Resources for Teaching Languages to Children


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!

Celebrate el Día de la Patria en Chile 18 of September!

THE 18 OF SEPTEMBER IS EL DÍA DE LA PATRIA IN CHILE, a perfect time to learn more about this wonderful country and bring culture to your Spanish classes. Below you will find a bunch of links and resources to help you bring this day to life with your students!

Día de la Patria el 18 de septiembre Chile

*FIESTAS PATRIAS: ¿Qué celebra Chile el 18 de septiembre?: This is a short video from Chile- consider doing a 'video walk' if the Spanish is too high a level for your students-stop at various points and narrate the events yourself in more comprehensible Spanish.

*CHILE EN IMAGENES: This is a great video to take a visual tour of the country. You can also compare and contrast with where you live-Here are mountains in ___, do we have mountains? Are they big or small? The mountains in Chile are very big/ tall., etc.

*PASOS DE LA CUECA, LA DANZA NACIONAL: Click here for a great infographic that shows the steps to la cueca

*NATALIA UNA NIÑA MAPUCHE: Part of an AMAZING series on indigenous peoples in Chile. Again, these are great videos to do a video walk with, or to listen for certain vocabulary, or to extend an existing lesson. Click here for the video!

*ILLUSTRATED RECIPE FOR EL COMPLETO: a most delicious Chilean hot dog! Click here for the pin!

*DECORACIONES IMPRIMIBLES: This site features a bunch of ways you can decorate for el 18, including some here!

*PEPITA VA A CHILE Minibook & Theme Pack: Introduce your students to cultural aspects of Chile in Spanish with our activity pack-Click here to grab it!

Pepita va a Chile Theme Pack in Spanish for kids

¡Viva Chile!

CURIOUS ABOUT VIDEO WALKS and not sure what I mean? I wrote a post walking through a short video to give you a sense of how you can use an authentic video, even if the language is too complex for the proficiency level of your students. Click here to read!

Interpreting ACTFL'S Standards for Novice Proficiency Level From an Elementary Spanish Teacher's Perspective

WHEN I STARTED THE ELEMENTARY SPANISH PROGRAM I CONTINUE TO TEACH IN 1998 one of the first places I consulted for building curriculum was the ACTFL Standards; these, along with the Maine Learning Results (based on the ACTFL Standards) informed me on what skills are typically presented by learners at various levels, just as they have informed all of us as we go through our journey as foreign language teachers, and have been integral in that process.  Over the years, I have wanted phrasing used to describe what NOVICE LEARNERS can do, where my Kindergarten through 4th Grade students live, to more closely match an elementary perspective, kind of a parallel set of descriptors if you will.

Novice Proficiency Level Descriptors for Elementary World Language

FOR THOSE OF US WHO TEACH ELEMENTARY, WE KNOW a novice Kindergartner is very different than a novice 9th grader (or even Middle school student)- they enter school without many developmental concepts intact, or only very vaguely understood, and their interests, motivations and what is relevant and age appropriate for them is distinct. Tasks that might be typical for a 15 year old aren't always appropriate for a 5 year old- take writing a text for example, or arranging a social engagement (Mommy usually does this :) ). Additionally, how we teach at the elementary level often reflects themes, topics and vocabulary that are of high interest to little kids, which don't always tie into a "typical novice task"... my kids happily can describe a sloth or what Jupiter looks like, but ordering at a restaurant in the target language feels a better fit for Middle or High School language class because it is a more relevant task- talking about school lunch, on the other hand, would be a perfect activity for the littles. Don't get me wrong, the skills we teach within elementary themes build up proficiency just the same as those that one sees at upper school levels, they just appear in different contexts.

IN THIS VEIN, I DECIDED TO WRITE INDICATORS FOR NOVICE LOW, MID, AND HIGH from an elementary teacher's perspective, for my own reference, based on what I have seen teaching children languages for 25+ years. This is MY interpretation, and I share them merely to spark ideas and reflections amongst other elementary teachers who may also be searching for an "elementary fit". I took into consideration early literacy skills as they are seen amongst young children, who most frequently come to school as non readers (though not all of them!) and are building these skills throughout the time they are with us, both in their homerooms and with us. I also looked at the developmental progression of children as students, as they gain understanding and awareness of the world around them, and as they grow as students. It is also common, as with older students, that an individual may be in different proficiency levels for the four modes, most especially if your program focuses on certain modes over others. I continue to reflect on these, and may add to them over time.  You may find that you would use different descriptors or phrasing, or that you would add or take away certain things- these are, as I said above, a starting point for you to think about your own students and program, a resource for provoking reflection. You can DOWNLOAD THE DOCUMENT HERE :) 

