Resources for Teaching Languages to Children


Spanish Idioms for the Classroom- Comprehensible Input in Context

BRINGING CULTURE TO YOUR CLASSROOM ON A DAILY BASIS can be a challenge, but idioms, sayings and proverbs are a great way to do just that! The trick is to find ones which make sense and are relevant to your students and can be used easily and in context. I've gathered together a set of 27 which I use regularly in my elementary classes (and would be good for any level!) which lend themselves particularly well to your ongoing interaction and conversation with your students. Many are common throughout Spanish speaking countries, while others are regionalisms I've picked up from my native speaking friends. You can download the infographic here.

MANY ARE READILY OBVIOUS IN THEIR USAGE, while others might benefit from some elaboration as to how I use them. Here are some ways I incorporate the less obvious ones:

*Limón, limonero, damas primero- If I have a mixed set of kiddos, boys and girls, who are receiving something (such as birthday pencils), I always say this refrán before passing out whatever it is.

*Silencio es oro- Seems obvious enough, right? We often have 'moments of silence' when kiddos are doing an activity in their folder, and if they start chatting away, I will remind them it's silent time and say 'Silencio es oro, niños.

*Sobre gustos no hay nada escrito-  I say this regularly when we are using 'me gusta, me gusta mucho,' etc. We all have our own tastes, don't we?

*Buñolero, ¡haz tus buñuelos!- When kiddos are doing too much tattling or can't stop getting in someone else's business, I say this.  A variation on this is 'Zapatero, ¡haz tus zapatos!

*¡Caracoles!- I picked this up from a Colombian friend many years ago- when playing a game it's like saying 'Shucks!' or 'Rats!.

*Tres, dos, uno...¡ignición!- I use countdowns a lot in class, and this one is just fun! Typically, I use this when we are about to start an activity, such as a movement activity, game, etc. You could also say 'Tres, dos, uno...¡despeguen!

*Preparados, listo, ¡ya!- Another way to countdown, or to get the attention of students. I frequently use this as a call and response, asking '¿Preparados? and my students answer 'Listos'.

And don't forget all those fun words like 'yupi', 'wepa', 'ay ay ay', 'eso', pum, catapúm, uf, uy, grrrr, and so on which are part of common conversation and are easily picked up by kids!

Making Paper Shoes for Three King's Day-DIY How To Plus Tips for the Classroom

SHARE THE TRADITION OF PUTTING OUT SHOES FOR THREE KING'S DAY with your students by making paper shoes! I found this pattern for a Dutch shoe which is fairly simple, though it does require a fair amount of folding. The tutorial thankfully has step by step instructions with photos- I put them up on my Smartboard while we made the shoes so my kiddos could both watch me and see each step.

AS YOU CAN SEE, I added a star sticker to each shoe, filled them with tissue paper, and then they will get a few pieces of candy (UPDATE: I can no longer put candy in the shoes, so I put a selection of small erasers, pompoms, play money, stickers, etc ) right before I put them out after school on January 5, Three King's Eve.

A FEW TIPS when making the shoes:
*Make sure your stapler is full of staples- I learned the hard way that running out of staples half way through making these is no fun. (I stapled the back flaps instead of using tape)
*Be sure you also have plenty of tape on hand- I wanted to staple the front as well, but couldn't fit my stapler in, so tape is a must for the front portion.
*Enlist the help of colleagues or a few parents to stuff the shoes with treats if you are doing lots of students- I have 378 students, so extra hands are a lifesaver!
*Trying on the shoes inevitably results in a shoe coming apart! (Yes, many of my students try this lol)
*Younger students are challenged by all the folding, especially if, like me, you teach 90% or more in the target language. I had my 4th Graders make a shoe for themselves, and then one for the Kindergartners. They loved it, and I avoided a potentially nightmare situation with a whole class of  Kinders asking for help for every step!
*This took me almost exactly 30 minutes start to finish, with on average 18 kiddos per class. This included having them select a color (in Spanish, of course), putting their name on the back, in the center, and then construction of the shoe. I put the star and tissue paper on/in after they left.
*If you are doing this project with multiple classes, have bags ready with labels on them for each classroom. This keeps each class together, and if you travel, makes it easier to store them until you are ready to put them out. I just stapled a piece of paper to each bag with the classroom teacher's name on it.

*Here are some visual supports that I make as we are constructing the shoes that help me stay in the target language AND help kids understand what to do during each step.

Three Kings Paper Shoes

*NOT SURE OF SOME KEY VOCABULARY for folding? Here are a few helpful words:
-hacia abajo, hacia arriba
-por la mitad
-volver a doblar
-marcar el doble

Want to see how I introduce a comparison of Christmas and Three King's Day completely in the target language? Here's my post with script!

