Resources for Teaching Languages to Children


Giving Instructions Visually as Well as Verbally in the Target Language

I am a big fan of posting what I say to kids visually, not just providing oral input in the target language. Not only does this provide great support for kids who learn differently, but it also creates an ongoing reference source for that input. One of my favorite "posts" are instructions for activities we are doing in class. I've created simple instructions on the back of which I've placed magnets so I can easily change them out when transitioning from one class to another. Additionally, I break down the activity into its steps and stick those next to each instruction so my kiddos can see the correlation between instruction and step in the activity. As I introduce the activity, I go over the steps one by one ensuring my students comprehend what it is I am asking them to do. What I love about this (apart from using the target language, of course!) is that as we are doing the activity, I can refer my students to the instructions when they ask me "So, what do I do next?" or "I'm done with this". "Okis, ahorita tienes que hacer el paso número 3" I might answer and point to the step mentioned. This gives them responsibility for their own learning as well, something I strongly support!

So, as an illustration, you can see in the above picture students need to first put their name on the activity (La oruga muy hambrienta) using a pencil. Then, they must cut out the pictures, thirdly glue them to the appropriate pages, and lastly, color. I've provided an example of each step for additional visual support.
The more you use this system, the better students get at it. Keeping the instructions simple enables them to more easily access the vocab, and over time they begin to know what the expectations are for our instructions in class and use them independently.
If you would like to save yourself some time, you can purchase our own set of Illustrated Instruction Cards in our TpT shop! Click here to get yours now!

Tips for the traveling foreign language teacher

LAST EVENING we at Mundo de Pepita hosted a fun event on our Facebook page, Operation: Have Cart, Will Travel, with the focus on how to organize yourself as a foreign language teacher on a cart. We shared many ideas and tips, as did the many teachers who joined us online. We thought it would be a good idea to bring those all together here on one post! And be sure to follow our Pinterest board 'Organization for Teachers'! SEE BELOW FOR UPDATED IDEAS FOR TEACHING WITH COVID-19 IN MIND!

AS YOU CAN IMAGINE, we began with THE CART...that magical steed which transports our mobile class from room to room. Teachers shared pictures with us of their carts- everything from an AV cart to a rolly wire market basket. The key features were portability and capacity- enough space to fit multiple classes of student info and materials. Utilizing every inch of the cart was also mentioned; using the sides for hanging posters or other visuals maximizes its use and reduces what you need to hang up in the classroom. There is an alternative to the cart, as I mentioned during this part of the conversation-I eventually switched from a cart to tool bags I purchased at Home Depot. With lots of

pockets, a capacious center pocket and a shoulder strap, I could fit my binder, small posters, manipulatives, pencils, clips, birthday stickers, and everything else inside. I had one for each grade level, each stuffed accordingly. It also closed at the top, which was good news on rainy and snowy days when I had to travel between buildings!

TEACHING IN SOMEONE ELSE'S SPACE resonated with everyone in terms of being a challenge. Some tips I shared from my cart days included:
#1: Introduce yourself to the teachers beforehand- at the beginning of school, go in and say hello, thank the teacher for being welcoming (it's not easy for them, either, to have someone come into their room) and ask about how you can use their room- what materials you can use, where you can post things, whether they use a circle if it is an elementary classroom
#1B: Regarding materials: I had some teachers who were happy to let me use their crayons, markers, etc and others who were not so thrilled. (But everyone was very welcoming overall!) One year I had a teacher who didn't want me to use her tables because she used Spanish class time to set up her activities for after my class- totally understandable. Find out what you can and cannot use beforehand. If you need to bring your own, it's better to know that up front rather than find out when you walk in and have to rethink your lesson on the fly.
#2: Scope out the rooms you will be going into (this ties into Tip #1).. are there bulletin boards you can pin onto? is there an easel? is there a whiteboard (or chalkboard)? Figuring out how you are going to display materials is important- you want to stock up on clips, big thumb tacks (Walmart has gigantic ones), magnets, etc- I find every room is set up differently, so having a variety of ways to hang stuff up is key.  
#3: Ask for a space to store a crate or other container in each room. I had a crate in each room in which I stored kiddos' folders, visuals we used frequently (yes, I had a copy for each classroom!) and any projects we were working on (if they fit in the crate!). This made it a lot easier for me- though I have arms of steel, I just couldn't carry everything! And depending on the year, I would have 5 or 10 minutes between classes, which meant running and getting new sets of folders was a challenge, especially as I often touch base with individual kiddos after class or with the gen ed teacher. Anything to save time! 

