Resources for Teaching Languages to Children


How to Use a Venn Diagram in Your World Language Classroom

GRAPHIC ORGANIZERS ARE A FANTASTIC TOOL FOR THE WORLD LANGUAGE CLASSROOM, most especially for novice level students of ANY AGE who do not have lots of language at their disposal, but can certainly participate in simple categorizing activities, such as filling out a Venn Diagram, either as a class or individually. And, they allow you to STAY IN THE TARGET LANGUAGE, a double win!

How to Use a Venn Diagram in a World Language Classroom Spanish

I AM PARTICULARLY FOND OF THE VENN DIAGRAM, as it allows for some higher order thinking involved in the process, especially for little learners who are still learning how to categorize items and concepts. Most students have had experience with Venn diagrams, as well as other graphic organizers, so you can leverage this knowledge to help stay in the target language-ie, you don't have to go into a big explanation as to how they function.

FOR MY LITTLE LEARNERS, I BORROW TWO HULA HOOPS from our PHYS ED teacher, which allow me to use not just pictures, but objects as well which otherwise couldn't be put in a pocket organizer or on the board/large sheet of paper. This does mean you have do the Venn Diagram on the floor, but I teach in circle so we are already there! For Middle & High school, you could put the hula hoops on a table so all can see.

BECAUSE VENN DIAGRAMS ARE ALL ABOUT COMPARISONS, looking for similarities as well differences, it lends itself really well to cultural comparisons, but there are SO MANY OTHER possibilities! Here are some ideas to spark some more for you:

Compare and contrast:
*two stories and their elements
*two animals
*two foods (similar or completely different- I do a comparison of Mexican chocolate caliente and US hot chocolate with my first graders each year; you can also see my post on comparing an authentic taco to a US one here)
*two games
*how a holiday is celebrated in the target language country and the US
*two meals; for example, what's for breakfast in a target language country and in the US
*typical pets
*animals of two different countries
*what the first day of school looks like in two places
*two habitats
*tooth traditions

Venn Diagrams for Cultural Comparison  in a World Language Classroom

You definitely want to choose two things to compare that have some similarities-I really try to highlight things that we have in common, not just things that are different; I think this is key to children gaining a better appreciation for, and understanding of, other cultures and peoples.


Start by introducing the three categories, the center one being ____ AND _____, or 'the two of them', whatever works best for your classes.
I then start pulling items out of a bag or basket one at a time and asking the same question 'Is this from ___, ____, or the two of them?' (for ex). I call on kids to give me one of the headers- in the photo above, kids would tell me 'in Maine, in México, or in Maine and México. NOTE: for my little learners, I usually use the name of our state (Maine) instead of the US; it's way more familiar to them and easier for them as a concept-yup, 5 year olds have NO idea of geography, distance, what a state or country even is etc lol!
Once all the items have been placed accordingly, we do a quick debrief, commenting on what is in the center-for ex, 'Ahhh, there are lots of things in the middle, lots of things in Maine and México' (for novice learners my goal is to keep the input comprehensible since I am doing it all in the target language, so I am not looking for grand conclusions. With a higher level of proficiency, you can go into more in depth debriefing. )

Here's a quick video of one of my Kindergarten classes comparing two picnics, one our mini book Julieta y Mateo hacen un picnic, and the other a Peppa Pig episode. You can see how simple the activity is, yet completely comprehensible and accessible to these novice low students.

How have you used graphic organizers in your classes? Please share in the comments!

1 comment

  1. venn diagrams can be used for many things. One most educational use case scenario is for set theory. However the most popular use case is the compare and constrast. As you've mentioned in the article. There are quiz types as well, You can find more ready to use (customizable) Venn diagram templates in the diagram community of Creately. You can use and try them for free.