lomb, hyperpolyglot). Keep up the excellent work!
4This will be the last email to everyone regarding the Duolingo Language Challenge. After today, only those of you in my “virtual classroom” will receive these updates, so as not to clutter your Inbox. If you would still like to participate and are not sure how or haven’t gotten around to it yet, feel free to reply to this email.

NOTE: The invitation to join is always open, but it will be increasingly more difficult to compete against the top point-accumulators the longer you wait!

THIS WEEK
Earn 30 XP on the app before next Monday (Nov. 15th). Check out THIS LINK to see your place on the leaderboard. Due to the high interest, there are now four leagues (slides 1-4). EXTRA: Read the “For Fun” section below.

LANGUAGE-LEARNING TIP (music)
Spend 5-10 minutes searching for some music in the language that you are learning (with a beat you like). You can look up what the lyrics mean right away, or just focus on enjoying the foreign sounds. If your language has characters or a different alphabet, check out THIS PAGE for a little help getting started. Finding new music to add to your playlists is always fun!

FOR FUN
In other news–and to make this challenge more interesting–we are going to equate the number of XP you have earned to the number of kilometers on an imagined hike through all of the 21 Spanish-speaking countries. The links below are just to get a taste and feel for what these places are like. There is no extra work required, but don’t blame me if you end up buying a plane ticket!

If you have earned between 0 and 839 XP, then you are traveling from Ushuaia, Argentina to Torres del Paine, Chile. If you have earned between 840 and 2503 XP, then you are en route to Futaleufú, Chile. If you have earned between 2504 XP and 3925 XP, then you are en route to Santiago, Chile (link next week- feel free to explore the others in the meantime). Keep up the excellent work!
3Every evening, we go to bed, satisfied that our Duolingo XP place on the leaderboard is safe and sound. We have worked hard, and it shows. Every morning, we discover that someone has passed us.

First, kudos to everyone participating in the Duolingo Language Challenge. I had NO IDEA (*cue fireworks*) that you all were so competitive! This is amazing!! I am studying Russian and trying to stay ahead of everyone, but wow!! All I can say is thank you for keeping me on my toes and at the top of my game! Please note that I will start sending these emails to only those participating in the very near future, but I wanted to email everyone for a few weeks so that anyone who wanted to participate could. See below for instructions on how to join.

THIS WEEK
Earn 20 XP** on the app before next Monday (Nov. 8th). If you are connected to my classroom, you should have received an email with this “assignment”. If you did not, be sure to turn on notifications.

Check out THIS LINK to see your place on the leaderboard (slides 1, 2, & 3). There are three leagues now: gold, silver, and bronze.

EXTRA: read this inspirational article Why I Taught Myself 20 Languages in case you missed it last week, or play The Language Game, where you guess which language is being spoken.

**NOTE: This will bump up to 50 XP very soon, but right now I am basing it on what students can handle, and we keep missing classes due to the half days and whatnot, so 20 XP is the bare minimum for now.

LANGUAGE-LEARNING TIP (talking aloud)
Start talking to yourself outloud in your target language. No, but seriously! One of the biggest stumbling blocks in language-learning is fear: fear of being wrong, fear of embarrassing yourself, fear of sounding silly, fear of making mistakes. When you are learning another language, all of these fears are legitimate. But they are also INEVITABLE. You are going to fail, and sound silly, and be wrong, but THAT IS OKAY!

As your Language Coach, I want you to be wrong. I want you to make mistakes. Not because I am a mean old grinch, but rather because this is how we grow and learn at an accelerated pace. When you practice talking to yourself outloud in your target language, you stop worrying about feeling self-conscious and you start playing with the language–its sounds, its quirks, its cadence, its syntax. Once you get over the ‘this is super awkward, why is maestra telling us to do this?‘ stage, your confidence will begin to soar. And when it is time to talk with a native speaker in a real conversation, you won’t think twice about it.

If you’re really unsure about the whole talking-to-yourself thing, leave yourself a few post-its in the target language around your house with Duolingo words and phrases, and read them aloud when you see them. The bathroom mirror is ideal. Let Language stare you in the face every morning!! 🙂
Keep up the excellent work!
2The Duolingo Language Challenge is picking up speed. I have already spoken with many parents and faculty 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 will also try to share a few tips or pieces of advice every so often, to help keep you–and me!–on track.

THIS WEEK
Anyone who has connected to my Duolingo class for parents/faculty was given an “assignment” this week: earn 20 XP (points) on Duolingo. This is about 5 minutes of study for the entire week. Easy! Turn on notifications on Duolingo if you did not receive the email. If you have not connected to my classroom and would like to, please email me!

LANGUAGE-LEARNING TIP (routine)
Pair something you do every day–such as brushing your teeth–with your new language routine. For example, do one lesson on Duolingo (3 minutes) after you brush your teeth each morning. If you forget in the morning, well, you brush your teeth at night, too, right?! Combining a habit with another one you already do regularly will make it much easier to incorporate into your [presumably] busy schedule. As Coach would say, “YOU’VE GOT THIS!!”

INSPIRATIONAL ARTICLE: Why I Taught Myself 20 Languages
Many thanks to all those who have expressed interest and to those already participating. I am SO excited!
1Students in third and fourth grade are beginning to work on Duolingo, a language-learning app. They will be assigned a certain number of points, or “XP”, to earn each week; whatever amount they do not complete in class will be homework. The goals are for:

1) students to work at their own [accelerated] pace–there is a minimum baseline requirement for each week, but beyond that, the sky’s the limit; and 
2) to keep chugging away at the language, a little bit at a time. Working for five hours one day and then not doing anything for five weeks is not ideal–it is much better to work at it 5 minutes a day for 5 weeks.

Anyway, I am extending an open invitation to all faculty and families who have ever had “learn a language” on their bucket list. If you would like to study a language, “compete” with students, and/or simply need a little extra motivation to keep with your study, you can sign up at duolingo.com and join my “teachers/parents” class with the progress sharing code (in your email).

This challenge is open to ALL families and faculty members. I am hoping even for three of you to sign up–students will get a kick out of competing with adults!! Oh… and any language is game here. Students will study Spanish, but I am only comparing the number of points you earn on the app, so choose the language that interests you most! Have a lovely day!
NOTE: The colors on the leaderboard correspond to Duolingo leagues- [bronze], silver, gold, sapphire, ruby, emerald, amethyst, pearl, obsidian, diamond.

Duolingo- The “Why”

ASSIGNMENT: Earn 50 XP on the app before Thursday (May 26th). You got this!

