Resources for Teaching Languages to Children


¡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!

8 Organizational Time Savers To Maximize Your Class Periods +1 New Tip!

OH, THOSE SHORT CLASSES WE HAVE! As elementary language teachers (and even many middle school teachers!), we are used to having brief periods of time with our students, sometimes only once a week, more if we're lucky. Making the most of this time is critical as we know we have a LOT to pack in! Here are some ideas for organizing yourself in an effort to maximize those precious minutes with your students (and don't miss our post on Tips for being a Traveling Teacher!)

*HAVE A SEATING CHART: Whether you use the gen ed teacher's chart or you make your own, I can not overstate how helpful a seating chart is! When you get to class, you don't want to waste time having kiddos futz around finding a place to sit or bicker about next to whom they want to be. Though using the gen ed teacher's chart is fine, I have found I prefer having control of the seating arrangement myself- in my experience, that other teacher's chart is not static; it gets changed without you knowing, either in whole or in part, which is not a great discovery upon entering a room and all YOUR charts need to be changed because of another teacher's prerogative. And, over the course of a few years, you know the students better than the new teacher for that year, meaning you have a better idea of who should sit next to whom (and who shouldn't!). Kids get used to their 'Spanish spots', as I call them, very quickly. (If you use tables regularly, I would keep with the gen ed teacher's chart as kiddos often have materials in the desk's cubby or over the chair). Looking for a handy way to make your seating chart? Check this out- easy to alter as necessary!

*ORGANIZE YOUR ASSESSMENT CHARTS, class lists and more according to your seating chart, not in alphabetical order. With hundreds of students, trying to remember not just a first name but last name, too, becomes a Herculean effort- how much can one brain remember? Write the names of your students on your data charts, etc in order as to how they sit in your circle or groups- this will make it far easier for you to find students' names and record your assessments. Make that seating chart work for you!

*USE FOLDERS? Keep them in order of your seating chart as well (wow, that seating chart gets a workout!). This makes it far quicker when passing out the folders- I go right round the circle every time- no hunting for Sophie on one side of the circle and then over to the other side to give Liam his. I collect my folders in the same order at the end of class so they are ready for passing out the next class. Now, that's a time saver!

*DID WE MENTION FOLDERS? Stuff those puppies before class! If your activity sheet is already in the folders when you get to class, this is one less thing you need to hand out- now, when the folder gets handed out, so does the activity, all in one! If you are between buildings, this is a little more challenging, but doable if you are organized (and really, that doesn't always happen, does it? :) ). I used to have my Kindergarten classes in another building first thing, so would go over a little early to stuff the folders and have them ready to go in class. If time is an issue, nix this idea for separate buildings- you are amazing but not a magician!

*HAVE CLIPS, MAGNETS, ETC already attached to any visuals you plan on using. Fumbling for them in the moment is no party, and try as you might, you know some kiddos are going to squirrel out while you hunt for a magnetic clip in your cart. And for those of you who use your computer in class, try this simple hack to keep your cords at your fingertips!

*USING LOTS OF LITTLE MANIPULATIVES? Bingo chips, counters, small items fit nicely in ziploc bags for easy distribution and transportation from room to room. Have all the bags in a basket to pass around the circle or wing them across the room to the kids (yes, sometimes I do this, carefully! and my students think it's hysterical!)


*MULTI MATERIAL PROJECT IN THE WORKS? Related to the tip above, collate your materials into sets so you can hand out all the necessary items in one go to each student. So, for example, when I make tissue paper flowers with my kiddos, I would put together a chenille stem and paper leaf (for their name) and tuck those into their folders ahead of time or have them in baggies or envelopes ready for passing out. Or, when my First Graders make paper collage representations of Salto Ángel, I have brown and blue construction paper along with a label saying 'Salto Ángel' in their folders before class. This eliminates the step(s) of passing out a variety of materials and saves you time to get right to the project! (Want to know how to make tissue paper flowers in just a few steps? See our post here!)