Several teachers mentioned the sheer number of things they carry on their carts- truly a classroom on wheels! Right down to bandaids for little kiddos, along with caddies for pencils, crayons and project supplies, these carts have it all! Having a well stocked cart means you are self sufficient, and there is no need to ask the gen ed teacher for materials they may also have in short supply.
Technology was also a big part of this discussion- when I was still on a cart, we still had projectors! Now, many classrooms have Smartboards or other tech boards which can be linked to your computer. Many teachers mentioned being able to plug right into the boards without displacing the gen ed teacher- a plus in my book!

ORGANIZATION OF YOUR MATERIALS was a huge topic of discussion. With hundreds of students, multiple classrooms to visit in a day (and sometimes multiple buildings!), and the challenge of carrying everything with you to teach each lesson, we could all agree this is the most difficult yet the most necessary. I broke the conversation into a few parts to let us focus in more on some big themes:

*Materials to teach (visuals, cards, game pieces, manipulatives of all kinds, etc)- thumbs up to ziploc baggies of all sizes! Cheap, readily available, and they come in all can't beat them. I prefer the larger ones with slider tops for easy open and close action. Several teachers also mentioned using folder pockets, mini caddies, and totes. Keep your stuff organized and easy to get to!

*Clips- you need 'em, better have a variety! Going into someone else's classroom means you have to work with their setup, not yours. Magnetic bulldog clips, oversized clips, small ones...they all serve to get your visuals up in front of your students with minimal interruption to the gen ed teacher's space. 

*Student data- with hundreds of students, managing student data (class lists, attendance, assessments) is a big job! Several teachers mentioned using Edmodo, particularly at the Middle and High school, with positive things to say about it. Many of us at the lower end are still using charts, often on a clipboard or in a binder. Having quick and easy ways to mark grades is so helpful- the names on my charts are listed in order of their seating charts which makes it much quicker to find a name! (and I do recommend seating charts- no wasting time for kiddos to figure out where or next to whom they are going to sit! I call them 'Spanish spots' ;))

*Time management- one teacher recommended an app called 30/30 which gives you a 'To do' list and prompts you to get things done- a great way to be sure you have everything done each morning as you prep! I've already downloaded it! 

TIPS TO LIVE BY: these were my closing tips that I always lived by (and still do!) while on a cart. -Organize ahead of time and you will save time and stress during the school day. Use your prep time in the morning or the afternoon before getting all materials, worksheets, activities ready to go for the day. If you use folders, stuff them ahead of time- this saves time in class (no passing out materials, they are already ready for use).
-Create separate files/binders/info for each class and label or color code them. If possible, keep some, if not all, of this in a crate or bin in the gen ed classrooms. One less thing you have to lug around.
-Maximize your class time- have your clips already on your posters, or stick magnetic tape on the back of your visuals so you can plunk them right up on the board. If you are using your computer, have the programs/videos ready to go using multiple tabs or separate browsers. Designate a helper student when passing things out or collecting things to make the work go more quickly.
-If you have a cart, use the sides to display posters or a pocket chart- another surface already set up for use!
-Stay strong and know there are so many teachers in the same boat... let's all row together and support one another!

And don't miss our post on 8 Ways to Organize to Maximize Class!

Join us on Facebook for more events like this one!

UPDATE!! Here are some tips for TEACHING IN THE TIME OF COVID ;)

With the advent of Covid-19 and the unique challenges it presents, I'm adding some new/adjusted tips to deal with having to adapt materials, lessons and space to minimize sharing of items, social distancing, etc.

