Resources for Teaching Languages to Children


Resources to Teach about Puebla, México as part of a Theme on Cinco de Mayo

CINCO DE MAYO has become a tricky celebration to teach for Spanish Teachers, especially given it's wide celebration OUTSIDE of México. My approach has been to stick to the historical facts of the holiday, which has been successful for my classes and grade levels. However, this is also a great opportunity to teach about PUEBLA, MÉXICO, where the battle which forms the basis of Cinco de Mayo took place. Transport your students to this lovely city rich with tradition and history!

Resources to Teach about Puebla Mexico as part of a theme on Cinco de Mayo

*INFOGRAPHIC ABOUT PUEBLA: Here is a useful infographic that can be used as an authentic resource- kids can pick out details based on the photos and/or the text depending on their level. The link is here. (BTW: this is one of a series of infographics, one for each state in México. Scroll below the pin to see the rest)

*THE PRINCESS AND THE WARRIOR: This tells the legend of the two volcanoes, Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl in a picture book format. You can find it here on Amazon.

The Princess and The Warrior A Legend from Puebla, Mexico

and here is a short video of the legend, great for heritage speakers!

And if you are on Twitter, follow, el Popo's twitter account! Features a live webcam of the volcano, plus lots of great #authres about continual explosions and activities from the crater.

*PUEBLA VIDEO: Here's a great video of the city which is a good way to introduce the city! You can choose to mute the narration.

I am also a big fan of virtual walking tours-they are a great street-view of various places! Here is one and another. You can stop the video at various points to ask simple questions related to what is being seen or just watch for fun. (Please be sure to preview all videos before showing to students.)

*LA CHINA POBLANA: The traditional dress associated with Puebla, the china poblana has a VERY interesting history! For classroom purposes, especially elementary, an easy activity is to ask what colors the dress is, what is on it, etc. You can use stills of the video below for this purpose. And for older students, here is the link to a pin about la china poblana.

For your own information, here is a short video on the history-I learned several things I hadn't known before! I think it's important to pay close attention to the fact that Mirrah (or Catarina de San Juan, her baptized name) arrived to México from India as a slave. Her story cannot be told without this part of México's past. 

and this video is really well done to illustrate her history.

*CINCO DE MAYO printable.... and for those of you who definitely want to introduce historical facts in the target language, here is our mini book & theme pack! 

Have fun and let me know what other activities you'll be doing!

A Simple Mamá y Bebé Activity for Mother's Day in World Language Class

LITTLE KIDS LOVE ANIMALS, so including them is always sure to increase the motivational factor from the get go. Since Mother's Day falls in the spring, and of course, spring means many animal babies, it creates the perfect combination for a fun and simple activity to do in world language classes! (NOTE: Variations on the game are included, too!)

Mother's Day Activity for World Language Class

*MAMÁ AND BEBÉ MATCHING GAME: Your little learners will love this fun matching game which also involved some movement- and you can add some CULTURE to the game by printing out pictures of animal moms and babies from countries where your target language is spoken. I've created a special section here on my Pinterest for Spanish speaking countries and one here for French. Print out the pictures of each pair of animals and affix them to stiff paper.

VERSION 1: Hand out the mamás and bebés- bebés keep the pictures "secret" while the mamás hold the pictures so everyone can see them. Call on a student who has a bebé- that student needs to find his/her mamá and pair up. (You can have them greet each other :) ). Call on another student and so forth until all have paired up. You can switch this around by having the bebé photos showing instead of the mamás.

VERSION 2: Have students sit in a circle- hand out the mamá photos which need to be kept "secret". Choose one babé photo, and a student. This student has three chances to figure out who has his/her mamá, using the phrase 'Are you my mother?' in the target language. If he/she finds the mamá, she gets to go again next round. If not, a new student is chosen to be the 'bebé' (I only allow two rounds consecutively before I choose a new student). Mix up the mamá photos before starting a new round, along with a new baby.

VERSION 3: You can use the photos to create a Memory game, matching moms and babies, which is a great centers or fast finisher activity! Just reduce the size of the photos by clicking and dragging them into a Pages or Microsoft document and then resizing.

VERSION 4: Take it a step further once pairs have been made and put them on the map according to where they live. You can either go macro (using continents) or more micro (using individual countries)-either way this is a great opportunity to spiral geography back into class!

And don't miss our TE AMO, MAMÁ Mini Book & Activity Pack for further practice with vocabulary, as well as games and a Mother's Day craft! You can find it here!

