Elementary-aged students can be brutally honest: they simply tell it like it is. “Why didn’t you do your hair, maestra?” (I actually did, but the humidity wrecked it.) “Your room smells funny today.” (Not my fault that the air-dry clay I bought has a weird after-smell.) Or… the one that cut through to my soul: “Pato isn’t real. I can see your lips moving when he talks.”

Umm. That is my curriculum you’re talking about! I can use hairspray to mat down my hair. I can find an air freshener to eliminate foul odors. But Pato? Now you’ve touched a nerve, kid!

Pato, for those of you who don’t know, is my stuffed animal duck with a squeaky voice and mostly innocent though mischievous mind and past. He didn’t mean to dip his beak into that red paint; he thought it was a bowl full of strawberries and was ravenous. Yeah, sure, Pato, uh-huh. Or how about when he accidentally plastered all of the Spanish stickers from my desk drawer onto his bedroom walls (a shoebox)??

Then there was the day he heard food-ball when I said fútbol, and ended up inventing a sport where you roll raw eggs across the floor, kind of like soccer, but the goal is to get them in the goal without any cracks on the shells. Yes, he had to clean up the egg yolk mess afterwards and apologize. After a while, the sport came to be called comida-bol among my students, since comida means food…

His best friend–(Oso/the stuffed animal bear; kind of like how your child calls his teddy bear “Teddy”)–is less impulsive and much more level-headed, but he still gets involved, somehow. Like two weeks ago, when a second grader… wait, let me start from the beginning.

Initially, the objective was to string up two ziplines, from the second floor hallway of the school down to the flagpole, on which my two stuffed animal friends would race. Students would ultimately learn what country each stuffy was from, but they would need to do some sleuthing first: each time their team (Team Pato or Team Oso–terrible Spanglish, I know) won a race, students would earn a letter of the Spanish-speaking country, if they answered a Spanish trivia question correctly.

For example, when Pato won the first race, Team Pato was asked, “How do you say, “I love cheese” in Spanish?” When Oso won the next race, Team Oso was asked, “Name one country that borders Paraguay.” etcetera, etcetera. Some questions were linguistic, some were cultural, and some were song-lyric related. If they got the question right, they would earn a random letter in the answer (e.g., a “t” in Argentina). Here, they could eliminate España/Spain (no “t”), but “Costa Rica” was still a possible answer.

More to the point, during this activity Oso the Bear was inadvertantly tossed up not to the second floor hallway balcony, but rather high up onto the second floor roof, at least 25 or 30 feet in the air. He was a good sport about it and commented later that while he liked star-gazing that night and the general peace and quiet, the heavy rainstorm was a definite dealbreaker, in terms of Long-Term Roof Living Arrangements.

I panicked momentarily, as now not only was Pato the Duck not real, Oso the Bear was stranded indefinitely on the roof. So much for my Spanish curriculum. #EpicFail

However, with many thanks to the maintenance department, Oso the Bear was rescued, though not until the following day during lunch–at which point practically the entire school cheered!

If Oso could be saved, then maybe there was hope for Pato and my ventriloquism skills, too.

I was first introduced to ventriloquism in the 90s, by the beloved Shari Lewis and Lambchop. In reading articles about her as an adult, I learned that Lambchop became a part of the family at a certain point, which definitely resonated with me. Pato has become a part of the culture at my school, to the point where fourth graders perform an original play about him and his crazy adventures every year for the entire school and community. During the quarantine, I made videos about the silly duck for students.

That said, I am 100% self-taught, which means that 1) I have had laryngitis more times than I can count (because ventriloquism requires a lot of air, and clearly I am doing something wrong); and 2) students are brutally honest and also tell me when I’m doing it wrong (i.e., “Pato is not real!”). If you are interested in making the stuffed animals in your classroom fully legitimate, the consonant chart above helped me a lot. Just replace all of your “b’s” with “d’s”, “f’s” with “th’s” and so on and so forth.

If you visited this page because you think ventriloquism is awesome and were looking for inspiration, I included some of my favorite videos below.


Summer Packet 2023


Short Version – Summer Packet

Click on your child’s grade level page below for song links, cartoons in Spanish, and much more. Click HERE for Culture Project ideas to explore this summer.

**TAKEAWAY: Integrate as much Spanish language and culture into your summer as possible! Surround your family with the language!

Longer Version – Summer Packet

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

When I first saw the image at the top of this page, I honestly thought it was Colorado. [I’ve never been to Colorado, so I don’t know why I would think that.] But no! As luck would have it (as a Spanish teacher), it is Bariloche, Argentina–a famous crossing between the Andes Mountains of Chile and Argentina, known for its decadent chocolate and Switzerland-like vibe.

Although a different locale (and continent), the picturesque mountains are reminiscent of my childhood summers in the north: scents of wildflowers permeating the air, running and rolling through fields, climbing boulders, collecting milkweed and Queen Anne’s Lace, and not going inside until dinner time.

I love these memories. And while a “Summer Packet” might seem quite the antithesis of summer to students, I don’t want it to be. My Spanish classes are playful because my students are naturally playful: they are children! I want their language experience to mirror–to some degree–their pastimes and hobbies. I want them to play. Play with thoughts, play with words, play with expression, play with accents, play with sounds, play with ideas.

If you haven’t guessed yet, the focus for this year’s summer packet is PLAY! Let’s get the skinny on our three main categories.

Part 1: Resources (~parents)

Did your children just say they were bored? Encourage them to think about their favorite parts of the past school year, and extend some of those ideas.

Did they really enjoy music class? Make a band with plastic spoons, toilet paper roll rainsticks, and oatmeal container drums! Did Space Day inspire them? Pretend to be an astronaut! Designate each room of the house as a different planet. Did they love a specific song from Spanish class? Click on the grade level pages below, find the link, and play it on loop!