And don't miss my fun Rosca de Reyes Game-easy for little kids, it is always a hit with my kids! Click here to grab it!

Juego de la Rosca de Reyes for Spanish Class

HAVE FUN and Feliz Día de Reyes!

Bringing Language and Culture Together- An Online Conversation

JOIN US MONDAY, DEC 28, 7-9:30 EST for a conversation on bringing language and culture together in the Foreign Language classroom. We know it can be challenging to incorporate culture into language instruction- we'll share tips, activities, resources and more to help you do just that! We look forward to your ideas and experiences, too! See you at the event on our Facebook page- click here to join!

Writing a Letter to Los Tres Reyes Magos- Support your Students with our Infographic

WRITING A LETTER TO LOS TRES REYES MAGOS is a fun way to incorporate language and letter writing skills while reinforcing culture at the same time. With an activity such as this, I like to give my students as much support as possible, especially since, for some, coming up with ideas can be a challenge. Enter our infographic! Geared for kiddos in elementary school (but certainly great for any age group!), I've included a number of things kids might put on their list to get their ideas flowing which can be used as a springboard for their own letter. Put the infographic up on your Smartboard or projector so the whole class can see the text- you can use this as a starter for a conversation around what they are asking for prior to writing letters; this also helps jog their memory of other vocabulary they know. You can also do a quick sí/no question and answer round asking your students if they would like each of the objects pictured on the infographic- an easy way to practice vocabulary and listening skills! Alternatively, you could get your students up and moving with a 'cross the line' activity- 'Cross the line if you want _____'. Once the brainstorming is over, off to writing letters! Click here to download the infographic below

tres reyes magos carta


three king's day letter template

AND, IF YOU WOULD LIKE A PRINTABLE MINIBOOK to go along with this theme, why not grab ours here!

Find it in our shop!

Paper Poinsettia Craft for Spanish Class

POINSETTIAS are a beautiful part of the Christmas season, and, given their cultural connection to México, they also are perfect to incorporate into Spanish class in December. Our PAPER POINSETTIA craft is easy for little hands to make and is just right for when kiddos are a bit squirrelly and need hands on, concrete activities to remain (somewhat) focused.

WE'VE INCLUDED a FREE downloadable template plus instructions for how to make poinsettias in your classes- download it here! Since the craft is quite simple in nature, it also lends itself particularly well to giving the instructions in Spanish. Recorta la flor. Recorta las hojas. Pega una flor a la otra...and so on.  Choosing activities which are easy and intuitive to follow facilitates us teachers keeping to that ongoing goal of 90% in the target language!

AND, WHEN INCORPORATING into your class, a great go along read is Tomie DePaola's 'Legend of the Poinsettia' which sets a wonderful backdrop and history around the meaning of the poinsettia. Don't forget to read the end notes as they contain history about poinsettias!

DON'T MISS OUR 14 PIECE POINSETTIA BULLETIN BOARD SET! Featuring components of both the history and legend of the poinsettia, this is a great way to support your teaching via our visuals! Click here to grab it!

Poinsettia History & Legend Bulletin Board Set


Comprehensible input infographic comparing La navidad and El Día de los Reyes Magos!

IT'S TRUE! I have fallen in love with infographics! And now that I have a Piktochart account, good-bye world, I'm busy lol. And for good reason; infographics are a great way to introduce or reinforce vocabulary in your foreign language class. Text is supported by loads of visuals, the information is presented succinctly and in chunks, and, of course it's all in context.

SO, WITHOUT FURTHER ADO, I give you my first infographic for my classroom. I wanted to organize a visual comparison of Christmas in the US and Three Kings Day, focusing on kid-related aspects of each holiday.


PROJECT THE INFOGRAPHIC ON YOUR SMART BOARD or print out (click here to download) and use it to introduce vocabulary. Ask low level listening comprehension questions which tap into previously learnt vocab such as colors, ¿Es ____, sí o no?, ¿Te gusta ____? and so on.

OPEN A DISCUSSION with your students about the differences of each celebration, comparing each aspect, which are organized laterally to facilitate comparison. ¿Quién trae los regalos? ¿En qué va Papá Noel? ¿En qué cabalgan los Tres Reyes Magos? ¿Qué dejamos para Papá Noel? and so on.

HAVE KIDDOS CREATE A VISUAL ORGANIZER of their own in an interactive notebook or on a small poster- this would be cute for older kiddos to create for youngers in your school!

