Resources for Teaching Languages to Children


All About Penguins Resources for FLES Spanish

MY ELEMENTARY SPANISH STUDENTS LOVE PENGUINS! I could probably do penguins all year long and they would be happy lol and given we are always looking for themes and activities that motivate our students, harnessing the love of penguins is definitely a win-win! And, penguins can either be the focus of an entire theme, part of a larger one, or even randomly in the year (I have found I can insert penguins whenever and they go bonkers lol). Here are some resources, links, and ideas to make them part of class, center stage or as a supplement:

Penguin Activities for FLES Elementary Spanish for Kids

*KANSAS CITY ZOO PENGUIN WEBCAM: I frequently have this live webcam of penguins from the Kansas City Zoo up on my whiteboard when kids come in- I am continually amazed by the conversation generated by this simple cam, from counting penguins, to noting what they are doing, to their emotions, temperature, and so on, it never gets old. You can see more webcam links on my blog post here. For the penguins, you can start by asking simple questions such as "What color are the penguins?" or "How many are there?" or "Is this penguin (point to one) swimming or standing?" etc. Feel free to exclaim over what the penguins are doing (this really fosters reactions from kids, and gives them the vocabulary to do the same)- "Look, that penguin is jumping into the water!" or "Wow, how cute!", etc.

*PINGÜINOS, LISTOS, ¡A BAILAR!: This song from Pinkfong is one of my Kindergarteners' favorites-we get up and dance to it and they just can't get enough!

*1 A 10 PINGÜINOS: Another fun song, this one with numbers to 10:

*MOVE LIKE A PENGUIN: A simple but fun activity is to have kids move like a penguin, such as "walk, slide, swim, dive, etc'. As with all movement activities, it's a good idea to establish/review appropriate behaviors in the classroom prior to kids moving to avoid unsafe action. You can find a set of photos to go along with actions in our Penguin Activity Pack mentioned below!

*EL PINGÜINO EMPERADOR: This video ties in really well with the above activity, as it features a series of movements along with simple facts.

*CAMINANDES: This video is great as a VideoWalk-featuring a guanaco and penguins, it is both hilarious and endearing! Stop strategically throughout the video to ask questions about the action and what is seen in the video to practice and reinforce vocabulary and structures you are working on in class. I also do a second run through when showing videos without pausing; this helps with "crowd control" lol

*PEPITA Y LOS PINGÜINOS DE CHILE ACTIVITY PACK: For your youngest learners, don't miss our super fun mini book & activity pack featuring the penguins of Chile! Simple activities geared for littles, this is a great motivating theme-Click here to grab it!

Penguins of Chile Spanish Activity Pack
Click here
*LAS PARTES DEL CUERPO: I have frequently seen activities where students learn the parts of a penguin's body (or any animal for that matter), which can be a fun way to incorporate some science in a lesson. Consider, however, focusing on the verb and the quantity rather than the body parts themselves, which may not be high frequency vocabulary. Focusing on having kids provide the verb and other high frequency vocabulary, for me at least, is an easy way to shift an activity like this. You can find this activity, plus others in our Penguin Activity Pages resource here! And don't miss our January 2021  magazine issue El pingüino penacho!

Penguin Activity Pack for Spanish Class
Click here

Caga Tió A Catalan Christmas Tradition

YOU MAY HAVE HEARD OF CAGA TIÓ (ALSO KNOWN AS TIÓ DE NADAL), THE POOPING CHRISTMAS LOG, PART OF CHRISTMAS IN CATALUÑA.... after being inspired by a number of wonderful teacher colleagues, I decided to make my own for my classroom. Years ago I used to talk about this tradition, but have gotten away from it for a long time, so am excited to bring him back-and this time as a real log! Below is the process of how I made mine, along with a bunch of resources so you can include him in your classes, too!

Tió de Nadal or Caga Tió A Cataluña Christmas Tradition

SO, THE LOG... we were lucky enough to have an awesome True Value right by our house which we patronize all the time, and, like at so many small town businesses, we are friendly with the owners, so we stopped by and got a birch log off their pile out back for free- thank you Vic! Any log will do, I am sure-ours is about a foot long, and maybe 8 inches in diameter. I used a smaller branch to saw two legs on a diagonal (yes, I did the sawing!), which my husband then screwed into the bigger log. I cut a wine cork in half and painted it red, then glued it to the face along with drawing on eyes, a smile, and rosy cheeks. The hat I made out of felt, using glue to affix the black portion to the red- super simple DIY!


