Resources for Teaching Languages to Children


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. Given time and a safe space with lots of conversations around identity, this can shift. 

*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!  

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

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