PLEASE DO NOT TAKE THIS AS A CRITICISM OF THE ACTFL STANDARDS- it isn't! The standards have greatly informed and guided me over the course of my career, and I am deeply indebted to all those who have worked on them through the years to make them a strong set of indicators for measuring student proficiency. I do hope that my interpretation is helpful, and provides some clarity for teaching the littles! Please let me know your thoughts in the comments- I would love to hear them!

Book Review of Turning Pages/ Pasando páginas by Sonia Sotomayor

BOOKS HAVE PLAYED A HUGE ROLE IN MY LIFE-when I was a kid, the likeliest place you would find me would be curled up somewhere with a book in hand and a bag of pretzels by my side. As an adult, I continue to read as much as I am able, and find myself reading many children's books as I search out ones my students will enjoy and learn from.  When Penguin Books kindly asked me if I would take part in the blog tour for Sonia Sotomayor's newest book, 'Turning Pages', I immediately said a very grateful 'YES!'.  Not only is the Supreme Court Justice an inspiration in her own right, but having the opportunity to learn more about her life in her own words, written for children like my students, is wonderful!

Turning Pages by Sonia Sotomayor Blog Tour and Book Review

'TURNING PAGES, MY LIFE STORY' is both the autobiography of the first Hispanic Justice on the Supreme Court of the United States, and memoir of a life filled with books that both inspired and comforted Sotomayor. At various points while reading it I was struck by how much her story reminded me of that of Frida Kahlo, who sought solace in art as she dealt with the many challenges of her childhood. Whether books or art, each found a way to persevere in the face of tragedy and sadness, a lesson I often talk about in my Spanish classes during my theme on the artist. Sotomayor shares her diagnosis of diabetes in elementary school, and shortly thereafter the death of her father, and how reading got her through these extremely difficult periods. She goes on to tell how books influenced her perspective and ultimately her career choice; this truly is a book about the power of books as much as Sonia's life!

Turning Pages by Sonia Sotomayor Book Review

I ALSO LOVE LULU DELACRE'S ILLUSTRATIONS- they set the tone and bring to life the many stages in Sonia's life with joyful colors and beautiful renderings. Together, Sonia's story and Delacre's illustrations convey a powerful message to young children and their families reading this book- each of us has the potential to be anything, to do anything, to achieve anything! Don't miss adding this book to your home or school library- and is also available in Spanish (Pasando páginas)-you can find both on Amazon.

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor tells her own story for young readers for the very first time!
As the first Latina Supreme Court Justice, Sonia Sotomayor has inspired young people around the world to reach for their dreams. But what inspired her? For young Sonia, the answer was books! They were her mirrors, her maps, her friends, and her teachers. They helped her to connect with her family in New York and in Puerto Rico, to deal with her diabetes diagnosis, to cope with her father's death, to uncover the secrets of the world, and to dream of a future for herself in which anything was possible.

In Turning Pages, Justice Sotomayor shares that love of books with a new generation of readers, and inspires them to read and puzzle and dream for themselves. Accompanied by Lulu Delacre's vibrant art, this story of the Justice's life shows readers that the world is full of promise and possibility--all they need to do is turn the page.

Sonia Sotomayor was born in the Bronx, New York. She earned a BA from Princeton University and a JD from Yale Law School. She served as Assistant District Attorney in New York County, and then as a litigator at Pavia & Harcourt. In 1991, when President George H.W. Bush nominated her to the US District Court, Southern District of New York. In 1997, President William Jefferson Clinton nominated her to the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. President Barack Obama nominated her as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court on May 26, 2009, and she assumed this role August 8, 2009, becoming the first Latina to ever hold such a high position. She is the author of My Beloved World and The Beloved World of Sonia Sotomayor.

Lulu Delacre ( has been writing and illustrating children's books since 1980. Born and raised in Puerto Rico to Argentinean parents, Delacre is a three-time Pura Belpré Award honoree. Her thirty-eight titles include Arroz con Leche: Popular Songs and Rhymes from Latin AmericaUs, in Progress: Short Stories About Young Latinos; and ¡Olinguito, de la A a la Z! Descubriendo el bosque nublado/Olinguito, from A to Z! Unveiling the Cloud Forest.Delacre has lectured internationally, served as a juror for the National Book Awards, and exhibited her work at The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, among other venues.