OF COURSE, YOU MUST FEED HIM...I love that he is often fed healthy foods, like mandarin oranges, nuts, and other snacks. Here is a very well done short video of him "eating" (no need to show the very end which is a PSA) here.

And a quirkier version:

 THIS VIDEO IS QUITE CUTE AND COULD SERVE TO SHOW HOW TO HIT TIÓ  WITH STICKS... and then delivers presents via his posterior! (I like how gently they hit him...I think we seem to get the idea that you whale away at him when described as "beating the sh** out of him" rather than this much sweeter demonstration-after all, it is a kid's tradition, right? Click here.


TO HELP YOU MAKE AN INTRODUCTION OF TIÓ DE NADAL IN THE TARGET LANGUAGE, you can download our set of visuals FREE in our shop-click here.

I am in LOVE with this super short video, featuring Tió de Nadal, the Three Kings, and Santa Claus. Perfect for a quick brain break or to start/end class just for fun. Click here!

and for even more fun, don't miss our Caga Tió mug! You can find it by clicking here

Have fun!

Holiday Multilingual E Cards to Celebrate the Season 2018

THEY'RE HERE! THIS YEAR'S HOLIDAY E CARDS IN MULTIPLE LANGUAGES are ready for you to spread some festive cheer this season! A few (the ornaments hanging from fir boughs) were inspired by a fir tree in our front yard, and all I illustrated using a new app I discovered, Procreate, which I just LOVE! To download each card, just click on the link below the image-you can then send them virtually, post on Twitter or Facebook, or print out to share!

Find our 2017 collection here and 2016 set here!

Feliz navidad llama E Card in Spanish
Click here to download
Frohe Weihnacten E Card
Click here to download
С новым годом Russian New Year's E Card
Click here to download
Joyeux Noël French E Card for Christmas
Click here to download
Feliz Janucá Hanukkah E Card in Spanish
Click here to download
Wishing you a beautiful season of light! :)

Resources for Hanukkah in World Language Class

AS A WORLD LANGUAGE COMMUNITY, WE HAVE BEGUN THE IMPORTANT WORK of viewing & presenting holidays and celebrations through a lens grown beyond Christian ones; while I include La navidad and Los Tres Reyes Magos as part of my instruction with students, I work hard to present them as one of many celebrations throughout the year, rather than as the singular focus during the month of December. To that end, in honoring my Jewish students, I include Hanukkah activities as part of that larger view.  Below are some resources and links you might find helpful for your classes!

Resources for Teaching Hanukkah in Spanish Class

*Juana la Iguana is a cute video series, including this set of Janucá songs:

*The dreidel song (el sevivón) in Hebrew with Spanish subtitles:

*Ocho kandelikas- song from Putumayo (lyrics are below the video on Youtube):

and a second version, sung by children:

And this incredible version by Isaac Zones of Sephardic Jewish heritage!

Don't miss our OCHO KANDELIKAS INTERACTIVE ACTIVITY! You can grab it by clicking here. 

*Want to play the Dreidel game in class? We've got a printable Dreidel, in both Hebrew & here to grab it!  And in FRENCH here :) And here is the dreidel song, you could just teach the first stanza :)

Dreidel template in Spanish and Hebrew
Click here

*Curious about the Ladino language iof Sephardic Jews? This set of videos is AMAZING! Really well done, and perfect for little kiddos. Click here for the playlist :) This song, Saludos, is my particular favorite! And for a great post on incorporating the history of the Sephardic Jews, check out this one by The Woke Spanish Teacher! click here :)

Scholastic has published a new book, La Luna de Janucá, which can be purchased through their Club Leo flyer-it is on my list to buy!

and don't miss our Where are the Latkes Number Game! So much fun-and great for ANY language! Find it by clicking here

Hanukkah Latkes Game

Orange and Clove Pomanders-A Holiday Tradition

THE SCENT OF ORANGES, CLOVES AND CINNAMON easily transport many of us back to our childhood, invoking holiday memories of December, Christmas and more. In many countries, oranges studded with cloves, and often dusted with spices like cinnamon, are a common part of the holiday tradition, and are an easy craft to make with little kids.