*CHOOSE A SECRETARIO/SECRETARIA! The gen ed teachers have a helper a day, so why not you? Though it's a bit of work to set up initially, this will pay time saving dividends down the road. Whether you make the system like I have which hangs in the hallway outside my classroom, or just have a list in your binder to tick off names, having a helper work simultaneously with you means less time you need to spend on the "little stuff" and more time on the meat of your lesson. And, it's a great way to practice classroom materials, routines, and procedures in the target language. Have your helper turn on/off the lights, pass out pencil or crayon cups, close/open the door, whatever "chores" you need. I like to balance this with several priviledges, including getting to hold a stuffed animal and being the first one to have a turn if we are playing a game or other activity. As to my system, I used a 1-100 numbers pocket chart, separated by grade level horizontally with a set of names for each class in the pockets. At the beginning of each class, I pull a name (who becomes the secretario/secretaria) and put it in the next pocket over so I know who has had a turn. The first year I made this it was a bear- 385 flowers and leaves to punch out and put names on. However, now, before school starts again, I rearrange the names into their new classes and only have to make my Kindergartners and any new kiddos who move into the district. Still an amount of work, but they love being our class helper (and the perks they get along with it!) Oh, and a good friend of mine from Argentina gave me the name 'secretario'; it's what they use in her daughter's elementary school :)

*USE YOUR CHROME TOOLBAR TO ORGANIZE VIDEOS & LINKS: Our music teacher showed me how to do this, and it has been an incredible time saver for me! Create folders on your toolbar (I have them organized by grade level) and then bookmark links to their respective folder. For example, I have all the songs and videos from Youtube that I teach saved into each grade level for easy, quick access. 

Organization Time Savers for Foreign Language Class

HAVE GREAT TIPS OF YOUR OWN? Share them in the comments! We would love to hear more!

10 Words for Cupcake in Spanish

WE'VE EMBARKED ON A FUN, NEW MINI PROJECT- vocabulary posters highlighting the ever fascinating variety of words across Spanish speaking countries. Here is our first featuring 10 ways to say cupcake- gleaned from native speaking friends around the Spanish speaking world. Enjoy and look for our next poster coming soon!

Download for free!

Resources for Teaching about Mariposas in Your Spanish Classroom!

I MUST CONFESS, I love butterflies! Delicate, beautiful, magical... they are endlessly inspiring! And, my students think so, too, which means higher motivation and greater engagement in this theme. I also love the fact that we are talking about science in Spanish class; nothing like interdisciplinary activities to deepen learning.

IN MY SECOND GRADE CLASSES, my students learn the life cycle of a butterfly, use colors and size vocabulary to describe a variety of photos of each life stage, follow the Monarch migration, and write simple descriptions in Spanish about a life stage of their choice, among other activities. I've gathered together a bunch of resources to incorporate butterflies into your elementary Spanish classroom- make your class fun, engaging and motivating!

*JOURNEY NORTH- it's amazing, this site! Coming straight from the Monarch Sanctuary in México, this site features videos and pictures from the sanctuary as well as the life cycle of a butterfly, stories and information about the children who live near the sanctuary (including some wonderful cultural information), weekly tracking of the Monarch Butterfly migration in both the fall and spring, and the opportunity to participate in their Symbolic Migration. (They also track Ruby-throated hummingbirds to México and Central America!)

*POCOYÓ- This adorable cartoon from Spain is great as a cultural component (Pocoyó is insanely popular!) and has two cartoons which incorporate butterflies. They are ¡Shhhh! (shown above) and 'El amigo comilón'

I love to show these videos and have my students pick out vocabulary that they know. In '¡Shhh!' one activity I do is have my students count how many times 'mariposa' is said.. a simple way to reinforce listening and counting skills.

*MAKE PAPER BUTTERFLIES- There are endless ways to bring crafts into this theme! Team up with the art teacher to do butterfly paintings (kids could then label the colors in Spanish that they used), use tissue paper and a pipe cleaner to make a simple butterfly, or indulge in a slightly more involved craft. Giving instructions in Spanish is a great way to develop listening skills, reinforce classroom materials vocabulary, and engage those learners who do best by making things. Here are some cute ways to make paper mariposas.

and Kid World Citizen has these wonderful instructions for making Blue Morpho Butterflies:

Blue Morpho Butterfly Craft by Kid World Citizen
 *TEACH THE LIFE CYCLE OF A BUTTERFLY: No butterfly theme is complete without teaching the stages in the life cycle of a butterfly! Kiddos are very familiar with these stages and are fascinated by them! Here are a couple of wonderful resources:
¡Sorpresa en el Jardín de la Tía'

*Award-winning author Ana Morris has written a lovely book telling the story of a little girl who discovers a caterpillar in the garden and watches it as it transforms into a butterfly after creating a chyrsalis...'¡Sorpresa en el Jardín de la Tía' is a heartwarming story with lots of high frequency vocabulary and gorgeous illustrations. It is available on Amazon.