Language-Learning Tip

I have never led a Duolingo parent/adult class before (at least not formally with an XP classroom), so this was a first for me. I hope that this year has proven fruitful for at least some of you, despite my inconsistent posts. If anything, I think that developing the habit of working on an app reinforces 1) how much of a journey language-learning really is, and 2) how much motivation matters.

Perhaps it makes more sense to you now that I should want my [Lower School] classes to be “exciting” and “fun” and “novel”: you see, I know how long the road to proficiency/ fluency is, and I know that students will need a backpack of motivation and some serious inspiration to get them where they want to go. It is easy to start off like a rocket; but language-learning is not a sprint: you can’t train for 14,000 Ironman marathons in only one or two nights! It doesn’t quite work that way. We need to build the habit, and then somehow push ourselves to keep going.

As adults, this doesn’t really change all that much. We have jobs and dishes and laundry and bills and grocery shopping and kids running all over the house and appointments and soccer games and this and that and the other; maybe we started out very competitively in the fall and then our sprint fizzled out and we abandoned the app. But let’s be honest: if we really want to accomplish a goal, we have to make it a priority. And a habit. And we have to have a serious reason and motivation for doing so. Why is this important to you? If your “why” is lukewarm, it is unlikely that you will accomplish said goal, or at least you will not reach your goals on the original timeline.

It may seem like I am babbling on like a brook here, but my final language-learning tip of the year is, simply, a question: Why are you trying to learn another language? What is your reason? Mine can be summed up by the following quote, which I have shared before, but absolutely love. If you have learned a lot this year, or only a little, know that it has been time well spent, and that you can always revisit it when you are ready. Have a wonderful summer, and see you in the fall!


Here is a motivational quote by the Hungarian hyperpolyglot, Kató Lomb:

“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

Summer Packet 2022

PREVIOUS YEARS: Summer Packet 2021Summer Packet 2020Holiday Packet 2020Summer Packet 2019Summer Packet 2017Summer Packet 2016

My Dear Friends, Fellow Linguists, and Citizens of the World:

Summer is a great time to get out of the routine — to refresh and reenergize the mind, body, and spirit. That said, parents frequently ask me what they can do at home to supplement their child’s language study, particularly during the summer months and if they don’t speak the language themselves.

Before getting started, it is important to recognize that reaching a level of true proficiency in a language takes time. As a result, I strongly urge you to make sure that any enrichment activities you do at home are more fun than not: language-learning is a joyous process, and motivated, excited kids will accomplish more than you ever thought possible when they want to do something.

Second, in lieu of babbling on for ninety-seven more paragraphs, I am going to give you a roadmap to my website, so that you can find and explore exactly what you are looking for. If you need an actual roadmap/ travel guide and are planning to visit a Spanish-speaking country, check out THIS PAGE (my latest project, still in its infancy!).

Part 1: Resources

Not sure what your child learned this year in Spanish class? Check out the following links! Each page has resources by grade level of songs/ projects your child has worked on in Spanish class, as well as Quarter Summaries of the year.

  • Adult ClassDuolingo Language Challenge Posts
  • To read about my professional interests, click HERE.

Part 2: Language

Input is absolutely CRUCIAL here! If you don’t hear any Spanish, it is very unlikely that you will learn how to speak it. This input can come in countless forms. You can do the same activity every day (e.g., wake up and listen to ONE song in Spanish before breakfast); or keep it fresh, mix it up, and do something different every day. Either way, build the language into your daily routine, so that something feels “off” when you don’t do it. This input can be:

  • listening to songs, either playing in the background on your device while you do another task, or actively listening for words you know;
  • watching cartoons/movies or TV shows in your target language (Spanish voiceover with English subtitles);
  • working on an app, the Spanish Wordle, or a Guess the Language game for a few minutes every day;
  • playing a scavenger hunt out in public, noticing bilingual signs and Spanish translations when you go shopping;
  • traveling to the library to check out the world language section (go to the kid’s one! the adult one is full of grammar books! boring!! LOL);
  • traveling virtually —
    • for a playlist of Scholastic read-alouds in Spanish, click HERE;
    • for fairy tales in Spanish and English, click HERE;
  • traveling in real life, either to a Spanish-speaking country or to a restaurant or city with a lot of Spanish speakers.

Part 3: Culture

A friend once taught me that you don’t just learn to speak a language, you also have to learn to speak the culture. Bilingual speakers (and hyperpolyglots, of course) do not merely code-switch; they also culture-switch when bopping between languages. To that end, students can expand their perspective taking in countless ways, including but not limited to the following:

Conclusion

Wow! There are so many pieces that go into learning another language and culture! If you are looking more for themed activities, feel free to check out the Spanish Summer Packet from last year, LINK HERE.

And if your family would rather focus on, well, Family!, know that as in past years, all activities above are 100% optional. Have a wonderful summer, and I can’t wait to see you in the fall!

Gracias,

-Your Resident Linguist ❤

Resumen, 21-22 (Grade 4)

Teatro Colón, Argentina
Term
1This term, students in fourth grade began with a fútbol/ soccer unit. Here, the focus is on creating a Spanish-only environment and immediate application of key phrases in meaningful contexts (e.g., Por acá/over here; pásala/pass it; soy portero(a), soy arquero(a)/ I’m goalie; ¡apúrate!/hurry up!; casi/almost; hace mucho calor/it’s really hot; no manos/no hands; suelo/ground; ¿Qué?/What?; Yo dije…/I said; agua/water. On several “Facepaint Fridays”, students even decorated signs with their last names and favorite numbers [to pin on their jerseys], and painted their cheeks with the colors of the flag of the Spanish- speaking country they were “playing for” that day.

When someone fell into a bush and an angry swarm of bees emerged, however, the soccer unit ended quite abruptly and we moved into the meat and potatoes of the curriculum: The Fourth Grade Spanish Play. Students not only helped to create the plot this year, but they also underwent a realistic auditioning process to act in said production. From Spanish forms and paperwork, to bio summaries and nerve-wracking auditions and casting–all of which took place in the gorgeous Teatro Colón [theater] in Argentina–it was a fantastic first quarter!
2This term, fourth graders buckled down and got serious about their play (SCRIPT HERE). They focused on memorizing their lines in Spanish; facing the audience; being intentional about gestures and movements onstage; and syncing up what the actors were doing with what the narrator was saying. Once this was all in progress, they started playing with their lines, by adding more dramatic expression and working on proper intonation.

As new scenes unfolded, students would learn cultural tidbits and then resume rehearsals. For a full summary of the plot, as well as an explanation of word plays and cultural references (e.g., Don Quijote), please visit THIS PAGE. The abbreviated version of the plot goes as follows: this is 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.