Orange and clove pomanders for world language class

*clementines or small oranges
*whole cloves (sometimes you can find these really inexpensively at dollar stores, Walmart, Ocean State Job Lot, etc)
*paper towels
*toothpicks (optional but recommended)
*cinnamon powder (optional)
*ribbon (optional)

Hand out one orange to each student/child along with bowls of whole cloves; also give each kiddo a paper towel- this will keep the juices from getting all over the table! Instruct students to poke the cloves into the oranges, either in a pattern, or just randomly if they are preschool or Kinders :) You can also use a sharpie to dot a pattern beforehand-this is really only feasible if you don't have tons of students like I do! To make piercing the rind easier, you can hand out toothpicks which kids can use to poke a hole prior to inserting each clove. Once kids have inserted cloves to their liking, you can dust it with cinnamon if you would like (this is a little messy so definitely optional and not necessary) and then they are done! You can add a piece of ribbon around the orange to make it more festive and allow it to be hung on a tree or window. ¡Ta-chán! A simple holiday craft for little hands with a cultural background :)

Naranjas y clavos de olor Instrucciones para confeccionar

YOU CAN ALSO PUT THESE ORANGES AWAY TO DRY OUT somewhat so they are more of a 'dried fruit' decoration.....but, funny story, I tried doing this once with a Third Grade class many years ago-we put the decorated oranges in paper bags, one for each student, and I put them all on a shelf in my office space. I left them there for a few weeks, as I had read you should...when I went to return them to my students, I discovered they had all molded and were just horrible! Needless to say, apparently my office space was not a dry location (subsequently we found significant mold all through the building-though not from my oranges lol)...and I couldn't return them to my kiddos-bummer!

La pomme d'ambre craft for French class

*Les pommes d'ambre (has a series of photos of great designs!)
*Confectionner une pomme d'ambre
*Olor a Navidad, Naranjas y clavos de olor
*Decora tu mesa de Navidad con naranjas
*Super simple video in Spanish showing how to make them

*NelkenOrange (in German) video on Youtube
*"Duft" Orange video on Youtube
*Натуральный ароматизатор Video in Russian

Creating a Calm Classroom- Supporting Our Students

ENERGETIC BRAIN BREAKS AND MOVEMENT have long been popular in class, following the belief that kids, especially ones with attention issues, need high energy movement in order to re focus and pay attention, in essence to get the 'wiggles out'. Over the course of my career, I have often integrated these types of activities in my elementary Spanish classes, but during the last several years I have begun to notice a trend that has had me integrating alternatives, ones that focus on being calm, with more purposeful movement and action, and take into account the amount of stimulus a child experiences throughout their day. During my Keynote address at the NNELL Summer Instititute in July, 2018, I talked about ‘Being the calm classroom’, finding ways to balance those energetic activities with quieter ones, as well as building a more tranquil classroom environment overall.

Creating a Calm Classroom to support Students

HOW TO INCORPORATE CALM MOVEMENT IN CLASS: I am finding that, more and more, my students get really ramped up during high energy activities, and then can't come back down, or take a long time to do so- having the opposite effect of what I am trying to achieve! Instead, consider activities that require purposeful movement such as Brain Gym, Yoga, or Tai Chi, which still have kids up and moving but foster self control (another skill I notice kids are lacking!). You may have noticed that mindfulness has gained traction in the last few years, and for good reason; children, like adults, crave the balance that these disciplines provide, even though they are unable to articulate it. For links and other resources visit my Pinterest board here!

RELAXATION AND NATURE SOUNDS as an alternative to popular music. I love a great upbeat, fast paced song just like the next person, and often use them in class. Balancing them with quieter sounds has become a particularly helpful component, however. Perhaps you've listened to one of those cds of a babbling brook, or ocean waves...they are intrinsically soothing and work in the classroom just like at home. Youtube has a ton of videos of this kind, many of which feature beautiful images to go along with the sounds. A particular favorite of mine is this Youtube channel, Nature Relaxation Films, featuring videos from a variety of locations around the world, making it a win-win in terms of also providing visual content of the target language countries. I often play these in the background when kids are doing an activity in small groups or individually, or have one playing as they enter the room to set the tone for class.

