Resources for Teaching Languages to Children


Community Greeting Activity with Music

COMMUNITY GREETINGS ARE PART OF ALMOST EVERY CLASS, providing an opportunity for us to interact with one another, building feelings of welcome & belonging. Coming up with new greeting activities, and/or twists on old ones keeps them fresh & appeals to the novelty factor many kiddos crave. Here's my newest one-a fun combination of greeting & freeze dance.

THIS GREETING HAS TWO PARTS, THE GREETING ITSELF AND THE MUSIC COMPONENT. The greeting is comprised of a FIST BUMP, FIREWORKS (that's what I call it ;) ), and the VERBAL GREETING (Hola, Bonjour, Ni hao, etc). 

NOTE: be sure to remind kids this is a GENTLE fist bump, NOT a punch 

I AM NOT SURE if this is really called fireworks but you get the idea! After the fist bump, opening the hand & drawing back. This part also includes the VERBAL GREETING as they create the fireworks.

WHILE KIDS ARE CIRCULATING and greeting one another, also have a song playing. When you stop the music, they have to freeze (like in freeze dance). Any who move have to sit out one round. TIP: I don't have them be out for the rest of the greeting, too many kids get antsy & distracted. Keep repeating as long as you like-I tend to have this greeting last about 6-7 minutes after I explain & demonstrate the greeting. 

THE VIDEO ABOVE IS THE SONG Cantando de alegría by Alex Cuba of México; the video is very little kid friendly which means I can show it without issue-and the song, of course, is lovely!

NOTE: When thinking about goals and purpose behind activities, I focus on the authentic reasons for why we engage in communication. Greetings are, at the heart of it, about acknowledging others, making them feel seen & welcome in the space, rather than the linguistic mechanics. Read more on my blog post here about world language classroom goals that go beyond language

Making a Word of the Week (Day) Centers Activity

CENTERS THAT FOSTER PRE AND EARLY LITERACY SKILLS are a focus for my classes, with many different ways for this to manifest. One set of activities I include are 'word of the week' or 'word of the day' activities, which typically involve one or more words that kids re-create in some fashion, either with magnetic letters, gems, beans, popsicle sticks, to name a few. After reading this blog post on Kindergarten centers, I am working to adopt her centers system with some tweaks to better fit my elementary Spanish classes. 

TO THAT END, I AM IN THE PROCESS OF CREATING CENTERS KITS which kids can take to a seat and engage with-including Word of the Week activities. 

Word of the Week Centers Activity

HERE IS AN EXAMPLE with the word HOLA:

In the tray goes a series of materials that can be used to spell out the word HOLA, with differentiation based on grade level (I'll add more to this below). In this instance, the prompt is to spell the word FIVE different ways using the materials in the tray. 

-Felt or other 3D letters
-Braille letters
-Magnetic letters
-Manipulatives such as connectors, Legos, popsicle sticks, unifix cubes, counters, etc to create the letters
-Circle the letters in a text
-Sign Language posters
-Mini stamps 
-Scrabble Letters
-Letter blocks
-Letter beads
-Word cards and beans, buttons, gems or other small objects to "trace" the letters
-Etch A Sketch
-Tracing cursive text
to name a few!

Making a word of the week centers kit

WHILE IT SEEMS TO ONLY FOCUS ON ONE WORD, the idea behind these activities is to reinforce early literacy skills in a hands-on manner (note I try to have a mix of different types of texture, movement, etc to further engage kiddos.) while at the same time giving practice to Novice Low word bank development. What I have been finding over the last few years since the pandemic hit is low capacity for risk taking and high mental load activities amongst many students. These 'spell it' activities fill a gap, allowing for low mental load practice in a variety of ways.