CHECK OUT OUR Activity Pack designed to go perfectly with this infographic- we've included lots of picture cards of all aspects of these two holidays to extend the conversation and allow for comparative/contrast activities in the target language. Little learners will love being able to use the picture cards to categorize and compare the two holidays! You can purchase it in our store here! And see our post on how to introduce a comparison of these two holidays, complete with a short video of my class!

Find this in our store!

21 Listening Comprehension Activities for the Elementary Foreign Language Classroom

WE KNOW THAT LISTENING COMPREHENSION is extremely important in the foreign language classroom, yet we (or at least, I) struggle to resist the temptation to get kiddos speaking as quickly as possible. Speaking activities are easier to measure, parents routinely ask 'Well, what can my kid SAY?', and kids themselves rarely understand how vital this skill is and how much they need to 'PRACTICE THEIR LISTENING EARS' as I call it in my classroom. Though by NO means exhaustive, I've tried to compile a list of listening comprehension activities that are just right for little learners, and require little to no speaking on their part. I've done this intentionally- Stephen Krashen strongly recommends a period of listening only, and though we can't always adhere to that, I've attempted a list of activities which require little speaking vocabulary on my students' part, but give lots of listening practice!  Here goes:

1- BINGO: We all know, and we all love it. Can't go wrong with with Bingo!
2- ACT IT OUT: TPR has limitless possibilities (more of these to come)- whether students act out an animal, action, object or what have you, it's a simple task to name something and have them bring out their inner actor!
3- DRAW A ___: For your little artists, this is a fun and easy activity- give them paper or white boards, name an object/item and have them draw it. Beware- little little learners have limited drawing capabilities- you make think a frog is easy to draw, but no way! Be sure your list matches the abilities of your students to (vaguely) represent the vocabulary. EXTEND THIS ACTIVITY by saying phrases, word chunks and/or sentences instead of single words.
4- FREEZE DANCE: Got a few minutes at the end of class? Pump up the tunes and play Freeze Dance! I use two commands only- ¡Alto! and ¡Baila!- keeping it real simple! This is also a great way to sneak in some culture with authentic music.
5- COLOR BY NUMBER: Are your kiddos practicing colors vocabulary? Take the answer key off any color by number activity page and tell them the instructions orally, one color at a time.
6- MATAMOSCAS- Another popular game we are very familiar with! Separate the class into two teams, put two pictures on the board (this works best with a smart board so you can project the pictures, but if you don't have one, put the pictures up a little higher and put 2 x's where they will swat), call up two kids, say the vocab word- first to swat the picture is the winner of that round.
7- MAKE A CRAFT: Choose a simple craft kiddos can do and give them the instructions verbally, step by step. I do each step one at a time and wait for all kiddos to finish before going on to the next step- many kiddos find following multi step instructions challenging even in their native language. See my instructions on how to make tissue paper flowers here!
8- POINT TO THE ____: Make up a picture page with the vocabulary you are practicing (so, a page with pictures of different fruit on it), then say a word, and have kiddos point to the word. Or, give them a small manipulative (or dare I say, a skittle or starburst- talk about motivation!) to move about the page. If you want to throw some speaking in on their part, after you have covered the vocab several times, call on students and have them say a word- they like to see me playing along, too!
9- 4 CORNERS: A great activity to get kids moving! Put pictures of vocabulary in 4 corners of the room, say a word and have kids move to the corner housing the representative picture. See my post here for more detailed information.
10- FRÍO O CALIENTE: A favorite from our childhood, kids will immediately recognize how to play. Decide on a vocabulary word from your classroom, or set up a series of objects/pictures that kids can move towards and ultimately choose. Do this whole group or smaller groups depending on class management and size of space.
11- ¿SÍ O NO?: A seriously easy activity to do to check for understanding of vocabulary. Hold up an object or picture and ask 'Is it a ____, yes or no?' Kids can do a thumbs up or thumbs down to indicate their answer.
