Resources for Teaching Languages to Children


Teaching ¡Gracias, Omu! In Spanish Class

¡GRACIAS OMU! By OGE MORA IS A BEAUTIFUL BOOK CELEBRATING GIVING, COMMUNITY & GRATITUDE. It is both a lovely book to teach for it’s message, but is also ideal for world language classes in that there is repetitive action which can be capitalized on for language acquisition purposes. I paired it with my printable props for Kak’ik, a turkey soup from Guatemala to add to hands on activities for my elementary Spanish students-fun! Below are some of the activities that have worked well with my kindergarten students:

*OMU: I start by sharing with my students that Omu is the Igbo word for Queen; the author/illustrator Oge Mora used to call her grandmother Omu- asking my students what they call their’ Omu’ becomes a great opportunity for them to share and for each of us to develop connections with one another AND see how we are all both same and different at the same time. I use a large sheet of paper to record their answers. If Abuela does not surface in a class, I add that as a share to connect to Spanish. I love the chance this provides for multiple languages and heritages to surface during this!

*STICK PUPPETS: I have stick puppets of all the characters in the book ready and at the seats of my students before they enter-this increases their surprise and excitement when they come in! I use a color copier to print out scenes from the book itself, then mount them to stiff paper, cut them out, and mount them to popsicle sticks to make the puppets. I also make a “puppet” for ‘¡Gracias Omu!”, ¡Toc toc!, and the soup. These are used as I am re-telling the story-kids hold up their character when it is featured in the reading, which creates a more interactive experience for everyone.

*IDENTIFYING KEY CONTENT AND TEXT: In this post about teaching a picture book, I talk about how I look at the text of a book to determine what will be comprehensible, and how I can maintain the feel of the story while also making it accessible to my learners. In this instance, I have decided to focus on the vocabulary Omu/Abuela, Gracias, la sopa, toc toc, mmmm deliciosa, etc, rather than community members vocabulary (which could be another angle!). The relationship Oge Mora describes in the end notes with her grandmother resonates with me as someone who spent a lot of my childhood with both of my grandmothers, and felt like a great place to focus, and connects to SEL, representation and culture.

In that vein, I also noticed during the first telling of this story that onomatopeya could be incorporated to tell the story-toc toc, of course, along with snif, snif, mmmm and slurb, slurb (see Mafalda for this one!). As I tell the story, these are a really fun way to have all kids participating, even if they don’t have the puppet in action at the moment. 

*SOUP-LA SOPA: As I mentioned above, I use the printable props from my Kak’ik soup along with plastic vegetables & chicken to create a “soup” I can spoon out and put in bowls to “serve” while reading the story. I have the student who has the Omu stick puppet deliver the soup bowls to classmates as I read. I have to admit, this can get a little chaotic, but so worth it as the kids have such a good time!

*MAKE THE SOUP: During the following lesson, I have the soup ingredients out at the seats of my students when they come in-this immediately primes them to start talking about the book again. I act surprised and excited- what are these? Does anyone recognize what they are from? …Sí, la sopa!!! Who can help me make the soup again? I then go around the room randomly having kids put their ingredient in the soup pot AND saying ¡GRACIAS! Each time :) 

*SPELL IT OUT: Keeping with the idea of keeping it hands on, I hand out a series of sheets of paper, with one letter each from ¡GRACIAS OMU! -I then invite students to unscramble them to spell the phrase on our rug. I have the phrase up on the Apple TV so kids can reference it as they put it together. 

*DRAW YOUR OMU: I love opportunities for kids to personalize our learning; each student draws one or more of their grandmothers on an activity page, which I then bind into a class book for all of us to look at.

Don’t miss this resource from Jumpstart with more ideas (and that inspired me!). And the version in Spanish is here.

And for a set of FREE printables connected to this book in Spanish, click here

For more teaching ideas for picture books:

Un elefante se balanceaba STEM Activity for Elementary Spanish Classes

UN ELEFANTE SE BALANCEABA is one of my students' favorite traditional children's songs-and mine! Fun to learn and culturally authentic, it is the perfect addition to any elementary Spanish class. Along with singing it, creating hands on activities to go along with songs and poems provides extension and tactile experience, so important in our classes. Several years ago I included this centers activity in my monthly newsletter; here it is on my blog!

-a set of small elephants (I had ordered mine from Lakeshore Learning many years ago as part of a wild animal set)
-two cups
-strips of crepe or tissue paper
-a spider web drawn on black paper

Set the two cups a little ways apart, then drape the strip of paper over them to create a ‘bridge’

Introduce the challenge: how many elephants can you place on the paper before they fall off or the paper falls/rips?

Taking turns, kids place one elephant at a time, counting in Spanish as they go. Turns continue until the elephants fall or the paper falls/rips

Group records how many elephants they had placed. They can try again to beat their record :)

You can add our FREE coloring page to the center for more fun-click here to download !

And don’t miss our Spanish Song Props which include puppets for this song-grab them here!

Peg Dolls Activity in Elementary Classes

INSPIRED BY THESE ADORABLE PEG DOLLS, this simple activity reinforces conversations about skin color, gender stereotypes, and identity. My students are very familiar with our people crayons, little people hands, and talking about all of us being both unique and one of a kind, so this becomes an extension of that identity work. 