If they are stuck, note that each link below has resources by grade level of songs and culture projects your child has worked on in Spanish class, as well as Quarter Summaries of the year. Don’t just sit there: get inspired! Need linguistic motivation? Read THIS ARTICLE!

  • Adult Class– Duolingo Language Challenge Posts
  • To read about my professional interests, click HERE.

Part 2: Language

LEVEL 1: Surround your family with the language! HERE are a few easy suggestions on how to do this.

LEVEL 2: After you are surrounded with Spanish (input), you can progress to output. This summer, I have a deceivingly simply task for students: use and apply the language they already know. In other words, speak Spanglish! I don’t mean for students to do this one day; I want them to try and incorporate the language they know as much as possible throughout the summer while they are playing.

They could do this systematically, where each day they add another word; for example, they have to respond, “” (yes) in Spanish instead of in English–and whoever says, “yes” first, has to put a penny in a jar or something like that. And then keep adding another word or phrase each week. Or say, “Buenos días” (good morning) at breakfast, and pair the language with daily routines. Or, they could just cram in language wherever it fits, if they don’t care to be systematic.

Trying to figure out the Spanish Wordle is another great way to get in some Spanish each day. If this feels too difficult, commit to listening to at least one song in Spanish every day.

Part 3: Culture

I created a highly visual cultural guide this year for students, which touches on all of the 21 Spanish- speaking countries. Scroll through the photos, and when you find one you like, click on it: it will bring you to a page on my site that explains more about the image. For more information organized by country, visit the Travel Guide page.

Now take this information, and DO something with it! Did you click on the Radish Festival (Mexico)? Have a radish picnic! Make a beautiful display of them on a plate. Ask your parents to help cut them out into creative shapes. You can go out and buy materials for a project if you really want, but–[unless it’s food in a specific RECIPE]–it’s more fun to look around and use what you have! Last but not least, be sure to decorate a window of your bedroom with pictures of your favorite Spanish- speaking country.

Have an amazing summer, and see you in the fall!


-Your Resident Linguist ❤

It’s Raining Tacos

Many thanks to first graders, who serenaded me with the classic hit, “It’s Raining Tacos” last week in Spanish class, as we were going over the weather report. Little did I know, the English version of this song has over 63 million views. I am clearly late to the fiesta!

Regardless, this is a hilarious song whenever you find it. I synced the Spanish audio with the original graphics by ParryGripp to make it more relatable to students. If you are a Spanish teacher and want to extend this, your class could brainstorm all of the things they would love it to rain, and then listen to the more authentic classic, Juan Luis Guerra’s “Ojalá que llueva café” (I hope it rains coffee).

It’s Raining Tacos

Credit to ParryGripp & Audio

Ojalá que llueva café

Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs


There has been a buzz around school this week about pop singers, mostly because a celebrity superstar will be performing in a nearby city soon. I love to tap into students’ interests, and actually used to have a hobby of finding both Spanish and multilingual covers–or, adaptations–of pop songs. It’s pretty incredible how translated songs can have the same sound and feel as the originals. And when I say “multilingual” here, I am referring to when they switch languages every 3-4 seconds, such as in this version of Frozen (animated) and/or Behind the Mic (actual singers).

As a result, I wanted to share a list of songs in Spanish with everyone. The beginning of the list are pop songs; farther down are popular animated movie songs (like from Encanto, The Jungle Book, Aladdin, etc.). This is solely for enrichment purposes and to change up your playlists. Please use your own family’s discretion when listening; there is nothing explicit, but I recognize that everyone has different values.

Related Posts

An Ode to Carbs

Okay, so I’m not actually going to compose an Ode to Carbs, although if I had the time in some futuristic parallel universe, I might enjoy the challenge. Instead, I want to reflect on a moment today when one of the second grade teachers told her students to study their lunches, and see if they had brought a balanced mix of complex carbohydrates, proteins, and whatnot (to apply what they had been studying).

Simple carbohydrates break down quickly and spike energy levels, while complex carbs take longer to digest and provide more long-lasting energy. Hmm. As a runner, I was always told to turbo-carb-charge with spaghetti the night before a race, and still remember this when I have an extra long workday ahead of me. Maybe we should narrow our focus: An Ode to Pasta? Just kidding.

But it’s funny, you know? In my classroom, I’m loading my students with language every day. In a way, I’m trying to turbo-carb-charge them with language. What does that mean? Are there “carbohydrate words”? What would they be? Which words–not general categories–actual words, can help you to go the distance in another language? Which words do you find yourself repeating more than twice a day? Five times a day? Ten times a day? I’m referring here to words you use in conversation, with both yourself and other people.

Which words are most important? I mean, they’re all great–and you might argue that some are more precise than others–but which ones are the most useful? Which ones get you from Point A to B fastest? Which ones can you reuse? How does the answer differ if they are written or spoken?

I don’t know about you, but I want the language I teach to stick. So let’s do our students a favor, and focus on long-lasting energy:

High-frequency words. Versatile words. Expressions that can be applied in multiple contexts. Linguistic carbs.

Can you think of
A time when someone
Ran to you and said,
Bring me more energy, please, I am
So absurdly tired”?

It is the fourth quarter: we’ve got to give our students that extra burst of long-lasting energy to finish strong. And carbs, my friends, are the way to go!

A silly post, but perhaps some food for thought…

Mexico- Fried Crickets

MEXICO: It is very common in many parts of Mexico to eat, well, bugs. Really! Evidently, Mexico is the country with the greatest variety of edible insects: 549 species. Some insects (like chapulines) are eaten fried but plain, while others (like scorpions)–as one of my colleagues experienced–can be mixed in with guacamole, mole, or other sauces.

“CHICATANAS (giant winged ants): When the first rains of the season hit Oaxaca, ants with coin-size wing spans spin into the air to escape their flooded nests and to search for food. Snatching at them are the hands of locals seizing their next snack. Chicatanas only come out one night a year, so families come together with a sense of urgency and excitement; kids make a game of seeing who can collect the most (and avoid getting bitten).”