12- SIGUE LA SECUENCIA: This requires class sets of objects or pictures, so does require some prep on your part. I find it easiest with colors because you can cut up construction paper into squares or strips or use unifix cubes or legos for the activity. Everyone gets a class set of multiples of the vocab (so, with colors- 4-5 squares of each color)- name a pattern (red, yellow, orange, red, yellow, orange) and have the students arrange the colors in that order in front of them. Need help with patterns?- remember math class: ABABAB, ABCABC, AABBAABB, ABBAABBA and so on.
13- TWO OF A KIND: I have no idea if there is a name out there for this game, so gave it this one! I use it a lot as a greeting game at the beginning of class. Choose a group of vocabulary items and make a double set so the items can be paired up. So, if you have 18 kids in your class, you need 9 items, two of each item. Separate the class into two equal groups (if you have an odd #, you join one group) and give each kid one picture/item/object and instruct them to keep it secret. Now, call out a vocabulary word- the two kids who have the item come to the center and greet one another. Continue until all matches have been made. Pom poms to reinforce colors or magnetic numbers are great for this or you can check out our free Hearts Matching Game in our shop!
14- GUESS WHO I AM!: Nothing like a bit of mystery to get kids interested! Choose a set of vocabulary that your kids are familiar with and make a picture sheet with the vocab which you can hand out. Review the vocabulary- then, describe one of the words/verbs using simple descriptions your students can understand. Kids listen and point to the vocabulary picture on their sheet. For example- Es enorme. Es gris. Trompetea. (un elefante)
15- TPR COMMANDS ACTIVITIES: I alluded to these earlier- the possibilities are practically endless with activities in which you instruct kiddos to do SOMETHING- put the hat on the bear, grab the apple, touch your nose, put the cat in the living room, put the cat behind/in front of the sofa, hold up the picture of a key, color the chair orange, put the ears on Mr. Potato Head, and so on. With early elementary, choosing actions which multiple kiddos can do at once helps with classroom behavior; they have very little patience for waiting more than a minute or so to have a turn- being 18th to get a turn is like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole- it's just plain frustrating lol
16- LISTEN FOR IT!: Choose a song which has a repetitive word(s) in it that kiddos can listen for- instruct them to raise their hand anytime they hear the key word(s). Several traditional villancicos are great for this (Campana sobre campana, Navidad, Los peces en el río, etc).
17- LISTEN FOR IT! PART 2: Choose a video with key vocab in it that you are practicing and create a picture sheet with those words represented. While kiddos are watching the video (I suggest a short one for the littles), have them circle or x the words they hear. TIP: Pause the video after a word is said so kids have the time to look on their paper and mark it. If the action keeps going, they will either get stressed out or forget to mark their paper because they are engaged in watching.
18- CROSS THE LINE IF: This is a popular movement activity, great for all levels. Have all kiddos stand on one side of the room, put down a piece of tape, long rope, string or ribbon and instruct them to cross the line if: if they like grapes, if they have a sister, if their cat is black, if they like to skateboard, if they had pizza for dinner last many possibilities! TIP: Little kiddos need a bit of support to figure out they go back and forth across the line, dependent on the prompt, especially if some of their classmates aren't crossing. Be sure to demonstrate and model!
19- DOT TO DOT: Take this traditional counting activity and give it a twist! Erase all the numbers on the original and rewrite them, out of order, next to the dots. Be sure you make note of the order they need to be connected in. Hand out a page to each student and call out each successive number that needs to be connected. Since if they connect the dots in numerical order, the picture will not come out, they need to listen carefully to know what comes next!
20- SHOW ME _____ TIGERS!: Well, it could be anything, but I have a set of small zoo animal counters that are perfect for this activity! Use what ever you have as a counter- buttons, shells, bingo chips, dried beans, pom poms- the item doesn't matter; it is a vehicle towards counting practice. Call out a number and have students place that many of the item in front of them- easy as that!
21- POM POM COLOR ACTIVITY: A few weeks ago I posted a fun pom pom color activity that is fast paced and involves multiple kiddos at a time- here's the link!