Fourth graders also continued work from last year–playing the “Guess the Language” game to help with “ear training”, as well as working on the Duolingo language-learning app. With the latter, they tried to correlate the number of XP earned with kilometers on a route through South America and Spain (El Camino). Their first goal marker was a beautiful national park in Chile, called Torres del Paine (silver); their second goal, Futaleufú Rafting (gold); and so on and so forth. This geographic parallel fit in nicely with a map review from last year, wherein students jump on and name all 21 of the Spanish-speaking countries. To clarify, this work was supplementary to the main focus of their class play.
3This term, fourth graders put the final touches on their class play. Next, they worked on props and costumes, and edited their cast bios for the official program pamphlet. While the full-circle goal of the soccer unit was to have the audience watch a “World Cup” pre-recorded game (of students) during the play’s intermission, numerous student absences and a shortened timeline (due to testing) did not allow for that this year. That said, a pre-recorded “halftime show” featuring fourth graders’ talents outside of school–gymnastics, cheer, dance, football, soccer, etc.–was featured instead.

The play itself was an absolute success! But perhaps–from an educator’s perspective–the real wins have been noted in the day to day, in the process: two weeks after the play, students were still reciting their lines, but in completely different contexts now, wherever they happen to fit in. They say them relaxed and off the cuff; now that the pressure is off, they can play with the language and take true ownership.
4This term, fourth graders began preparing for Middle School Spanish. Here, students recorded words and phrases they knew in their class notebooks; discussed several grammatical points; reviewed the 21 Spanish-speaking countries; worked pretty consistently on Duolingo (weekly XP metas/goals) and Spanish Wordle (or All 64 Wordles for fluent speakers); were introduced to Quizlet; and, most importantly for one class, played Comida-bol, which is a non-existent Spanish word and fake sport invented by Pato. It is not actually a fake sport, but rather a misunderstanding; you see, Pato thought that fútbol/soccer was “food-ball”, which quickly morphed into “Comida-bol” (comida means ‘food’ in Spanish), and basically he thought that it was a good idea to play soccer with raw eggs. Ahem. #TimeOutForPato.

Long story short, students now employ the beginning of the year soccer vocabulary, but kick around a plastic canteloupe instead. HA! When they tire of the sport (uncommon), they take out dinero/money at the banco/bank and then stop at the class “café” to purchase randomly priced items in pesos (and/or buy boletos/tickets to visit the “rainforest”). Typical conversation as follows:

ME: Which country is this again?
STUDENT: Cuba!
ME: And how many pesos are you charging for this coffee?
STUDENT: 10! ¡Diez!

[I walk away to the board, pull up the currency converter and discover that 10 Cuban pesos is equivalent to 42 cents.

ME: YEEHAW! What a deal!
STUDENT (on the other side of the room): “No, wait, I meant 1000 pesos!!”

Fourth graders also reviewed and acted out the history of Cinco de Mayo in Mexico, after which they learned how to cook plantain chips in class–to celebrate the impossible becoming possible! (Mexican victory over the French)

Resumen, 21-22 (Grade 3)

Term
1This term, students in third grade began with a fútbol/ soccer unit. Here, the focus is on creating a Spanish-only environment and immediate application of key phrases in meaningful contexts (e.g., Por acá/over here; pásala/pass it; soy portero(a), soy arquero(a)/ I’m goalie; ¡apúrate!/ hurry up!; casi/almost; hace mucho calor/it’s really hot; no manos/no hands; suelo/ground; ¿Qué?/ What?; Yo dije…/I said; agua/water. If anything, shouting Spanish as opposed to merely speaking it certainly builds confidence!

When the skies decided to downpour during Spanish (¡tormenta!/storm!) and fútbol was not an option, students worked on gesture-telling legends from Spanish-speaking countries (AIM methodology). Here, third graders repeat lines and associate a gesture or movement with each word or phrase in a story. The first legend was from Cuba and about a mouse that knew how to bark. The second legend was from Peru and had to do with a haunted house and gold treasure.

In-between soccer and legends, the curriculum touched upon a few cultural points of interest. Third graders took time to learn about endangered languages (Peru); tapas, Spanish omelettes/tortillas españolas, and ‘señoras’ (Spain); and Catatumbo Lightning (Venezuela). Gracias for a great term!
2This term, students continued playing soccer, but kept adding to the daily routine, which included reading aloud the Padre Nuestro (“Our Father”) prayer before games; watching the Chócalas, gatito video; and more vocabulary and music (esp. Que Viva España/long live Spain!).

As the weather shifted, third graders likewise shifted to indoor activities, which included playing a challenging “Guess the Language” game to help with “ear training”. Later, students began working on the Duolingo language-learning app, trying to correlate the number of XP earned with kilometers on a route through South America and Spain (El Camino). Their first goal marker was a beautiful national park in Chile, called Torres del Paine (silver); their second goal, Futaleufú Rafting (gold); and so on and so forth. This geographic parallel fit in nicely with a map review from last year, wherein third graders jump on and name all 21 of the Spanish-speaking countries.

Third graders also transferred relevant soccer vocabulary phrases into center work stations from last year. A big hit for Lower School was THE TRAIN: students studied a [real] map of the metro system in Madrid, and pushed their classmates around the room on my tables [with wheels], stopping at various locales (el supermercado/supermarket; el banco/ bank; la fábrica/factory; el cine/movie theater; etc.). To expand upon this, they learned a bit about the extreme railways and train-buses of Bolivia (image below). Finally, students heard a legend about Yerba Mate Tea (Argentina)–the ‘friendship drink’ of South America–and had the opportunity to taste it. Gracias for another great term!
3This term, third graders learned how to Salsa dance. This is a highlight of the third grade Spanish curriculum, and this year’s class was truly outstanding: not only did students absolutely master the basic step, they were also able to dance it to the beat, with a partner, without looking at their feet, and even with a turn/spin–bravo! Students discussed and demonstrated how both the music and steps differed from the Tango (Argentina), which they had learned in second grade.

Due to their strong enthusiasm for Salsa dancing, the class continued with center work so that those who wanted to continue dancing, could; and those who didn’t, could “sign up for” and pursue other projects. The overarching idea here is that students use a common pool of working vocabulary to communicate in spontaneous linguistic interactions; they search out opportunities to use the language in meaningful contexts. This can be very challenging for some students, and less so for others, depending on their own personal comfort level with the language, and willingness to take [linguistic] risks during class time.

