Resources for Teaching Languages to Children


Creating a Classroom Space that Maximizes Language Learning

OUR WORLD LANGUAGE CLASSROOM is magical place where we create a learning space for our students dedicated to the culture and language we teach. We can take advantage of this opportunity to provide linguistic support and foster motivation and interest! Here are some tips that have worked for me- let us know what you do, too!

*TIP 1: Make your visual supports content and context rich. Go beyond word lists or labels to putting language in context... around my room I have recreated several of our minibooks utilizing the vocabulary in chunks and sentences drawn from the stories. By providing language in context you give your students more than single words; you give them the supports to put those words into functional phrases they can use to express themselves more communicatively. The picture below is part of our minibook 'Julieta y Mateo hacen un picnic', a simple storyline to learn fruits in context.

*TIP 2: Foster early literacy skills by having lots of print on display- and reference it often. Related to the above, providing as much print in the target language not only creates an environment full of Spanish (or the language you teach!), but it also provides visuals your students can refer to over and over again as they build their sight vocabulary. Encourage your students to look at and utilize your word walls, allowing them to familiarize themselves as to where they can find vocabulary they need, which also fosters independence and responsibility in learning.

*TIP 3: Consider utilizing a circle as your teaching space rather than desks/tables and chairs. I have always taught at circle, it's such an early elementary school tradition and I love it! A circle allows for all of you, students and teacher, to be together in a cozy community where materials can be passed and shared easily and greeting and partner activities are pulled together quickly.. Use clipboards or folders as writing surfaces (or, if there are tables/desks they can return to those for writing activities when those are being done). MINITIP: If teaching in a circle, it is a good choice to have a seating chart; students quickly find their seats and you don't have to deal with bickering or kiddos with hurt feelings because someone didn't want to sit next to them.

*TIP 4: Create areas of imaginative play where students can interact with the language while having fun. I am a huge proponent of imaginative play and try to provide as many opportunities for my students to engage with the language in this manner. Set up a small magnet or felt board with pictures that provide a context that fast finishers can go to for play with the language or create a storytelling basket with manipulatives with the same purpose in mind. See our post on creating thematic story baskets here!

*TIP 5: Make your space kid-friendly. At first glance, this tip doesn't seem to foster language acquisition...until you consider that stuffies, toys, play food, etc motivate students to use language. Little kids love to have stuffies "talk", manipulate play food, and use all manner of toys. Tap into this by incorporating lots of these items in your classes and have them at the ready in baskets or bins around your room.

*TIP 6: Place useful classroom phrases and requests strategically near what they are referencing. If you want your students to learn how to say, 'May I get a kleenex?', have the phrase posted right over the kleenex box. Connect the phrase with the item/objective at hand, forming a visual link between the words and the purpose.

*TIP 7: Establish key phrases for routines and procedures in the target language and post them for regular reference with students. From the beginning of the school year, have a set of concise, direct phrases you use for classroom management; use them consistently and refer to them on a regular basis. Whether they are key words for good audience behavior or instruction cards detailing each step of an activity, this language in chunks will enable you to stay in the target language rather than break into English.

*TIP 8: Don't have a classroom? Use your school's hallways to create 'language centers' kids can see and interact with. Not having a classroom doesn't need to stop you from displaying language throughout the school (provided you have permission or space to use the hallways). Create bulletin boards or spaces where kids can not only view but interact with language, such as putting up a piece of chart paper with a question like '¿Cómo estás? or ¿Cuál foto te gusta más?, etc. Here's a picture of a Pinterest-inspired board I created. You can see my entire post on how I made it here.

LOOKING FOR PRINTABLE BULLETIN BOARD sets rather than making them yourself? Head over to our shop for great resources such as some seen in this post! Click here!


Activities for Summer Camp in Spanish

IT'S SUMMER TIME and many of our little friends are heading off to camp for fun and adventure! We've teamed up with Fun for Spanish Teachers to bring you a whole host of great Spanish related camp activities perfect for little kids.

Click here to visit Fun for Spanish Teacher's Blog!
BE SURE TO CLICK ON THE PHOTO ABOVE to visit Fun for Spanish Teacher's blog and discover even more great ideas!