En lieu of traveling abroad with my second graders, I buy a few boxes of fried crickets locally or on Amazon, and students have the opportunity–read: option–to taste them in class after we talk about the history and how everyone around the world eats and enjoys all different foods. To provide examples of this fact, we compared school lunches from a variety of countries (scroll down to slideshow on link).

To entice younger students to participate, there are even fun cricket flavors to whet their appetites, such as: Bacon & Cheese, Salt & Vinegar, and Sour Cream & Onion. This jumpstarts a unit on courage and stepping outside of your comfort zone in my classroom (soy valiente/ I am courageous).

BACKSTORY: I stumbled onto all of this a number of years ago after hearing the song, Un mes by the Colombian singer Mara, in a Zumba class. The lyrics referenced a “chapulín colorado”, and I wanted to know what that was. While the words literally mean, “red grasshopper” (which led to pics of bugs; see above), El Chapulín Colorado was also a Mexican television comedy show from the 1970’s that parodied superheroes. Clearly, there is room for this unit to go in many different directions!

Dominican Rep.- Dominoes

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC: While baseball is technically the sport of the Dominican, many also refer to Dominoes as the national sport of the country, due to its popularity as a pastime. The sound of “smacking” down the dominoes on the board is commonplace to hear while strolling about the tropical paradise; and games often span the entirety of the afternoon.

In class, I teach the rules and let students play in small groups. But I also like to extend it to add an option for the ‘building’ center, as some tire of the game at a certain point and just want to build. Here, I show classes Guinness World Record videos involving hundreds of thousands of dominoes, which are pretty incredible feats to watch. While this activity can end in tears, setting up dominoes is a great opportunity to teach patience, teamwork, and slowing down, especially for younger students.

If students are really into this, you can also keep extending this project by tapping into Paraguay- Landfill Harmonic and this Rube Goldberg video.

South America- Quipu

You know that feeling you get when you really want something, but know that you shouldn’t have it?

Well, recently, I’ve been frequenting the Teacher’s Lounge, only to find that it is littered with cupcakes, doughnuts, cookies, cookie cakes, and everything Sugar. I don’t know if this is a direct result of my teaching classes about [the Cuban singer] Celia Cruz’s trademark of shouting, ¡Azúcar! (sugar) in all of her songs; but regardless, The Sugar Room, as I have now coined it, might as well be magnetic: I can’t stay away.

Don’t get me wrong, I love vegetables and those trendy green smoothies and juices. I love spicy foods, curries, Vietnamese Pho, empanadas, steak, rice and beans, and anything seafood-related. But I LOVE–[note the bold and capitalization and cue lofty, dramatic music]–desserts. Like, to a fault. Dark chocolate and I are BFF’s.

So, in an attempt to justify shoving a second cupcake into my mouth the other day (don’t judge!), my eyes scanned the room for inspiration. Maybe we could feign that the upcoming sugar rush wasn’t a total waste: and it was at that moment that I happened to notice a small package of mint chocolate bars on the table.

It wasn’t that they were calling my name, necessarily. It was the brand that caught my eye: Andes, as in Andes Mountains. As in South America. As in Spanish curriculum territory. As in boom shaka-laka-laka! The librarian had told me something about rope storytelling in South America. Let the research commence. #CupcakeBreakJustified

Where to Begin?

A long, long time ago–we’re talking 2500 BC: or, when the world had primarily hunter-gatherers–someone tied a bunch of knots on a string of llama or alpaca hair [around some sticks], that would be discovered millenia later. We don’t know who this person was, or any specific details about their family. When boiled down to that, it might seem knot so extraordinary… and yet, it was.

You see, these knots would develop over the centuries into an incredible meta-linguistic system. They would be color-coded and distinguished by knot type, direction, spacing, and location. The knots would expand to become a major form of historical documentation and communication for use within the Incan Empire in South America. They would tease linguists and anthropologists with their complex structures and depth of thought.

The word for ‘knot’ in Quechua–the language of the Incas, which is still alive today–is quipu (or khipu, ‘key-poo’). It makes sense, then, that the majority of these knot cords, or quipus, have been discovered in Peru and the surrounding Andes Mountains of Chile, Bolivia, and Argentina.


Research about quipus is ongoing. In the 1970’s and 1980’s, a couple named Marcia and Robert Ascher “grew the known inventory of khipus in worldwide collections from just over 70, to about 400 examples” (Manuel Medrano). This–in conjunction with recent technological advancements (e.g., spreadsheets)–allowed for significant data analysis throughout the following decades. Nowadays, there are over 600 quipus in museum collections around the world, although some estimates claim closer to 800. While quipus are still primarily unintelligible, anthropologists have nevertheless been able to deduce and gather a fair amount of information about these fascinating knots.

For starters, knot color played an important role. Ethnohistorian Sabine Hyland wrote a lovely narrative account about her research here. She traveled to Peru in 2015 and, after many negotiations, was able to visit with an Andean tribe guarding two Collata khipus inside a colonial chest. Hyland saw the khipus firsthand and learned that the colors were sourced from cotton and/or

“delicate animal fibers--crimson, gold, indigo, green, cream, pink, and shades of brown from fawn to chocolate.”

[The colors of these particular khipus were vibrant and] “made of fibers from six different Andean animals–vicuña, deer, alpaca, llama, guanaco, and viscacha (the latter a common rodent hunted for food). In many cases, the fiber can only be identified through touch–brown deer hair and brown vicuña wool, for example, look the same but feel very different.”


Moreover, according to researcher and professor Manuel de León, “the colors of the strings represent different categories–for example, brown corresponds to government; crimson to the Inca sovereign, ruler of the empire; and red to war–while the knots indicate quantities, including the number zero, which is represented by the absence of knots”.


