Resources for Teaching Languages to Children


We are expanding here at el Mundo de Pepita!

HELLO! ¡HOLA! ПРИВЕТ! BONJOUR! GUTEN TAG! My friends, exciting things have been happening here at el Mundo de Pepita... as many of you have noticed, we've been expanding, offering resources in RUSSIAN, FRENCH, GERMAN and for ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNERS along with our SPANISH ones. This has been really exciting for me, especially as a Russian speaker as well as Spanish, it warms my heart to have resources available, and I am learning loads of French and German as native speaking friends help with translating my ideas into those languages. And, you may know that I began my language teaching journey in Moscow, teaching English as a Second Language... everything comes full circle!

Printable Resources for Teaching Languages to Children

ALONG WITH NEW PRINTABLE RESOURCES, it is always important to me that I provide teaching resources, ideas, links, and activities that are both applicable to ALL languages, and also ones that are language specific, such as the ones I have been regularly posting here related to teaching Spanish. In that vein, you will notice in the coming months blog posts that include links & ideas for a variety of languages, as well as posts geared to one of the languages mentioned above. For my loyal followers, I truly hope this does not interfere with the usefulness of this blog, and in fact may actually enhance it :) Feel free to let your teacher colleagues know about us- we deeply appreciate your support! And don't hesitate to let me know your thoughts in the comments! :) Julie

Reflections on Teaching 100% in Spanish in My Elementary Classes YEAR 2

LAST YEAR I DECIDED TO TEACH MY KINDERGARTNERS 100% in Spanish, without any English AND I pretended that I didn't UNDERSTAND English either (that was the real game changer!). This year I continued with this dynamic as they moved into First Grade and, of course, did the same with my new Kindergartners. (Here is my reflection from last year) YEAR 2 of this immersion style approach had its challenges, surprises, and AMAZING moments that kept me on my toes! Like last year, I learned so much, and along the way saw incredible language growth in my students. Here are some things I discovered as I worked to continue their acquisition in First Grade, building on the year before:

Teaching Immersion to Elementary Spanish Students FLES

*GROWING OUTPUT FROM SINGLE WORDS/CHUNKS TO LONGER CHUNKS & SENTENCES: This was an interesting revelation I had in the late fall... as the amount of individual vocabulary words and chunks grew, it became important to help them grow those utterances so they didn't stagnate at the same level endlessly. This also meant helping them move past the gesture and mime phase to more language based output. (see my post here on 3 non verbal strategies I use with my kiddos). One way I achieved this was to increase the expectations I had for them when communicating with me; in other words, if they used a single word with me, I would support them in making that a longer utterance by guiding them in adding to what they were saying, "spoon feeding" where necessary. Non verbal communication became an opportunity for me to do the same-if they gave me the bathroom sign, I would expect them to tell me in Spanish what their request was (we have been practicing that since September of Kindergarten), or if they held up three fingers, I would guide them to say 'tres'. and so on.

*THEY SPOKE LESS & LESS ENGLISH TO EACH OTHER: Don't get me wrong, they still used English with one another for all kinds of things ... playground playdates, lunch commentary, 'hey, you knocked into me!', and so on, but unless I allowed significant down time (which I typically do not), they didn't have a lot of opportunities to interact in English with one another about these things-we were too busy with class. However, I didn't discourage them from helping one another understand what was going on- this is a phenomenon I've noticed across all my immersion style classes- they band together as a community to help one another understand AND speak Spanish. It's actually really cute! Unless I noticed a kiddo stomping on someone else's turn, or not allowing wait time while a kid formulated what he/she wanted to say, etc, I pretended like I had no idea what they were saying and just ignored it. As the year went on, (and I noticed this last year when they were Kindergarteners, too, as well as my current Kinders), they used more and more Spanish to communicate with one another- and to crack jokes (that they thought were HILARIOUS!) in Spanish on a regular basis. Pointing to their bum and saying 'la colita chiquitito' was a particular favorite in class during the month of June.. end of the year sillies! (I never put those words together, they came up with that one on their own-goofballs!). The concept of using Spanish to communicate was significantly strengthened.