BEFORE THE PEG DOLLS, I start with an activity shared by author Juliet Menéndez on her Twitter-click here to read! I take my students outside to do this, using yarn that I then use later use to string the peg dolls together as part of a hallway display “Estamos conectadxs” We are all connected :) 


Before lesson:
-Print out our peg doll template on stiff paper and cut in half. 
During lesson:
-Introduce peg dolls (if you don’t have any you can show pictures of them)-note they are not wearing specific types of clothing (making them ideal for escaping gender stereotypes such as dresses are for girls or pants are for boys, etc)
-If you have already had conversations about people colors, you can do a review conversation of this, meaning revisiting the concepts of people colors, using people crayons etc before passing out a peg doll template to each student. If you haven’t, visit my blog post here on how I introduce this with my students.
-Instruct students to choose a people color crayon (or combination of crayons) to color their head, and then choose colors to fill in the bottom part of the doll.
-Cut out self portrait peg doll. 

-To make the hallway display/bulletin board, punch holes on either side of the peg doll and string yarn through them, connecting them together in a banner :)

WANT TO MAKE THESE YOURSELF? Download our FREE template here

Looking for PEG DOLLS? Visit Etsy and do a search-lots of options to choose from!

Ideas for Teaching the Book Si Quisqueya fuera un color by Sili Recio

THE BOOK SI QUISQUEYA FUERA UN COLOR is one to die for! Text & illustrations are both divine, and a perfect choice to bring culture, connections, and identity conversations to my ELEMENTARY SPANISH classes. I decided to use it in my 4th grade classes as part of a mini theme on REPRESENTATION-using color as a representation of a place, its peoples, and its cultures. As part of that, I also used it to dig deeper into perceptions & understandings of our state of Maine, which, while it does not have as much racial diversity as a lot of other states, does in fact have many communities of color, which deserve not to be erased by portrayals of Maine as just a 'white state'. Whether this is a goal for you as well or not, this book is beautiful and an essential resource for Spanish classes! Here are some activities I have done with & related to the book: 

Teaching Si Quisqueya fuera un color

FIRSTLY, A NOTE: Until reading this book, I did not know Quisqueya was another name for the Dominican Republic-learning new things every day!

*READ ALOUD: In order to make this book comprehensible without translating, I do simplify some of the text. I decided to follow the pattern sentence of 'Si quisqueya fuera un color, sería el ____ de _____' , inserting the color and what is illustrated on each page, rather than the exact words, as many of them are not high frequency. So, for example, on the first page, I substituted 'Si quisqueya fuera un color, sería el rojo de la puesta del sol' instead of the text you can see in the foto below. This is a first read through; coming back to add some of the details happens later (and most especially for heritage learners, for whom some of this text is great for vocabulary building of their own!)

As well, while I am reading aloud the first time, I have kids color in the circles & images on the first two pages of the free download I've included in this post (click here to download), pausing each time so kids have a few minutes to complete. I copy them double sided-you will notice not everything is represented on the two pages, but it gives good scaffolding for kids as I read.


*PICTURE LABELING: This simple activity allows for kids to interact at their proficiency level, which, at least in my classes, is a wide range by 4th grade (see my post on activity boards here for more on this) . Take a photo of a page spread in the book (I really like the one shown below) and upload it to Seesaw or Google Slides with the question ¿Qué ves?. Students use the text tool to "write" as many words as come to mind in relation to the photo. I find it super helpful to remind kids the quantity of words is absolutely not important! For the illustration below, it could be anything from 'dos abuelas' to 'sol' to 'azul' to 'feliz' or 'familia'... etc. The idea is there are no wrong answers-but it gives kids an opportunity to slow down and really observe the illustration. If you don't have 1:1 devices, an alternative could be to show the illustration and have kids write down their words on a piece of paper. 

*AS SEEN IN THE BOOK: the third page of the free download includes a table with three rows, each labeled. Students draw in the circles two each of things from the book representing the label of that row. For example, for 'la gente', perhaps they draw the authors' two grandmothers; encourage them to write underneath what each thing is (remind them they can potentially refer back to the pages they filled out when the book is first read!)

*VIDEO SLIDESHOW: I honestly have had a hard time finding videos on Youtube that are not so touristy; this one, though, shows some beautiful images of the coast, fishermen, and others. If you have good links, please put them in the comments below and I will add them to this post!

*BUILD CONNECTIONS: circling back to my introduction to this post, given that this book serves as a representation of the peoples & cultures of the Dominican Republic, it can be great to go the next step & brainstorm with your students how an author / illustrator might represent where you live. For my classes, this also entails taking some time to show them communities of Maine they might not even know exist, such as the Somali refugees that have found a home in our state, or the Cuban family that runs a restaurant right in our own town. In the free download are three pages that follow the same pattern as the book, encouraging kids to think about how the colors provided could be represented based on their state or country or even town/city.

