Resources for Teaching Languages to Children


December Stations Activities for World Language Classes

HAPPY DECEMBER! LIKE ME, YOU KNOW THIS MONTH CAN BE WILD, ESPECIALLY IN THE ELEMENTARY CLASSROOM, where excitement over upcoming holidays can wash away any memory of an established routine or procedure in an instant and reduce YOU to a crying mess in no time flat... or maybe that's just me?! lol

December Stations Activities for World Language Classes Spanish French Russian

ENTER STATIONS ACTIVITIES... last year, to save my sanity (and I am NOT kidding), I decided to do stations activities with my Second Graders-we had three VERY difficult classes behavior wise, with little success at circle on an average day, and with holiday emotions running high, I realized I had to switch things up so I, too, could enjoy the month. Honestly, I just wanted to make it out alive. #highlightREAL. Stations were, and are, as I discovered, a great way to engage kids in meaningful activities while also avoiding some of the less desirable behaviors that can surface at circle, such as yelling across the rug at one's friend REPEATEDLY, rolling about on the floor, windmilling arms that inevitably smack a classmate and then cause a get the picture. Given my students come from a variety of backgrounds and heritages, I incorporated various holidays and traditions in the original set of stations, and am expanding upon this idea this year, some being multicultural, and some being target culture specific-please note that they should be accompanied by background information, particularly if they are unfamiliar to your students. Given we all have different student populations, I thought it might be a helpful idea to provide a MIX AND MATCH set of stations you could choose from. GENERAL INFORMATION ON HOW TO RUN & MANAGE STATIONS IS PROVIDED AFTER THE LIST OF SELECTIONS :)

1* MAKE ORNAMENTS: Always a favorite, kids love to make ornaments that they can take home, and/or give to a family member- my mom still puts the macaroni glued to a plastic container top ornament my sister made in 1986 on the family tree-it's hideous, but hey, it always makes us laugh! I do try to make ornaments that aren't quite that gaudy, and designed a set this year that is based off my arpillera project I do in First Grade, which you can find by clicking here. And for Hedgehog & Mushroom Ornaments, click here!

Llama and Cactus DIY Ornament Templates for Spanish Class & Multicultural

2* PLAY DREIDEL: A dreidel station is perfect for this time of year, many kids already know how to play, and can teach their classmates. I have a printable dreidel template in Spanish and one in French so you can add to the language component- just click on each language to grab yours! And don't miss my blog post on Hanukkah in the Spanish classroom, with more ideas and links to making this celebration part of class.

3* MAKE PAPER POINSETTIAS: Poinsettias originally come from México and are part of Christmas celebrations there as well as in the US and Canada. I have a FREE downloadable poinsettia activity here. And for a bulletin board set highlighting the history of the poinsettia & it's journey to the US, click here !

4* HOLIDAY CARDS: I love to provide the opportunity for my kiddos to make holiday cards for family, teachers, and friends! Reinforcing interpersonal skills & community building, greeting cards are an authentic way for kids to combine language & kindness. You can find our set of Christmas printable cards for Spanish by clicking here.

5* ROLL A SOLSTICE TREE: The Christmas tree as we know it today originally comes from pagan traditions celebrating the Winter Solstice and the return of the sun. Inspired by a theme The Woke Spanish Teacher did last year, I've created this simple activity highlighting key elements of the Winter Solstice which can support your teaching of this celebration, available in Spanish, English, and French. These now include digital dice for distance learning! (click on each language to grab!). Be sure to also check out this additional post by The Woke Spanish Teacher on how to create more inclusive December lessons.

6* KWANZAA COLORING PAGE: Teaching about Kwanzaa in class? Consider including our Color By Number Activity Page of the Kinara, reinforcing the 7 principles of Kwanzaa! You can grab our page in Spanish here.

Kwanzaa Color by Number Page in Spanish

7* ROLL A PIÑATA: Piñatas are part of Christmas time in México, and this fun activity is a great way to integrate traditional fillings for piñatas. Kids roll a die to find out what fillings they need to draw in their piñata-available in Spanish and in English! Now includes a digital dice video which can be used in distance learning!