*AUTOMATICITY: Last year I read a post by Gianfranco Conti about developing automaticity in students and was so grateful to finally have the word I was looking for! The more students use vocabulary, and the more they speak in the target language, the more automatic it becomes. Seems so obvious, right? The key, in my opinion, though is in therefore keeping the "word count" down to a certain extent so they have the opportunity to use a core set over and over again to develop that automaticity. This doesn't mean curtailing your vocabulary set to a scant number, but being intentional and conscious about being sure that practice happens regularly. I found the level of automaticity in my students to grow significantly this year, noticing little to no processing time when answering / interacting with me with certain words & phrases, which set also grew over the course of the year.

*I CONTINUED TO MODEL STRATEGIES: Strategies that I had taught them in Kindergarten, like the non verbal ones mentioned above, and a whole series I use with all my classes (see my posts on teaching 90% + in the target language) continued to be integral to class. Whether it was ensuring they were all looking at me before I started delivering content, demonstrating an activity or action, using synonyms to add vocabulary, keeping redirects concise and to the point, etc, these strategies continued to support my students in their learning.

I will be continuing this immersion style next year, meaning my 2nd graders will be in their third year of 100% in Spanish. Along with them, my current Kinders will continue in 1st grade 100% in Spanish, and my new incoming K's will also be 100%. I must confess, I prefer these classes to even my 90% + classes, as it is so much easier to just conduct the entire class in Spanish. I don't have to think about how much English to use, I don't have to parcel out the minutes, I don't stress about whether I've used too much English.

NOTE: One area that I do feel does not always get it's full measure is in processing some behaviors. Their language skills are not sufficient enough for me to process with them in significant depth, which at times I know would greater facilitate some of the more difficult moments. I've been identifying in my head some of these situations and will be brainstorming this summer to figure out ways I can make this happen in the target language, or at least, more so!

Tell me about your experiences teaching in the language!

3 Non Verbal Strategies I Teach My FLES Students to Communicate Without Translating

TEACHING 100% IN THE TARGET LANGUAGE IN MY KINDERGARTEN & FIRST GRADE SPANISH CLASSES has taught me many things, a big one being the need to explicitly model and teach my students strategies for communicating with me without translating into English (most especially because I "don't understand English", a dynamic I set up which has been extraordinarily successful! See my post here on my reflections teaching 100% in the TL). Since my Kinders are true Novice Lows, they also have an extremely small vocabulary set to work with, so circumlocution, although a great skill to practice and learn, is not the primary strategy to implement when a kiddo doesn't know how to say something in Spanish but wants to get the message across to me. Enter NON VERBAL COMMUNICATION.... this is essentially circumlocution without words! Here are THREE non verbal strategies I teach and model for my students which allow them to communicate to me (and allow me to help them build their vocabulary in the process!):

Three Non Verbal Strategies for the 90% in the Target Language Classroom

1) GESTURES/ MIMING: A standard practice for us as teachers to convey meaning, students too can utilize this strategy to communicate with us. I consistently elicit gestures & miming from my students by encouraging them when they use them, I model and develop class gestures that can be used time and again, and foster miming by intentionally incorporating activities where miming is the mode of communication, thereby providing practice of this strategy in a concrete manner. I will add- sound effects go great with this strategy!!

2) POINTING: I encourage my students to get up and move about the room to point to the vocabulary they are trying to express- this obviously means my walls are chock full of visuals! I have a pointer handy that any kid can use to point to vocabulary, handing it to them whenever I sense they need to point something out, and I allow kids to freely move about the room to indicate what they are referencing. This has been an incredibly powerful way for my kiddos to communicate!

Non Verbal Strategies for World Language Classrooms to Stay in the Target Language

3) DRAWING: Just as I use illustrations, photos, and other visuals to support understanding, I encourage my students to draw as necessary to get their message across, handing them a dry erase marker and letting them have at it! This has been a really neat way for my kiddos to realize that pictures transmit meaning and are a communication tool in and of themselves! In the photo below, for example, a Kindergartener wanted to tell me that they had four duck eggs outside their homeroom. I handed him the marker and he drew this super adorable picture, told me 'cuatro' (showing me four fingers also) and made quacking sounds.... message received!