AUTHOR READ ALOUD: I am a HUGE fan of showing (and watching myself!) read alouds done by the author and/or illustrator themselves-there are so many background and side details shared which give greater context and connection to the story-here is Sili Recio reading this book on Youtube

The book's notes are another great source of info, as well as following authors & illustrators on social media. Sili Recio's Twitter handle is @SiliRecio and the illustrator, Brianna McCarthy, is @macabrii. Within these, you will note that the main impetus of writing this book is to celebrate the beauty of being black & the beauty of this within the greater context of the Dominican Republic, itself often struggling with colorism & racism & it's history of slavery & colonialism. Using a Jamboard to solicit answers, you could pose the following questions:
'Why do you think the author felt it was important to write this book?'
Along with that, connecting to a quote from the author's note (en español): "Eres negra, que no se te vaya a olvidar", said by the author's father to her when she moved to NYC. "Why do you think her father asked her to always remember this?" 

and "How did the author & illustrator represent beauty?" 

I am happy to have kids answer in English, Spanish, or a mix-questions like these are critical for my students to consider; a Jamboard allows them to read each others answers (I usually give time during a subsequent class, during bell ringer time for ex, to read the current Jamboard). I feel that these also give kids practice in challenging conversations that they might not otherwise have-you can't get better at talking about race, social justice, cultures, etc if you never engage in them. These could also be questions that the homeroom teacher poses to the class as part of a collaboration.  

15 Activity Pages for Upper Elementary included in this resource is a color by number of a DR fisherman

and to read my post on Ideas for teaching the book Aquí también, click here

I would love to hear how you teach this book or plan to!

Hands On Lessons About People Colors with Elementary Students

MY LAKESHORE PEOPLE CRAYONS HAVE BEEN WITH ME A LONG, LONG TIME, along with conversations about our skin colors and representing ourselves & others. A message put out by Sesame Street last summer (2020) resonated deeply with me, prompting me to think about ways I can make these lessons more explicit (quote below). To that end, I worked on making these conversations more hands on, exploratory & experiential, especially for my littlest learners, which, as you know, is an approach I constantly strive to include in my lessons. Below are some of the activities & resources I use to make this a reality, occurring over the course of multiple lessons & throughout the year: 

Hands on lessons about race in world language classes

*STUFFIES OPEN THE CONVERSATION: I am super grateful that many years ago, when I first found my puppet, Pepita, I also bought every other bunny puppet they had! Realizing that they could be a great entry point to talking about diversity and the concept of being both unique (one of a kind) AND the same simultaneously, I pulled them out to initiate conversations with my primary grade levels (K-2). Using the approach of guided discovery, I ask my students what they notice about the group of bunnies (I arrange them in a line along my front table)-their answers can be in English or Spanish or a mix, I am more interested in fomenting observations than linguistic outcomes in these moments. (When answers are given in English, I repeat in Spanish, though!) Typical answers range from 'One bunny is white' to 'One bunny is bigger than the others' to '5 bunnies are brown', etc.  

Using Stuffies to talk about diversity & race

OBSERVING is a key piece of this activity, in my mind. Looking more closely at things is a skill kids benefit from developing, especially as we talk about peoples, cultures, similarities & differences. Noticing these & talking about them is a powerful segue to giving them tools to have conversations about race, diversity, and other areas of social justice. I see this as a foundational building block. 

I follow the prompt 'What do you notice?' with 'What is the same about the bunnies?' in an effort to draw out some overarching connections & qualities. "They are all bunnies." is the one I am most interested in teasing out, but kids come up with some other great ones, too! At this point, I rephrase to highlight both the things that make each bunny unique and what makes them the same, reiterating the concept 'we are all unique, we are all the same' (somos úniques, somos iguales). 

*OBSERVE YOUR CLASSMATES: From observing stuffies to observing classmates is a simple leap! Urging kids to look around the room, I give prompts such as 'Do we all have the same hair color?', "Do we all have the same hair texture or type?", "Do we all have the same eye color, skin color..etc?" giving them time to answer each question (no)...because we are all UNIQUE! and what makes us all the same? We are people!

*SKIN COLOR & RACE: I give full credit to a video Sesame Street created for helping me frame in kid friendly ways how to explain skin color & race (link here and the Spanish version here.) Watching this short video together, scaffolding where necessary if using the Spanish version, works really well to help kids better understand these concepts. An extension activity, if you live in a location with the autumnal turning of leaf color could be to go outside, collect leaves, and observe their variations, just as in the video-I wish the video had come out last fall so I could've done this, but am hoping to do it this coming school year!

*OUR OWN "COLOR PALETTE": Time to observe ourselves! Using small mirrors and my little people color hands, which you can find here, I give kids an opportunity to look carefully at themselves, using the little hands to find a color which is similar to their skin color. There is an ongoing incredible photography project called Humanae done by Brazilian photographer Angélica Dass which chronicles more than people and their skin tones-sharing this info with my students has been another powerful moment for them to break out of the 'peach=skin color' narrative. (yes, I speak directly to this, saying repeatedly there are so many "people colors" in the world, most especially when a kid asks for 'skin color' and they mean the peach). 
From here, handing out my Lakeshore People Crayons and my ¡Soy una paleta de colores! page (click here for the FREE download!) provides the opportunity for kids to put on paper what they have been observing and what we have been talking about. Having them observe their eye & hair color is an extension of the same conversation. NOTE: it has been documented widely that some children of color, especially younger ones, will color themselves lighter than they are due to the messages they've received in society stating being of color is "bad". I've witnessed this numerous times; you can gently ask if the color they've chosen is their "closest match", but I try not to push it. 