Te amo Mamá Mother's Day Activity Pack in Spanish

Uno, Dos, Tres Summer Vacation Activities for Families that Connect with Your World Language Program

SUMMER IS AN EXCITING TIME FOR OUR STUDENTS, as they head off on fun adventures, camp, or just lazing about in the back yard. As World Language teachers, we hope that what we've taught during the course of the school year will not be entirely forgotten amidst the sun and sand of vacation. Providing some ideas for families is a great way to remain part of their lives even while they are out and about.... here are THREE ideas families can easily incorporate and keep the language and culture flowing!

Be sure to check out these UNO, DOS, TRES blog posts from these great teachers:

Uno, dos, tres ¡bienvenido verano!
Uno, dos, tres ¡bienvenido verano! Summer Game
Uno, dos, tres Verbos irregulares
Uno, dos, tres Juegos

Three Summer Vacation Ideas that Connect with Your World Language Program

1) GO SHOPPING in the target language! Parents and kids can make a shopping list together in Spanish, French, German, Russian, English... whichever language they are learning in school. This is a super fun way to bring the language into daily life and practice high frequency vocabulary! As items are put in the cart, kids can tick off the word on the list... for even more fun, kids can make labels for the kitchen using the vocabulary, or make these fun magnets with printable play food! Here is a FREE download for a shopping list in Spanish!

2) SUPPORT THE LOCAL LIBRARY by checking out books related to the target language and culture. Most libraries have a section with bilingual books, legends, myths, and more... have the librarian point you to some fun books to take home and enjoy together as a family. Books like 'Say ¡Hola! in Spanish', 'French for Kids', picture dictionaries, and books on tape are wonderful for families to learn together.

3) MOUK VIDEOS on Youtube are one of my favorite recommendations for families-created in the UK, Mouk and his friends explore all over the world in a kid-friendly, educational format. Here are a couple of fun episodes (they also come in other languages!)-send home some links to families so they can go on the adventures with Mouk!

What would you add? Share in the comments!

And don't miss my Summer Book Lists for Kids- great recommendations for summer reading! Summer 2017 and Summer 2015... along with my printable Summer Spanish Fun Activity Book here.

How to Develop a Theme from a Picture Book Step by Step

PICTURE BOOKS ARE A WONDERFUL WAY TO INTEGRATE LANGUAGE IN CONTEXT in our foreign language classes while being engaging and fun at the same time! I also like that they are forms of literature, meaning they are not a story designed specifically for language learning, but rather are created to delight the reader, make them think, reinforce morals and social mores, etc (something I also try to do when I write my mini books!). This inherent aspect of a picture book (or poem!) gives it additional oomph in my opinion, and a deeper purpose beyond the language learning process.... one of the first filters I pass a book through. The challenging part, of course, is in how to take a picture book and turn it into a quality lesson and/or theme that both harnesses it's inherent value and is comprehensible for your students. Here are the steps I take when adapting a picture book to my elementary Spanish classes:

How to Develop a Theme from a Picture Book in FLES classes Step by Step

1) CHOOSING A BOOK: The primary consideration, of course, is the book. When considering books, I first look to those inherent qualities mentioned above-does it have a larger message? does it open a perspective on culture? does it inform on non fiction content? These are not final criteria, but they definitely weigh in my decision. I am also considering language goals- I typically look for books that feature repetition and/or a concrete story line. Repetition helps keep the new word count down, thereby increasing the comprehensibility of the story. I'm not looking to overwhelm my students with new words, but rather give them easy access to enjoying the story. A concrete storyline, one with simple actions, also provides greater entry as these are more easily acted out/ mimed by you as you read the book. Since I teach 90% in the target language, I am looking for a lesser need to translate as opposed to a greater one. Again, these are features of my mini books, also- the more accessible you can make a story, the better, especially for novice learners!

2) BACKWARDS PLANNING: Once I have a book in mind, I need to decide what my end goals are for the theme itself. This includes skills and culture that I want my students to acquire by the end of the theme. This also helps me hone in on the key words & phrases I will be highlighting during the theme. See my post on Identifying Key Vocabulary here! For the above book, Abejoso (link here), my learning goals are (for a Multiage class Kinder-2nd grade):
-Students will identify the onomatopeya bees make in Spanish. (culture)
-Students will be able to describe main characters in book using simple, learnt phrases (Norman the bear, Amelia the bee, the Queen bee, and the scary bear) (speaking)
-Students will be able to match key emotions phrases with illustrations (listening comprehension)
-Students will be able to match main storyline phrases with illustrations (listening comprehension)

And, here is a refined framing of these goals for kids' consumption:

-DISCOVER: Do all bees say 'buzz buzz'?
-SHARE: We all have feelings. How does Norman feel? How do the bees feel? How do I feel when ____?

