Resources for Teaching Languages to Children


How to Introduce la Navidad & el Día de los Reyes Magos in a 90% TL Classroom

TEACHING OUR ELEMENTARY STUDENTS CULTURE in the target language can sometimes sound daunting, but it doesn't have to be so, especially if we are very intentional about what we teach, we seek out concrete, tangible aspects which our students can more easily connect with, and we give ourselves permission to teach key elements, rather than the whole kit and kaboodle (remember, you can always spiral back in subsequent months or years to add to what you have taught your students- it's not a one and done situation).

COMPARING AND CONTRASTING LA NAVIDAD Y EL DÍA DE LOS REYES MAGOS presents a wonderful opportunity to teach about culture concretely, particularly because you can harness the power of graphic organizers such as a T Chart or a Venn Diagram to assist in your lesson. Here's how I present a simple comparison of these two holidays to my Kindergartners speaking 100% in Spanish with a teacher script and student responses in quotes and lesson actions in parenthesis- CHANGE 'MAINE' TO YOUR STATE. The primary goal of this lesson is to acquaint students with the key aspects of each holiday; essentially a fact building activity. The lesson lasts approximately 15-20 minutes.

compare and contrast culture in the target language holidays

PREP: I found a world map online in Spanish to project on my Smartboard, visuals of the various components of each holiday (Santa, Rudolph, Three Kings, camels, hay, etc), a visual of a famous character such as Peppa Pig or Mickey Mouse, a photo of me, and a photo of a friend from Spain (you could use a photo of someone from any country you chose, or download one off the internet using Google Images if you don't have a current photo of a friend), and 'Feliz navidad' by José Feliciano cued up for playing.

*THE LESSON: (I have the map projected on the Smartboard behind me)


TEACHER-"Ok niños, vamos a hablar sobre la navidad." (Hit play and play the first chorus of Feliz navidad, the portion in Spanish). -This establishes the topic of Christmas as many students are familiar with this song and know it in the context of Christmas.

TEACHER: "Celebramos la navidad aquí en Maine (point to your state on the map)...¿sí o no?"


TEACHER: "Y, aquí en Maine, ¿quién trae los regalos? ¿Papá Noel o Peppa Pig? (hold up a visual of wrapped presents to establish meaning for 'regalos' and then visuals of Papá Noel and Peppa Pig for the either/or question)

STUDENTS: "Papá Noel" (some will definitely respond in English with 'Santa Claus'- you can say "Sí, Papá Noel" to foster use of the Spanish name) Stick the visual of Papá Noel on the map near your state.

TEACHER: "Ahhh, y ¿con quién viene Papá Noel? ¿Con Mickey Mouse o Rodolfo?"

STUDENTS: "Rodolfo" (again, you may need to reinforce the Spanish as replacement for the English, that's ok!) Stick the visual of Rodolfo next to Papá Noel on the board.

TEACHER: "Hmmm, y ¿dónde pone Papá Noel los regalos? Debajo del árbol, ¿sí o no?"

STUDENTS: "Sí" (stick visual of Christmas tree on board with a present under it)

TEACHER: "¿Y en unos calcetines? ¿sí o no?"

STUDENTS: "Sí" (stick visual of stocking with present in it on board)

TEACHER: "Papá Noel tiene hambre" (make a circular motion over your stomach) ¿Le dejamos pizza? ¿sí o no?


TEACHER: "¿Le dejamos unos tacos?"


TEACHER: "¿Le dejamos unas galletas? ¿sí o no?"

STUDENTS: "¡Sí!" (stick picture of cookies on board

TEACHER: "y qué tal un vaso de leche? ¿sí o no?"

STUDENTS: "Sí" (stick picture of milk on board- you could go through this process for what we leave for reindeer also, such as carrots and/or reindeer food)

TEACHER: "Ok, así celebramos la navidad aquí en Maine. Papá Noel nos trae los regalos y Rodolfo le acompaña. Papá Noel pone los regalos en los calcetines y debajo del árbol. Le dejamos a Papá Noel unas galletas y un vaso de leche. ¿Sí o no?"