*MULTIPLE OPPORTUNITIES TO CONTINUE THIS CONVERSATION: I think its also important to give kids lots of opportunities to talk about skin color, race, etc as well as activities where they draw themselves and others, with the teacher prompt to remind them to observe closely, pay attention to details, and use our people color crayons to create accurate representations of ourselves & others. I have the mirrors available whenever we are doing these types of activities, which they love to use!  And don't miss our People Memory Game FREE here!

Lakeshore Learning Jumbo People Crayons these are amazing quality & I love the jumbo size for little hands! They also have people colors construction paper :)
Crayonescolorpiel is a company in Argentina that makes people color crayons. Their Instagram account is fantastic for images & connections
@wokekindergarten on Instagram-a Kindergarten teacher sharing ABAR work in her classroom
La semana de la educación 2018 ¿Color piel? Un proyecto con la artista brasileña Angélica Dass

Los colores de nuestro piel de Karen Katz (in English: The Colors of Us)
Brown: The Many Shades of Love by Nancy Johnson James & Constance Moore
Everyone is different by Rachel Gale
Our Skin: A First Conversation about Race by Megan Madison, Jessica Ralli, and Isabel Roxas
Nuestra piel arcoiris by Colombian author Manuela Molina

How do you talk about people colors in your classes? Share in the comments below!

Using Authentic Infographics & Social Media Posts with Novice Learners in World Language Classes

AUTHENTIC RESOURCES ARE AN IMPORTANT PART OF OUR RESOURCES TOOLKIT, providing #ownvoices in terms of language, content, and illustration/image. However, we also know that often it can be challenging to find authentic resources which are at the proficiency level of our students, most especially NOVICE LEARNERS. Couple that with finding ones that are also at the developmental level of our early language learners and whew! Not an easy feat! HOWEVER, I also think we can adjust our lessons to be more in line with the proficiency level, making materials more accessible simply by changing what we ask our students to do with them. Here are a few examples of how I use INFOGRAPHICS and SOCIAL MEDIA POSTS with my elementary students:


This is a key component of my planning when using infographics and other posts. Sometimes, as teachers, we see all the great info on an infographic and try to integrate much of it into a lesson or activity-consider instead just focusing on ONE piece of info that can be gleaned from the visual. So, for example, I use a series of infographics, tweets, and Instagram posts to have my 4th graders fill in a map of where jaguars live. Each visual is about one country, which kids have to identify in order to color in their map,  eventually having a series of countries colored in.

Before handing out the visuals, remind students to look for text markers such as bold text, titles, hashtags, and/or labels on photos/images. This helps them key into where they can find the info they are looking for, as opposed to becoming lost in the sea of text. (I learned this reading strategy from my sister, who's also a teacher!). This is a skill kids are learning in their general ed classes in upper elementary, so well suited for this age group (as opposed to lower elementary students). For this mapping activity, every kid receives one image to start with, and then they pass the image to a classmate, repeating until all images have been seen by each individual student. Ultimately, with this particular activity (maps & jaguars), my goals are twofold: revisit and reinforce country names & map locations, and develop by exploring & discovering (rather than me telling) the distribution of jaguars in the Americas. There is the added benefit of seeing kids looking at other parts of the image/infographic once they've colored in the appropriate country!

Another, similar activity extracting one piece of information is to notate data points, such as numbers or percentages, creating a table or graph in the process.

Many infographics show statistics or data points which can be using to gain a fuller picture of a content-area topic. Again, this act of "copying" information from the resource to a graphic organizer or activity page allows students to interact with the text themselves in an accessible fashion. With the advent of 1:1 devices in my school, this has become so much easier to do as a lesson! 

In the activity shown above, I found infographics for the most biodiverse countries in our hemisphere, posted them as an activity in Seesaw so they could see them, and had students fill out the table, counting numbers of bird, mammal, reptile, plant, and fish species in these countries. My goal is to have kids gain an appreciation of the biodiversity within these countries (including Ecuador, Colombia, México, Perú and Venezuela, along with the Amazon Rainforest more generally). For comparison, I also included a visual with the biodiversity of our state of Maine. Again, revisiting and reinforcing country names is part of spiraling this all through my gradespan, as well as the category words 'mamífero, planta, etc'. You could teach/practice big numbers with this as well!

And, with both of these activities, they are embedded in lessons about biodiversity, the environment, & connections with the peoples who inhabit the same territories.

Here's another example, from my Mis Mascotas Theme Pack , that utilizes graphics related to what pets can eat-kids use these to mark 'yes' or 'no' on their activity page. This doesn't require them to know the vocabulary for all the food words, although this does provide spiraling opportunities in a new context! Again, I post these on Seesaw so kids can see them all at the same time (before the advent of 1:1 devices, I printed these out and used them in a centers activity). The goal of this activity is for kids to learn more about responsible pet care as part of our Pets theme :)

Don't be afraid to cut apart those authentic resources, either! In this example, I printed out one copy of the infographic on stiff paper and cut out the chile peppers, and one copy as a 'self check' after they've followed the instructions (which I video tape and have on an Ipad). The task is to put the cut out chiles in order based on spiciness, simple but fun (and for upper elementary a good review of math facts in the form of ordering bigger numbers). You can circulate to the group/partners to ask them questions in the target language, such as do you like spicy food? what was a surprise? etc Find this infographic here and don't miss our Olivia hace salsa Theme Pack!