It doesn't seem like a lot at first blush, or at least not to me, until you remember the theme will last approximately 6 weeks, or 6 hours total. I will not be assessing all of the above, and not for all grade levels in the multiage classroom (Kindergarten is only assessed on Work Habits)

3) ALTERING THE TEXT: Now I go through the book and determine whether and where I need to alter the text. It is rare that I use the text of a picture book unchanged; too often the text is more complicated than my students can understand, or paring down the text just makes sense to be able to provide a concrete storyline. I try hard not to lose the essence of the story, however! The little details that make a picture so enjoyable to read are integral to the motivational factor of your students, and contribute to that emotional connection that comes along with a good read. I am also keeping my end goals in mind as I pare down the language.

One way to simplify the language is to turn it from 3rd person to 1st person. This eliminates the extra narrative vocabulary that might be more challenging for a novice learner to understand, and allows you (and the students) to act out the lines more easily. You can see in the photos below how I took lines from the book 'Abejoso' and changed them to 1st person, along with other examples. I even changed my mind half way through on one of them! NOTE: I use stickie notes to begin with, but create a 'master script' once I have all the lines I want.

Altering Picture Book Text to Make it more Comprehensible for Foreign Language Class

4) CREATING PROPS: I really like to have props to go along with any story, so with a picture book I use a color copier to copy the key illustrations from the story and turn them into stick puppets. This allows us to do a number of activities related to the story, including listening comprehension checks, acting out and retelling. (Before the advent of a readily available color printer, I used to buy multiple copies of a book and take apart the extra ones to make into props- sacrilegious, I know, but man, it works!)

5) SEEK OUT RESOURCES: Since I anticipate doing a variety of activities related to the story, but not about the story itself, such as songs, games, etc, I like to seek out additional resources to support my overall goals. For example, I found a song featuring a bee and the onomatopeya 'zu zu', perfect for reinforcing this cultural component. I also found a math activity using Tangram hexagons which work perfectly as the cells of a hive. We will also be planting flowers in my classroom with the intention of providing food for the bees on our playground once the weather warms, because of course they would say 'Tengo hambre' (I'm hungry)....a tie in with the emotions phrases we will be practicing. :)

6) TIME TO READ!: From this point onward, I've prepared the book,props and other activities, so it is a matter of teaching the theme, starting with the book. I usually begin with a picture walk, though I don't want to give away too much of the story, so I might only do a walk with the first few pages, highlighting key characters and the "problem" presented- in this case, Norman the bear, the bees, and Norman's love of honey that is very hard to get. Using yes/no, either/or questions I can build on vocabulary they already know prior to reading the whole story. Typically I will read a story multiple times over the course of a theme, allowing for practice and also for kids to take turns being various characters (a subtle way to get more practice in!). Once I've read the story, I go back and answer comprehension questions, again starting with yes/no, either/or type, adding in more complex questions for the 2nd graders in the group (What color is __?, What size is he/it? Do you like ___? and so on, again to build on what they know). I pass out the props and read through again, having kids raise their part when we get to it. We also use the props to order the story, and to associate key phrases with the parts represented. In this particular book, the emotions phrases are not originally part of the storyline, so I have copied those pages which work well with the phrases I want to highlight, and we will match talking bubbles to the pictures so the characters are "saying" them.

7) TYING IT ALL TOGETHER: Every theme needs a wrap up, an activity or a debrief that brings it to a close. In this instance, I would like my students to extract the bigger message of the story, which is related to friendship:

-BRIGHTEN: Who can be a friend? What makes a friend?

What are your favorite picture books to use in class? Here's a short list of some others I have used in my Spanish and Russian classes:

-La Oruga Muy Hambrienta (The Very Hungry Caterpillar) by Eric Carle
-Oso pardo, oso pardo, ¿Qué ves ahí? (Brown bear, brown bear, what do you see?) by Eric Carle
-Salta, ranita, salta (Jump, frog, jump) by Robert Kalan
-En aquel prado (Over in the meadow) -a traditional rhyme
-Un alce, 20 ratones (One moose, 20 mice)- Barefoot Books
-El gato gordinflón (Fat Cat)
-Nico y los lobos feroces (Nico and the ferocious wolves)- Valery Gorbachev
-Репка (The turnip)-traditional Russian folktale
-Колобок (The pancake)- traditional Russian folktale
-Курочка ряба (Speckled Hen)- traditional Russian folktale