Resources for Teaching Languages to Children


Resources for Hanukkah in World Language Class

AS A WORLD LANGUAGE COMMUNITY, WE HAVE BEGUN THE IMPORTANT WORK of viewing & presenting holidays and celebrations through a lens grown beyond Christian ones; while I include La navidad and Los Tres Reyes Magos as part of my instruction with students, I work hard to present them as one of many celebrations throughout the year, rather than as the singular focus during the month of December. To that end, in honoring my Jewish students, I include Hanukkah activities as part of that larger view.  Below are some resources and links you might find helpful for your classes!

Resources for Teaching Hanukkah in Spanish Class

*Juana la Iguana is a cute video series, including this set of Janucá songs:

*The dreidel song (el sevivón) in Hebrew with Spanish subtitles:

*Ocho kandelikas- song from Putumayo (lyrics are below the video on Youtube):

and a second version, sung by children:

And this incredible version by Isaac Zones of Sephardic Jewish heritage!

Don't miss our OCHO KANDELIKAS INTERACTIVE ACTIVITY! You can grab it by clicking here. 

*Want to play the Dreidel game in class? We've got a printable Dreidel, in both Hebrew & here to grab it!  And in FRENCH here :) And here is the dreidel song, you could just teach the first stanza :)

Dreidel template in Spanish and Hebrew
Click here

*Curious about the Ladino language iof Sephardic Jews? This set of videos is AMAZING! Really well done, and perfect for little kiddos. Click here for the playlist :) This song, Saludos, is my particular favorite! And for a great post on incorporating the history of the Sephardic Jews, check out this one by The Woke Spanish Teacher! click here :)

Scholastic has published a new book, La Luna de Janucá, which can be purchased through their Club Leo flyer-it is on my list to buy!

and don't miss our Where are the Latkes Number Game! So much fun-and great for ANY language! Find it by clicking here

Hanukkah Latkes Game

Orange and Clove Pomanders-A Holiday Tradition

THE SCENT OF ORANGES, CLOVES AND CINNAMON easily transport many of us back to our childhood, invoking holiday memories of December, Christmas and more. In many countries, oranges studded with cloves, and often dusted with spices like cinnamon, are a common part of the holiday tradition, and are an easy craft to make with little kids.

Orange and clove pomanders for world language class

*clementines or small oranges
*whole cloves (sometimes you can find these really inexpensively at dollar stores, Walmart, Ocean State Job Lot, etc)
*paper towels
*toothpicks (optional but recommended)
*cinnamon powder (optional)
*ribbon (optional)

Hand out one orange to each student/child along with bowls of whole cloves; also give each kiddo a paper towel- this will keep the juices from getting all over the table! Instruct students to poke the cloves into the oranges, either in a pattern, or just randomly if they are preschool or Kinders :) You can also use a sharpie to dot a pattern beforehand-this is really only feasible if you don't have tons of students like I do! To make piercing the rind easier, you can hand out toothpicks which kids can use to poke a hole prior to inserting each clove. Once kids have inserted cloves to their liking, you can dust it with cinnamon if you would like (this is a little messy so definitely optional and not necessary) and then they are done! You can add a piece of ribbon around the orange to make it more festive and allow it to be hung on a tree or window. ¡Ta-chán! A simple holiday craft for little hands with a cultural background :)

Naranjas y clavos de olor Instrucciones para confeccionar

YOU CAN ALSO PUT THESE ORANGES AWAY TO DRY OUT somewhat so they are more of a 'dried fruit' decoration.....but, funny story, I tried doing this once with a Third Grade class many years ago-we put the decorated oranges in paper bags, one for each student, and I put them all on a shelf in my office space. I left them there for a few weeks, as I had read you should...when I went to return them to my students, I discovered they had all molded and were just horrible! Needless to say, apparently my office space was not a dry location (subsequently we found significant mold all through the building-though not from my oranges lol)...and I couldn't return them to my kiddos-bummer!

La pomme d'ambre craft for French class

*Les pommes d'ambre (has a series of photos of great designs!)
*Confectionner une pomme d'ambre
*Olor a Navidad, Naranjas y clavos de olor
*Decora tu mesa de Navidad con naranjas
*Super simple video in Spanish showing how to make them

*NelkenOrange (in German) video on Youtube
*"Duft" Orange video on Youtube
*Натуральный ароматизатор Video in Russian

Creating a Calm Classroom- Supporting Our Students

ENERGETIC BRAIN BREAKS AND MOVEMENT have long been popular in class, following the belief that kids, especially ones with attention issues, need high energy movement in order to re focus and pay attention, in essence to get the 'wiggles out'. Over the course of my career, I have often integrated these types of activities in my elementary Spanish classes, but during the last several years I have begun to notice a trend that has had me integrating alternatives, ones that focus on being calm, with more purposeful movement and action, and take into account the amount of stimulus a child experiences throughout their day. During my Keynote address at the NNELL Summer Instititute in July, 2018, I talked about ‘Being the calm classroom’, finding ways to balance those energetic activities with quieter ones, as well as building a more tranquil classroom environment overall.