While the Collata khipus are unique in certain ways, khipus are typically quite colorful and varied. Current day research is working to determine the stories behind these knots. For example, the Incas used these portable, lightweight cords to keep track of the new lands they conquered. They would record everything about the area.

“What the Incas would do if they conquered an area was go in and the first thing they would do is send their accountants, their inventory people,” MacQuarrie says.

“They would go in and literally count all of the different resources: the streams, the fields, they’d measure the fields, the people, the sexes of the people, mining, fishing, whatever. They would keep records of it and they would take that information back to Cusco and they would make decisions on how to administer that area.”


So the quipus were used, first and foremost, to record quantities. Medrano mentions in his talk, Knot Just Numbers: Andean Khipu Strings, that the numerical structure(s) of the quipu would seem to indicate that they were likewise used to keep track of debts and credits, such as taxes. Algebraic equations are also evident in the sums of the knots; but quipus were not calculators, rather, arithmetic records.

Both Hyland and Medrano toy with the idea that the quipus may have been used as a tool to record stories and legends. There are strong indications of this fact, such as Rosetta Khipus, in which quipus align directly with historical documents by Spanish poet Garcilaso de la Vega, and were likely transcribed by the Spanish from quipucamayocs, or specialists from the time period who knew how to read and make the knots. Not everyone could read a quipu.

This is a big deal because the Incan Empire was known not to have a written language; but if the quipus somehow correspond to a logosyllabic system, and someone is able to crack the code, an entire history of Incas will be revealed which, up to this point in history, has been hidden from view.

However, before I venture into solving one of the world’s mysteries, I might need another cupcake. Or an Andean chocolate mint.


  1. Knots representing numbers: The mathematics of the Incas
  2. Unraveling an Ancient Code Written in Strings (& HERE)
  3. We thought the Incas couldn’t write. These knots change everything
  4. Quipu: The Ancient Computer of the Inca Civilization
  5. How The Inca Used Knots To Tell Stories
  6. Quipu: South America’s Ancient Writing System
  7. Knot Just Numbers: Andean Khipu Strings (video)

The Third Lap

Back in the day, I used to run Track and Field. As a long-distance runner, my events included the 800m, 4×800 meter relay, 1600m, and 3200m; but of the four, my focus was the mile (1600m). I just really liked that distance. You had to strategize for each lap: don’t go out too quickly for the first 400 meters (don’t be a ‘rabbit’!); settle into a pace the second lap; push yourself the third; and finish strong. While I have always enjoyed running, applying this formula was easier said than done. The tipping point was always the third lap. I could be cruising for eight hundred meters, but if I got lazy or in my head during the third lap, it was over.

Continue reading “The Third Lap”

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!].


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.”


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!

Another year, I saved them until Christmas time and older grades used the dyed paper to make snowflake decorations for my classroom.

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 and paper cups 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)

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!


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!

Parents’ Night Videos

Below are videos I have created for Parents’ Nights in the past few years. Each has its own distinctive flavor and required dozens of hours of editing. Enjoy!

Parents’ Night 2022-23

Drone footage credit to, 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.

Parents’ Night 2021-22

Parents’ Night 2020-21

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)

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!
3This term, students in fourth grade continued working on their Spanish Play. They hyperfocused on memorizing lines and smoothing out transitions between scenes–and had fun playing with last-minute ideas, to make it pop–such as a “fish” jumping in the ocean and being “caught” by several of the actors (hilarious!). In both the dress rehearsal as well as the final performance, fourth graders were absolutely brilliant. Wow! What a play!

Following a class celebration with dulce de leche (sweet milk caramel) and prizes from their Duolingo Classroom Quest work (stickers, bracelets, washable tattoos, pencils, pins, etc.), students adjusted to a new routine–prepping for Middle School Spanish. Here, they reviewed the Floor Map (for the map competition); practiced asking and answering questions in the target language; got back into a Duolingo routine; and had a few introduction to grammar lessons (verb conjugation overview). They also began inserting their play lines into new contexts and situations, which was so fun to see! Gracias for a great term.
4This term, fourth graders continued prepping for Middle School Spanish (and French). They added French to their Duolingo accounts, and spent a day or two trying on the new sounds for size–making linguistic connections all the while: “Hey, that makes sense! ‘Homme’ is like ‘hombre’ in Spanish! [man]”. In Spanish, they took some time learning about (and later applying) -ar verb conjugations, as well as paying closer attention to masculine and feminine noun articles (mostly definite (el/la), with a sprinkle of indefinite articles (un/una)).

To end the year, fourth graders spent the last few weeks of class creating their own original Spanish comic strips. In the background, they listened to (and talked about) translated pop song covers; and finally, took home a laminated sign of their choice from the classroom walls (a Spanish class tradition). Gracias for a great year!

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).


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.


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)

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.
3This term, third graders heard and acted out a legend about Yerba Mate Tea (Argentina) around a pretend campfire. Students had the opportunity to taste both the tea and dulce de leche (sweet milk caramel) in class. We started the quarter this way to emphasize the importance of friendship–it is called “the friendship tea of South America”–in order to lead into the main unit, Spanish Soccer.

Here, teamwork is crucial to success… not because I want students to score goals, but rather because this is an exercise in honesty and trustworthiness. The overarching rule is, simply put, NO ENGLISH. Period! Third graders painted flags of their team colors on their cheeks and/or with markers on their hands (e.g., Colombia vs. Mexico), and then prayed like in Chapel (Gracias por/ Thank you for…). We talked about being grateful for even the simplest of things–for instance, not everyone in the world has running water. Some in Venezuela have to walk 2-3 miles for it every morning: we are so lucky and blessed to be able to go to the water fountain! Next, they went outside to play! Students learned expressions such as, “¡Por acá!” (over here), “No fui yo” (it wasn’t me), and “¡Apúrate!” (hurry up- e.g., when the ball goes out of bounds and people take their good old time to get it!), and worked to output said vocabulary instinctively: this is the challenge and hard part.

