Resources for Teaching Languages to Children


March Madness with a Twist-How I Made Brackets with Animals for my Elementary Spanish Classes

HELLO MARCH and HELLO MARCH MADNESS! It is exciting to see teachers engaging in music brackets in their foreign language classes and to hear how much kids are enjoying them! A few years ago I tried it out, with great music suggestions from a Twitter colleague, but I just couldn't manage it in my 30 minute classes-clearly operator error! As this March came ever closer, I wracked my brain to find a way to participate that I could pull off..... and then I came across this really cool project out of Arizona State University (March Mammal Madness) and realized THIS I could do-especially since my Third Graders had done research on endangered animals in South America in December, so this became the perfect followup.

March Madness Brackets with Animals for FLES Spanish and French

I SIMPLIFIED THE BRACKETS FOR MY CLASSES since we only meet twice a week and have other theme activities to do... I chose 8 animals from South America, including the ones we had focused on back in December, and created the bracket. Since I have 4 third grade classes, each class will vote on each part of the bracket before an animal is advanced-this was a challenge for me last year-keeping four sets of votes on music as we progressed. Again, operator error I am sure! I've used white poster board for the brackets this year and as we vote, I put tally marks right on the brackets (oh, a little math, too!!! sneaky!)...I copied smaller pictures of each animal to place along the bracket as the vote moves forward. (The animals on the board this year are: el lobo de crin (aguará guazú), el guanaco, el puma, la guacamaya roja, el zorro chilote, el oso andino, el pingüino de penacho, y el jaguar)

March Madness Animal Brackets for FLES Spanish and French

SINCE I KNOW MY STUDENTS will want to also make commentary about the animal they are voting on at any time, I also put up some phrases they can use in the course of the conversation, and as we really get into it I anticipate others will come up as well that I can add to the board. I am really excited, and so are my students- I will let you know how it goes...and which animal is the winner! UPDATE: el pingüino de penacho was the runaway winner last year! I did find I had to stay on top of organizing the brackets, and keeping track of which classes had voted each time as it's hard for me to keep everything in my head-this helps too because you can't move on until all classes have voted! (I just kept a checklist next to the board :) )

Here is a video of me introducing the activity and our first round of votes:

Interested in doing something similar? I have a bunch of animal photos saved on my Pinterest board here. :)

2019 UPDATE: This activity was SOOOO successful last year, and actually led into my 3rd grade classes fundraising to adopt two animals through World Wildlife Fund, which they were so proud of! They begged me to do this again, to which of course I said ¡Sí!. This year the animals are:
la javelina, el oso perezoso, el flamenco, la cigüeña blanca, el lobo mexicano, el mono, la tortuga de Galápagos, y el armadillo. Little factoids are shared all through the voting, which is also a great way to add in some content. :)

2020 UPDATE: Continuing to build on the excitement and success of previous years, these are the animals I've chosen for this year (some are repeats of the first year); I chose them specifically for two reasons, 1) all of them can be symbolically adopted from World Wildlife Fund and 2) all but the monarch butterfly and jaguar are relatively unknown to students, so that the "investigation" portion of the lesson is filled with new content info for my students. (I have found that if they are very familiar with an animal, they rely on their previously learnt knowledge rather than using the fact pages & infographics in Spanish to glean info). The animals: la mariposa monarca, el ocelote, el zorro chilote, el aguará guazú, el capibara, el coatimundi, el pangolín, y el jaguar. Last year, my 4th graders made animal trading cards based on the facts they learned, including diet, description and where they live-they LOVED doing this, so of course we will be doing this again!

Interested in having your kids make animal trading cards but don't have the time to make them yourself? Grab ours here-they can be used for ANY LANGUAGE :)

Animal fact trading cards for world language class

And, for non fiction resources about animals & habitats in Spanish speaking countries, don't miss our printable MAGAZINES, Mira el Mundo and Mira el Mundo, Jr! Geared for elementary & middle school, they are also great for highschool FVR-find subscriptions & individual issues in our shop by clicking here.

Non fiction Magazine in Spanish for Kids

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