Meanwhile, students also learned about the cultural references in the fourth grader’s Spanish play [e.g., Don Quijote (Spain); Rainbow Mountain (Peru); Amazon River (Peru)]; saw the live performance; and began to get excited for their own play next year! They continued working on the Floor Map and played a card game called Mano Nerviosa to practice isolating numbers out of order. It was an exciting quarter!
4This term, students in third grade started rehearsing for a Spanish News Show (las noticias/ the news). They added new lines each day, working to dramatize the parts and find a balance between silly and witty. The end result was overly dramatic and quirky, to say the least, but students had great fun with it and created memorable lines (quiero ir al parque/I want to go to the park; ¡no puedes hacer eso!/you can’t do that!; seguridad/security; está nublado/it’s cloudy).

They also tried their hand at the Spanish Wordle; continued working on Duolingo from time to time; and discussed various cultural differences: from money conversions (dollars to pesos), meal times (siesta), weather forecasts (Fahrenheit to Celsius), and time zone differences, to the 24-hour clock (aka military time) and distances (feet to kilometers)–plus the LANGUAGE itself!–there are so many pieces that go into learning another language and culture. Third graders also reviewed and acted out the history of Cinco de Mayo in Mexico, after which they learned how to cook plantain chips in class–and ate them, of course, to celebrate the impossible becoming possible! (Mexican victory over the French)

Resumen, 21-22 (Grade 2)

Term
1This term, second graders began the year with a town simulation. Here, students pretend to live in a Spanish-speaking country, and proceed to create businesses/jobs within that structure. Authentic realia and brands are referenced (Mercadona:Spain:: Publix:United States:: Carrefour: Argentina), and students cut out pesos and euros to spend to make the experience more realistic. The class discussed how food gets to the grocery store (~farms), and learned that they have to work to earn money: it is not free. Businesses even charged impuestos/taxes! Students practiced writing in the target language by sending me “letters” through the Post Office, complete with stamps from Mexico, Bolivia, Spain, etc. They also took a day to paint huge swaths of color on cardboard boxes, like this town in Colombia.

Partway through September, we began reserving Fridays as “Storytime Days“, where students gesture-told and co-created a silly story in the target language, using the AIM methodology. Our story morphed into a saga, lasting over a month and a half, and was about an evil duck that keeps taking a wolf’s sandwich and eating it. As a result, the wolf cries and cries. (*cue THIS SONG, first eight seconds only- canta y no llores/ “sing and don’t cry”). Last but not least, second graders took a few classes to explore the Fun Spanish app on their iPads, and one day to make and try gazpacho, for La Tomatina. Gracias for a great term!
2This term, second graders had fun practicing a Halloween rhyme in the target language. In the culture realm, they reviewed La Alhambra (Spain); El Camino (Spain); and street mercados (Argentina/Spain) from last year; and were introduced to the idea of currency conversions, which is an ongoing conversation in second grade (₲5,000 Paraguayan Guaraníes is only $0.72 cents? What?!).

The town simulation continued to evolve as well; however, a new mode of transportation was introduced–the TRAIN!–which spiced things up a bit. Students studied a [real] map of the metro system in Madrid, and pushed their classmates around the room on my tables [with wheels], stopping at various locales (el supermercado/supermarket; el banco/ bank; la fábrica/factory; el teatro/theater; etc.). To expand upon this, they learned a bit about the extreme railways of Bolivia and Argentina.

Linguistically, the beginning of class routine shifted to preguntas/ questions, including but not limited to the following: ¿Cómo estás? (how are you?); ¿Adónde vas? (where are you going?); ¿Qué quieres hacer? (what do you want to do?); and ¿Por qué?/¿Para qué? (why? for what?). Some days, students led as ‘maestro(a)’ (teacher), asking the questions to their peers; other days, the routine included a 2-minute episode of Bluey, where second graders raised their hands when they heard words they recognized. In December, they began reviewing the names of the countries of South America. Gracias for another fantastic term!
3This term, students worked hard on their Floor Map skills. Here, second graders practice jumping on and naming all 21 Spanish-speaking countries on a gigantic floor map. Each lesson, we add another country or two–and pretty soon, they get pretty good at it! They even sorted the class dinero/money by country, and took ‘boat rides’ from Cuba to Spain [read: me dragging a large piece of cardboard, with students on top of it, from one side of the room to the other]. We played Epic Pirate Battle Music to tie into their regular classroom pirate unit, and had a video of waves splashing in the background to add to the general ambiance.

NOTE: The overarching goal here is to pair memorable experiences with language, so students will pick up vocabulary such as, “Necesito eso” (I need that); or “Boleto, por favor” (ticket, please); or “Quiero ir a España” (I want to go to Spain); or “¿Dónde está la cinta?” (Where is the tape?); or “¿Qué? ¡No comprendo! (What? I don’t understand!) in meaningful contexts.

To make the fábrica/factory more popular, I said that it was a car factory, and brought in small tricycles from the playground to use as coches/cars. Students said, “¡Quiero conducir el coche rojo!” (I want to drive the red car!), and took turns driving, all while listening to this song and stopping to fill up the tank with gasolina/pétrol. Students also started a new class story/saga in Spanish (about a monster named Fluphball who takes a girl’s jacket because he wants to add it to his collection); talked about imports and exports by looking at stickers, tags, and labels to find out where products were made; learned about the cultural references in the fourth grader’s Spanish play [e.g., Don Quijote (Spain); Rainbow Mountain (Peru); Amazon River (Peru)]; heard about tightrope walking and volcano boarding (in Nicaragua); and took a day to learn about the Tango (Argentina). It has been an exciting term!
4This term… coming super soon! Not just soon. Super soon!

Resumen, 21-22 (Grade 1)

Term
1This term, students in first grade learned about El Camino de Santiago, a 500-mile hike across Spain that their teacher completed a few years ago. Students got their mochilas/backpacks, botella de agua/water bottle, plastic food/comida, and faux currency from Spain (dinero/money), and set out around campus–‘climbing mountains’ (stairs) and drawing shells and arrows with chalk to mark the trail.

Each class, we added something new; for example, people who hike get their Camino passports stamped each night, so we did that one day; another time, students pretended to sleep in their bunks at the hostels (picnic table benches as bunks) with colorful sarapes as blankets. The scene was all too realistic, as one commented, “SHHH! We have to get up early to hike in the morning!” So true! A highlight was the day we talked about how much your feet hurt after 10 hours of hiking a day (for 30 days straight), but that a ‘foot pool’ makes everything better–first graders dipped their toes into a small bucket of cool water to simulate this.

After this introductory unit, students launched into center days–the heart of the curriculum. Here, they sign up for what they want to do each day (Soy __/I’m __. Quiero __/I want to __.), and then, well–do it! Some opted to continue hiking the Camino (caminar/to walk), while others were fascinated by Spanish currency and wanted to cut out bills (trabajar/ work). One week, many chose to ‘fly’ (volar) to different countries with paper airplanes outside. Whatever they choose, we incorporate language and culture into it all.