LULLABIES are in the same vein as the above, with the additional component of being directly part of the target culture, thereby providing a cultural experience in addition to providing a calm moment. These can be particularly great as a bridge from a higher energy activity to one with greater focus... I like to have our voices get softer and softer as we sing, bringing the energy down gently. Lullabies have been one of the MOST effective classroom management tools in the past few years for me! And, why not turn the lights off, hand out stuffies, and "take a nap"? Kids love the novelty of this imaginary play and there is lots you can incorporate language wise- "goodnight", "sleep tight", "I'm sleepy", "I'm tired", "stars", "moon", "night time", "I'm going to bed/sleep", "Wake up", "dreaming" and so on.

SOFT SURFACES such as pillows, rugs, stuffed animals, etc can lend a a calming feel & touch as well to your space. Consider props, bins, containers, etc that are made from fabrics as opposed to plastic, or hang some curtains in the windows if you have your own classroom. And don't forget PLANTS! They, too, can lend a softer feel to a room- I've also added some aromatic plants that release a scent when touched; these play into our senses and have been shown to provide students (and adults!) a more peaceful aspect. (I don't suggest plants that are too strong-smelling; I have basil, mint and other herbs that do require some touching to have the smell emit from the plant, in case you have students for whom smell is a sensory issue).

BALANCE IN ALL THINGS, RIGHT? This is what I am advocating, not jettisoning high energy activities altogether-they most definitely have their place- just replacing some of them with calmer, more peaceful ones to allow kids a quiet moment in their day.

CREATING THESE PEACEFUL MOMENTS is also truly a gift for our anxious kiddos, those with trauma, those with ADHD, shy kiddos, and our "regular" kids... when you stop to visualize a typical day, it is fast paced and highly stimulating from sun up to bedtime..providing a quiet island amidst the swirl often is just what they need, so consider being the CALM CLASSROOM.

Resources & Supports:

Yoga Cards Set in Spanish French German Russian

FREE Mindfulness Breathing Exercise Mats Spanish French Russian English

Simple Low Prep Colors Activity with Children's Books for World Language Classes

ONE OF MY GOALS THIS YEAR HAS BEEN TO REDUCE SOME OF THE PREP I DO, and this COLORS activity, and variations on it, are a new favorite of mine! Simple to set up, simple to break down, and my kiddos LOVE IT! And the bonus- they are using authentic children's books from a variety of countries at the same time-win win!

Low Prep Colors Activity with Children's Books for Spanish French Class for Kids

THE SET UP: Gather together a bunch of children's books that have lots of different types of illustrations, like the ones shown in the above photo- counting books, alphabet books, animales, etc. You can also use picture dictionaries, many of which are created for native speakers.

THE ACTIVITY: Hand out one book to each kid in class. Start by instructing them to look for something ____ (blue, for ex). Everyone starts searching in their book, then pointing to it while you circulate, commenting on what they are pointing to (in the target language- yes, the car is blue! or you're right, the water is blue!, etc). Once you have checked everyone's, start a new round with a new color. After a few rounds, I like to have kids switch books, even just passing to the left/right so they are engaged in a new book. And since they have a new book, you can even do the same color over again because they are looking at different pictures-great to extend the lesson :) And ta-chán! it's as easy as that!

VARIATIONS: Have kids search for a word that starts with a particular letter (great for when working with the alphabet), category words: fruits, veggies, animals, pets, things that fly, things that live in the forest, family members, things that are cold.... you get the idea! This simple activity has loads of variations, which makes it a great one for bringing back throughout the year.

NEED SOME SOURCES OF AUTHENTIC BOOKS? Here's a list of some sources I particularly like:

Books del sur
Syncretic Press
Lil' libros
Libros en español
Cinco Books
Booklandia Box
Chau Luna
Anansesem Caribbean Voices

Ваша книга
Kids Russian Books

and of course Amazon and, if you're lucky, your local bookstore!

Introduce COLORS in context with our Spanish Theme Pack, Arturo y la bota:

Colors in Spanish Theme Activity Pack for Kids
Click here

FIVE Songs for Days of the Dead for Elementary Spanish Classes

El DÍA DE LOS MUERTOS IS AN INTEGRAL PART OF MOST SPANISH CLASSES- I love the opportunity to talk about this holiday with my students! One way to bring in the cultural themes of this holiday is through songs. Here are FIVE that are particularly little kid friendly and feature aspects and images of the holiday without being too scary for young children.

