Resources for Teaching Languages to Children


Highlight authors & illustrators of picture books

I LOVE PICTURE BOOKS - THEY CAN BE A VEHICLE TO BOTH LANGUAGE & CULTURE IN CONTEXT.... but it didn’t occur to me until recently how important it is to not just read the author & illustrator’s names, but to show photos of them as well to fully represent who they are. We often talk about how important it is for children to see themselves in the books they encounter-I think this should be expanded to include seeing themselves in the creators of these books as well.

SINCE PICTURE BOOKS DONT ALWAYS INCLUDE PHOTOS of the author & illustrator, you may have to do a little leg work and search them out yourselves. The collage I created above was easily put together via Google search-I typed their names as well and voila -a visual ready to accompany reading the story! :)

NOTE: You can also put a flag next to each indicating where they are from!

How to use a picture book when the text is too difficult for your students
How to develop a theme from a picture book step by step

The Outdoor Classroom for World Language Classes- A Round Up of Ideas

TEACHING IN THE AGE OF COVID BRINGS WITH IT UNIQUE CHALLENGES....and OPPORTUNITIES! For us teaching elementary world language, we are, I think, in a lucky position to be able to take on one approach that seems to be slowly gaining in interest... the OUTDOOR CLASSROOM. With the need for greater social distancing, being outside means you have more space, and of course ventilation is not an issue. There are also TONS of difficulties & drawbacks, I am fully aware, especially if you were to consider being entirely outside and most especially if you live in the north... weather conditions, access to the building for bathrooms, nurse, etc. That being said, there are some pretty cool pros also. I thought it might be helpful to outline some ways you can take your classes outside on a regular basis to reduce your exposure to Covid-19, and have fun in the process. NOTE: Many of these ideas have materials included in my theme packs to go along with the idea, or will, as I am working on them this summer :)

The Outdoor Classroom for World Language Spanish French

Like any setting, you need to think about what routines & procedures are going to make the most sense, and what ones you already do that can be adapted for the situation. Things like giving instructions, lining up, behavior expectations and physical boundaries (depending on the lesson you might consider putting out cones or another marker to define the space being used so you don't have a wanderer :) ), use and storage of materials, hygiene, etc. You might also need to consider how you will accommodate for sun, ticks, mosquitos, and other outdoor challenges. Lastly, all the activities below take covid-19 hygiene into consideration, meaning little to no sharing of items, and social distancing capability :)

Consider starting each lesson, as you would any lesson, with a greeting activity. You can then move into singing a song together, and then one or more of the activities listed below. Don't forget to bring everyone back together at the end for closing :)


*SCAVENGER HUNTS: A natural outdoors activity! You may have seen my colors scavenger hunt pages, which was a huge hit with teachers during the remote learning closure; keep in mind that you can also "stage" items to be found, not just have kids look for items already in place. See my post on bilingual scavenger hunts here for photos of how this can look! The modification to that one would obviously be not to collect any items in a bag as you don't want to then have to disinfect them :) A number of my theme packs include scavenger hunts, such as Pepita y el oso (Las estaciones), Uno, dos, tres (Numbers Theme Pack), amongst others. If you are using clip boards, I suggest you have kids use hand sanitizer before touching them and then again after use.

*TALLIES: Like scavenger hunts, tally activities require kids to observe what they see around them, using tally marks to record those observations. Put a time limit on the activity, then come together to share out each students' findings. I have a bunch of stand alone packs as well as tally activities included in larger packs, such as Backyard Birds (Spanish), Backyard Birds (French)Buenos días (Greetings)En el jardínDans le jardin and more.

Tally Mark Activities for World Language Outdoor Classroom

*I SPY: Like scavenger hunts, I spy is perfect for any setting, including outdoors. Have color cards ready as visuals, especially for your littles (remember, visuals are a go-to strategy for conveying meaning, and therefore not having to translate to English, regardless of being in a classroom or outdoors. Be sure to have those ready to go!) For your youngest students, in particular, to stay in the target language, you can have students POINT to what they think the object is if they don't know how to say it. This non verbal strategy allows all kids to participate.

*PLAYGROUND GAMES: There are tons of traditional games that can be played outdoors, providing both language and culture together. Choose ones that don't involve contact and support social distancing, such as Uno, dos, tres, calabaza (Red light, green light), Hopscotch, jumprope games & chants (students don't share jumpropes), Rock, paper, scissors, shoot with hula hoops (see idea here), Tierra y mar (de África), and so on. Another fun activity along these lines is to make paper airplanes, then have a contest to see whose flies the furtherest! TIP: If you are doing games like Hopscotch, be sure to have multiple boards created so kids do not have to wait long to take a turn.

WEATHER JOURNALS: Keeping a weather journal is a natural connection to being outside! Kids keep track of the weather over the course of a week or a month, creating drawings and/or writing phrases each lesson. You can combine this with tracking the weather in a target language country for cultural comparisons and content related instruction. We have monthly calendar pages included in our Weather Bulletin Board Kits for Spanish and French.