Students focused on differentiating between a question vs. a statement in the target language (¿Vamos a jugar al futbol? vs. Vamos a jugar al futbol./ Are we going to play soccer? vs. We are going to play soccer.); many times, the only difference between a question and a statement in Spanish is the intonation. They also worked on conversational Spanish with my wall word signs and introducing themselves, public-speaking style (Hola, me llamo ___. Tengo una pregunta/ un comentario./ Hello, my name is _____. I have a question/ comment). Everything this quarter was about increasing linguistic output and building confidence in the target language (shouting in Spanish on the soccer field aka courtyard).

One day, we had a double class (all third graders), and because it was too many students to play soccer, we talked about translation (written) vs. interpretation (spoken) instead. Third graders gave short demonstrations of each respective career in small groups–e.g., consecutive vs. simultaneous interpretation–and later read examples of poor translations, including closed captioning of a song in Mandarin Chinese with English subtitles. Hilarious! Last but not least, students received prizes (stickers, bracelets, washable tattoos, pencils, pins, etc.) for their Duolingo Classroom Quest work in the fall, and attended the fourth graders’ Spanish Play in February. Gracias for a great term.
4This term, students in third grade worked on a Book Fair Opening Skit, in conjunction with their Library class; the theme was storytelling through the five senses. There were four groups, which focused on the following: SEE–act out a Cuban legend; HEAR–interpret a silly story called La Cebolla Malvada; SMELL–forest simulation; TOUCH/FEEL–quipu (knot storytelling in South America), and TASTE–mint chocolate candies called “Andes” (connection to the Andes Mountains). Third graders worked for a number of classes on this, but due to scheduling conflicts, were never able to present their skits, most unfortunately.

They shifted to culture-based group projects after this. Students became comfortable reading a conversation aloud to sign up for said projects, and then worked on either building Las cataratas de Iguazú (Argentina); coloring jungle animals (Costa Rica); building Rube Goldberg type causa y efecto (cause and effect) ramps and/or domino creations–the latter of which tied in nicely with the rollercoaster science unit in their regular classroom. Many classes were canceled again this quarter, due to schedule interruptions of special events, so it was good to have a predictable routine to fall back on for the last month of school. The last few classes were spent getting students excited about “auditioning” for next year’s Spanish Play. Last but not least, classes worked as a team to outline the Andes Mountains out of dominoes on the Floor Map, to earn mint chocolate candies (brand: Andes), and made sure to play the Language Guessing Game one last time. Gracias for a great year!


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).


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.


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!
3This term, students in second grade reached Nicaragua on the Floor Map and stopped to learn about Volcano Boarding and Tightrope Walking. They identified cognates (words similar across languages) during these immersion lessons, and then had fun trying to reenact these extreme sports in the classroom (one class built a tightrope with boxes across two tables).

The “cognate” conversation led in nicely to pointing out the opposite–or trick words in Spanish (hay/ there is; come/ eats; dice/ says; mira/ looks; dime/ tell me; once/ eleven; etc.); and to extend the discussion about upside down question marks and exclamation points from last quarter, students also began noticing accent marks (Jesus vs. Jesús [“hey-SEUSS”]; Mexico vs. México [“MAY-he-koh”]).

For Center Work, instead of second graders simply stating what they wanted to do each class, they had to adjust to their teacher messing with them. Yours truly had entirely too much fun with this, pretending to talk on the phone with Pato and not listen when students were talking with me. This, of course, was for the sole purpose of pushing their Spanish forward, ever so slightly–¿Qué?/ what?; No comprendo/ I don’t understand–to which they would need to respond, “I sa-id…” (Yo dije…/”yoh DEE-hay”) and repeat everything all over again. The Center Work routine changed slightly partway through the term, to include “student teachers”, who interrogated their classmates in the target language: ¿Cómo te llamas? ¿De dónde eres? ¿Qué quieres hacer? Yo me llamo ___. Soy de ___. Quiero ___ (What is your name? Where are you from? What do you want to do? My name is… I’m from… I want to…).

The ultimate icing on the cake to this quarter were the three class periods where not only did the teacher stay 100% in Spanish during classtime, but all second graders had to as well. They were allowed to read any of my wall word signs and use any words they knew, just no English! (When they spoke in English, they had to go to the door and push their “reset/ español” button (on their foreheads). Second graders did a fantastic job with this!

On certain days each week, second graders worked on gesture-telling their class story about Bob the Beetle. Here is the story in Spanish: Hay un insecto. Se llama Bob the Beetle (el escarabajo). El insecto vive en un bosque en España. Su casa es más grande que cinco coches rojos. Bob the Beetle tiene una camioneta amarilla. No tiene un coche; tiene una camioneta. Le gusta comer chocolate. Dice, “No me gusta el chocolate. ¡ME ENCANTA el chocolate!” Una noche, hay una tormenta. Bob the Beetle tiene miedo, mucho miedo. Bob the Beetle (el escarabajo) corre y se esconde. Espera y espera y espera. ¡¡¡Pobrecito!!! Él dice, “Tengo frío. ¿Qué puedo hacer?” Pero clase, Bob el escarabajo no tiene su chaqueta. ¡Qué problema! El monstruo Fluphball tiene su chaqueta. De hecho, el monstruo tiene una colección de chaquetas.

Translation: There is a bug. His name is Bob the Beetle. The bug lives in a forest in Spain. His house is bigger than five red cars. Bob the Beetle has a yellow pickup truck. He doesn’t have a car; he has a pickup truck. He likes to eat chocolate. He says, “I don’t like chocolate. I LOVE chocolate.” One night, there is a storm. Bob the Beetle is scared, very scared. Bob the Beetle runs and hides. He waits and waits and waits. Poor little guy! He says, “I’m cold. What can I do?” But class, Bob the Beetle doesn’t have his jacket. What a problem! The monster Fluphball has his jacket. In fact, the monster has a collection of jackets.

