Resources for Teaching Languages to Children


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