Roll a piñata Activity Page in Spanish and English

8* WRITING TO THE THREE KINGS: For your upper elementary students, a fun activity is to write a letter to the Three Kings (instead of Santa Claus), which provides a concrete opportunity for them to experience a cultural contrast while utilizing language in context. You can find our FREE downloadable letter in Spanish with infographic visual support by clicking here :) and for the FRENCH VERSION, click here!

9* ORANGE AND CLOVE POMANDERS: I LOVE these traditional decorations, very common all over Europe during the holiday season! The aroma is divine, and they are super easy to make, even for little hands. I have the instructions on my blog post here, which includes links to videos in a variety of languages :)

Making orange and clove pomanders in world language class

10* HOLIDAY FOOD LABELING: I am a huge fan of this activity I developed a few years ago that can be done with just about any theme- "labeling" photos and/or screenshots from videos with word cards in the target language. Perfect for novices, this activity incorporates early literacy skills while also providing cultural images and info at the same time. With holiday foods/dishes, it is extremely helpful to ensure the photos you use are very clear, showing the main components on the plate, or main ingredients being readily recognized, especially if the dishes are unfamiliar to your students. Do a Google or Pinterest search for the countries of your target culture to find adequate photos.

Label holiday dishes in target language for Cultural integration Christmas

11* ROLL A RÁBANO: December 23 marks la Noche de los Rábanos in Oaxaca, México, featuring figures & scenes carved out of radishes. Here is a light hearted activity to go along with this celebration-a digital die video is included for remote learners - activity is in both Spanish & English.

Roll a Rábano Activity Page English Spanish

I have found that stations can definitely be a challenge, but I find they have their place when organized effectively. A NOTE on how I integrate them in my classes:

-Most of my stations are geared to last 10-15 minutes max. This means, during my 30 minute class periods, I also do other activities before kids go to a station, which typically includes a greeting activity, songs, practice & review, re-reading our mini book of the theme, etc. This minimizes my concerns around less input in a whole class setting because the station activity does not take the entire class time.
-Most frequently, I organize stations to take place over the course of multiple classes, rather than within one, so kids only go to ONE station during any given lesson. We rotate over the number of classes needed for everyone to complete all stations.
-I usually don't have a station that requires my presence in order for kids to take part, which leaves me the opportunity to circulate around the room, connecting with individuals at all of the stations.
-Since most of my classes range from 18-22 kids, FOUR stations is usually what I do, though depending on your student population, you can do fewer or more :)

-When introducing stations, I try to give a quick explanation of each, pointing out the key instructions for engaging in the activities. Balancing more familiar ones with less familiar is very helpful, and even more if all the activities are familiar to kids, lessening the amount of time it takes to explain each station. I do anticipate that I will circle around and give more directed instruction to those who need it.
-I divide my students into groups that I believe will function well together, which is to say, behavior and personalities are taken into consideration.
-As noted above, I only do one station during a class period, rotating instead over the course of multiple class times. I give a quick review of the instructions after the first introductions to remind kids about each one, especially since sometimes we won't see each other for a few days before the next class.
-I have learned to let go of some of my concerns around kids speaking English to one another at the stations-it's a tradeoff that I am making, and which honestly keeps us all a lot happier. That being said, I really try to encourage language use, and, as indicated by the activities above, I try to incorporate ones that require use of the language in some way to complete. As you are making a mix & match selection from those above (and/or other ones), consider being sure to include ones that do this, along with perhaps one craftivity.