Five Kid Friendly Songs for Days of the Dead

*El Día de los Muertos Gran Celebración

*Las Calaveras Salen de la Tumba

*Mr Mister: Tumbalakatumba-it's a classic!

and another version

*Tumbas Por Aquí, Tumbas Por Allá

*5 Esqueletos saltando en la cama (not Día de los Muertos related, but still cute!)

and another version


Not Just Monarch Butterflies- Animal Migrations You can Incorporate in World Language Class

AS MANY OF YOU KNOW, I AM FASCINATED BY THE MONARCH BUTTERFLY MIGRATION TO MÉXICO each fall, it is a wondrous thing! Along with this amazing natural event, there are many other migrations which take place each year in / through various countries which are also great to incorporate in your world language class, and provide opportunities to connect science, geography, and culture in our Spanish or French lessons. Use a large map, laminated if possible, to track a migration over the course of several classes, using a dry erase marker and/or a small icon of the animal you are tracking. This is a great way to start class with "news" that kids are really interested in and motivated to find out where the animal is now. During this conversation, you can also incorporate seasons, geography, weather and more to reinforce vocabulary in context. Here are some ideas and resources:

Animal Migrations for World Language Classes Science in Spanish & French

*RUBY THROATED HUMMINGBIRD: Here at my house in Maine we have a pair of hummingbirds that visit our garden all through the summer, a joy to behold! These tiny birds make their nests here in the north, and then, when fall comes, just like the monarch butterflies, they head south- but they fly all the way to Central America to over winter. You can track the migration at Journey North here! Don't forget to teach Sun sun ba ba e as part of any lesson on hummingbirds- a great authentic song! Here is Celia Cruz on Sesame Street:

and for French class, here's a beautiful rendition of Do, re, mi, which incorporates a hummingbird:

*GRAY WHALES (Las ballenas grises): Gray whales spend the summer in the arctic waters off of Alaska and Canada, but come fall, they head down to the warmer waters off the Pacific coast of México. Journey North provides information on their migration, too (getting a sense that I love Journey North?!) Click here for JN. As well, here is a lovely video about the sanctuary in México

Para información sobre la ballena gris en español, se puede ver esta página!

Here's the link to all of Journey North's maps on one page- click here.

*MOVEBANK is a new app that allows you to track animals on your phone! If you are able to hook into an Apple TV to show the maps to students-great! If not, you can take screen shots and project them once you've emailed them to yourself.

*SMITHSONIAN MIGRATORY CONNECTIVITY PROJECT- live tracking maps of a few bird species which visit Central America, including the Black Crowned Night Heron

For more migration tracking:
*Cuckoo Migration to Africa
*World Wildlife Fund Animal Tracker- features animals such as turtles, polar bears, narwhals, jaguars, and more!
*Smartmine Whale Tracker- tracking whales near Hawaii
*National Geographic Tracker- various species can be tracked here
*Monarch Butterfly Migration at Journey North

To see how I track Monarchs in my 2nd grade classes, visit this post!

Two Simple Activities to Foster Peace & Kindness Inspired by Picasso

SEPTEMBER 21 IS WORLD PEACE DAY, EL DÍA INTERNACIONAL DE LA PAZ, a day when we can all reflect on how we can contribute to the efforts to make peace around the world a reality. In a question posed in my Facebook group, Teaching Spanish to Children, I was inspired to come up with some ideas on how to connect Picasso's paintings with this day, ones that are accessible to young children and celebrate peace. I want to thank Miriam C. for posting the original question which led me to the two following ideas, both of which can be done any time of year, but are particularly meaningful on September 21!

Two Peace & Kindness Activities for Kids in Spanish Class Inspired by Picasso

BOTH ACTIVITIES INVOLVE MAKING TISSUE PAPER FLOWERS, a traditional craft which just adds yet another layer of culture to the activity! Read my post here on how to make them with kids.