Naturally, there were commercial breaks during story–this story brought to you by the PLANET MARS! (el planeta rojo, MARTE/Mars. “Martes” is TUESDAY in Spanish. So on Tuesdays we will have a commercial break about Mars, ha!”–and Mars became a “thing”, so much so that I hung a red Chinese lantern from the ceiling to represent the red planet.

Anyway, other than that, second graders took a couple of days to work on language-learning apps, namely Duolingo and Fun Spanish; were given a preview of the fourth graders’ Spanish Play (which they saw); practiced addition problems in the target language; and… well, the fried cricket lesson and International Studies skit were part of the fourth quarter. So be sure to tune in next time to read my ridiculously long summaries. Gracias for a great term.
4This term, second graders rehearsed and then presented a skit (in English and Spanish) for their International Studies program. Here, students showcased their bravery (soy valiente/I’m brave!) in four different ways: 1) they presented a short play in Spanish in front of an audience; 2) they shared about extreme sports–volcano boarding and 3) tight-rope walking over a volcano in Nicaragua (demonstrated with a slackline); and 4) they danced the Tango while wearing fancy red and black outfits! To jumpstart this unit and flex their courageous muscles, second graders learned about different types of food around the world (e.g., school lunches), and then had the opportunity to eat fried crickets (Mexico)!!

Following the performance, students reviewed currency conversions; practiced asking and telling the weather in Spanish; continued with center work activities (quiero/ I want vs. queremos/ we want); tried their hand at the Spanish Wordle (which they loved!); had an 1800s language lesson, to tie into the 1800s unit in their regular classroom; heard a famous “rodar y rodar” song, as well as the adaptation of It’s Raining Tacos; finished their BOB THE BEETLE class story (sé que puedo volar/ I believe I can fly! lessons); talked briefly about translations and song covers (i.e., Frozen and Behind the Mic); and worked as a team to outline the Andes Mountains out of dominoes on the Floor Map, to earn mint chocolate candies (brand: Andes). For the Spanish Teacher of the Day, second graders also raced Pato and Oso down a zipline in the courtyard, but that is another story. 🙂 Last but not least, we spent the last week talking all about hiking El Camino de Santiago (Spain). Gracias for an amazing year!


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?


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.


Quarter Update, 22-23 (2)

Quarter Update, 22-23 (1)

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!
3This term, students in first grade began with the classic “Bathroom Song“. This is a silly song about a boy who needs to go to the bathroom, but is singing in class instead of just raising his hand to ask; the song gets faster and faster, and first graders enjoyed the challenge of trying to sing along in Spanish and read the subtitles simultaneously. Other popular songs this quarter included Para bailar la bamba; Canta y no llores (aka Cielito lindo); and Ríe, llora (originally by Celia Cruz, but students prefer the 9-year-old girl Carmen’s version!).

The primary focus, however, was on developing and memorizing the words and gestures to their class story, “The Evil Onion[“La cebolla malvada”– scroll way down on a phone for the English translation]. They would add a new line to the saga each lesson or week, and then work to apply this vocabulary in other contexts. The best part about storytelling is when lines of the story start leaking out into other Spanish class activities, inadvertently. One student says, “Give me that coche/ car back ahora/ now!”, and the other responds in a whiny voice, “¡Pero no quiero!” (but I don’t wanna!)–which is exactly what the Evil Onion told his mom when she demanded that he return the princess’ slippers (that he took). We layer on expression and make everything quite silly… because that makes it memorable, which is the whole point!

In Center Work, first graders continued expanding their vocabularies in new ways. Many enjoyed building with the Hotwheels ramps and cars, while others went through a phase where they wanted to dance and sing (bailar y cantar) along with Spanish songs on the Promethean board (esp. Ríe, llora). Centers also 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 “build a house” aka “Quiero construir una casa” [I want to build a house] with cardboard boxes and blankets, they have to have their “license” nearby (la casa/ house [flashcard]). 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.

Last but not least, in the culture realm, they learned about and were amazed by La Danza de La Botella (Paraguay)–and spent a few classes trying to balance paper cups and books on their heads. First graders also practiced isolating numbers out of sequence, with addition problems in the target language, and attended the fourth graders’ Spanish Play in February. Gracias for a great term!
4This term, first graders focused on public speaking in the target language (presentational Spanish). For example, at the beginning of class, student-teachers would practice asking, “¿Qué tiempo hace afuera?” (what’s the weather like outside?) while students supplied both realistic and unrealistic answers (hace sol y hace calor/ it’s sunny and hot; está nevando/ it’s snowing; está lloviendo/ it’s raining; está nublado/ it’s cloudy). This is how the obsession with It’s Raining Tacos all began: one of the first days I asked about the weather, students broke into song, serenading me with the raining tacos in English–so naturally, I had to find the Spanish version! One student even made me a taco out of felt, so we could throw it up in the air and it would “rain” down. #hilarious!!!

Anyway, this song played on loop in the background for much of the fourth quarter during center work days. Because the first grade curriculum focuses heavily on linguistic interactions (students>students, students>teacher, and teacher>students) in a variety of contexts, the progress students make during center work is highly visible–it was so wonderful to see students’ confidence with the language (both aurally and with sight words) grow this year! A class favorite was, “Queremos hacer todo” (we want to do everything!).

First graders also continued telling part two of their class story, but as the year wound down, it did lose some steam. We’ll pick up storytelling again next year, though–no worries! Last but not least, students mastered much of the Floor Map, this time trying to beat the clock as they rattled off the 21 Spanish-speaking countries. During the last few classes, they worked as a team to organize ALL of the Spanish currency by country; and later, ‘built’ the Andes Mountains in South America out of plastic cups, to earn mint chocolate candies (brand name: Andes). Gracias for an amazing year!