Social Media posts are another fantastic resource to bring authentic voices and images to your classes. Both the text and the photos/pictures can be a source for language learning & practice-in the example below, I've written out bunches of cards with target vocabulary on them; Instagram & Twitter posts are laid out on tables around the room and cards are distributed to students. Like a scavenger hunt, kids have to find a post or picture that matches the vocabulary card they have and place the card on it/next to it. Linking to the images, in particular, fosters consideration of the meaning of the word on the card. You can also have some of the posts be in English, but the cards are still in the target language which again encourages kids to think about the meaning of the word (you can see an example in the photo related to a Nativelandnet Instagram post in English which mentions 'grandma'-the card says 'abuela'). 

I really like having some of the cards be words kids really need to search for in the text, as well as words which represent bigger ideas & concepts we are working on in our ABAR (anti bias, anti racist) work.   

Using social media posts with novice learners in world language classes

Don't miss our ImillaSkate Mini Theme Pack with cards and links to a video for this exact type of activity!

For young (and older!) students who may not be reading yet, CATEGORIZING is an accessible activity that can be done in lots of different ways-using our Preferences Bulletin Board Cards, for example (French version here & Spanish version here) or diagrams like Venn (grab our Graphic Organizers for all Languages here). In the photo below, you can see I've printed out a bunch of 'Batidos' (Shakes) with various ingredients-kids can then sort them into whether they like each one or not. This is a great centers activity or with a partner. These images (and many others) can be found on my Pinterest board by clicking here.

categorize smoothies by preference

On the same Pinterest board I also have some smoothies that do not have a label-which provides an excellent opportunity for kids to add them! Younger kids can use our printable play food, or you can provide written cards without pictures for older kids. (Play food in Spanish, French, Russian, German, English)

Focusing in on "simpler" ways to use infographics and other visuals can make these much for accessible for our novice learners, while at the same time giving them opportunities to interact with these resources in authentic contexts. 

Did you know? I regularly include links to infographics and other visuals in my Mira el Mundo and Mira el Mundo Jr Magazine issues! All back issues, along with current ones, still available in our shop :)

Summer Reading List 2021 : Picture Books

IT'S MY ANNUAL SUMMER READING LIST, bringing you AMAZING books that came out in the last year or that I discovered for the first time. I went overboard treating myself to these and several others-too many just impossible to resist! And don't forget to follow and support these authors and illustrators on social media-I've included their accounts if available. You can download a FREE list of these titles to share with families in your district by clicking here :)

*SI QUISQUEYA FUERA UN COLOR/ IF QUISQUEYA WAS A COLOR by Sili Recio and illustrated by Brianna McMurthy. I had pre-ordered this book when I first saw it was to be released-when it arrived on my doorstep I practically swooned. Vibrant illustrations bring the text to life in such thoughtful, touching ways-I adore this book! Using color as a representation of the Dominican Republic, Sili & Brianna highlight the people, food, and dynamics of the island, which I use as a jumping off point to connect our own cultures and representations. @SiliRecio @macabrii See my blog post here for free downloads and activities to teach this book in class!

*SHARUKO El Arqueólogo Peruano Julio C Tello by Dr. Mónica Brown & illustrated by Elisa Chavarri  tells the true story of Julio C. Tello, an indigenous archaeologist who pursued the history of his people, even in the face of challenges due to being Quechua-so well done, and such a great addition to learning about the history of Perú. @monicabrownbks @elisachavarri

*100% ME/ SOY 100% YO by Duane Carlos Crawford and illustrated by Dominican artist Jayri Gomez features a boy who is trying to figure out just who he is.. part African-American, part Peruvian, but 100% him! I love this book to highlight bicultural, biracial children and experiences. @jayrisart

*LA SELVA DE ZONIA/ ZONIA'S RAINFOREST written & illustrated by Juana Martinez Neal-can I say GORGEOUS?! Set in the Amazon jungle, this book follows an Ashaninka girl as she greets her animal friends, until she comes upon a clearcut portion of the forest, which prompts her mother to remind her everyone must help to save it. Notes at the back of the book give more resources on the Ashaninka people and animals in danger. @juanamartinez And be sure not to miss my theme pack Pepita lee sobre Nina Gualinga which includes activities for this book!

*GRACIAS, OMU! written and illustrated by Oge Mora. I just love Oge Mora's books-this one is ideal to use in the target language with some simple adaptation due to how the story is structured- Omu makes a stew which she shares with a variety of community members over the course of the book, who then show their appreciation by making a dinner for her. Wonderful message & super lovely illustrations! @ogemora  And don't miss my blog post on teaching this book in class-click here!