WHEN THINKING ABOUT HOW I COULD BRING PICASSO TOGETHER WITH WORLD PEACE DAY, my first thought was his painting "Dove of Peace". My second inspiration was the two hands and a bouquet of flowers, which was originally done as a tribute to peace! Each lends themselves perfectly to a bulletin board situation, so I decided to go in that direction. Here's how I put each together:

World Peace Activity Inspired by Picasso

*DRAW (OR TRACE USING A PROJECTOR OR SMARTBOARD) a dove on a large sheet of paper. Print out a photo of Pablo Picasso's painting "Dove of Peace" along with a photo of the artist- I chose a very kid friendly one that also features his daschund, Lump. I also created simple signs celebrating the day '¡Feliz Día Internacional de la Paz!' and 'Happy International Day of Peace!'. The flowers can either be made by you or by your students-since I have so many students in each grade level, the additional ones will form a border around the outside of the bulletin board. What a simple yet lovely display for the holiday!

Kindness Activity Inspired by Picasso

*BE KIND BULLETIN BOARD: One of my goals this year at school is to practice intentional acts of kindness throughout the year; to that end, I thought it would be fun to take the idea of Picasso's painting 'Bouquet of Peace', and use it to inspire me and my school community to be kind with one another. I drew the hands (but you can trace them just like for the dove above) and cut them out. I made four flowers patterned as best I could with tissue paper after the flowers in the painting and used extra pipe cleaners for all the stems. Underneath, I started (but haven't finished yet-will post photos when it's done!) creating a space for a basket or container where we can put flowers that we make which can then be taken or given to others as an act of kindness. I am asking students to be volunteers to make the flowers since we have already started themes and will (hopefully) need an ongoing supply. This is still a work in progress, so I will come back and add more to this post as it evolves.

*I'VE PUT BOTH BULLETIN BOARDS IN THE HALLWAY NEAR MY CLASSROOM so as kids arrive I can point them out to kids and comment on them, including giving some information about Picasso and each of the paintings. My hope is they will inspire kids and even just put a smile on their faces :) And don't miss our BIG WORDS OF PEACE Bulletin Board Set with 8 Posters in Spanish-click here!

Words of Peace in Spanish Bulletin Board Set

WANT TO TEACH MORE ABOUT PICASSO? Grab my mini book and theme pack, Pepita lee sobre Pablo Picasso here!

Pablo Picasso in Spanish for KIDS

French Songs & Videos with an Autumn Theme for Kids

I LOVE AUTUMN AND I FIND MY STUDENTS DO, TOO! The leaves, harvest time, and the crisp air  and change in weather make for great topics in the foreign language classroom, and are natural themes to bring into class. They also lend themselves well to vocabulary sets like colors, numbers, preferences, animals and fruits and veggies, perfect for beginning students as well as older kids. Here are some cute songs and videos featuring autumn themes for the FRENCH CLASSROOM:

French Songs & Videos for Kids with an Autumn Theme

*MUSTI L'AUTOMNE: Musti is originally a Dutch cartoon for kids, but has been translated into a number of languages, including French. This video is perfect for a video walk for novice students, and/or as an activity to listen for key vocabulary. (and who can resist a hedgehog with an apple stuck to him? A perfect cultural touch!)

*LES SAISONS AVEC PINPIN ET LILI- L'AUTOMNE: I think Pinpin and Lili are just sooo cute! Here's a short video introducing autumn vocabulary-I love how it has an interactive piece at the end-pause so students can answer before it's shown!

*GATHERING APPLES OR DOING AN APPLE THEME? Don't miss Pomme de reinette et pomme d'api, a traditional, simple song perfect for elementary school. Add even more fun with our printable song props to go along with this! Click here

Pomme de reinette Song Props for French class

*LE VENT D' AUTOMNE : I am convinced Peppa Pig has an episode for every theme! Like above, you can use this as a video walk and/or to practice key vocabulary. You can also use this as a springboard for talking about favorite fall activities.

*CHANSONS D'AUTOMNE: This is a cute song for autumn!

*LES FEUILLES D'AUTOMNE: A cute video from Paco, Nouky and Lola, three animal friends enjoying the season!

*RENCONTRE D'AUTOMNE: I love these videos from Lulu Vroumette! This episode would be perfect for an immersion class or dual language program, as well as for a Video Walk!

Not sure what a VIDEO WALK IS? Here's the link to a post I wrote about how to use a video clip in class :) Click here!