Resources for Teaching Languages to Children


Sample Lesson Plans for Preschool World Language Class such as Spanish and French

ONE QUESTION I RECEIVE REGULARLY IS HOW TO PLAN A SPECIFIC LESSON, how to break down timings for various age groups in order for the class to run effectively and efficiently. I thought it might be helpful to start a short series of blog posts highlighting sample lesson plans that could serve as a template for teachers. Let's start with PRESCHOOL- and remember, this is just a TEMPLATE, there are tons of variations on the idea, this is meant to serve as a global 'get you started' outline-this could work well for a first day/first week lesson plan:

Sample Preschool Lesson Plan Template for Spanish and French


*GREET students at the door or at rug (if you are on a cart) with a simple ¡Hola! / Bonjour!

*INVITE students to stand in a line outside the rug; motion for each to sit in a designated spot on the rug (make seating charts ahead of time-you can always change these later once you know the kids better). Model walking to the seat and gently guide your little friends to their space. I frequently make the 'shhh' sound and a finger to my lips while I am doing this-it reinforces the idea of calm and begins to instill the concept of paying attention to me for direction.

*GREETING SONG OR GAME : because this age is so squirrelly, having a song or game that does not take turns is optimal (otherwise they will lose their attention and patience). A song like ¡Hola! from Super Simple Spanish can be accompanied by doing the actions in the video or rhythmic clapping-don't worry about them learning the words, but rather just moving along with the song at this point.

*NAME GAME Naturally you want to start learning names, but because of their attention span, activities where you are calling on one at a time can lead to losing them quickly. Instead try a simple listening- movement activity like "Stand up _____" (name in blank) , "Sit down ___", -have name cards handy and just pull them randomly so kids have to listen for their name and do the action (be sure to model what stand up is-be in a seated position yourself, say 'stand up' in the target language, and stand up, using your hands to indicate an upward motion. For 'sit down', be standing, say 'sit down' in the target language', sit down while using your hands to indicate a downward motion). After a few names, start calling two names at a time, work up to three names, etc. Have some kids remain standing for a rounds before having them sit back down again. Keep the pace brisk while pulling cards and calling names while giving the instructions, just for stand up and sit down. Give applause frequently for their great listening :) It usually takes me 2-4 classes to learn all names, so I do games like this EVERY class to help me get them down.

*HIGH FIVE When you end the above game, have a mini celebration with a high five-give a high five to the kid next to you in circle, that kid then "passes" the high five to the next kid and so on around the circle. Celebrating success, big and little, builds confidence and reduces some of their anxieties about not knowing the target language.

*COOL DOWN After all that energy, it can be helpful to have a cool down time. Lullabies are a great way to bring this about, as it naturally taps into a routine they already know well. Turn off the lights, make a 'shhh' sound with finger to lips, and play a quiet song like La lechuza hace shhh or Au clair de la lune. The goal is not for them to learn the words, but rather to watch and settle down a bit. Bring in the element of imaginative play by having them pretend to go to's night time, let's go to sleep. You can sing the lullaby again as they "drift off". Let them "sleep" for a minute or two, then "wake them up" with a magic wand or sprinkling "magic dust" on them. You can even have them go back to sleep and do the imaginative play again :)

*GOOD BYE I like to have a low key good bye at the end of class. Have them stand up (but stay in their circle spots) and invite them to line up by walking in the order they are sitting around the outside of the rug. As they leave, say 'good bye' in the target language to each one with a wave :)

45 MINUTES OR MORE (Incorporating the above plus the below-consider these "buffet items" that you can mix and match depending on your class)

*BILINGUAL STORY TIME: This can be a great option if you are ok with a fair amount of English being spoken during your class. Connecting with the lullaby above, you could read a 'bedtime story' like 'Buenas noches luna'/ 'Bonsoir lune' before they "go to sleep".

*CIRCLE GAME I love playing circle games where everyone is involved, such as 'Al corro de la patata' or 'A la rueda de San Miguel', or 'Corre el trencito', and in French, Rosi Rosa and they are perfect for little kids. Again, I am not looking for them to learn the words, but rather to just participate in the game.

*FREEZE DANCE My kiddos LOVE to play Freeze Dance, and it is a great way to not only incorporate authentic music, but also to instill elements of self control. I always go over my three guidelines for moving before we start: 1) you stay in your spot 2) your body is in control 3) we don't touch anyone else while dancing

*DRINKS sometimes, especially with a long class period like this, it helps to take a drink break. Just be cognizant that, if you have a large class, you will have squirrels in line while they are waiting or after they have had their turn at a drink. Clapping songs, counting, I spy can help keep everyone together while getting drinks. It also helps to do a count down for each kid so they don't take forever getting a drink.. 1, 2, 3 and done. Next!

AS I MENTIONED ABOVE, there are MANY variations on this, but I am hopeful this can serve as a guide. Note that I did not include rules or norms in this first class; there is plenty of time to go over these in subsequent classes :) My goal with any first class for preschool and Kindergarten is to keep it low key, with little expectation of output on their part, and let them start to get to know ME by the tone of my voice,  my smile, my welcoming demeanor and upbeat time together. :)

Eid Breakfast at Abuela's Book Review

AS AN ELEMENTARY SPANISH TEACHER, I am always on the lookout for books that represent the wide diversity of the Spanish speaking world-and that also represent my students, both those who are heritage learners, and those who come from a variety of backgrounds other than heritage Spanish speaking, such as the Bosnian Muslim family that moved into our district last year. I was SO EXCITED to stumble upon this new book, Eid Breakfast at Abuela's, by Mariam Saad. Sprinkled with Spanish, this book tells the story of Sofia, whose father is Muslim, and who travels with her family to visit her Mexican Abuela to celebrate Eid, the end of Ramadan.