Many of these are old favorites, I am sure, but I hope you have found some new or refreshed ideas! Have some great listening fun!

Incorporate the Spirit of Giving in your Spanish Classes

LOOKING FOR WAYS TO INCORPORATE the spirit of giving into your classes and still provide opportunities to use the target language? Here are a few ideas that can be modified to suit various grade levels:

Charity in the World Language Classroom

*ORGANIZE A FUNDRAISER and give the donations to a charitable organization that either targets a Spanish speaking country or incorporates culture. There are a myriad ways you can raise funds: from a bottle drive to making ornaments and selling them (or other items, like notecards, etc), to doing a penny drive, any money earned will be greatly appreciated by the organization of your choice. Here are some little kiddo friendly organizations I particularly like:

-THE HEIFER PROJECT Heifer International uses money donated to them to provide resources to needy families and communities around the world, allowing them to be self sustainable. For example, you can help Heifer International purchase a llama (or a share of a llama, which is great if you haven't been able to raise a lot of money) to be given to a family in Bolivia. They also have a 'Read to Feed' program with materials to help you organize this really neat fundraising method. You could have your students read books that have to do with Hispanic culture- talk to your school librarian about what is already in your school library!

Fundraisers for World Language Classes Spanish French German

-WORLD WILDLIFE FUND seeks to protect endangered animals around the world by supporting conservation efforts in a variety of countries. You can "adopt" an animal, earmarking your donation for that particular species. They have a number of animals in Spanish speaking countries, such as the Galapagos Tortoise, llama, three toed sloth, jaguar and many more. Little kids LOVE animals, so symbolically adopting one, or more, of these creatures is a huge motivator! And, if you adopt at the "higher" level, you will receive a stuffy of the animal adopted, which can become a great mascot for your classroom! Go straight to the symbolic animal adoption page here!

-MONARCH BUTTERFLY FUND supports educational & conservation efforts to create sustainable ecosystems for the Monarch Butterfly, both in México and the US. If you already do a theme on the annual monarch migration (or would like to), this is a great way to tie in the theme with a real world connection and make a difference kids can comprehend.

DOING A PENNY/COIN DRIVE & WANT YOUR KIDDOS TO COUNT IN SPANISH? Don't miss our FREE Coin Counting Mats-download here!

Coin Counting Mats in Spanish

I wanted to highlight the many, many organizations, big and small, which do amazing service for people and animals around the world- this is an ever growing list (click on their name to go to their page)... if you have a link you would like added, please let me know via the comments section below.

*DREAM: This organization works with educational institutions and communities in the Dominican Republic to improve the education of children.
*Safe Passage/ Camino Seguro: Volunteers work in Guatemala City to improve the lives of families whose primary source of income is the dump
*The Pulsera Project: Empowering and educating students via a project based fundraiser, proceeds improve the lives of children and families in Central America
*SPCAI: This is the international arm of the ASPCA, fighting to prevent cruelty to animals worldwide
*UNESCO: Seeking to build peace via education, science and research, this branch of the UN is active around the world.
*Whales of Guerrero Research Project: This project works to educate local populations in México about safe tourism practices and environmental issues related to the humpback whales which are endangered
*Jacques Cousteau Society: Working as custodians of the oceans, this organization continues Cousteau's mission to preserve and protect the sea
*Greenpeace: Works to make the environment healthier through advocacy and action. Here is the link to Greenpeace International 
*Global Dental Relief: Providing dental services in five countries on a volunteer basis
*Doctors Without Borders: Providing medical services around the world
*KonbitSante: Provides much needed health care to people in Haiti
*El Biblioburro: Luis Soriano delivers books via donkey to children in Colombia
*Vida Volunteer: Spanish teacher Minette Junkins has created this AMAZING fundraiser for animal veterinary services in Costa Rica, Guatemala and Nicaragua. She was kind enough to send me an information sheet with all the information so you can ALSO join in helping this organization. Click here to read the info and get links to participate with your classes!
*World Animal Foundation: Supports efforts to save animals around the world
*Child Aid  is a non profit organization supporting children and families in Guatemala. Their mission includes providing books for schools, food for families and more.
*Mexipets : A foundation in Michoacán working to save homeless dogs and cats and find them forever homes, as well as provides medical care for these animals.
*LITLE MISS FLINT- Mari Copeny is a youth activist focused on clean water in Flint, Michigan and beyond.

More fun with pompoms! Two fun activities to practice colors

LAST YEAR I SHARED TWO ACTIVITIES using pom pons, a counting activity and one with colors. Fall is back and my Kindergartners are knee deep in our color theme once again. Since my classes had such fun last year, I naturally brought back the pom pons again this October, but some new ideas. UPDATED ACTIVITY FOR 2016! See below!

*'LISTEN & GRAB' is an easy listening activity which could work with any vocabulary set, provided you have enough manipulatives/objects/pictures to grab. Enter the pom pons, perfect for practicing color vocabulary! Having a large amount of them makes for quite an impact when you dump them all over your floor!  Materials & set up: a large bin of pom pons, a set of bowls or containers, and a label for each bowl or container.  As you can see in the above picture, I also put down an outdoor tablecloth- this makes for easier pickup with the pom pons and reduces the dirt and fuzz they collect if you dump them on your rug or bare floor.  Dump the pom pons in the middle of the space, and place the bowls strategically around the room as "stations". Assign 3-4 kiddos to each bowl and review each color word. I started with only 4 bowls so that groups would get turns every 30 seconds or so- antsy kindergarteners do not make your life much fun lol

NOW FOR THE FUN! Call out a color word and instruct kiddos whose station is labeled that color to come to the center and grab 1 pom pon of that color and put it in their bowl. So, if there are 4 kiddos at a station, there will be 4 pom pons in the bowl. Call out another color, and so on. Start predictably, going in order around then the stations, then mix it up, keeping them on their toes as they need to listen carefully to which color is being called. I love to call the same color twice in a row every now and again as they find that hilarious. Keep the pace moving to be sure kids are engaged and not sitting around- I have to remind kiddos to grab quickly, no searching endlessly for that one 'perfect' pom pon! I usually set a time limit for this activity- 10 minutes is just about right.