Track the Weather in World Language Classes Spanish French

*DROP EVERYTHING AND READ: My school has historically had DEAR time during the day for upper elementary where there is silent time for reading, what is often called FVR in world language classes. This can easily be incorporated outside, especially if you use our printable minibooks which kids can then take with them so you don't have to worry about disinfecting them like you would hard cover/paper back books. For younger kids, you could also do story time, reading a picture book to kids just like at circle.

*CHALK ART & MESSAGES: A perennial favorite, using chalk to write messages in the target language and/or draw is a winner every time. In order to make this feasible with covid-19 in mind, you would need individual sets of chalk. I would suggest checking out one of the dollar stores as they frequently have inexpensive sets; colors may be limited but for this purpose should be fine! :) NOTE: using chalk will definitely get hands messy. This activity will require wipes or a visit to the bathroom to wash hands so factor this in if you are doing it with classes :)

Chalk Messages for World Language Outdoor Classes

*PUT ON A PLAY! Plays tap into what little kids already do-imaginative play! They can also incorporate purposeful movement, which is extremely helpful, especially for those friends with focus issues. Consider simple plays that don't require a "stage" to perform-for example, in our Three Plays for Preschool (& early elementary!), for the play 'La lluvia' you can assign the weather props to kids without having them hold them, and they act them out as the play progresses. Being outdoors actually gives them more room to "act"! :)

Plays for Preschool Spanish Class that Can be Done Outdoors

PAPER AIRPLANE TRIALS: It is a rare moment that my upper elementary kids do not, finding themselves with a stray piece of paper, make a paper airplane-so why not harness this obvious interest?! Using playground chalk, mark off 1 foot intervals on the sidewalk before class-I create at least two so multiple kids can fly their planes at the same time, shortening wait time for each individual kid. In class, provide kids with a piece of paper & give them a set amount of time to construct an airplane of their choice. For instructions on how to make a variety of paper airplanes, check out this site! Also give them a flight distance recording sheet and a clipboard with pencil-these will be used to record their flights once outside. You can find a FREE downloadable recording sheet in Spanish, Russian, French and English by clicking here!
NOTE: For a STEM activity, kids can make different types of paper airplanes, record the flights, and compare-did a certain design fly better than another? Why or why not?

SPELL IT TOGETHER GREETING GAME: You can actually do this activity with lots of words; I love using it specifically as a greeting game :) Choose a word and print out multiples of the letters used to spell it-I try to choose words with a quantity of letters that allow all kids to participate. I put the letters in sleeves so they can be handled without being ruined. Have kids stand in a circle, give each kid a letter and when you say GO! They have to work together to form a group that spells the word in question. For littles, I have the word posted for scaffolding and support. You can download these letters for FREE here!

ALSO HAVE A BUNCH OF ACTIVITIES that work really well outdoors on my Off Screen Activities post here including using natural items to create pictures, people and more!

UPDATE: A number of people have been asking me, what about once it gets cold???? I, too, have been thinking about this, especially living here in Maine where winter lasts from the end of Oct right into April. Here are some ideas to get you & your classes outdoors even when it's snowy & cold:

*BUILD A SNOWMAN: Well, it's obvious right?! Give kids some parameters such as size & a time limit to create their snowman so that everyone has a chance to finish theirs. To add a listening component, you could direct them step by step-okay, lets make the body. Now, make the head. and so on. If you are really ambitious, you can bring in sticks, pebbles, carrots etc for decorating the snowmen :)))

>You can take this in a different direction by creating snow sculptures-another fun way to get creative with kids. If you are able, you can also photo their sculptures & upload them to the online platform you are using so kids can later annotate them, use them to create stories, etc. 

*BIRD FEEDERS: This activity would definitely benefit from some parent donations of bird seed! ;) Students can make bird feeders out of a variety of items, including stringing Cheerios on pipe cleaners, then bending into fun shapes (super easy, even for littles!), decorating a small milk carton and attaching a string for hanging, or stringing egg cartons on branches (you can break the bigger ones apart to make smaller feeders) and putting bird seed in the cups. Then head outdoors to hang them up in your school garden or grounds. Filling these can then become a regular occurrence, as well as observing who's coming to your feeders (see bird tallies above!) and/or checking the birdy feet prints on the snow below :) NOTE: If you don't want to do the craft part in your own class, esp the milk carton one, for ex, consider teaming up with the art or homeroom teacher!

*MINUTE TO WIN IT SNOWBALL CHALLENGE: No, this is not how many snowballs can you throw at another person lol Instead, it's how many snowballs you can make in a minute! Easy & fun!

*WINTER SCAVENGER HUNT (see my paragraph on scavenger hunts above-I have a winter one in my Pepita y el oso pack!)

*BE AN ARCTIC/ANTARCTIC ANIMAL: Use the weather to your advantage to act out animals that live in cold places, like polar bears, penguins, seals and more! Use visuals for unfamiliar animals and to support comprehension without having to translate to English/common class language. 

What ones have you thought of? Share in the comments! :)