YOU CAN ALTER THIS TRAY by having more than one word to spell-so instead of the prompt being 'spell Hola five times', it could be 'spell Hola, Adiós, gracias, por favor'. Or a set of color words, fruit, etc. For older students and/or students with greater proficiency, you can differentiate by giving them a picture prompt instead of a word card so they need to actually spell the word. You can give them a set of words that then become a short sentence or a pattern sentence with multiple possibilities (Yo veo un gato, un perro, una manzana, una flor...). Changing the modality of input & practice is yet another way we can engage kids!

A NOTE FOR THOSE OF YOU ON A CART! I was on a cart and between two buildings for 13 years, so I know that set ups like these are more challenging when you don't have a classroom. One way to organize this is to use large pouches or bags that can all be stored and transported in a bin, and then easily passed out to kids. Using small tins or containers to house little items like counters or magnetic letters within the larger bag provides greater organization and storage. Here is a picture of the zippered pouches I bought on Amazon:  

Zippered pouches for Centers Activities

How do you set up word work centers? Share in the comments! :)

2023 Summer Reading List For World Languages

GREAT BOOKS JUST KEEP ON COMING! This year was no exception, with what almost feels like an explosion of graphic novels, which my kiddos clamor for! Great picture books too-check them all out! And don't miss our printable list for sharing-click here.

2023 Summer Reading List


Three, yes three!, books came out about plátanos, and they are all wonderful-bringing together family, tradition and yummy plátanos! I am also thrilled about how they feature Abuelas as an integral part of a child's life-I spent a lot of time when I was a kid with both of my grandmothers so this definitely strikes a chord with me. 

*Plátanos go with everything written by Lissette Norman and illustrated by Sara Palacios

*Plátanos are love written by Alyssa Reynoso-Morris and illustrated by Mariyah Rahman

*The Secret of the Plátano written by Luz Maria Mack and illustrated by Stephany Mesa

*Ancient Night/ Noche Antigua written by David Bowles and illustrated by David Alvarez. This is a stunning interpretation of Nahuatl traditions featuring Opossum, the Moon, and more. 

*Beauty Woke written by NoNieqa Ramos and illustrated by Paola Escobar is a fierce story about a little girl who pushes past the negative things said about her community to be truly herself. 

2023 Summer Reading List


*Tumble by Celia C. Pérez (@CeliaCPerez ). If you loved The First Secret of Punk, you will definitely enjoy this one!

*The Enchanted Life of Valentina Mejía by Alexandra Alessandri- this book is incredible! Written by the same author as Isabel and her colores go to school, this middle grade book blends Colombian folklore, fantasy & adventure together, a must read!

another on my To-Read list is Lupe Wong Won't Dance by Donna Barba Higuera, author of La Cuentista.


*Invisible written by Christina Diaz Gonzalez and illustrated by Gabriela Epstein 

*Frizzy written by Claribel A Ortega and illustrated by Rosa Bousamra tells the story of a tween girl coming to terms with her hair. My 4th graders cannot get enough of this book!

*¡¡Manu!! written and illustrated by Kelly Fernandez

*Monarca: A Novel written by Leopoldo Gout and illustrated by Eva Aridjis. This is not a traditional graphic novel; but is gorgeously illustrated. Telling the tale of a young girl who transforms into a monarch butterfly and begins the migration south to México, this book is in parts coming of age, fantasy, and environmental activism-I loved it!

I’ve added this section in after reading some incredible books that deserved to be shared!

*The Making of Yolanda la Bruja by Lorraine Avila is a powerful, can’t put down book that speaks to racism, school gun violence, friendships, and what we do, and don’t do, in difficult situations. I read it cover to cover in one go!

*Lobizona by Romina Garber. I read this last summer along with the sequel, Cazadora, and let me tell you, they are fantastic! Set between two worlds that mirror Argentina, this is the tale of werewolves, magic, and the bonds we have with one another, community, and society. Excellent!

Game: Grab it! for World Language Classes

INSPIRED BY PEQUETEACHER (LINK BELOW), I was able to adapt this game, GRAB IT! for my classes with hands on three dimensional (in most cases) items. Besides being a great review game for all sorts of vocabulary, it also has the advantage of being what I call a 'workhorse activity' meaning you can play it again and again with new vocabulary and old, across themes and grade levels. 