*A NEW KIND OF WILD written & illustrated by Zara Gonzalez Hoang- this sweet story of a boy who moves from Puerto Rico to New York City is a wonderful jumping off point to talking about friendship, moving to a new place, and how we can make someone feel at home while at the same time celebrating where they've come from. @zaprey

*YOUR NAME IS A SONG by Jamillah Thompkins-Bigelow and illustrated by Colombian artist Luisa Uribe celebrates each name as unique and beautiful. This is an amazing book to incorporate at the beginning of the school year and a wonderful way to initiate conversations about why learning how to say each others' names is so important. @jtbigelow @lupencita

*COQUÍ IN THE CITY/ DE AQUÍ COMO EL COQUÍ written & illustrated by Nomar Perez is a lovely story infused with Puerto Rican culture, telling of Miguelito who moves to Ohio and has to leave his beloved pet, Coquí, behind. The illustrations are bright and beautiful, while the storyline, semi-autobiographical, is easy for kids to relate to. @nomars_illustration (Instagram)

*G MY NAME IS GIRL written & illustrated by Dawn Masi  is an alphabet book and so much more! Each letter is the beginning of a girl's name from around the world, along with empowering adjectives to describe her. The illustrations are thoughtful, filled with social justice themes, and representative of cultures and identities worldwide. I adore this book! @dawnmasi (Instagram)

*LOVE IN THE WILD written & illustrated by Katy Tanis. This board book, inspired by the author/illustrator's nephew, is a lovingly researched book about love in all its forms amongst wild animals-I've incorporated this when talking about family :) @daughter_earth_illustration (Instagram)

For more Summer Reading Lists visit:

5 Activities for World Language Clases with Tangrams and Cuisenaire Rods

HANDS ON ACTIVITIES ARE A FAVORITE, both of mine and more, importantly, of my students. When I found a set of tangrams free for the offering a few years ago I grabbed them, along with free cuisenaire rods a year after that- and I am so happy I did! I use these all the time, especially with my younger students, but find even my fourth graders love to have opportunities to use them. I particularly love that they allow for a lot of individuality and creativity on the part of my students, while also providing language use in context. Below are five ways I use them in class-I would love to hear how you use them, too! Share in the comments below :)

ORGANIZATIONAL NOTE- In a normal year, I divvy up the tangrams or cuisenaire rods in containers that kids share amongst themselves. This year, due to covid restrictions, I have had to give each student their own small amount of materials, which are random, meaning they don’t all get the same exact set of tangrams or rods. I then spray those with sanitizer at the end of class. 

1) BUILDING CHALLENGES: My students can not get enough of these! The simplest way to do this is to instruct them to stack a particular number of cuisenaire rods on top of one another- for ex, stack 5 cuisenaire rods. I usually start easy-stack 2 or 3, then get a little harder. Depending on the cuisenaire rods they have or use, it can get challenging quickly, especially for little hands (which is kinda the point!). You can mix it up by having them stack vertically instead of horizontally, which is much harder! You could also give the prompt ‘make the highest structure you can’ or ‘build the lowest structure you can using all your rods’ etc.
You can also instruct them to stack to a particular height, as seen in the photo above where I had them stack 8 inches-they could stack any way they wanted, they just had to reach the height requirement. 

2) DRAWING CHALLENGES: I call these “drawing challenges” simply because they need to create a shape with either tangrams or cuisenaire. This is such a fun way to practice listening comprehension! Provide students with a set of tangrams or rods, then tell them a vocabulary word that they then need to form, such as ‘make a sun’ or ‘make an elephant’, etc. I learn so much about kids watching them create these shapes! Once a shape is made, I have them pick them up and we start again with a new form. You can also have them make numbers or letters, too!

3) MAKE A ____ : This is a take off of the above, but with the idea that kids will not just make something, but then tell you what it is. So, instead of telling students to make a specific form, give them a category, like ‘make a fruit’ or ‘make an animal’. This provides more choice on their part-once they’ve finished their creation, they can take a photo and write about it, record themselves telling about it, etc on a 1:1 device, or of course, they can tell you verbally. 

4) USE SHAPE TEMPLATES: There are a number of tangram and cuisenaire shape templates available online which are commonly used in math classes in the homeroom which can also be utilized in world language. Some have all the integrated shapes outlined, while others only have the larger form printed. Provide students with a set of these templates for them to complete. I love having these on hand as a fast finisher activity! NOTE: You can find our very own PRINTABLE Tangram Template & Shapes in FOUR languages here! (Spanish, French, Russian, and German)

5) FREE CREATE: This is just as it sounds- kids are given a set amount of time and can create whatever they want with the materials. This year I have had all my classes at 50 minutes long, which is an eternity for my Kindergarteners in particular. One strategy I found to be very effective was to have the tangrams or cuisenaire rods at their seats when they entered, and they had 2 minutes to create whatever they wanted before we started. It was a good way to transition-I circulate and comment in the target language on their creations, providing bits of input as I go. I might them transition into one of the above activities, or even have them put away the materials and we would move into other activities. 

How do you use materials like these in class- tell me in the comments!

Choice Boards for World Language Class

WITH THE ADVENT OF REMOTE TEACHING, TRYING OUT NEW TEACHING TECHNIQUES has been the norm. Couple that with a greater need to differentiate instruction in my upper elementary Spanish classes, I find myself experimenting with CHOICE BOARDS this year. 