Tips for Traveling Teachers with Hygiene in Mind

*DECREASE THE USE OF MANIPULATIVES, especially ones that are difficult to clean, such as stuffies and other soft surface items. This is a killer for me since I love hands on activities-but with concerns about spreading the virus via surfaces, this is a must. Focus instead on activities like guessing games, Listen & Draw (or Read & Draw), estimation activities, songs, video walks, etc. You can see some of these in action on my Youtube channel here

Word Guessing Game for World Language Class

*DISINFECT YOUR MANIPULATIVES: This can help you with manipulatives that are not soft surface, like plastic food, animals, etc. Our school has spray disinfectant which can safely be used on materials. Select a set of manipulatives which you use with just one class, then disinfect them, letting them sit over night-you can use them again the next day. In order to make this workable, you need sufficient amounts of your items to make it through one day of classes, or you flip flop lesson plans so one homeroom is doing an activity with manipulatives while on the same day another homeroom from the same grade level is doing something different, and then you flip those lessons the next day. A little tricky but can work if you really want to use your items! :)

*DRIED BEANS MAKE GREAT COUNTERS! Large dried lima or kidney beans can be a great, inexpensive alternative to bingo counters, small animals, pom poms, etc. Have them divvied up in small bowls or containers which can be designated for only one class. Instruct kids to take several from the bowl, but don't put them back until the end of the lesson. Those bowls then can be spray disinfected, or go into quarantine for 3-4 days before they are used again to "de-virus". Because they are so cheap, you can have multiple sets of bowls without breaking the bank to provide materials.  

Dried Beans are a great alternative to bingo counters

YOU CAN ALSO NUMBER AND/OR PAINT DRIED BEANS to replace soft surface manipulatives that you might normally use-definitely labor intensive, but have potential.

Use Dried Beans as Counters

*FOCUS ON HYGIENE: I think everyone will be doing this! Be sure kids use hand sanitizer before starting a lesson, and after any sneezing or coughing. You might have been doing this all along, but now's definitely the time to make it a priority. I have a bunch of infographics and visuals for hygiene in Spanish here on my Pinterest board. And for French, click here! Just a note: I searched high and low to find images that included diversity, and found little to nothing, for which I am very sorry! I will continue looking and/or create some myself :) 

WHAT OTHER IDEAS DO YOU HAVE? Please share in the comments below! :)

Ideas, Tips and Tricks for teaching foreign language on a cart

Come join us on Facebook for our event 'Operation: Have Cart, Will Travel'! We will share ideas, tips and tricks for teaching on a cart...we would love you to be part of the conversation! Monday, July 27th Click here to join our event!

Our new blog signature

I always get excited when I learn something new! Thanks to Oxana of Teacher's Clipart I learned how to create a blog signature...featuring our adorable Pepita! What do you think?

Why I Don't Have My Students Raise Their Hand to Participate Anymore (and how I grade participation now)

Ah, the traditional classroom...the teacher asks a question, students raise their hands to participate, and the teacher calls on one of them to answer. And so it goes...except, did you ever notice some kiddos never raise their hands? and some kiddos always do? And on top of that, we teachers are grading kids on participation based primarily on whether or not they've raised their hand. Hmmm... what if the kid doesn't know the answer, but is paying attention? or he is shy and is reluctant to participate, but knows the answer? In my classroom, raising a hand to participate and then grading that action (or lack thereof) wasn't doing my students justice. Then I went to a Marzano workshop in which the case for random selection was made- forcefully and very convincingly. Here's what I learned:

*When random selection is used in place of the standard 'raise your hand to be called on' kids pay closer attention to class activities. Not knowing when you might be called on motivates students to be engaged, sending the message that they need to be ready at all times.

*Over the course of a student's education, those students who are more naturally inclined (for a variety of reasons) to raise their hand to be called on receive more attention and more learning opportunities, more practice of content, and ultimately see greater gains in learning and mastering material. Those students who sit back and don't raise their hand lose out. They fall further and further behind, without an expectation or responsibility for that learning.

*Random selection expects all kids to be part of class. This doesn't mean a teacher won't help a student or scaffold the activity to ensure success, but some kids aren't going to slip through the cracks or fall behind because the teacher unintentionally allows that to happen. Random selection raises the bar-when all kids are expected to participate, the students understand that there is an expectation they will and can learn.

Not convinced yet? After hearing these bullet points and the rationale behind them, I had partially bought into it...but then I saw it in action. I started calling kids randomly, using the DecideNow app (I'll talk more about this in a moment). Kids quickly got the idea that raising their hand didn't matter, everyone was responsible for paying attention- you couldn't just sit back and be a bump on a log. I began to see greater engagement from ALL students, more attentiveness, more effort. Best of all, those kiddos who hadn't been taking part in class (and let me digress for a moment- in language class, practicing those mouth muscles by speaking the language is so important, as we all know!) started being active members of our class community. There were side benefits, too. I noticed fewer interruptions and fewer kids calling I love that! Everyone is held accountable for learning, everyone gets an opportunity to practice what is being more falling through the cracks.

