“I spent all morning putting in a comma and all afternoon taking it out.” -Oscar Wilde

Sample Newsletter (2016-17)

This month, students in PK met several of the most beloved stuffed animals from the Spanish room, including Pato/Duck, Oso/Bear, and Tiburón/Shark.  Getting down to business right away, it became apparent that Pato needed to learn how to fly, as any young duck ought to.  Running up a ramp [book on an angle], jumping, and lifting off did not go as planned, however, since Pato has the attention span of a fly—[not entirely his fault, as the space between his nonexistent ears does consist of fluffy white stuffing]—and, in the case that he did lift off, got scared and failed to flap his wings.  A pulley system was therefore erected, easily hoisting our hero off the ground and high, high, up to the sky.  Tired of the yarn harness cutting into his feathers, Pato opted to go sailing after a while, only to encounter a terrifying, four-foot-long shark in the ocean—who was ravenous for a “sándwich de pato”.  While seriously distressing, this proved a wonderful impetus to learn how to fly—as in, immediately—or: to build a house at the bottom of the ocean, cover it with a blue blanket, and hope that the shark mistakes it for a lumpy wave.  Right…  In the end, the two become amigos/friends, and the shark wants to learn how to fly (since Pato is obviously an expert in this field).  Adventure #2 begins with Pato lifting weights (read: a pencil, then a marker) in order to increase his wing-strength (fuerte/strong) and be able to lift his new friend, the shark.  In addition, students also hummed along to the beginning and end-of-class songs, responded to basic action commands, and said how they were feeling each day in the target language.  Gracias for a great month!

This month, students in kindergarten reacquainted themselves with several of the most beloved stuffed animals in the Spanish room, including Pato/Duck, Oso/Bear, Conejito/Bunny, Patito/Ducky, and Ardilla/Squirrel.  After a summer of scrounging on crumbs in the Spanish room, Pato was, not surprisingly, beyond famished, and discovered in a gigantic bag full of plastic eggs.  Because the eggs happened to fit his head quite perfectly (just like a helmet), he decided to build a tobogán/slide with the class and cruise down at top speed—with the helmet, of course: safety first.  Conejito likewise nestled himself inside a plastic egg, and whoosh, down the slide he went!  It should be noted that he kept a miniature cell phone inside the egg in case of an emergency, and did call initially because it was rather dark inside the shell and he was a bit scared.  All of this led to Pato covering himself with plastic eggs (armor, obviously), jumping aboard a stuffed-animal-sized winter sled with Oso, and requesting that kindergarteners pull the sled across the table—there was a long piece of yarn attached to the sled—so that they could “go skiing”.  In-between these wild adventures in the target language, kindergarteners practiced acting out their password cards, made duplicates of said cards for their lockers, and held onto their sombrerosPato is bound to be up a tree or scuba-diving at the bottom of the ocean the next time you see him.  Life is far from boring with bilingual stuffed animals roaming the Spanish room…

This month, students in first grade chose individual professions passwords, and then practiced acting out each one.  Later, they read the daily letter from Pato, wrote what they wanted to do on the miniature whiteboards (Quiero colorear, Quiero jugar//I want to color, I want to play), and then traveled to said isla, or island.  First graders will continuously add new islands—aka sight words—to their repertoire throughout the year.  These ‘play days’ will also be interspersed with ‘project days’, which build community, expose students to other cultures and perspectives, and/or reinforce sight words with a fun, hands-on assignment.  The first project day was based on Don Quijote, the 900-page, 400+ year-old Spanish literary masterpiece by Cervantes.  In a nutshell, the adventures begin when Don Quijote goes crazy from reading too many books and decides to become a knight in shining armor like the ones he reads about.  First graders became so excited about the novel that one project day turned into a week—and the Spanish classroom transformed into a stage, where student actors and actresses acted out multiple chapters.  They even made a two-tone copy of Picasso’s famous black and white painting depicting the two main characters.  Impressive!