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.


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.


Quarter Update, 22-23 (K)

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!
3This term, students in kindergarten began gesture-telling a story about an adorable teacup pig named Cloudy Sparkles. Here is the story in Spanish: Hay un cerdito. Es bueno. Se llama Cloudy Sparkles. Hay un zapato. El Sr. Zapato es el enemigo. Es malo. El cerdito vive en Chile. Su casa es pequeña pero perfecta. El Sr. Zapato vive en Puerto Rico. Su casa no es grande. ¡Es enorme! El cerdito tiene un coche. El coche va rápido. El Sr. Zapato tiene un coche. El coche va rápido. Una noche, está lloviendo. Está lloviendo mucho. El cerdito dice, “Quiero trabajar”. ¡Pero hay un problema! El Sr. Zapato toma sus botas rojas y ¡las lleva a Puerto Rico! ¡Oh no!

Translation: There is a little pig. He is good. His name is Cloudy Sparkles. There is a shoe. Mr. Shoe is the enemy. He is bad. The little pig lives in Chile. His house is small but perfect. Mr. Shoe lives in Puerto Rico. His house isn’t big. It’s enormous! The little pig has a car. The car goes fast. Mr. Shoe has a car. The car goes fast. One night, it is raining. It is raining a lot. The little pig says, “I want to work”. But there is a problem! Mr. Shoe takes his red boots [the little pig is wearing super cute red boots in the picture] and brings them to Puerto Rico! Oh no!

Each class, we added another sentence and gestures for any new vocabulary (this helps with recall by storing the words in another part of the brain). In case you can’t stand the suspense, one class has informed that Mr. Shoe doesn’t tell the truth about where he hid the four red boots–he says they are in Puerto Rico but they are actually hidden in PANama in a Bread Castle (pan means bread in Spanish); but in the end, he becomes good! I like how they think, and this is likely what will happen in the fourth quarter as the plot progresses.

Anyway, kindergarteners also continued learning more countries on the Floor Map. Back in January, we completed South America and moved onto Central America. Here, there was a Panama Canal lesson, in which I showed the long way around South America with boats, and then the short way with the canal; students went outside to the sandbox to “build” [dig] it as a team. Admittedly, the map has lost some steam this term, as the mere quantity of unfamiliar places overwhelmed some [understandably so]. I usually push this as far as I can in kindergarten, and when they “tap out”, we stop and leave the rest for first grade.

Finally, kindergartens added more vocabulary and sight words to their Center Work stations, and practiced writing “¡Hola!” each day on the whiteboard. Many requested to make more Worry Dolls (Guatemala), after they saw PK4 making them and remembered from last year. Students also practiced counting and solving basic addition problems in the target language, listened to Spanish songs–Para bailar la bamba, No se habla de Bruno (from Encanto), and attended the fourth graders’ Spanish Play, which they loved! Gracias for a great term.
4This term, kindergarteners focused on gesture-telling their class story (click to hear audio) about a teacup pig named named Cloudy Sparkles. Students were challenged to read along with the words, to start building their literacy skills–and several could read the story independently by the end of the year! Bravo! To conclude this unit, kindergarteners used air-dry clay to sculpt and later paint a character from the story (e.g., the pig, a shoe, the bread castle, etc.).

Students also reviewed the Spanish-speaking countries on the Floor Map; counted backwards and forwards 1-12 and 12-1; and practiced writing and identifying more sight words in the target language. For the Spanish Teacher of the Day, kindergarteners got a dose of a third grade unit–playing a game of fútbol (soccer) in Spanish and painting their faces by country team (Argentina vs. Spain/España). They loved listening to the song, “Vamos, vamos, Argentina…“. Last but not least, kindergarteners learned a chocolate clapping rhyme the last week of school (Mexico). Gracias for a great year!

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.


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.


Quarter Update, 22-23 (PK)

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!
3This term, students in PK3 & PK4 continued adding on to their daily routine. While they worked with a similar pool of vocabulary as the first semester, the difference was that students were encouraged to start producing more language. PK4 students took the reins and asked one another ¿Cómo estás?/ How are you? (instead of yours truly at the beginning of class), and PK3 students could not touch anything in my room unless there was a por favor/ please attached to their sentence. “Teléfono, por favor” (telephone, please); “Maestra, where is Pato?“; “I want to do arte“; “Are we taking a siesta?“; “Can we do the barco/boat?”; “¡Otra vez!” (again); “HELP!! There’s a cucaracha!!!” [this was outside:)] It may not seem like much, but this is where proficiency begins.

Students were reintroduced to Pato, my stuffed animal duck–because they all attended the fourth graders’ Spanish Play in February, which is based on Pato; and I needed them to have some background information! He lives in a drawer of my desk, so whenever students 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”, we knock on the door of his casa/ house–and we never know what we’ll find. Do you think he is awake or asleep? Will he be grumpy? Most days, he is very happy to see everyone! One day, he had had a nightmare, so students learned about Worry Dolls (Guatemala). PK4 spent a lot of time making their own Worry Dolls to bring home.

Worry Dolls definitely became a “thing” for a while as a result, and so when PK3 traveled to Puerto Rico by boat (to visit a tiny coquí frog named Carlos, a friend of Pato), we brought along the dolls so that no one would be scared during the trip. Note that there was also a lesson on being scared, where we talked about monstruos/ monsters, and we made up a game where students tooks turns hiding under a manta/ blanket and I said, “AHHH!! A MONSTER!!” and they thought it was hilarious. Then they hid under the tables, and I pretended to be the monstruo. How silly! Anyway, on the [cardboard] boat ride to Puerto Rico, PK3 went “fishing” with a plastic fishing pole, saw dolphins and heard ferry fog horn on the boat (on Promethean board), were capitans of the boat driving, used toilet paper rolls as telescopes, and even found some tesoro/ treasure (aka gold glitter, where my room turns into a veritable fairyland for a week).