To make written work more interesting to six-year-olds, we rigged up a pulley system and basket (from the floor to the ceiling) to “send” me letters through the post (correos). Students also learned about Rainbow Mountain (Peru), and made their own tiny pieces of gold, with rocks, gold glitter, and a ton of glue! You can read more about this unit HERE.

Last but not least, Pato also made several appearances, one memorable afternoon being when he was casually floating on a raft in a bucket of water, when there was a STORM!!!! (¡tormenta!). Shhh! Don’t tell: it was first graders and yours truly turning on and off the water faucet! My poor stuffed animals…
2This term, first graders worked on developing a strong routine for their center work, incorporating new vocabulary and sight words each week (pizarras/whiteboards; marcadores/ markers; ¡Ya terminé!/ I finished!; borra, borra/erase, erase; sorpresa/surprise; ¿está aquí?/is she here? [the teacher]). They also chose Spanish names; took turns leading the class as ‘maestro(a)’/ teacher by asking, “¿Cómo estás?” (How are you?) to their peers; started class with a listening activity (¿Puedo ir al baño?/Can I go to the bathroom?; Botas perdidas/Lost Boots; Billy la bufanda/Billy the Scarf; or a 2-minute Bluey cartoon); and ended class with a clean-up song (Cada cosa en su lugar).

A very popular center this term was Train Driving 101 (i.e., Quiero conducir/ I want to drive), where first graders signed up for and then ‘drove’ my tables [on wheels] around the room–passengers (dos pesos, por favor/two pesos, please!), stuffed animal pets, train sound effects on the board, and crayons and coloring sheets to work on while on the train, all included. Speed limits were enforced. And there was definitely a bell.

In the culture realm, students learned all about La Alhambra (Spain), a fort/palace in southern Spain. In case you missed my post, you can read a funny story about this HERE. First graders also began jumping on and naming all 21 Spanish- speaking countries on my gigantic floor map (Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia), and took a few days to explore the Fun Spanish app on their iPads.

At this point in the year, many students are comfortable with words such as: Quiero (I want) colorear/to color, patinar/to skate, volar/to fly, limpiar/to clean, construir una fortaleza en España [La Alhambra]/to build a fort in Spain, cantar/to sing, bailar/to dance, hablar en inglés o español/to speak in English or Spanish, tomar el tren/to take the train, conducir el tren/to drive the train, escribir en árabe/to write in Arabic, dormir/to sleep, etc.
3This term, first graders learned about the cultural references in the fourth grader’s Spanish play [e.g., Don Quijote (Spain); reviewed Rainbow Mountain (Peru); Amazon River (Peru)]. They were especially taken by the Don Quijote song, and wanted to listen to it repeatedly. The class acted out the famous windmill chapter (from the 900-page Spanish novel), with Don Quijote and Sancho Panza as well.

A highlight of the third term was the bullfighting unit. This began quite by chance, when I subbed for library one day and ended up reading The Story of Ferdinand. Students took turns pretending to be bulls and shouting, “¡Olé!” from the sidelines, while listening to Paso Doble music and imagining that they were in Spain. That real people and bulls can be badly injured or killed was not mentioned. Students were more invested in pretending to be toros/bulls, anyway. To read more about this lesson, click HERE!

To move on from the Train Unit, I brought in small tricycles from the playground to use as coches/ cars (¿el coche rojo/ negro /o azul?/ the red, black, or blue car?) that students could sign up to drive around the room (luz roja/ red light; luz verde/ green light). Students said, “¡Quiero conducir el coche rojo!” (I want to drive the red car!), and took turns driving, all while listening to this song on loop. Students definitely know the word coche/car now!

First graders also heard a Spanish read-aloud La primera luna llena de Gatita (Kitten’s First Full Moon); mastered jumping on and naming all 21 Spanish-speaking countries on the floor map; and worked on conversing more in the target language with one another (student> student, in lieu of only teacher>student). Gracias for another fantastic term!
4This term, students in first grade layered on more culture to their language study. Here, they learned about molinillos, a wooden tool used to stir chocolate, along with a “cho-co-la-te” clapping rhyme (Mexico); Worry Dolls when there was a massive tormenta/storm one day (Guatemala); and Sawdust Carpets for Easter (Guatemala).

In the linguistic realm, first graders transformed the top of my tables into a ferry (crucero/cruise ship, which conveniently rhymes with dinero/money), complete with a ship bullhorn sound effect. They would shout things like, “¡Espérame! Necesito dinero!” (wait for me! I need money!) as the ferry horn started and students imagined pulling out to sea. Naturally, I put realistic videos of dolphins jumping on the board, so that it seemed like they were actually in the ocean!

The overarching goal here is to pair memorable experiences with language, so students will pick up vocabulary relevant to a variety of simulated situations. Recently, “¡Me encanta!” (I love it!) and “¿Por qué?” (whhyyy?) have been popular phrases amongst students. I will update once more as the year draws to a close.

Resumen, 21-22 (Grade K)

Term
1This term, students in kindergarten began with the same stop/go color game as PK3 & PK4. Here, students whispered “[luz] verde-verde-verde” (green light) and simultaneously tip-toed around the courtyard, gradually increasing in volume and speed to end with “¡[luz] ROJA!” (red light); later, we added azul/blue, at which light we danced (bailamos). Later, classes watched in awe as white spoons–upon being submerged in ice cubes and cold water–turned blue. We extended this color game by balancing ice cubes on spoons, while responding to traffic light command colors at the same time.

While PK3 & PK4 focused on colors, kindergarteners deepened this study by looking at different types of fuerzas/ forces. For example, students smelled identical looking liquids– agua/water and vinegar –and then combined the latter with baking soda and food coloring to see what would happen: a volcanic eruption! (They also covered the opening of the ‘volcano’ with a coffee filter and pretended it was a monster.) Other lessons about forces included: levitating ping-pong balls with a hairdryer; building houses with playing cards; using this Rube Goldberg video to inspire ramp building and cause/ effect scenarios; and hypothesizing about floating and sinking objects.