This month, students in second grade chose new identities, that is, Spanish names.  Because a majority of students wanted the same names, they had to choose a second name to help differentiate one from another.  This means that not only is there a “Sofía Isabel” in class, but also an “Isabel Sofía”—just to keep us all mentally on our toes (neurons?).   Second graders were also given cuadernos/notebooks in which to record important vocabulary, such as their new names and individual passwords.  It should be noted that the latter are primarily sea creatures, but with a dinosaur, bumblebee, and fox thrown in there just for fun.  In fact, “fox” is “zorro” in Spanish, which led to a fun mini-lesson about Zorro, the fictional character from Mexico (now California) who “defends the commoners and indigenous peoples of the land against tyrannical officials and other villains” (Wikipedia), and makes sure to mark the letter “Z” wherever he goes.  Second graders seemed to get a kick out of Disney’s black-and-white 1958 theme song introduction to the show.  Finally, students practiced and presented a silly dialogue with puppets in the target language, which emphasized the importance of expression: ¡Oye-oye-oye-oye!/¿Qué?/Pues, nada/¡¿En serio?! (Hey-hey-hey-hey you!/What?/Well, nothing/Seriously?!).

This month, students in third grade learned that they have been selected to join the world-renowned Spanish Acting Company.  A quick tour of the Walk of Fame—Hollywood squares with students’ names printed in the stars—confirmed this fact.  As participants, third graders will perform in multiple shows throughout the year, as main characters and audience members.  The importance of each role was emphasized here.  Performed as theatrical plays, each story will include both fiction (creative, student ideas) and nonfiction (cultural, historical facts).  The first story begins with the following: Evil Orange lives in Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany (Deutschland/Alemania).  One night, he laughs his notorious, evil cackle, and sails to Puerto Rico.  The adorable Pato lives there and is nestled in bed with his favorite stuffed animal, Patito, dreaming of raindrops on roses and everything nice, when Evil Orange proceeds to kidnap Patito.  Oh no!  Evil Orange brings Patito back to Neuschwanstein Castle, and… you’ll have to tune in next month to find out what happens next.  “Duh-duh-duhhhhh!”  Third graders also practiced acting out their passwords in a timed setting, trying to associate a specific action with each word; began recording key vocabulary in their Spanish notebooks; and saw pictures of bioluminescence—their nonfiction fact of the month.

This month, students in fourth grade learned that they will be participating in a yearlong town simulation.  Their first stop was Argentina, where fourth graders explored the history of Yerba Mate, or ‘the friendship drink’ of South America via photos and physical cultural artifacts, and later were able to taste the strong, somewhat bitter (but delicious!) tea.  Then, it was time to travel again: after grabbing their passports, boarding passes, and luggage from the Locker Bay; removing their zapatos/shoes for the infamous TSA security screening process; watching a bilingual ‘safety instructions’ video; enjoying snacks—goldfish and water—from the stewardess during the flight; and experiencing a tiny bit of turbulence, students finally arrived in Madrid, the capital of Spain.  Then, it was only a matter of deciphering the puzzling (but authentic) city map, a quick trip on the Metro (Subway) and a three-hour train ride (Renfe) through the Andalusian countryside (see all the olive trees?!), before students settled in what is to be their new home: Granada, España/Spain.  The intense summer heat of southern Spain was reflected (bad pun) in the covered streets—colorful sheet canopies high above protect the city from the urban heat effect.  Students left their baggage at the hotel, noticed the famous Moorish palace (La Alhambra) across the street (beautiful!), and set about their first set of business: deciding where to live and drawing up floorplans of the inside of their new homes.  Yay!  Fourth graders also practiced acting out their passwords, in order to associate a specific motion with each word.

This month, students in fifth grade learned that their end-of-the-year Spanish Program will actually take place in February this year.  As a result, fifth graders launched into full-fledged rehearsal mode.  Their first play begins with two news reporters.  To make this more culturally authentic, students learned about and watched a short video clip of two famous reporters from the Spanish-speaking television network, UNIVISIÓN—Jorge Ramos and María Elena Salinas.  From there, they proceeded to unravel the complex mess of new Spanish vocabulary, stage directions, and what is hidden between the lines yet nevertheless crucial to express on stage.  For example, when Pato poisons Dora the Explorer on live television and the news reporters are undecided as to whether or not they should cut to a commercial, fifth graders must create an intense, unspoken tension in the room.  What?!  Daily oral assessments and weekly written quizzes ensured that students stayed focused and on top of the material.  Additionally, fifth graders randomly chose a number from 0-105, which became their age and consequent ‘role’ (i.e., mother, father, grandfather, cousin, etc.) in the Class Family.  This was to emphasize the importance of working together as a team and family, particularly in light of the aforementioned theatrical debut, scheduled for February 17, 2017.  Can’t wait to see you there!