Strategies to keep your world language classroom in Spanish French

OF COURSE, BRINGING ALL THREE TOGETHER plus adding the target language they do know is a winning combination! These strategies fill in the gaps when kiddos don't know, or can't remember, the word/phrases they want to express. For my part, as they are using these strategies, I can then furnish the necessary vocabulary in Spanish, filling out what it is they want to say, and providing input in the moment. Since I have a set of key vocabulary that form the basis of my curriculum content, I am highly mindful of trying to work those in when I am walking my students through this communicative process, selecting those high frequency words whenever possible as I know they will be extremely useful going forward.

What are some ways you support your students in communicating without translating? Please share in the comments!

How Using a Live Webcam in Your World Language Class Can be a Game Changer

OUTPUT IN THE TARGET LANGUAGE BY OUR STUDENTS- one of the holy grails for us language teachers, and more specifically, spontaneous, authentic output. I am always trying to foster this type of output with my elementary students, and this year I began using LIVE WEBCAMS in earnest in my 2nd, 3rd and 4th grade Spanish classes, which turned out to be one of the most successful things I did this year and engendered a ton of student output every lesson. Last year I had started using a live cam from the Acebuche Centro de Cría in Spain, a breeding center for Iberian Lynxes (thank you Emily F. for telling me about this cam!) and this year I added SEO BirdLife's live stork cam from Alcalá de Henares. (links below).

Live Webcams in World Language Classes to Foster Output

THE KEY to why these cams worked so well:  they provided NEW CONTENT each and every class, much like the news does, but with animals instead.  As spring wore on, we watched as lynx cubs were born, we counted how many eggs were in the stork nest as they were laid one by one, we watched both the cubs and the stork chicks grow and change. I had the cam up on my smart board as they entered, and kids craned their necks as they lined up at my door to see the screen. We started every class with the "news"- making observations about the animals, noting color, size, weather (in the case of the storks as they are outside), how many eggs in the nest, even just how cute they are.  In addition, I started sharing non fiction content about both species, which further added to the conversation and gave us opportunities to practice vocabulary in context. High frequency verbs were easily incorporated: es/son, tiene, come, hay, vive, hace (it is, has, eats, there is/are, lives, it is in relation to weather). Sometimes we talked for five minutes, sometimes 20 or even more, depending on what was happening and the class itself.  I also follow both organizations' social media sites, which I used to bring in authentic resources (tweets, Facebook posts) that provided more info on the two species. We were even able to vote on names for two lynx cubs via Facebook! In an age where kids have short attention spans and demand new content all the time (Señora we already did that!), the webcams provided that fresh, new feel even while focusing on the same thing each time, and gave us plenty to talk about in an authentic, meaningful way. Every class was a new discovery- truly magical in so many ways!

The two web cams I used were:

El lince ibérico- Lince Ex-situ

Las cigüeñas blancas de Alcalá de Henares, España (they have multiple web cams, not just this one.

I was able to video a few lessons using the webcams; the first is one of my third grade classes with the storks, and the second is a fourth grade class with the lynxes (both were on our Dress Like A Favorite Book Character Day at my school, I dressed as Platero):

A dramatic event during this spring with the storks was when a strip of plastic became entangled around one of the stork's neck; it came off a few days later but created quite a bit of angst. I wrote a mini book imagining our character, Javi, visiting the storks and rescuing the one from the plastic strip, and incorporated it into an activity pack-you can find it here in our shop!

The Storks of Spain Activity Pack in Spanish

I also used the Kansas City Zoo Penguin Cam with my Kindergartners as a backdrop- often I would just direct their attention to the penguins while I was transitioning to another activity- great classroom management lol! I am on the hunt for more live cams- if you know of any, please share in the comments!

List of Live Webcams (growing)
Milwaukee Zoo has a live cam of their jaguar:
Zoo cams:
National Parks:
Bird nests:

(NOTE: at the top of the above 4 links there is a drop down set of menus with even more webcams!)

Wolf Conservation Center, including critically endangered Mexican Gray Wolves: has a LARGE collection of webcam links to all parts of the world, both of animals as well as locations:
Vancouver Aquarium has some really neat cams, including a jellyfish cam:

Watering hole webcam in Zambia, Africa:

Skyline Webcams around the world:

Animal Live cams:

Kruger National Park in South Africa:

Manatee Live Cam from Florida:

Save the Manatee Live Cams:

Panamá bird feeder Cam:

Live osprey nest cam in Scotland

The Youtube channel Movie Squirrels is hilarious!