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February/March: This month*, students in PK worked on a variety of culture-based projects to point out that Spanish is spoken in many different places (and not “just” Spain and Mexico). For example, one day, they made and played güiros—an instrument from the Caribbean—out of paper and toothpicks, and tried to identify this unique sound in the song, La cucaracha (the cockroach). Another day, to connect with their classroom nature unit, they discussed where salt comes from, and then tasted salt and made watercolor reflections of the sky based on photos of the largest salt flat in the world, Salar de Uyuni (Bolivia); during the rainy season, a thin layer of water over the salt allows the sky to be reflected perfectly, which is especially gorgeous during sunrises, sunsets, and starry nights. Pre-kindergarteners ‘traveled’ to Costa Rica the following week, and made Morpho butterflies with tissue paper, while listening to a song called Mariposita (little butterfly); these creatures are naturally bright blue in color and found in some parts of South America as well. Finally, students learned a popular rhyme from Mexico (Bate, bate chocolate, tu nariz de cacahuate/stir, stir the chocolate, your nose is a peanut!), and saw a video about how the tool used to stir the chocolate—un molinillo—is carved out of wood.
Students also played musical chairs, where the person who ‘gets out’ has to answer a question in Spanish; played duck-duck-goose (pato-pato-ganso); read Itzi Bitzi Araña (Itsy Bitsy Spider, to go along with the song); saw several new Pocoyo episodes (Pocoyó: Mercado; Pocoyó: Supermercado; and Pocoyó: La ducha de Pato); and continued with their regular classroom routine (passwords to enter the Spanish room, songs, action commands, and circle time).
**Note that my definition of “month” here is not necessarily aligned with society’s views on temporality…
December/January: This month, students in PK continued experiencing the target language in context with more project days. For example, one week, they stretched the creative part of their brain by seeing what they could make with a single sheet of paper—no other materials allowed! Initial frustration—no scissors? no markers?!—turned into something beautiful by the end: from treasure maps and a shirt to telescopes, the letter “r” and a pizza, students’ imagination shined. Another week, they painted tiles for the Alhambra fort that other Lower School students had built for the Spanish room, and then had fun taking a “siesta” (nap) inside the cardboard construction.
Pre-kindergarteners also practiced singing along with the Buenos días (good morning) song and answering the question, “¿Cómo estás?” (how are you?) with muy bien/very good, bien/good, mal/bad, or tengo sueño/I’m sleepy. Students kept track of who said what, and then counted how many of each response there were as a class (uno-dos-tres, etc.). They were encouraged to not spit out a series of numbers and instead focus on relating number values with individual digits. While learning how to count to ten is valuable, it is more meaningful to understand that “tres” is “three”. In the culture realm, they heard the Legend of the Poinsettias (Mexico) for Christmas, and then ate twelve grapes to celebrate the New Year (tradition in Spain).
November: This month, students in PK only had two classes, due to the Thanksgiving break and Trim the Towne celebration. (This is why the Spanish Seesaw Corner has been virtually silent [bad pun] as of late.) In one class, they made spiders and spider webs out of a variety of materials to make connections with the nature unit in their regular classroom. The following week, they practiced saying and acting out the lyrics to a clapping rhyme in the target language—Jorge robó pan en la casa de San Juan/quién, yo/sí, tú/yo no fui/entonces, quién? (lit., George stole bread in Saint John’s house/who, me/yes, you/it wasn’t me/then, who?)—where “Jorge” becomes each persons’ name in the circle. It is a difficult rhyme to catch on in one class, but students did quite well with the challenge.
October/Trimester 1: This trimester, students in PK responded to action commands (baila/dance, toca la cabeza/touch your head, salta/jump, da la vuelta/turn around); sang along with Saco una manita; followed the gestures to Estrellita (Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star); danced to Rompe Ralph/Wreck-It Ralph; and watched relevant Pocoyo episodes. Basic skills such as color and number practice were incorporated into project days, of which there were many. From making monsters out of paper, cups, and green pipe cleaners and taking a ‘Field Trip’ down the long Lower School hallway to identify all of the puertas/doors, to fishing with Pato for sea creatures in a kiddie pool, searching for tesoro-tesoro-tesoro-TREASURE!, painting colorful cohetes/rocket ships, building towers out of cups, blocks, and markers, getting stuck in traffic with ‘car-chairs’, playing Luz roja, luz verde (Red Light, Green Light), and marveling at the sound and feel of maracas, students adjusted well to being immersed in the target language. Gracias for a great first trimester.
September: This month, students in PreK continued responding to action commands (cohete/rocket ship, baila/dance, marcha/march), following the gestures for the song Saco una manita, dancing to Rompe Ralph/Wreck-It Ralph, and watching relevant Pocoyo episodes (Pocoyo: La llave maestra; Pocoyo: Vamos de pesca; Pocoyo: Grande y pequeño). They also practiced requesting markers [colors] in the target language during project time. One week, for example, students made fishing poles with Pato out of Popsicle sticks, yarn, and tape. After decorating the poles, they were able to “go fishing” in a kiddie pool filled with pictures of sea creatures—the adhesiveness of the tape “caught” the paper fish! Another week, students played a hot/cold game while searching for tesoro-tesoro-tesoro-TREASURE! Inspired by their enthusiasm for treasure, the teacher presented two different types of treasure, divided by size—gigantic stuffed animals and tiny books, cars, and beads (grande/big; pequeño/small). Students then chose a size, and either 1) filled a box with very large or very small treasures; or 2) drew a very large or very small picture. Some pre-kindergarteners even taped multiple pieces of paper together to make their drawings even bigger—bravo! Later, students made an enormous car out of chairs in the classroom. Where will they go? Only time will tell.
August: This month, students in PreK learned that “Señorita” speaks Spanish, which sounds a little different than English. They were not sure at first that they could follow the strange new mix of sounds, but after a few “tests”, (toca la cabeza/touch your head, salta/jump, etc.), Junior Knights realized it was not so difficult–even if it still sounded funny!
In terms of content, students heard and followed gestures for the song Saco una manita; responded to action commands; met a stuffed animal duck named Pato, who will be their trusty companion all year long; made monsters out of paper, cups, and green pipe cleaners; and took a ‘Field Trip’ down the long Lower School hallway to identify all of the puertas/doors (note: there are quite a few). They also jammed to the theme song from Rompe Ralph/Wreck-It Ralph, and watched two episodes of the cartoon Pocoyo in the target language. Many lessons this year will be built around Pocoyo: students will do a class project or hear a story, and then watch a cartoon that follows the same theme and vocabulary. Gracias for a great month!