Resources for Teaching Languages to Children


5 Tips for Introducing and Reinforcing New Vocabulary

New vocabulary, new words... we are introducing them all the time in the foreign language classroom, whether our students have only had one month of instruction or years. How we go about exposing them to these new words makes the difference as to whether they will actually retain the vocabulary long term. And, our goal as language teachers is to stay in the target language as much as possible which means giving some thought and structure to each lesson to avoid translation whenever we are able. Nouns are by far the easiest in this category as they are typically concrete and tangible at the elementary/ beginner levels. Here are 5 tips/steps I follow every time I am introducing and reinforcing new words (and be sure to follow our blog for more posts coming soon about teaching vocabulary!):

5 Tips for Introducing Vocabulary in Language Class

1) Have a picture/illustration for every word. Nothing avoids translation like saying 'una manzana' and showing a picture of an apple. Collecting pictures from magazines, catalogs, printing out from online, purchasing flashcards or vocabulary manipulatives, or using plastic foods, animals, etc is an ongoing process that pays off dividends over and over again. You can also take photos yourself-at the grocery store, around town, at home, this is an easy way to augment your visual supports collection!

2) Provide the written word along with the picture. Even your youngest learners will start to make connections between the spoken and written word, building a sight vocabulary along the way. And, the trend across the country sees Kindergartners acquiring literacy skills in the general ed classroom, which means you will have some emerging readers already- tap into the cross-curricular potential! Those kiddos who are ready to read or have rudimentary literacy skills are going to apply them to the written word in Spanish, so exposing them reinforces vocabulary acquisition and gives another avenue toward learning. The more ways you can reinforce a word, the better!

3) Pair the word with an action. This certainly works better with some words than others but research continuously shows kinesthetic movement reinforces vocabulary retention. Making these actions also provides a great visual prompt when a kiddo is struggling to remember a word.

4) Embed the word(s) in context. Rather than starting with words as individual items, introduce them in context, especially in a context supported by illustrations/pictures. This gives a larger frame for the words and surrounds it with additional vocabulary which can be used in subsequent activities.

from our printable minibook 'Javi come mucho'

5) Use simple questions to reinforce listening comprehension and foster speaking. Long ago I found a list of questions perfect for early production learners that start at the most basic level of comprehension demonstration and move toward production. I go through this list of questions with every vocabulary set I introduce, no matter the grade level. In order of simplicity they are:
-Is it ____? (an apple)- yes/no -students can either answer yes/no or indicate with thumbs up/thumbs down (or both!)
-Is it ______ or ______? (an apple or an orange)- you've embedded the answer in the question which provides linguistic support for the student and also reinforces listening skills- pay attention to the question my little friends!
-What is this? -Now a student needs to produce without support, which is much more difficult. Be sure your students have practiced the vocabulary sufficiently to be able to answer this question.
*The above question can be substituted for a 'fill in the blank' type activity, especially if you have introduced the words in context. If they are familiar with a simple phrase or sentence, start your sentence, pausing to allow your students to finish it with the desired word (in other words, filling in the blank verbally).

Lastly, a note about amount and type of vocabulary. Studies show the average student can learn and retain in short term memory about 5-7 vocabulary items in a sitting. Introducing a long list of words for students to learn/memorize is unrealistic and detrimental to the learning process. As well, words related to one another thematically are learned more easily than a list of unrelated ones. Related words trigger each other in the brain as they are linked cognitively as well as linguistically. So, 'apple' can trigger 'banana' because they are both fruits and the brain organizes them together, whereas 'apple' is unlikely to trigger 'sock' since they come from different categories. (For an incredible read on language acquisition, pick up Steven Pinker's 'The Language Instinct'!)

Fun Earth Day Activities for Spanish Class!

EL DÍA DE LA TIERRA is a wonderful opportunity to reinforce both stewardship of our marvelous earth and associated vocabulary. There are tons of great ideas for Earth Day in Spanish are some of our favorites!

Earth Day Activities for Spanish Class

*PRACTICE COLORS while reinforcing recycling habits and knowledge! The poster below (click here to see the pin) can be projected on a white board/ Smart board or printed out and placed in a pocket chart to use in a simple sorting activity to practice colors. Prior to the activity, gather together a series of pictures of things that can be recycled (a great source is your grocery flyer, just cut out pictures of different foods, items and containers)- in class introduce the poster, indicating what type of item goes in each colored recycling container. Then, hold up an item to be recycled and have the class tell you which color container it should go in. Continue in this manner until all things are "recycled" :)

Activities to Incorporate Recycling in Spanish Class

*MOVIE TALK with this video from el Ministerio de Salud de la Nación Argentina. For students with more language, this video is a great opportunity to practice vocabulary.

*POCOYÓ comes through once more with two videos I particularly like for Earth Day, one focusing on a seed (so cute!) and the other reminds us to keep the environment clean, a la The Lorax. With both the above video and these, you can keep it really simple by using yes/no and either/or questions, along with simple questions aimed at colors, size, how many of something, what's in the frame, etc. Here are the links:

*MUSTI is originally a Dutch cartoon that has been translated into several languages, and is super cute! Here is a perfect video for cleaning up garbage and keeping the environment clean (the French version is here!)

Spanish Playground features this great activity to reinforce recycling. A fill in the blank activity is paired with a photo from Paraguay, and the post also includes additional links for more Earth Day activities.

For more advanced students this site from 'Mi Planeta' Discovery Kids has a host of great information geared towards protecting the earth and its inhabitants. We are very partial to the tab 'Santuarios de animales' highlighting animals in danger in Spanish speaking countries. Check it out here!

How about 'En la Tierra' Memory? FREE in our TpT shop, our printable Memory game features 20 cards to match focusing on high frequency vocabulary such as 'la Tierra', 'un árbol', 'una flor', 'una mariposa' and more- print them out, affix to stiff paper- students match word to picture while having fun! Download our game here.

And don't miss this song by Ana Calabrese of Spanish Plus Me- a beautiful homage to our planet! You can listen to it by clicking here!

AND FOR A GREAT THEME PACK including THREE mini books plus additional activities, grab ours by clicking here!

Super cute Los Postres poster

It's our prize today on our Facebook page! Enter our caption contest- all comments will be put in a hat and a winner drawn this evening. The poster is 11 x 17 when printed and features a host of yummy desserts! Go to our Facebook page here