Creating a Calm Classroom to support Students

HOW TO INCORPORATE CALM MOVEMENT IN CLASS: I am finding that, more and more, my students get really ramped up during high energy activities, and then can't come back down, or take a long time to do so- having the opposite effect of what I am trying to achieve! Instead, consider activities that require purposeful movement such as Brain Gym, Yoga, or Tai Chi, which still have kids up and moving but foster self control (another skill I notice kids are lacking!). You may have noticed that mindfulness has gained traction in the last few years, and for good reason; children, like adults, crave the balance that these disciplines provide, even though they are unable to articulate it. For links and other resources visit my Pinterest board here!

RELAXATION AND NATURE SOUNDS as an alternative to popular music. I love a great upbeat, fast paced song just like the next person, and often use them in class. Balancing them with quieter sounds has become a particularly helpful component, however. Perhaps you've listened to one of those cds of a babbling brook, or ocean waves...they are intrinsically soothing and work in the classroom just like at home. Youtube has a ton of videos of this kind, many of which feature beautiful images to go along with the sounds. A particular favorite of mine is this Youtube channel, Nature Relaxation Films, featuring videos from a variety of locations around the world, making it a win-win in terms of also providing visual content of the target language countries. I often play these in the background when kids are doing an activity in small groups or individually, or have one playing as they enter the room to set the tone for class.

LULLABIES are in the same vein as the above, with the additional component of being directly part of the target culture, thereby providing a cultural experience in addition to providing a calm moment. These can be particularly great as a bridge from a higher energy activity to one with greater focus... I like to have our voices get softer and softer as we sing, bringing the energy down gently. Lullabies have been one of the MOST effective classroom management tools in the past few years for me! And, why not turn the lights off, hand out stuffies, and "take a nap"? Kids love the novelty of this imaginary play and there is lots you can incorporate language wise- "goodnight", "sleep tight", "I'm sleepy", "I'm tired", "stars", "moon", "night time", "I'm going to bed/sleep", "Wake up", "dreaming" and so on.

SOFT SURFACES such as pillows, rugs, stuffed animals, etc can lend a a calming feel & touch as well to your space. Consider props, bins, containers, etc that are made from fabrics as opposed to plastic, or hang some curtains in the windows if you have your own classroom. And don't forget PLANTS! They, too, can lend a softer feel to a room- I've also added some aromatic plants that release a scent when touched; these play into our senses and have been shown to provide students (and adults!) a more peaceful aspect. (I don't suggest plants that are too strong-smelling; I have basil, mint and other herbs that do require some touching to have the smell emit from the plant, in case you have students for whom smell is a sensory issue).

BALANCE IN ALL THINGS, RIGHT? This is what I am advocating, not jettisoning high energy activities altogether-they most definitely have their place- just replacing some of them with calmer, more peaceful ones to allow kids a quiet moment in their day.

CREATING THESE PEACEFUL MOMENTS is also truly a gift for our anxious kiddos, those with trauma, those with ADHD, shy kiddos, and our "regular" kids... when you stop to visualize a typical day, it is fast paced and highly stimulating from sun up to bedtime..providing a quiet island amidst the swirl often is just what they need, so consider being the CALM CLASSROOM.

Resources & Supports:

Yoga Cards Set in Spanish French German Russian

FREE Mindfulness Breathing Exercise Mats Spanish French Russian English

Simple Low Prep Colors Activity with Children's Books for World Language Classes

ONE OF MY GOALS THIS YEAR HAS BEEN TO REDUCE SOME OF THE PREP I DO, and this COLORS activity, and variations on it, are a new favorite of mine! Simple to set up, simple to break down, and my kiddos LOVE IT! And the bonus- they are using authentic children's books from a variety of countries at the same time-win win!

Low Prep Colors Activity with Children's Books for Spanish French Class for Kids

THE SET UP: Gather together a bunch of children's books that have lots of different types of illustrations, like the ones shown in the above photo- counting books, alphabet books, animales, etc. You can also use picture dictionaries, many of which are created for native speakers.

THE ACTIVITY: Hand out one book to each kid in class. Start by instructing them to look for something ____ (blue, for ex). Everyone starts searching in their book, then pointing to it while you circulate, commenting on what they are pointing to (in the target language- yes, the car is blue! or you're right, the water is blue!, etc). Once you have checked everyone's, start a new round with a new color. After a few rounds, I like to have kids switch books, even just passing to the left/right so they are engaged in a new book. And since they have a new book, you can even do the same color over again because they are looking at different pictures-great to extend the lesson :) And ta-chán! it's as easy as that!

VARIATIONS: Have kids search for a word that starts with a particular letter (great for when working with the alphabet), category words: fruits, veggies, animals, pets, things that fly, things that live in the forest, family members, things that are cold.... you get the idea! This simple activity has loads of variations, which makes it a great one for bringing back throughout the year.

NEED SOME SOURCES OF AUTHENTIC BOOKS? Here's a list of some sources I particularly like:

Books del sur
Syncretic Press
Lil' libros
Libros en español
Cinco Books
Booklandia Box
Chau Luna
Anansesem Caribbean Voices

Ваша книга
Kids Russian Books

and of course Amazon and, if you're lucky, your local bookstore!

Introduce COLORS in context with our Spanish Theme Pack, Arturo y la bota:

Colors in Spanish Theme Activity Pack for Kids
Click here