What are your December lessons plans? Let me know in the comments! :)

Mystery Scents Activity for Me Gusta (Preferences) Theme

I LOVE TO PROVIDE EXPERIENTIAL OPPORTUNITIES FOR MY ELEMENTARY SPANISH STUDENTS, activities that are authentic and foster real conversation, interaction & reaction on the part of everyone in the room. One such activity that I LOVE to do is Mystery Scents, which I incorporate into my Me gustan las frutas Theme as well as subsequently through my first graders' year. Simple in nature, this activity also allows me to stay in the target language since it is perfectly geared for novice learners! Here's how I run the activity:

Mystery Scents Activity for Me gusta theme preferences in Spanish French

Gather together paper lunch bags and a variety of items that have distinctive scents, such as fruits (lemons, oranges and bananas are particularly great!), coffee, spices, pine cones/pine needles, etc. You can see in the photo above I also used cinnamon sticks and mint leaves; I've also used orchid scented soap during my theme on Venezuela, vanilla/ vanilla beans, coconut, perfume, among other items. Place one item in each bag. You will also need cards that indicate a variety of preferences expressions, such as ours shown in the photo above-for my first graders I only use 'me gusta' and 'no me gusta', but it is easy to add more as kids gain more vocabulary!

Place preference cards on either side of the room. With kids sitting in circle, indicate that they are to sniff the contents of one bag, in silence. (Although they are not perfect at staying silent, I work to keep them as quiet as possible so they don't tell everyone else what they think it is before all have had a chance to take a sniff).
I walk around the circle, letting each kid take a sniff, reminding them to stay silent. Once all have sniffed the contents, I then direct them to either stand near 'me gusta' (I like) or 'no me gusta' (I don't like) in reference to the scent. NOTE: we haven't said what it is yet!
Once all kids are standing near the indication of their preference, I then ask them what they think it is. Sometimes I start with questions like 'Is it a taco?' 'Is it pizza', etc that are obviously NOT what it is, especially if it's a word they are not secure with. If it is a word they know, I would then ask, 'So, what is it?'. If it's not a secure word, but still a cognate, I can usually successfully say, 'Is it café?' and they get it; otherwise I just reveal the item and name it in the target language.
I then instruct them to sit back down and we start another round. Usually, in one 30 minute lesson, I do 2-3 mystery bags (we also do greeting activities, sing a song and/or review before we get to this). I do this activity twice during my Me gustan las frutas theme, while in other themes, I might just bring it back for one lesson with new items geared for that particular theme.

Mystery Scents Activity for Me gusta theme in Spanish class

I do really like to connect the items as much as possible to the theme itself, such as the orchid scented soap I mentioned above for my Venezuela theme. You could also use scented oils or even Glade or air fresheners if you are searching for a particular scent. I prefer items themselves so the kids can look at them and make a connection, but occasionally there is that one perfect scent that you only find as an air freshener! :)

To make it easier for you to do this activity, our Likes and Dislikes Preferences Cards in Spanish are ready to print and use in class, just click here to grab them! And for a set in FRENCH, click here!

Likes Dislikes Preferences Bulletin Board Cards in Spanish

UPDATE! I wanted to do this activity with my 4th graders (usually I do it in first grade most frequently), but since they are older, I decided to add a writing component instead of having them move from one side of the room to the other. Also, since my upper elementary students sit in groups at tables, I had to re-think how to do the activity so there wasn't lots of down time while kids were waiting to sniff the bags. Here's the modification:

Mystery Scents Preference activity in small groups

Using multiple sets of each item (4 bags for each since I have four groups of students in each class), I labeled the bags 1, 2, 3, and 4, then started the first round by putting Bag #1 on all tables, instructing them to wait until all were handed out, then gave the go ahead for each group to sniff their bag's contents. Since they are very intent on trying to figure out what's in the bag, they were allowed to look inside. The key was for them to write their reaction to the SMELL in Box #1 (I like it, I really like etc). I gave them a time limit for writing; then gathered the bags and started the next round.

Preferences Writing Sheet for Mystery Scents Activity in World Language

At the end of the four rounds, I asked kids to tell me which smell they liked the best, 1, 2, 3, or 4, which was a great follow up question! Don't want to make the writing sheet yourself (or don't have time!).. you can download it for FREE by clicking here (it is in four languages, Spanish, French, Russian, and English).