All of this led to Pato (my stuffed animal duck) fleeing from a [baking soda and vinegar] volcanic eruption to his boat and riding the wildly unpredictable ocean waves. When sharks surrounded the vessel, students and all present stuffed animals pretended to be pirates; telescopes and treasure maps (tesoro/ treasure; ¡mira!/ look!) pointed them toward an island far away from the scary sea creatures. Of course, it wasn’t too scary, since they made sure to listen to Tiburón Bebé/ Baby Shark and watch Pocoyo: Piratas. The quarter ended by dipping rocks in glue and gold glitter, so that students could make their own “gold” treasure from Peru, grazing over the surface of this project. Much of the first quarter in kindergarten is about building a strong sense of community and fun, with the focus on whole-class activities (esp. science experiments) and mini stories that incorporate key vocabulary.
2This term, kindergarteners shifted from whole-group lessons to more individualized work, via centers. Here, as with other grade levels, sight words are introduced, around which creative projects begin to form. For example, when students first learned the word, “jugar” (to play/ pronounced: “who-GARR”), they would practice writing the word and then have time to play with the plastic food/ comida and stuffed animals/ peluches in my room, in order to build a memorable experience around the word, “jugar“. When students wanted to use the fake dinero/money, I introduced the idea of street mercados/markets in Argentina, which are also common in many other Spanish-speaking countries.

As the class’ confidence grew, more centers were opened: colorear/to color [culturally relevant images were available here- from Joan Miró artwork and Costa Rican rainforests to pink dolphins in Colombia]; jugar/to play; pintar/to paint [papel/paper]; construir/to build [with dominoes, blocks, cardboard, tape, and blankets; mi casa/my house]; volar/to fly [paper airplanes]; patinar/to skate [slip-slide in socks on floor; remove zapatos/ shoes]; and so on and so forth. It might not sound like much initially, but students get accustomed to hearing their classmates say things like, “Hey, that’s my dinero!” “You have to take off your zapatos to come in mi casa.” “Can I volar to Chile? ¡Gracias!“–and as the center work expands in first and second grade, questions and sentences start falling out of their mouths, sometimes without students realizing it.

Kindergarteners also started learning some of the names and locations of the Spanish-speaking countries in South America on the floor map–namely, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Bolivia. The second quarter is about building a framework and strong foundation for the future, meaning that we only scratch the surface of culture early on, but students do begin hearing country names and associating them with the Spanish language.
3This term, kindergarten continued adding more centers and sight words to their repertoire (dependent, of course, on L1 skills), and also learned the remainder of the Spanish-speaking countries in South America (Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela). Students had fun hitting the DOOR of my classroom whenever we said, “Ecuador” (“eck-wah-DOOR!”).

The extension this quarter–in Spanish class we are always spiraling ideas and adding more–was a story about a cute little teacup pig (named Rosie in one class and Mr. PigglyAirplane in the other), from whom is stolen four little red boots and a car. Oh my! The enemigo/enemy is the infamous Señor Zapato/ Mr. Shoe who takes everything una noche/one night when it is raining (está lloviendo). Each day, students helped read along with and gesture-tell the story in Spanish. Key phrases and vocab would have “offshoot” lessons, to make words extra memorable. For instance, when the class learns that Mr. Shoe lives in Puerto Rico, we took a day to learn about bioluminescence by playing with highlighters and a blacklight. This quarter was a nice mix of centers and storytelling.
4This term, students explored more culture, learning about Worry Dolls and Sawdust Carpets in Guatemala, and Chocolate and Cinco de Mayo in Mexico. In fact, for Cinco de Mayo, students got to decorate Sombrero-Piñata Cookies after taking time to act out the history of the holiday in class. The Piggy Story saga continued, and students gained true mastery of the floor map. One day, students took turns reading the story in Spanish to yours truly- wow! While not every student is literate by any means in kindergarten, it is important to expose them to the written word early on.

Resumen, 21-22 (Grade PK)

Term
1This term, students in PK began with the same stop/go color game as kindergarten. Here, students whispered “[luz] verde-verde-verde” (green light) and simultaneously tip-toed around the courtyard, gradually increasing in volume and speed to end with “¡[luz] ROJA!” (red light); later, we added azul/blue, at which light we danced (bailamos). The next day, classes watched in awe as white spoons–upon being submerged in ice cubes and cold water–turned blue [temperature activated].

We extended this color game by balancing ice cubes on the spoons, while responding to traffic light command colors at the same time. Students also colored with markers and added different colored ink stamps to their drawings; played a ‘find the color’ game in my classroom; paired action commands with the colors; colored paper airplanes different colors; and tried to do anything and everything we could think of!

In Storytime Land, PK students began hearing mini stories about The Adventures of Pato, my stuffed animal duck. One day, he was so hungry that he tried to ‘eat’ all of my plastic food and fit it inside his sock pajamas (#fail). Another day, he wanted to learn how to fly, so we rigged up a small zipline from one corner of my room to the other, and students took turns letting him ‘fly’. When that didn’t work, he switched to [paper] airplane travel, and flew to the beach for a picnic with his friends. Students even built him a house out of blankets and chairs one day. How sweet! Last but not least, they listened to Rompe Ralph (Wreck-It Ralph) and watched a few cartoons in Spanish (Pocoyo: Tráfico; Perro y Gato: Favoritos) for comprehensible input. It was a great start to the year!
2This term, after taking time to ease into an immersive classroom experience, PK students practiced acting out daily routines in the language. Here, everyone took turns answering the question, “¿Cómo estás?” (How are you?) by pointing to emoji faces on the board. I narrated and repeated everything they said and did in Spanish–and naturally, as the class caught on to my sense of humor, they would answer, “¡Cansado(a)!” (tired!), so that they could pretend to go to sleep and start “the routine”.

This routine began very simply, with PK students “falling asleep” to a 37-second song, Los Solecitos. The first day, I passed out blankets and stuffed animals to students to cuddle up with, turned off the classroom lights, and sang lullabies in Spanish. I turned on the fairy lights, of course, so as not to frighten anyone. When it was “morning”, I turned back on the classroom lights and gently woke everyone up.

The next day, we added breakfast to the routine. The next day, we added “cars” (coches), in the form of chairs and cardboard boxes, to get to work. But they would break down– cardboard can only take so much– and there was so much traffic, that we decided to take the train instead (i.e., my tables on wheels)! Tickets did cost a little money, but it was worth it. (Read more about PK3 HERE and PK4 HERE.)

Students decided where they wanted to go each day, either la playa/the beach, la playa de noche/the beach at night, la selva/the jungle, or las montañas/the mountains; the links lead to relevant sound effects that I played on the board for each locale. Perhaps one of the most precious, adorable, and memorable moments this quarter was watching students “run away from” the waves at the beach [i.e., the wave video on my board]. For a week or two, the toy store was also open, where students could “buy” stuffed animals to bring to the beach at night and cuddle up with while they listened to Spanish lullabies.
3This term, students in PK added a Storytime component to their class routine. They also continued expanding upon the daily routine. For example, after taking the train to the jungle and mountains, they would go to the beach at night, fall asleep, wake up for breakfast, practice their good manners at the table while eating [plastic] food (por favor/please; gracias/thank you), pray before the meal, realize that they were all late to school, brush their teeth, run to the car, run back to get their backpacks/ mochilas and lunches, go to school, and listen to the teacher greet them and ask them how they were (review from second term), and then start to gesture-tell a story in Spanish.