PK4 students had gone on a similar trip to Spain during the first semester, but they had more agency this term and were allowed to choose the Spanish- speaking country destination each day; however, unlike PK3, PK4 tended to prefer air travel over water and liked to build class airplanes, either out of chairs or with paper (avión/ airplane). Students always “rested up” before a trip (la siesta/ nap; Los solecitos), which is a whole routine in itself: here, we pretended the sidewalk was really hot (hace calor!!) and “ran inside” to the carpet, where I sang three lullaby songs to help them rest: Estrellita; Te amo, me amas; and La araña pequeñita. They tend to want stuffed animals/ animales de peluche and mantas/ blankets, so there is ‘preparation’ before we get settled and turn off the luces/ lights. Naturally, Pato would get scared (tengo miedo/ I’m scared), so we put Worry Dolls under his pillow and took turns passing around three flashlights to take away his worries. PK4 loved the flashlights! We also watched La primera luna llena de Gatita (Kitten’s First Full Moon) during naptime.

Then, off to the day’s adventures! PK4 wanted to “walk” their pet stuffed animals, so we attached yarn as leashes to them, and would leave my classroom and go downstairs to the “bus”–(sitting on the stairwell, with me “driving” and complaining about the heavy traffic, lol)–and then walk all the way to the playground and play there and walk their pets for a minute or two before we had to go back. Phew!

While the primary goal for PK3 this past term was to start producing language of their own volition in meaningful contexts, the overarching goal for PK4 was more about independence: we would have class “roundtable” discussions, talking about what activities they were interested in pursuing each day. We would vote on ideas, and it was fascinating to watch how some would translate what I was saying to their friends, when they didn’t understand something. Things are happening in Spanish class, for sure! Gracias for a great term.
4This term, students in PK3 settled into a daily routine that we coined, “Backwards Day”, mostly because we did a lot of familiar activities, but… well, backwards! Let me paint a picture of this: we started with our siesta/nap, where I sang our three lullabies (Estrellita, Te amo, La Araña Pequeñita; plus Los solecitos) as students stretched out on the carpet with blankets and stuffed animals and the lights off; then we ate breakfast (Tengo hambre song); pretended to brush our teeth, wash our faces, took a ducha/shower–me squirting their hair behind a cardboard partition with real water from a squirt bottle–and went to school in a bus or car (whoops, go back and get your mochilas/ backpacks!).

Next, we listened to a song on the way to school (Las Ruedas del Autobús; or sometimes Frozen), took turns “driving” with sombrero-hat steering wheels; and did “work” at school (coloring, markers, etc.) upon arrival. And finally, the bell would ring at the “end of the school day”; if the class cleaned up on time, they would get a turn sounding the Tibetan bell. Sometimes, we would say that it was “Saturday” and make cardboard-couches with blankets and watch cartoons (Pocoyo- Más ruido; Pocoyo- Hora de dormir; Pocoyo- Las mil puertas); or go to the market to buy groceries for the week. There is always a lot of music every class, with either yours truly singing or audio/ visual on the board in the background.

To clarify, this was **ALL NARRATED IN SPANISH**, which means that students latch onto and pick up different words each day. A favorite song for both PK3 and PK4 was Con un beso gigante.

Students in PK4 tapped into this “Backwards Day” routine from time to time, but would extend it in different ways. For instance, “going to school” in PK4 was not in a car or bus, but instead, we walked down the hallway and then “suddenly realized” we were really late to class, and therefore had to take the shortcut through the jungle to get to school. I narrated in Spanish about monkeys and tigers and crossing the river (we got our feet wet), and basically let our imaginations take hold of the journey. When they arrived “at school”, they used familiar vocabulary to describe what they wanted to do (e.g., barco/boat; avión, avioncito/ airplane, comida/food, mantas/blankets, casas/houses, arte/art, agua/water, mapa/map, maracas, abanicos/ Spanish fans, colorear/ to color, rápido/ quickly, más grande/ bigger, dinero/money, etc.

Students in PK4 were exposed to the names of several Spanish-speaking countries throughout the year, and by the last term, were introduced to the Floor Map, and practiced jumping on the countries they knew (Argentina, Mexico, [Guatemala], Cuba, Puerto Rico, Spain/ España).

For the Spanish Teacher of the Day, students talked more about Argentina, and then built the Andes Mountains by stacking plastic cups nearly up to the ceiling. Some also colored montañas/ mountains. One of the last days of the quarter, students played a matching game, where we took out ALL of the fake money, and found and organized the currency of the countries they knew. They had fun looking at the bills, and even got to take a few home. Gracias for a great year!

QUARTER SUMMARIES will be posted here at the end of the term. Until then, this page will be a scrambled egg mess of notes.


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.


  • 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!


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.


  • 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!


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 Española 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 & HERE

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”, 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!


Your Resident Linguist ❤

~aka Maestra aka Señorita 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?

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


More recipes HERE.


  • Fried plantains (patacones/tostones); more info HERE
  • Homemade Spicy Fries (Peru/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!



More recipes HERE.



“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.”


Recipes- Central America

Food from Central America and beyond to make at home with your family. Turn on the radio to a Spanish station, and have fun! Note that the recipes are ordered alphabetically by country.

Central America & Beyond

Recipes- South America

Food from South America to make at home with your family. Turn on the radio to a Spanish station, and have fun! Note that the recipes are ordered alphabetically by country.

South America


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.”


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,


“[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!


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!)



“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


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


  • 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.


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.):


Thank you in Mandarin (“xièxie”):


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


Thank you in Arabic (“SHOE-krahn”):


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.”


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?


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

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


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.’ ”


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.