*Once kiddos have gotten the hang of the game, after a few rounds, switch the groups, moving them to another station and start again. This keeps them listening and practicing multiple color words!
*Have a tally sheet next to the bowl. Before you end the activity, have each group count (in Spanish, of course!) how many pom pons are in the bowl, write the number down, and then report out to the class.

*GRAB & SORT: This is an easy and fun activity to practice reading and speaking skills with a partner. Materials & setup: empty tissue boxes stuffed with pompons (they don't have to be full), color sorting page- you can download ours for free here. Hand out a box and a sorting page to each partner group (or groups of 3-4) and instruct them to take turns pulling a pompon (without peeking!) out of the tissue box and placing it on the correct star that matches the color. As they place the pompon, they need to say the color word out loud. Kids love the surprise element and the whole class is engaged at once! You can set a time limit at the end of which kids can report out how many of each color they have, or simply count together in their groups.

*PUT THOSE POMS IN YOUR CUP! NEW in 2016, spread out the pom poms (I recommend a tablecloth to corral them), hand out a plastic cup to each student, and instruct them to grab one green pom pom and put it in the cup- or two red ones, or five purple ones! Check the cups before starting another round for comprehension and have fun! Here is a short video of me giving instructions for this activity


 And, if you liked the fishy color cards shown in the first picture collage, you can get them along with our printable minibook & activity pack 'Arturo y la bota', perfect for teaching colors in context. You can get it in our store here.

Una Persona Misteriosa- Incorporate Writing into this Fun Game

WE ARE ALL FAMILIAR with the game 'Mystery Person' or 'Guess Who I Am'... students choose a person from a list (or one is chosen for them) and the rest of the class has to guess who they are... or alternatively the kiddo has to guess who he/she is by asking questions of the class, much like 20 Questions. My Fourth Graders start the year learning the sentence starter 'Yo soy' along with a set of adjectives to describe oneself (artistic, adventurous, musical, athletic, etc) and I love to give them fun ways to practice this in a contextual manner.

ENTER 'LA PERSONA MISTERIOSA', played, of course, by having students (or partners/teams) choose a person to describe with the intent of having the rest of the class try to guess who he/she is. Since I am also looking to give ample opportunities for my students to practice their writing skills, before they can present their description, they need to write it down. I have my Fourth Grade classes organized into teams, and I have them choose two people to describe from a list I put on the board- I have famous people from Spanish speaking countries that they are familiar with (this year it has been Frida Kahlo, Lionel Messi, Pocoyó, José Feliciano, Ratoncito Pérez) along with other Specials Teachers in the building (our Art, Music & Phys Ed teachers- which is hilarious all on it's own!). Using 'Yo soy...' plus our adjectives, each team needs to create a simple description of their two chosen people- I'm a big fan of the talking bubble so the activity page features two big talking bubbles for my students to write in and a space at the top of each bubble to write who "they" are. While students are writing, it gives me an opportunity to circulate around the room checking to be sure they have a full sentence and that they have matched the gender appropriately. This is a great reminder for kiddos to pay attention to adjectival endings, something we have been working on in various ways since Kindergarten.

LET THE GAME COMMENCE! Taking turns, students read the description to the rest of the class who then try to guess who it is. I will confess, winners receive gummy bears- I rarely give out candy in class, but the wild enthusiasm that ensues is just too priceless to pass up! Want a copy of the activity page? Download it free here! And, you can find our Yo soy.. Theme Pack by clicking here!

Activities to Introduce Venezuela into Your Elementary Spanish Class

LITTLE KIDS LOVE to learn about other places and I love to hear the enthusiasm in their voices when they say things like "I want to go to Perú!" or "I want to see Angel Falls!".  Living and teaching in a small town in Maine, bringing the Spanish speaking world to my students is doubly important because many do not get a chance to see or interact with people from other countries; part of my job as a Spanish teacher in the elementary school is to spark interest and enthusiasm for a window wide open to that world. To that end, over the years I have developed themes centered around various Spanish speaking countries, typically focusing on geography, natural wonders, food and/or traditional crafts.

ENTER VENEZUELA... I love this theme-though maybe not your typical country theme like México, España, or Perú, Venezuela is replete with neat features to excite and interest young students.    One of my favorite projects to get kiddos interested is making a paper collage of Salto Ángel, the world's tallest waterfall. After seeing pictures and watching this amazing video, each kiddo is inspired to create their own 'Salto' using construction paper.

