Resources for Teaching Languages to Children


It's a Piñata Round-Up! Resources, DIY instructions and Tips for Piñatas in the Spanish Classroom

WHO DOESN'T LOVE A PIÑATA? Full of fun and candy, a piñata is always a treat...and it's a great way to bring culture and excitement to your Spanish classroom. I've rounded up some great resources, DIY instructions, and my own tips for bringing piñatas to your class. Here goes:

*HISTORY OF THE PIÑATA- There are a host of great resources regarding how the piñata came about. I particularly love this video from 6 Grados de Separación:

This infographic, though perhaps a bit detailed for young students, is a still a great visual and pieces of it can be pulled out for the classroom.
Here's a link to it on Pinterest
And just for fun:

*MINI PIÑATAS- I can't get enough of them, they are just so cute! Here are several versions, some more involved than others. Some would be perfect for an after school project or club, while others would be great for in class construction- or, team up with the art teacher and go crazy! I've provided links to the DIY instructions underneath each photo.

The classic burro shape:

Find DIY Instructions Here
These paper cup piñatas are easy to put together- here are two versions:
DIY Instructions Here 

And these:
DIY Instructions Here
This one doesn't come with instructions, but I am assuming a hollow ball of sorts for the center, and foil covered pointed paper cups or cones. Super lovely!

Another paper cup rendition- wow, how easy!

Instructions Here
How about using toilet paper rolls? Simply adorable!

DIY Instructions Here
*OK, YOU'VE GOT THE IDEA with those adorable mini piñatas! How about a regular size one? The star shaped piñata is definitely a go to shape as it has historical significance and is often seen at Christmas time. Here's a great tutorial: 

DIY Instructions
And a video tutorial en español- love it!

Perhaps you have lots of classes like I do, and don't want to make a paper mache piñata- but still want to bring the fun of one into your classroom... how about a paper bag piñata? I've done these and my students were just as excited as if it were a paper mache one. Here are illustrated instructions:

*TIPS FOR WHOLE CLASS PIÑATAS: When filling a piñata for the whole class, divvy up the items into small snack ziplock bags- this avoids one kiddo getting tons of candy and someone else getting hardly any. Evenly portioned out candy makes everyone much happier!

And, don't forget, you don't have to stuff a piñata just with candy- try stickers, little erasers, small toys, pencils, or even play money- my kiddos love the pesos I print out!

*HERE ARE TWO GREAT BOOKS about piñatas, one a legend and one a non fiction story of a master piñatero:
Pancho's Piñata by Stefan Czernecki
is a legend of the first piñata in México
The Piñata Maker/ El Piñatero by George Ancona
tells the story of a master piñata maker in México
DON'T HAVE TIME to make a piñata but would love to buy a handcrafted one? Check out Piñatas de  Laly on Etsy! And don't miss our Book and Activity Pack Eduardo la piñata and  Roll A Piñata Activity in our shop!

Have some piñata fun!

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 (download here) 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!