SUMMER CAMP is all about being outside, so we've compiled a list of games and activities that will get your little campers out of doors, enjoying the fresh air and sunshine while learning about and using Spanish!

*HAVE A TEDDY BEAR PICNIC (or Stuffie picnic!): Invite your campers to bring in a teddy bear or stuffie, gather about on a picnic blanket, enjoy snacks and have the stuffies greet one another and engage in mini conversations in Spanish. Kids can describe their stuffies using color and size vocabulary, share their names, have the stuffies introduce themselves, and so on! Here are two of my 4th graders with their stuffies during this year's Teddy Bear Picnic:

*PLAY RAYUELA: If you've got some asphalt and sidewalk chalk, playing this timeless game is a must! There are endless ways you can draw a hopscotch board, but there are two elements one typically has in Spanish speaking countries- 'tierra' at the base and 'cielo' at the top.

*PAINT FLAGS ON STONES and use sticks to set up a 'Gato' (Tic Tac Toe) board outside: Break out the paints, sets of 10 small flat stones, and have your campers create the game pieces to play 'Gato'! Choose flags that are conducive to smaller surfaces, such as Colombia, Argentina, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, etc and use acrylic paint to create sets of five stones for each flag/player. Once the game pieces are dry, head out to a grassy location, set up a tic tac toe grid with sticks and let the fun begin! (This is a great rainy day activity, too! Just play inside instead of out)

*MOUNT A SCAVENGER HUNT: With endless vocabulary possibilities, a scavenger hunt is always a great way to practice language! I wrote a post last year detailing how I created a bilingual scavenger hunt for my 4th graders... here's the link!

*ADD SPANISH TO ANY PLAYGROUND GAME : Already have a list of fun outdoor games to play? Why not do them in Spanish? Whether it be Frisbee golf,  a relay race, or a giant Twister board, it's an easy switch to play in Spanish- keep score, root for each other, call out colors for Twister, and so on. Lots of language forms any game playing, so tap into the high motivation campers have to play!  (TIP: if you don't have frisbee golf nets, just use plastic laundry baskets!)



Chalk Flags from Spanish Speaking Countries on the Playground!

INSPIRED BY ANOTHER SPANISH TEACHER, I took my 4th Grade students out to the playground during Spanish class this final week to make chalk flags of various Spanish speaking countries- it was a blast!

TO MAKE THEM, I purchased several boxes of sidewalk chalk at the local dollar store, eight boxes in all, and printed out a number of flags using our color copier. I looked for flags that had a crest or emblem to add more to the activity, such as Bolivia, El Salvador, España, Perú, México, etc, but could have easily given choice of any of the flags. I had to supplement the sidewalk chalk with regular white chalk; that was a bit tricky since the regular chalk didn't last very long! Next year I will be looking for larger white chalk as we used quite a bit of it.

MY STUDENTS FORMED SMALL GROUPS OF 2-3, chose a flag, and got to work! They started with a large rectangle (most of them were about 3 feet by 4 or 5 feet, some a little smaller), and then began drawing the crest and coloring in the flags. Over the course of a thirty minute class, after giving instructions, organizing themselves into groups, and getting started on the flags, they were able to finish about half of each flag started given the size they drew the original rectangles. The group that chose Puerto Rico was able to finish their flag, but the others were finished by my next class, who took over.

MY STUDENTS LOVED THIS ACTIVITY! Next year, I need more chalk, and I will give them the option of making the flags smaller so they can finish them during our class period. I am also going to look for some other colors of chalk as we needed brown for a few of the flags (Bolivia, Perú, and Ecuador). It was a perfect final class activity!

And don't miss our post about using LEGOS TO MAKE MINI FLAGS!

Reflecting on a Year Teaching 90% in the Target Language

90% IN THE TARGET LANGUAGE? In my elementary Spanish classes? Yes! Over the last few weeks, as the school year slowly comes to an end, I have been reflecting on how this year has gone, most specifically in terms of my professional goal to stick to 90% in Spanish for the ENTIRE year, not start sliding sometime in the winter like I have done in the past. (#trueconfessions!)