ALTHOUGH SOFIA'S GRANDMOTHER IS NOT MUSLIM, she prepares a party in honor of Eid, melding Mexican and Islamic traditions together. From a banner that reads '¡Feliz Eid!' to empanadas and churros, a visit to the mosque and a song in both Arabic and Spanish, this story sweetly honors a family's welcoming of multiple backgrounds to become one together- certainly an inspirational message for our times!

AT THE BACK OF THE BOOK is a bonus-a vocabulary list in three languages-Spanish, Arabic and English-LOVE!! I hope you love this book as much as I do!

YOU CAN ORDER THIS BOOK at Prolance Writers by clicking here!

About the Author: 
Mariam Saad was raised in Southern California by Egyptian parents. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration from California State University, Fullerton. She worked at the family business for many years, with schools locally, and taught 8th Grade English abroad. With the birth of her son, her time and energy were focused at home while she surrounded him with reading materials and developmental toys. Before getting a taste for his board books, her son had taken interest in listening to her voice while he admired the images and felt the textures on the pages. This was the start of her inspiration in entering the world of children through story telling and lesson teaching.

About the Illustrator:
Chaymaa Sobhy is a children's book illustrator based in Cairo, Egypt.
Instagram: @chaymaadraws

How to Teach A Song With Regional Variations Resources for Spanish

ONE OF THE THINGS I LOVE MOST ABOUT my online community of fellow world language teachers is the opportunity to meet and learn from colleagues around the world. One such teacher and song writer, Ana Calabrese, has inspired me with her dedication to creating songs in Spanish that are not only beautiful in their own right, but are designed to both teach Spanish AND convey positive messages to her students, and by extension, to ours. Her approach is thoughtful, grounded in good practice, and shows her ability to understand what young children enjoy and bring that to her music.

Spanish Plus ME Song Activity

IN A CONVERSATION WITH ANA ABOUT TEACHING SONGS, she made mention of her wish to inspire more teachers to use music and songs in their classes, but also expressed a concern that many teachers might run into challenges incorporating them in their classes due to regional variations in vocabulary.  Most of us have had at least one moment where we have been teaching vocabulary that either a student or a parent questions because they have grown up with and/or learned different words for the same thing, so we can relate! From that conversation, Ana went on to write a post with fantastic tips to celebrate this diversity via songs and music. Along with the excellent tips, one of the things I love most about her post is how she shares her personal experiences as a Colombian living here in the US, and how they have allowed her to grow as a teacher and supporter of bilingualism.

I SHARE THIS REVIEW WITH YOU in the hopes you will visit Ana's website, read her article (click here!) and check out her songs-they will be a wonderful addition to your classes!

Each Tiny Spark by Pablo Cartaya Book Review

I WAS SO EXCITED TO BE INVITED TO REVIEW PABLO CARTAYA'S NEW BOOK, EACH TINY SPARK, especially as I had loved his book, Marcus Vega Doesn't Speak Spanish, which I had reviewed last summer (you can read my review by clicking here), and I was not disappointed!

Each Tiny Spark tells the story of Emilia Rose, a tween living outside Atlanta, Georgia, with a lot of different puzzles to figure out in her life: how to deal with having ADHD, understanding her father who has returned from overseas active duty, town politics affecting her school, her own latina heritage, and the history of immigration and it's impact on her neighbors, friends and family.

Emilia Rose's story is compelling, entirely relatable, and poignant. In many ways, the multiple threads of the storyline mirror Emilia's ADHD in that you don't spend long amounts of time on any one of them, but rather Cartaya skillfully weaves vignettes together-Emilia trying to deal with her father's lack of communication while at the same time they work on fixing up an old Shelby Mustang together, the pressure she feels from her Abuela to conform to traditional dress and activities of young latina girls, navigating a friendship that is rapidly deteriorating, and coming to terms with the strong emotions school redistricting is surfacing in her town. Running through each of these is a common thread of identity, which Emilia Rose ultimately discovers as she works to untangle the facts she learns about her state's history and which develops a sense of purpose within her to raise awareness about immigration law and the unfair treatment many immigrants have received.

Pablo Cartaya
One of the most fascinating aspects of Cartaya's book is the local history-I learned so much about my own country through the research his character, Emilia, does for her school project. As she digs deeper into the past, Cartaya treats the reader to an informative overview of the law and it's impact on individuals and families. What I love about this is it's accessibility to young readers, and how the development of Emilia's understanding is contagious-as you read her process, you cannot help but want to get involved, too-an incredible message for today's young readers!

:) Julie

For more information:
Emilia Torres has a wandering mind. It's hard for her to follow along at school, and sometimes she forgets to do what her mom or abuela asks. But she remembers what matters: a time when her family was whole and home made sense. When Dad returns from deployment, Emilia expects that her life will get back to normal. Instead, it unravels.

     Dad shuts himself in the back stall of their family's auto shop to work on an old car. Emilia peeks in on him daily, mesmerized by his welder. One day, Dad calls Emilia over. Then, he teaches her how to weld. And over time, flickers of her old dad reappear.

     But as Emilia finds a way to repair the relationship with her father at home, her community ruptures with some of her classmates, like her best friend, Gus, at the center of the conflict. 

     Each Tiny Spark by Pablo Cartaya is a tender story about asking big questions and being brave enough to reckon with the answers.

Pre-order Here:

Pablo Cartaya is an award-winning author, speaker, actor, and educator. In 2018, he received a Pura Belpré Author Honor for his middle grade novel, The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora. His second novel, Marcus Vega Doesn't Speak Spanish, is also available.