Each week, we added a sentence or two to the story, and would do projects or short activities around the vocabulary to ingrain the new words in their minds. The first class story was about a pato/duck, gato/cat, and zapato/shoe, mostly for the fun rhyming, but also because it was key vocabulary in the fourth grader’s Spanish play (that students attended later in the term). The second class story was about a Coquí Frog named Carlos, who discovers a lost fish in his Bread Castle. Yes, students helped to build a bread castle in my classroom. For PK3 and PK4, this was to teach the word pan/bread in a very interactive way; for older classes, it was to teach the country name Panama as a class joke. Click HERE for photos and to read more.
4This term, students in PK dove headfirst into Culture Projects. In addition to the Coquí Frog and Bioluminescence in Puerto Rico from the third quarter, students also learned about Worry Dolls and Sawdust Carpets in Guatemala, and hammocks and Cinco de Mayo in Mexico. In fact, for Cinco de Mayo, students got to decorate Sombrero-Piñata Cookies after taking time to act out the history of the holiday in class. The following week, students listened to songs from Encanto and learned that the movie takes place in Colombia, which is Spanish-speaking; as a short project, they had fun finger painting like this [extremely talented] street artist from Colombia.

Students also had fun guessing where Pato was each class. To the tune of Frère Jacques, I would sing: Where is Pa-to, where is Pa-to? / ¿Dónde está? ¿Dónde está? ¡Dime, por favor! / ¡Dime, por favor! / Tell me, please! Tell me, please! And then ask follow up questions in the target language: is he in the Bread Castle? In Puerto Rico? In Mexico? His house? Do you think he will be despierto/ awake or dormido/asleep when we knock on the door?

One day, he wasn’t in su casa/his house, and we ended up taking the train (my table on wheels) OUTSIDE and DOWN THE HALLWAY! to the bus station (aka lunch tables near the courtyard), at which point everyone paid for a ticket, and we complained about traffic as yours truly drove the bus and made engine revving sounds, ha! Next, we walked to the parque/park (aka playground), and finally found Pato! In one class, he was in the office playing with his friend the dog [named] Chocolate/el perro Chocolate, and in the other class he was in the marsh grass beside the park; in both instances, he had no idea how to get back to my classroom, so it was good we found him! *No stuffed animals were harmed in this lesson.*

Naturally, Pato being perdido/lost related to our second class story, where a pececito/fish from Mexico gets lost in the Bread Castle which, of course, belongs to Carlos el coquí. (Fish song HERE.) As I write this, I am so sorry that I can’t figure out a way to summarize this more succintly. Somehow this makes sense to students… in Spanish… which is what I speak with them 98% of the time.

Anyway, it has been a truly AWESOME year, and I am so excited by how much Spanish your children are comprehending and producing! Do not worry if they are not speaking it to you (they probably don’t associate you with the language, unless you speak it yourself), but feel free to watch cartoons with them in Spanish and just generally encourage. Your support of the language program is greatly appreciated!

More popular song links: ¿Te Gusta El Helado De Brócoli?; ¿Te Gustan Los Milkshakes De Lasaña?; Pollito Pío: Venganza; Chumbala Cachumbala; Feliz Navidad; Contando del 1 al 20

Cartoons: Pocoyo: Misterio del monstruo; Pocoyo: La llave maestra; Legend of Golden Coquí

Duolingo- Mini Notebook

ASSIGNMENT: Earn 50 XP on the app before Monday (May 2nd). You got this!

Language-Learning Tip

This week, get one of those $0.97 miniature notebooks, and start making lists of words you know in your target language. I am not a huge fan of memorizing vocabulary lists as a teaching methodology, but I do think that it can be a good exercise to reflect (in retrospect) on how much you have learned. You might start thinking, “Oh, I haven’t gotten much out of this app. I’ll never be proficient or fluent.“, but when you sit down and really take a look at all of the progress you’ve made, and all of the words you recognize or can verbally produce–provided you’ve been chugging away at it consistently–it can be astounding! Holy Moses! I do know a lot!

As the [school] year begins to wind down, take a minute after you complete each lesson to record a few words you know in your notebook. You can organize the lists by a separate category on each page–food, travels, etc.–or write them randomly as words or phrases occur to you. Handwriting words uses a different part of the brain than clicking and, IMHO, the more neurons involved, the better! Dr. K, feel free to correct me on this one. 🙂

ASIDES: 1) I recommend a tiny notebook so that it can fit in your purse or pocket and you can bring it with you everywhere; and 2) for a little extra inspiration, check out this article!

Duolingo- Wordles

ASSIGNMENT: Earn 50 XP on the app before next Monday (Apr. 11th). You got this!

Language-Learning Tip

This week, you are challenged to try the Wordle game in your target language. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Wordle, you try to guess the [typically 5-letter] word of the day in as few tries as possible.

Instructions: First, search your target language HERE. Programmers around the globe have made it available now in at least 63 languages–amazing! Just click out of the directions, and then try to figure out the word. This changes daily and is challenging, but if my third and fourth graders can figure them out in Spanish, I bet you can, too! Have fun!

**NOTE: the Spanish Wordle actually has three versions: normal, accents, scientific.

Working Vocabulary

My thoughts on Vocabulary Lists.