*Updated note: I've had several questions about those kiddos who struggle in class, including: doesn't random selection raise their anxiety? how can they be successful with random questions that they may not be able to answer? GOOD QUESTIONS! Here's what I have found with my struggling learners: Giving think time before calling on someone is crucial to success, as is fostering a community where errors are supported. Additionally, the expectation that a kiddo WILL be a participant, a member of the "class team", if communicated in a positive manner, makes a huge difference. My demeanor and my reaction when an error is made is also very important- going back to the idea of errors being part of the process of learning. If a kiddo isn't able to answer a question, even with prompting, I ask someone else, but always come back to the first kiddo and ask the question again- this helps them to gain success by being able to now answer the question (if they are paying attention, which is one of our expectations).  As kids practice answering questions, even if after someone else has answered it, this raises confidence, particularly as I (and the class) celebrate this effort! That is the other key- celebrating effort just as much as "correct" answers.

So, how to pull it off organizationally? I had seen on Pinterest the DecideNow App, a spinner wheel in which you enter your students names, hit the center button and a name comes up randomly.

It's great in some ways- the kids are fascinated by it and the sound effects are fun (it has a ticker sound as it spins and bings when the name is chosen). Also, I like that a kid can be picked more than once- no 'I've had my name picked so now I can relax' phenomenon. However, two things made me give it up- it is not quick enough for me when spinning- I've got 30 minutes for class, so every second counts. And, having to re-enter the names each year is a drag.

So, back to the tried and true popsicle sticks. Though the work involved at the outset is hefty, once you have them made, you can re-use the bulk of them the following year, just rearranging the names into new classes (with on average 375-400 students each year in 20 separate classes, that makes a difference!) Pose a question, pull a stick, easy as that! I put the sticks back in so everyone has to remain on their toes. If by some chance a name gets pulled more than twice I might pretend it is someone else's name who hasn't been called on. I'm sold!!

So, how do I assess participation now that I can't mark down who has their hand raised? I've redefined participation, for starters. Now, I'm looking principally for focus- if I call on you, are you paying attention? I look for participation in other activities we do in class- if we are singing a song, are you? If we are playing a game, are you actively engaging? In essence, are you part of our class community, a contributing member? If so, you are a PARTICIPANT!

Tell me what you think! Do you use random selection? If so, how has it worked for you?

7 Steps for making tissue paper flowers!

I love making tissue paper flowers with my students- not only is it an authentic craft, but the kiddos really enjoy making them, even the boys! During our last week of school this year, I had small groups of Kindergartners make flowers... a colorful spring treat!
I first laid out the materials- tissue paper in a variety of colors, pipe cleaner stems (I usually cut them in half which makes them easier to handle for little hands), scissors, and small pieces of paper for their names. Each kiddo was instructed to choose 4 pieces of paper, either different colors, all the same, or any combination. Some kiddos really got into making a pattern with two colors- love the math connection! Once they had chosen their colors, we began constructing the flowers (see the step by step pictorial below). With Kindergartners, this is definitely a small group or lots of helping hands activity. It took a group of 5-6 about 15-20 minutes to complete as I take it slow and be sure all kiddos are doing ok. Often they need assistance for folding, cutting, or scrunching the paper. With older kids, I can do a whole class without much difficulty.
Tips: Go step by step! At each point, I say 'Watch, don't do' as I model how the step is done, making sure it is clear what we are going to do next. Many kiddos think they know what to do next, but this can lead to disaster lol.
Be sure when they are cutting they are holding onto the folded corner so it isn't cut. This step is laden with epic fails- they cut off the folded corner, thereby making it impossible to create the flower. I always have a few who do this, which means they have to start again. Be prepared for this eventuality!
When scrunching- one sheet at a time and don't pull up! There is always one flower that pops off the pipe cleaner stem :) If all sheets are scrunched at the same time, you will have a bud, which is lovely, but not poofy.

Once done, these flowers make a wonderful bulletin board or door decoration! Display them for a week or so before returning them to the kiddos- they will love all the compliments! And for Days of the Dead, see my instructions for making paper marigolds on a previous blog post here

MAKING TISSUE PAPER FLOWERS FOR CINCO DE MAYO and are looking for additional resources? Check out our printable minibook in our shop!

Pepita lee sobre el Cinco de mayo printable minibook