SO, WHAT DID I LEARN? Firstly, I learned that I have been my biggest obstacle in the past. Yes, me! Which really surprised me because I have given many presentations and written many blog posts on establishing routines, classroom management, teaching culture, and more, all in the target language! Nevertheless, this mental roadblock kept me from even trying to shoot for 90-100%, though in looking back, my classes have always ranged 75-80% in the TL on average anyway- so why was I afraid of that 10-15% bump? I truly believed that my students would be too frustrated, that there were some things that just couldn't be done in the TL, and, most importantly, my relationships with my students would suffer. I'm not alone here- Wendy Farbaugh wrote a great blog post expressing similar emotions!

THE TRUTH IS, my fears were unfounded- I developed strong relationships with my incoming Kindergartners and maintained and built upon those I already had with my First through Fourth grade students. Lessons I had firmly convinced myself couldn't be done in Spanish because they were too full of unfamiliar language became lessons that, with creativity and thought on my part, were conducted entirely in Spanish or with only a few switches into English to establish meaning. Except for very specific situations, I addressed all behavioral issues in Spanish, as well as lice, bloody noses, wracking coughs, vomit alerts, tears, and missing pets (did I say elementary school?). In essence, I took what I had already been doing and made the commitment to do it more, and more consistently.

SO, HOW DID I DO IT? Here's the meat of the matter, and really deserves a post all on its own- or several! (Stay tuned, that's the plan!) Here's a overview, visually presented:

WHAT WILL I CHANGE FOR NEXT YEAR? The biggest thing I need to do, in my opinion, is teach my students strategies for learning in a 90% classroom right from the beginning of the year. Although 'eyes on me' and 'focus' are always important, my students really needed the 'why?' behind these strategies, which I didn't fully understand until about mid-October. Explicitly teaching strategies helps them and me hone in on what they (and I) need to do to ensure success for everyone.

UPDATE: See our post on building a partnership with students to support success in a 90% TL classroom! Click here to read!

HOW'S THIS FOR EXCITING?! Join us for our 3 WEEK CHALLENGE 'Hitting the 90% Target' starting January 2 on Facebook! We'll get you started transitioning to a 90% in the Target Language Classroom with these mini goals and tasks! Click here to join the event.

Fun Printable Props for Spanish Kid's Songs

PRE SCHOOL AND EARLY ELEMENTARY KIDS love to play and act out songs and poems, and what better way to do that than with props they can manipulate? I love to incorporate authentic traditional songs and poems from Spanish speaking countries- it's a great way to bring culture to the classroom while at the same time fostering language acquisition in context.

ONE OF MY FAVORITE SONGS is 'Los Pollitos Dicen', and my students love it, too! Once they are familiar with the lyrics, I break out our 'gallina', 'pollito', 'trigo' and 'maiz' props so my students can act out the song while we are singing. I put the 'trigo' and 'maiz' on the rug in the center of the circle, and hand out 'la gallina' and four 'pollito' stick puppets to students who form a smaller circle around the 'trigo' and 'maiz'. As the song plays, the kids who are chicks flap their wings, say 'pío, pío', mime being hungry and cold. The 'gallina' hunts for food, picks up and pretends to hand the 'trigo' and 'maiz' to the chicks, and puts her 'wings' out to have the chicks snuggle in, who then mime going to sleep. It's incredibly cute, and kids have a blast! Here is a link to a great version to this song on Youtube:

ONCE THE SONG IS OVER, I choose a new group of kids to come up and use the props, giving us another opportunity to sing the song! (Of course, we play until everyone has had a turn!)

ANOTHER FAVORITE OF MINE IS 'UN ELEFANTE SE BALANCEABA', perfect for practicing numbers and getting your kiddos up and moving! Have your students sit in a circle and choose one student to be the first elefante-hand him/her the elefante with '1'. Have this student walk around the circle as you play the song (see the link below from YouTube)- pause the song right as the second elefante is being called onto the spider web and have the kiddo stop, too. Choose a second student to join the first and hand him/her the next elefante (I like to choose names out of a hat or basket). Continue in this fashion until the song is finished. Each time a new student joins the line, you can ask the class ¿Cuántos elefantes ahorita? to add more numbers practice.

GET OUR PRINTABLE SONG PROPS IN OUR SHOP! The pack includes props for 'Los Pollitos Dicen', 'Un elefante se balanceaba' and 'Caballito Blanco', perfect for little learners! Click here to get them now!