TEACHER: "Hmmm...pero en España no celebran así...Esta es mi amiga, Maite, en España (show photo of friend and point to Spain on the map, stick her photo next to Spain). Maite no está en Maine, está en España y Papá Noel no viene a la casa de mi amiga Maite. Rodolfo no viene a la casa de mi amiga Maite tampoco. (point to the visuals of Papá Noel and Rodolfo, say 'no' and shake your finger no to further establish meaning). En lugar de Papá Noel, vienen los Tres Reyes Magos. (put up visual of Three Kings next to photo). Y, los Tres Reyes Magos no son acompañados por Rodolfo, no. Hay tres camellos (point to the camels/put up a picture of camels). Los Tres Reyes Magos ponen los regalos en y alrededor de unos zapatos (put up a picture of a pair of kids shoes and presents in/next to them- you can mime the Three Kings putting the presents in the shoes). Y, los camellos tienen hambre, ¿no? (make the circular motion over your tummy)- para los camellos, los niños ponen paja o hierba y un poco de agua. (put up pictures of hay/grass and water next to the camels and mime them eating and drinking the water). Y ta-chán, así se celebra el Día de los Tres Reyes Magos en España."

I HOPE THIS GIVES YOU SOME IDEAS for presenting this cultural theme in the target language- Spanish!

GRAB OUR HOLIDAY COMPARISON PACK in our shop and make preparing for this lesson easy for yourself! You can get it here!

holiday comparison la navidad el día de los tres reyes magos

Hand signals & gestures for behavior management-stay in the target language!

I HAVE GIVEN MANY PRESENTATIONS on how I keep my behavior and classroom management in my elementary Spanish classes in Spanish, and one thing I share each time is how I use hand signals and gestures to provide redirects and reminders. Borrowed from ASL, Responsive Classroom, and other sources, the following simple signals are, in fact, quite powerful and allow you to stay in the target language once you've established them as part of your routine management style. Also check out my list of 13 verbal redirects in Spanish here!

hand signals for classroom management in the elementary Spanish classroom

*¡ATENCIÓN!: Most likely you use this one, too. Eyes in my direction is one of the most important things I need my kiddos to do in order to see all the visually supports I give them (see my post on a 90% partnership for more on this). I often accompany this gesture with the verbal redirect '¡Atención!, but not always. NOTE: You will notice I am careful to say ‘in my direction’; I might direct the gesture to the Apple TV, a poster, the actual visual etc. Being careful not to ask students to look you directly in the eyes is important to be inclusive of neurodivergent students for whom this is difficult. 

hand signals for behavior management in the elementary Spanish classroom

*¡SIÉNTATE BIEN!: This is the ASL sign for sitting and comes in extremely handy for those squirmy, wriggly kids who are all over the floor, up on their knees, or lying about instead of sitting on their bum.

hand signals for classroom managment elementary spanish class

*MOMENTICO: I was inspired to use this gesture by watching a previous principal who used it frequently at staff meetings. I use it all the time; when a kiddo has a raised hand but I can't call on him/her right at that moment; when a kiddo needs something but I can't grab it right at that moment; any time I need my kiddos to wait for a minute for my attention, help, etc. It is way more powerful than I could've imagined! Kids feel ACKNOWLEDGED, that I see them and will get to them as soon as I can, which also cuts down on the "Señora, Señora, Señora....". I do typically say 'momentico' when I make the gesture; many of my students have picked it up and use it, too! NOTE: a key component of this is that you do indeed get back to the kid you've said 'momentico' to- this builds trust and shows your students you will follow through.

hand signals for classroom management in elementary Spanish class

*SNAPPING YOUR FINGERS: Need to get a kiddo's attention without saying anything? I find snapping my fingers often does the trick, and I can then give a second hand signal to redirect the behavior that is heading off course or a verbal redirect if necessary.

I hope these help out and/or give you inspiration! Have some gestures of your own? Share in the comments below!