Working Vocabulary

  • Quiero eso (I want that)
  • ¿Dónde está? (Where is it?)
  • Necesito eso (I need that)
  • ¡Oye! (Hey!)
  • ¡Eso es mío! (that’s mine!)
  • ¿Sabes qué? (you know what?)
  • Dime (tell me)
  • ¡Mira! (Look!)
  • Pues… (well…)
  • Vale (okay/ Spain)
  • ¿Puedo? (Can I?)
  • Otra vez (again)
  • ¡Corre! (run!)
  • ¡Más rápido! (faster!)
  • ¡Vamos! (let’s go!)
  • ¡Espera! (wait)
  • ¡Espérame! (wait for me)
  • ¡Ayúdame! (help me!)
  • Necesito ayuda (I need help)
  • ¡Ten cuidado! (be careful!)
  • Tengo una pregunta (I have a question)
  • ¿Puedo ir al baño? (Can I go to the bathroom?)
  • ¿Cómo se dice, “___” en español? (How do you say, “___” in Spanish?
  • ¿Cómo estás? (How are you?)
    • Tengo hambre (I’m hungry)
    • Tengo frío (I’m cold)
    • Tengo sed (I’m thirsty)
    • Tengo calor (I’m warm)
    • Estoy feliz (I’m happy)
    • Estoy bien (I’m good/well)
    • Estoy mal (I’m bad)
    • Estoy cansado/a (I’m tired)
    • Estoy triste (I’m sad)
    • Estoy enojado/a (I’m angry)
    • Estoy confundido/a (I’m confused)
    • Estoy emocionado/a (I’m excited)
    • Estoy enfermo/a (I’m sick)
  • Hola (hi; hello)
  • Buenos días (good morning)
  • Buenas noches (good night)
  • Adiós (goodbye)
  • Hasta luego (see you later)
  • Hasta mañana (see you tomorrow)
  • Yo soy (I am)
  • Yo me llamo (my name is)
  • ¿Qué? (what?)
  • No comprendo (I don’t understand)
  • Yo dije que… (I said that…)
  • Sí / no (yes/no)
  • Por favor (please)
  • Gracias (thank you)
  • Me gusta (I like it)
  • No me gusta (I don’t like it)
  • con (with)
  • y (and; pronounced: “e”)
  • porque (because)
  • mi amigo/a (my friend)
  • maestro/a (teacher)
  • El papel (paper)
  • Las pizarras (boards)
  • Los marcadores (markers)
  • La cinta (tape)
  • Los boletos (tickets)
  • Los zapatos (shoes)
  • La comida (food)
  • Los peluches (stuffed animals)
  • El dinero (money)
  • Pesos (vs. dollars)
  • El agua (water)
  • El tren (train)
  • El coche (car)
  • Mi casa (my house)
  • Todo (everything)
  • ¿Qué quieres hacer? (What do you want to do?)
  • Quiero… (I want)
    • colorear (to color)
    • jugar (to play)
    • construir (to build)
    • pintar (to paint)
    • volar (to fly)
    • trabajar (to work)
    • conducir (to drive)
    • hablar (to talk)
    • hacer (to do; to make)
    • ir (to go)
    • limpiar (to clean)
    • patinar (to skate)
    • dibujar (to draw)
    • cantar (to sing)
    • bailar (to dance)
    • ver la tele (to watch tv)
    • tomar (to take)
    • navegar (to sail)
  • ¿Adónde vas? (where are you going?)
  • Voy a México (I’m going to Mexico)
  • Voy a Chile para jugar con mis amigos (I’m going to Chile to play with my friends)
  • El supermercado (supermarket)
  • El banco (bank)
  • La fábrica (factory)
  • El teatro (theater)
  • El gimnasio (gym)
  • El museo (museum)
  • La iglesia (church)
  • El cine (movie theater)
  • El cafe
  • ¿Cuándo? (when?)
  • ¡Ahora! (now!)
  • ¿Por qué? (why?)
  • No sé. (I don’t know)
  • Porque sí. (just because)

Vocabulary Lists


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?

Duolingo- The Meat & Potatoes of a Sentence

ASSIGNMENT: Earn 50 XP on the app before next Monday (Apr. 4th). You got this!

Language-Learning Tip

This week, I would like to draw your attention to two very different careers: translation, which is written, and interpretation, which is spoken (read more HERE). Now you are going to choose one of the two and imagine that this is your job. For those of you who settled on translation, pick up a book and try to find at least five words on a page that you know in your target language. Write them down. Look a second time at the same page, and see if you can get close for a few more words.

For instance, you might read, “I would like” and not know that yet; depending on the context, however, this could be simplified to mean, “I like” or “I want” in your target language, which you might remember. Push yourself to find synonyms that could work: you might not know eye shadow yet, but do you know eyes? You might not know delighted, but do you know happy? You might not know truck or vehicle, but do you know car? Train your brain to look for the meat and potatoes of a sentence. When you are learning a language, the goal is to get your point across. It may not be grammatically pretty or as precise as you’d prefer, but if the other person gets the general idea… mission accomplished!

For those of you who chose interpretation, turn on the radio. In your head, listen to spoken English and try to pick out key words that you know in the language you are studying. Say them aloud. Mentally “scan” the sentences you are hearing, and force your brain to search for words you do know. Just as with translation, work on simplifying what you are hearing.

If you had to communicate this to someone, what words do you know that could get the job done? When my students ask, “May I pretty please with a cherry on top go to the bathroom with my friend but take a buddy with me, too?”, I say, “Absolutely not!”–and then proceed to explain that in Spanish class, you need to simplify your thoughts and use words you know: “¡Baño, por favor!” (Bathroom, please!). (Okay, now you can!) Will I have higher expectations (a complete sentence/question) down the road? YES! But in the meantime, let’s start with getting your point across and decreasing the amount of English you are using. If you would like to learn more about translation and interpretation, check out this video below. Have a great week!


Duolingo- Be Observant

ASSIGNMENT: Earn 50 XP on the app before next Monday (Mar. 28th). You got this!

Language-Learning Tip

This week, focus on being hyper aware and observant when you are out in public: start scanning anything and everything [written] for your target language. I see Spanish everywhere I go. Stuck in traffic one day, I noticed that someone had spelled with their finger on the back [dusty] window of a truck, “Lávame” [‘LAH-bah-may’]. If you don’t speak Spanish, you might not have noticed; but I laughed because it means, “Wash me!”

My t-shirts say, “Hecho en…” (“A-choh-en”/Made in…)The label on a bottle of wine at the supermarket said, “Cielo rojo“, or red sky. The lunch buffet at my grocery store offered, “Ropa Vieja“, which literally means, “old clothes”, but refers to one of Cuba’s national dishes, recipe HERE. The Jeep brand, “Leer” (“lay-air”) means, “to read” in Spanish. When you see a Chevy “Nova”, read it as two words–no va–which means, “doesn’t go” in Spanish (NOTE: that the car sold poorly in Latin America is a legend, but it is still a nice mental check to practice your target language on the go!).

If you are studying another language, you can still keep your eyes peeled. So many signs are translated these days (more on this HERE), and words will jump out at you when you really start looking. This morning, I stopped to ask two people what language they were speaking. (Albanian!) I see Braille everywhere, when I look for it. Fun fact: Did you know that they intentionally made euros different sizes [of bills], so that the blind and visually impaired could tell the difference in value?

If you stay in more than go out, scan your kitchen. Look at the tiny print on products, warranties and instruction manuals, stickers on electronics, phones, directions, etc. I love trying to guess which language(s) I see in translations and hear out in public. If you want an “extra credit” ear exercise for this week, check out this game HERE. You can choose “audio” to guess the language by listening, or “alphabet” to guess what language is written.

Look for the language, and it will find you! As Rumi writes [literal translation], “Anything in search of instant, instant“; or, more poetically, “What you seek is also seeking you“.

Originally, in Persian (aka Farsi): هر چیزی که در جستن آنی، آنی