I HAVE TO CONFESS, THIS HAS NOT BEEN WITHOUT ITS PROBLEMS; however, like centers with my lower elementary students, the positives are, so far, outweighing the negatives. Here is a run down of how I am setting them up, along with pitfalls I have been problem solving as I go:

-DIFFERENTIATION: one of the key elements (and why I started trying them out in the first place) of the boards I have been creating has been activities at a variety of PROFICIENCY LEVELS. I have done this because I have finally realized one of the hurdles to whole group instruction with my upper elementary classes-a wide gap in proficiency-from students brand new to the district (and to Spanish), students who’ve been with me all along but who, for a myriad of reasons, have made slow progress, all the way to my heritage learners. This gap is far wider than at the primary levels, and creates its own challenges. Making sure to have activities at different proficiency levels means ALL my students can be successful. 

-VARIETY IS THE SPICE OF LIFE: though Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences has received much criticism, I still use his outline as a guide when creating a set of activities-being sure to include a range of speaking, music, listening, crafting, math or geography, drawing, writing, etc; this in turn hits the modes of communication we are used to incorporating, but in more contexts. See below for a listing of activities that I have generated.

-VIDEOS TO DELIVER INSTRUCTIONS: one of the things I have been most happy about how I’ve set up the boards is in creating videos for each activity with the instructions & expectations right in the video. So, for ex, if I have 12 activities on a board, I create 12 accompanying videos which I then house in one file in our online platform (in our case, Seesaw, but you could also do this in Google Classroom or in a Wakelet, etc). This frees me up to circulate around the room rather than give direct instruction on each activity, and provides independence for my students. (Of course, I have to keep reminding my students to watch the videos rather than ask me what to do, but that’s another matter altogether lol)
This means that I create a Seesaw Drawing file, put the choice board visual on the first page with a video introduction, then make a page for each activity, with a video and any other information that is needed (for ex, there might be a link to go to a particular website or actual Seesaw activity). In this example, I would therefore have the intro page and 12 additional pages.

-ACCOUNTABILITY: How to ensure kids have done an activity? If it’s a Seesaw activity that they have to do, that’s easy, they just submit. But with other types of activities, that’s not possible-so, I create a “record my work” Activity file in Seesaw for kids to upload photos of completed activities, adding pages as necessary. At first, I had kids just add pages to the intro file, but found out you can only have a total of 20 pages in a Seesaw activity, so had to nix that. And, if you have them upload photos randomly to their journal, you need to track them to ensure all are done-if you have a ‘one stop’ location to house all the photos it is easier to find and review them all at once. For those who use Google Classroom and Slides, a similar file can be created!

-THE NAME ‘CHOICE BOARD’: so, here’s a fail. Apparently, some kids seem to think that if you name something a ‘choice board’, that means they can choose NOT to do any of the activities. Ugh. Thanks to a comment by Jen Kennedy, Señora Speedy, who noted she changed hers from ‘choice board’, I took this suggestion and now call mine ‘Activity Boards’. While there is still choice, the subtle change in title makes a big difference. I will add, I have also run into the random kid who doesn’t like any, or most, of the activities on the board. This, while extremely hard for me to stomach, especially after putting in hours of time in creating a board & it’s accompanying activities, has prompted me to create ONE additional activity based on a students particular interests with the agreement that they still have to do the remaining requirements of the board. This compromise feels good to me-after all, while the board has choice inherent within it (on many levels), I also do not want to employ a ‘compliance’ dynamic in my classes.

-HAVE TO ACTIVITIES: Because my choice boards have, up to this point, been geared for multiple proficiency levels, I have not tried ‘have to’ activities within the board, other than introduction activities that prime students for the rest of the board. 

ACTIVITIES BASED ON PROFICIENCY LEVEL (geared for upper elementary):

-word work such as matching word to picture
-color by number such as those in my 15 Activity Pages for Upper Elementary
-word searches
-Memory games 
-listen to a series of songs & indicate how you feel about them on a recording sheet by checking your preference
-interactive notebook pages
-label photos or images
-list items 
-nature journaling with labeled items on drawing
-Venn diagrams with answers recorded as drawings or one word answers
-Measuring activities related to a cultural topic such as animals in Canaima National Park, Venezuela
-Scavenger hunt such as my free one with colors 

-word searches where the words are presented as pictures in the word bank instead of written words
-record your preferences in a platform based on a series of questions (such as Do you like __?)
-crossword puzzles
-nature journaling with phrases & simple descriptions
-interactive notebook pages
-Venn diagrams 
-story graphic organizers in which student writes/draws a part of a story in each section in order to ‘re-tell’ it
-categorize items based on reading the words
-Seek & find-give a listing (either written or recorded) of items to find & circle in an image (you can do the same with a video-have them screen shot the items they are looking for)
-follow along as instructions are given to create a craft such as the Cattleya orchid craft in my Pepita va a Colombia Theme Pack or the Copihue flower in my Pepita va a Chile Theme Pack
-Read and Draw
-Listen and Draw
-Create a word cloud