EASY TO MAKE and a great representation of this natural wonder! Provide students with a brown background, along with pieces of blue and green paper in varying shades. Instead of cutting the

shapes, have them tear the paper to give it a more "leafy" appearance. Use crayons to add details like water falling down and rocks among the trees. I also provide a label that says 'Salto Ángel' to glue on last.  Kiddos love sharing with their families- often a fact that their parents don't even know- makes them feel like "big kids"!

AREPAS! These yummy treats are a perfect way to incorporate culture into any class, and for littles it is tangible and accessible. The easiest recipe is one with a cheese filling, and can be made in larger quantities without too much difficulty. This particular recipe is great and very kid friendly!

VENEZUELA ABC'S is a wonderful picture book just right for elementary students. Each letter of the alphabet highlights a fact about the country, including nature, history, food, geography and more. You can find it on Amazon here.

LOOKING FOR PRINTABLE ACTIVITIES to bring Venezuela to life? Check out our 'Pepita va a Venezuela' Printable Minibook & Activity Pack- a fun way to start the conversation about aspects of this amazing country! You can get it here. And don't miss our Venezuela Centers Activity Pack with even more fun activities! Click here.

Pepita va a Perú Printable Minibook & Activity Pack
And be sure to check out our growing selection of more countries in our CULTURE section by clicking here!

Como hacer la salsa pico de gallo- Una receta en video

HERE'S A GREAT VIDEO demonstrating a simple recipe for making pico de gallo- kiddos can easily understand the actions even if they don't understand every word. Well done!

AND DON'T FORGET, our very own Olivia illustrates making salsa in our printable minibook, 'Olivia hace salsa', perfect for elementary or middle school students! You can purchase it here!

Olivia hace salsa printable minibook

Tips to Get the Most Out of Four Corners Activities

GET YOUR KIDS MOVING with Four Corners Activities! I love seeing my elementary Spanish students moving about my room as they demonstrate comprehension of vocabulary...and they love the opportunity to get up out of their seats. Taking the traditional Four Corners Activity and adding to it to enhance comprehension brings it to a new level.

WAIT! HOW DO YOU PLAY FOUR CORNERS? Perhaps a review is in order.... choose 4 vocabulary items, either pictures or manipulatives such as plastic fruits, veggies, etc. Put each one in a different corner or place in the classroom... now, say a vocab word and direct students to get up and move to the corner where that item is. With more than 4 vocab words, change them out every few rounds to increase practice. (Be sure to review and model appropriate movement around your room prior to starting- this avoids running, pushing, and bumped heads!)

STARTING WITH THE WHOLE CLASS is fun, but you will soon see a few leaders emerge, while the rest of the class becomes the herd, following the piper as he or she heads off to the appropriate corners seconds before everyone else. Cull them from the crowd! Ok, let's not be that harsh- instead, try these tips to break the class up, thereby requiring those herd animals to concentrate harder on comprehending the vocab as they can no longer rely on the quick little hares.

*SEPARATE THE CLASS into boys and girls- divide and conquer! Once separated, instruct only one group at a time to go to a particular word- "Boys, find the apple!", "Girls, find the pear!". I love the added layer of having kids listen not only to the target vocab but also the distinction between 'niño' and 'niña'!

*MAKE EVEN SMALLER GROUPS- divide the class into groups of 4-5 kiddos, give them a number to name their group, and then instruct 'Team 1- find the watermelon!", "Team 2- find the orange!". Again, by breaking the class into smaller groups, more kiddos have to think rather than follow.

*PAIR THEM UP- separate the class into pairs and then instruct pairs to head off to a vocabulary item. Unless you keep this variation moving quickly, you will have a bunch of squirrels on your hands as the rest of the class is waiting their turn, so be prepared! You could change this up, if your kiddos have reading skills, by writing the vocabulary words on index cards (make multiples!) and handing them to pairs- a bit like a scavenger hunt. Remind kiddos how to move in your classroom (again!) to ensure safety. This version really gets down to the nitty gritty, without individuals being put on the spot on their very lonesome.

*MAKING YOUR PROMPTS LONGER: As your students gain more language, you can incorporate clues to the items as opposed to the vocabulary word. So, for example, if your words are fruits, you could state 'This fruit is red and round" instead of 'apple', or 'This fruit is yellow and long" instead of 'banana', which further develops listening and processing skills.

*PREFERENCES: This twist on the original game is a fun way to incorporate personal preferences, and can be used with any item, including works of art, a great way to bring in culture. As above, place four items in the corners, and then direct students to go to the one they like the most. You can debrief quickly, counting how many students in each corner, for example, before changing the items and starting again. I love doing this during our theme on Frida Kahlo- I pay close attention to the paintings that are getting the most "votes" and them put them all out at once- it's fun to see them trying to choose amongst several favorites!