BRINGING CULTURE TO LIFE IN MY SPANISH CLASSES is a priority of mine, especially in the target language. As well, I believe strongly in English learners having an opportunity to read about topics from their heritage countries. To that end, I created TWO Theme Packs about Sonia Sotomayor, one in Spanish and one in English. As part of this book review, I am raffling off a digital download of each theme pack, to be sent via email once the winner is announced. To enter for a chance to win, click on one (or both!) of the following links:

Winner will be chosen at random and announced on Thursday-be sure to follow us on Twitter for the announcement @mundodepepita

Resources to Teach About Famous Hispanics to Children- Perfect for Hispanic Heritage Month!

HISPANIC HERITAGE MONTH, celebrated from September 15 to October 15 in the United States, is a great opportunity for teachers and families to share about FAMOUS HISPANICS who have had an influence on our culture and country. (Of course, any time of year is the right time of year to teach about these amazing people!) Below are links and resources that are particularly accessible for young learners:

Resources to Teach about Famous Hispanics to Children- Hispanic Heritage Month

*SONIA SOTOMAYOR: the first Hispanic Supreme Court Justice of the United States and only the third woman to hold this position, Sotomayor is an inspirational figure for us all! Sotomayor's parents were from Puerto Rico. There are a number of wonderful children's books about Sonia, here's a link to a quick search I did on Amazon-click here.

This video in Spanish tells Sotomayor's biography:

This Sesame Street video incorporates both English and Spanish:

*ELLEN OCHOA: Astronaut and Engineer, Ellen was the first Hispanic woman in space.

A video in Spanish about her life:

and another in English from Nick Jr-click here.

*TITO PUENTE: Mambo King, Tito Puente played with Celia Cruz and is considered one of the greats in Latin Music.

Monica Brown wrote a terrific bilingual book about him, Tito Puente, Mambo King, and shares about creating the book in this video:

Tito visits Sesame Street:

Nick Jr created a video in English about Puente here.

*CELIA CRUZ: Queen of Salsa, Celia moved to the US from Puerto Rico when she was a child. Be sure to visit my post on resources for teaching about Celia (click here), but additionally, don't miss this video of Celia on Sesame Street!

CÉSAR CHAVEZ: Activist for equal rights for migrant workers. There are a number of picture books about his life, including 'Harvesting Hope' by Kathleen Krull, 'César' by Carmen T. Bernier-Grand, and 'A Picture Book of Cesar Chavez' by David A. Adler

A biography of Chavez in Spanish:

*Don't miss this great set of quotes by famous Hispanics!

Hispanic Heritage Month

INTERESTED IN INTRODUCING MORE FAMOUS HISPANICS in Spanish class? Be sure to check out our growing set of biographies for young learners, including Sonia Sotomayor,  Celia Cruz, José Feliciano, Frida Kahlo and Pablo Picasso. (just click on the names!)

Mini Greeting Necklaces in Spanish & French, German & Russian

BUILD A FUN SCHOOL TO HOME CONNECTION WITH THESE MINI GREETING NECKLACES in Spanish, French, German & Russian! I created these while brainstorming ways to spread intentional acts of kindness (my #1 goal this year) at school, and most specifically something I could do on the first day with my Kindergartners. Originally I was just going to give each of them a bead as they left my room, but I realized that they will be transitioning to another Specials class (Music or Phys Ed) and many do not have pockets to tuck things into. Since the first word we learn in my Spanish classes is ¡Hola! , it occurred to me to make little necklaces - nothing to put in a pocket, and serves as a visual reminder as they head home of what we learned... and of course, they are a little present from me on the first day, a day that can be a tough one for littles!

Mini Greeting Necklaces for Spanish and French Class

YOU CAN DOWNLOAD THESE FREE BY CLICKING HERE! Please tell me in the comments how they work for you! :) And don't mis our Spanish Theme Pack 'Buenos días', perfect for teaching greetings to little learners! Click here to grab it!

Greeting Necklaces for Back to School in Spanish French German Russian

PLUS, DON'T MISS ALL OUR FUN RESOURCES for teaching languages to children in our shop! Click here to see them all-Spanish, French, Russian, German & ESL!