-Venn diagrams based on comprehending the basic gist of two short videos, songs, readings, etc (for ex, use simple infographics to complete a Venn about two animals)
-Info pages-create a non fiction info page or trading card (you could provide infographics, videos, screen shots, tweets, Instagram posts, etc as resources) My non fiction magazine Mira el Mundo has lots of these!
-Listen to a simply story and re-tell it using a graphic organizer such as a story re-tell organizer
-Write a concrete or diamante poem 
-Listen to a familiar song & fill in the blanks on an activity page
-Record yourself describing a series of images such as my story cards
-Listen & Draw/ Read & Draw with prompts geared for this proficiency level
-Doodle pages- draw, then tell about what you’ve drawn 

-Write a review (or record a review) about a story or book
-Word work to develop expanded vocabulary (such as synonyms, antonyms, more specific vocabulary around a topic, etc)
-Write a poem 
-Use an authentic resource to learn something new of students choice (or your choice)
-Read two stories, legends, or folktales and create a Venn diagram comparing the two
-Create an advocacy poster
-Listen to a song (for this age group) and create an album cover based on what the song is about
-Watch a cooking video and create a simple recipe card to go with it
-Read a series of memes, then make your own

I am sure you have thought of a ton more, this is just a sampling of activities that have worked so far for me, many of which are included in a variety of my theme packs & other resources.  I would love to hear your experiences with choice boards-please feel free to comment below!

Name tag with name written in drawing form to share about self

I decided to create a Our names are important Activity Board that would serve for older students (but could certainly be done with younger ones as well), with the idea of using it as an extension to activities done in the past in order to build on them and return in spiral fashion to the idea of names as part of our identity. These are all ‘have to do’ activities (except for the choice in which read aloud to listen to). Here is what I include:
*Create your own name tag (grab ours here!), writing/drawing your name in such as way as to not just spell your name but also tell everyone else something about you-could be your favorite color, could be each letter drawn as something you like, etc. I drew my name inspired by an activity Melisa Hayes shared on Twitter last year, with students using objects that tell a story about themselves to spell out their names. You can see it by clicking here. Yes, foxes (and wolves) are my favorite animal(s) :) 
*Listen to a picture book read aloud about the importance of names. I use René has two last names/ René tiene dos apellidos by René Colato Laínez  and Teach Us Your Name by Huda Essa . Students choose one of these two to listen to; I find that books read by the author themselves are particularly powerful, especially connected to social justice and identity themes, as they often share personal stories related to the book they have written, above and beyond the book itself. After searching literally for hours, these were the two I settled on, partly because they were the very few read aloud by the author, but as importantly serve as meaningful representation. Below you will find a list of additional titles that are also great to read, but do not have read alouds by the author available. (REMINDER: there are tons of read aloud videos on Youtube, but very, very few are sanctioned by the author and/or publisher. I only share sanctioned read alouds w my students)
*My name, my identity Challenge: I found this awesome video made by a little girl, Shreestha, who shares the story of her name. I include a link to this video along with the question/prompt: What my name means to me. The first time I did this slide, the prompts were What is story of my name, What is the history and origin of my name, and What my name means to me. Unfortunately, I discovered many of my students know little about how they got their name, and although I tried to encourage them to go home and ask, not all did or are not in a position to have a family member be able to tell them more about their name. ALSO, I’ve come to learn that for transgender and/or non binary folx, asking to share the story of their name can be emotionally harmful. So, I eliminated two and kept the third. Another great video that can be included is My Name My Identity. And this one from Nick Jr which The Woke Spanish Teacher shared on Twitter-love it so much! (I included her Instagram link, be sure to follow her-she is an incredible inspiration & teacher!)
*Jamboard Sticky Note Board: The last component of the board features a slide on Jamboard with the prompt Why are our names important? I like having a place where kids can see each other’s answers and *hopefully* reflect on them on their own as well as having a chance for us to talk about this in the larger group.

NOTE: I do this activity board in a mix of English & Spanish (and any other language a kiddo wants to include), rather than as a 90 or 100% in the TL activity. The power of the videos/stories is something I want my students to experience to the fullest extent possible, so their inclusion is purposeful. All of the places where students are writing/recording their answers can be in any/all/some/one of the languages they know.

And here's a great infographic about why it's so important to pronounce names correctly! Click here

Additional picture books about names:
*Your Name is a Song by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow & Colombian illustrator Luisa Uribe (love, love, love this one-I read it my primary students) For an activity page I created connected to this book, click here :) And the FRENCH version is here
*Alma and how she got her name written/ illustrated by Juana Martinez Neal
*The Name Jar written/illustrated by Yangsook Choi
*Always Anjali written by Sheetal Sheth and illustrated by Jessica Blank
*My name is Yoon written by Helen Recorvits and illustrated by Gabi Swaitkowska
*My name is Maria Isabel by Alma Flor Ada (a chapter book)
*Three Names of Me by Mary Cummings
*My name is Jorge on both sides of the river by Jane Medina, illustrated by Fabricio Vanden Broeck 
*My name is Sangoel by Karen Lynn Williams & Khadra Mohammed, illustrated by Catherine Stock
*My Name by Supriya Keller & illustrated by Sandy’s Prabhat

Your Name is a Song Name Page Bilingual
Click here to download for free