HAVE FUN and watch your kiddos enjoy being out of their seats while demonstrating comprehension skills!


¡Baile viernes! Get moving with these fun videos!

¡BAILE VIERNES! is fast becoming a popular way to end the week in Spanish classes around the country and since little kiddos love to dance, too, get them up and moving with these fun songs/ videos from Pocoyó. (Pocoyó is a hit cartoon from Spain- my students love his episodes, and it's a great way to integrate children's culture into any elementary Spanish program). Check these out!

THESE ARE JUST SOME of Pocoyó's music- head over to YouTube, type in Pocoyó Disco en español and discover a whole host of great videos set to music- your students will love them!

90% in the Target Language- in Elementary School?

***Please see my updated comments at the end of this post! :) ***

I WILL ADMIT, I have struggled with this concept my entire teaching career. I recognize the pedagogical value of staying in the target language, and strive mightily to do so every class....but (and there always is a but, isn't there?) at the elementary level, I find it to be such a challenge. I know of teachers who do it, but I imagine their classes have no behavior issues, no children have sudden nosebleeds or papercuts, no dogs have passed away the night before, no kiddos want to tell them all about their new bike or the taco they had last short, they must have classes completely unlike mine. When faced with these types of situations, I revert to English, in part because my students just don't have the vocabulary to either tell me about the situation, nor the vocabulary to understand me if I respond in Spanish. And, my relationship with my students is paramount to what my class is all about...building community, fostering a bond, making them feel safe and cared for takes precedence over language. I can't justify demanding the target language when these types of moments crop up.

Download, print and post in your classroom!

OKIS, SO I'VE MADE MY EXCUSES for using English sometimes in class (and I'd like to think they're not too bad lol) but it is my goal every year to use as much Spanish as possible with my kiddos. This year, I've taken a moment to brainstorm when the target language can and is used in an effort to remind myself that yes, most of my classes really are in Spanish and to help myself be consistent on those days when I'm exhausted, sick or frustrated. Here's goes my list:

*THE MEAT AND POTATOES: Yes, the obvious ones, activities....almost didn't need to be said, but it demands to be included! Any and all activities are game for 90%, though some are better than others. Too much introduction or explanation for the activity will rapidly see that 90% decline. Sometimes an activity seems like a good one..until you introduce it and find so much information is needed to scaffold it/set it up that it just doesn't deserve a place at the table. I have found that developing a repertoire of activities which behave similarly in terms of how we will do them helps in this regard- when kiddos know what to expect because you've done something like this before, it is easier to introduce the next one in the target language (or use minimal English to get it rolling).

*INSTRUCTIONS: Oh, I love this one! Teach your students early in the year vocabulary around giving instructions (verbs and materials typically used) and then use them each and every time you give those instructions. I like to post my instructions visually step by step as well as say them verbally for added support. I can then refer back to them easily by pointing to them on the board without needing to use English. (We've got a great printable pack to help you with this one! )

Click here to get it now!

*CLASSROOM ROUTINES AND PROCEDURES: Here again, teach this vocabulary early in the year, as you are going over your classroom expectations. Use it over and over again when reminding and redirecting students who are off task or need to be brought back on board. (Squirrels unite!) This includes behaviour management as well as classroom requests (May I go to the bathroom? May I get a drink? Can I have a bandaid? and so on.)

*MANNERS: Another great love of mine! Please, thank you, you're welcome, bless you!, excuse me, and all the rest form a great backdrop of kindness in your classroom, provide an environment for authentic communication in the target language, and instill and reinforce cultural values.

I AM SURE MUCH COULD BE ADDED to this list, but these are what have occurred to me on this hot Maine day as I get ready to go to the beach (only a few days left of summer vacation for me!) What could you add? Tell us in the comments!

***AN UPDATE TO MY POST! It's nearly Thanksgiving now and I have undergone a real shift in my thinking around 90%- as in, wow! it really can be done, even with the paper cuts and the falling off bikes and pinching....I didn't realize until several weeks into the school year, that, although I had always done a LOT of my class in Spanish (as in, probably on average 75-80 %), I was experiencing resistance in myself about certain aspects of the 90% concept, most specifically around certain types of behavioral issues and building of community in my room. When I made the commitment to do EVERYTHING (or just about) in Spanish, the dynamic shifted, both for my students and for me! I feel even better about my teaching, I haven't lost relationships with my students, and most of my students are on board. You can do it, too!