Game Grab it for World Language Classes

Here's the set up and play:

*First I decide on my categories and create slides accordingly. For example, for each round, I am going to give a prompt like 'grab something green' or 'grab a fruit'. I create one slide per prompt; I like to have 10-12 rounds, depending on grade level. TIP: have one or two slides be tie breaker slides (more on this in a moment!). You can make your prompts simpler or more complex depending on the grade level and language proficiency of your students. 

*Then, to collect the items! Each group gets a basket full of items-I have approximately 40-50 items at each table. Can be things like play food, magnetic numbers or letters, pictures, small counters, you name it. Many items cross over categories (such as a pear is both green and a fruit), which adds to the challenge as the game progresses, especially as the group starts to run out of items (an intentional feature of the game so that you will have a winner at each table).

Grab it! Game for World Language Classes

*Each student gets a plate to collect their items on. Be sure to tell them once an item is placed on the plate, it can not be switched out or traded with another. Start with the first slide, giving kids time to find an item that corresponds to the category.

*Continue in this fashion. As mentioned above, it is likely that groups will start to run out of items that fit specific categories, which is to say not all kids in the group may be able to collect an item during a particular round. 

*Once all rounds have been played, have kids count up the items on their plate. If there is a clear winner at a group, they can receive a prize (I hand out stuffies for kids to "babysit" for the rest of class). If there is a tie at a table, use the tie breaker slides to determine the winner. 

Have fun!

Link to Pequeteacher:

Making an Instruments Center for Elementary World Language Class

INSPIRED BY OUR MUSIC TEACHER, I'VE BEEN TRYING INSTRUMENTS CENTERS with my elementary Spanish classes and they have been a hit!

AS CAN BE IMAGINED, KIDS LOVE TO PLAY THE INSTRUMENTS, which provides an authentic experience with a PRODUCT, and coupled with a song, also provides a PERSPECTIVE as kids can see the song in video format on an Ipad, being therefore able to see the people and/or scenery that makes up the video. 


-CHOOSE A SONG: This can either be a song they are familiar with and can sing along to OR a song that lends itself to keeping the beat with particular instruments-I have found both to be successful for kids. Sometimes I choose a song that features a specific instrument(s), sometimes one that connects to the theme we are engaged in. (See links at the bottom of this post)

-CREATE A BASKET OR CONTAINER with the instruments and the Ipad. This keeps materials together (and helps with transportation if you are on a cart). It also facilitates clean up which is helpful for multiple grade level transitions. I typically load the song video into a Google slide so that it is not playing directly on Youtube; this is pulled up and ready to go for the center activity. 

YOUR CENTER IS READY! It's really that easy, which I love-not a ton of prep for a fun and culturally authentic activity! 

NOTES: Because this is a very popular center, and I have kids move independently from center to center, I usually set the parameter of listening/playing to the song twice and then moving on so others can be at the center too. 
Also, this wording from our music teacher has been very helpful in terms of taking care of the instruments: "Instruments are not toys, they need to be used appropriately and carefully". I realized I needed to make this explicit after some maracas were banged on the table and broken :(

EXTENDING ACTIVITIES: I often also have additional activities to go along with the center, whether it be a book that connects, a mini book about the singer, such as my biography of José Feliciano 

Grab the mini book here!

or a connecting hands on activity such as this one for Ocho kandelikas

Menorah Activity Here


*Ocho kandelikas I love this version because of the many instruments played, not to mention the words being shown as the song is sung

*Canciones de lluvia- this one is great for rainsticks!

*Plic Plac this one can be used with a number of instruments, and of course can be used with mini whiteboards and dry erase markers as shown in the video

*Mother Earth If you have a zampoña and don't have an issue with kids putting their mouth on it, this is great OR they could just watch this video, it's beautiful

*La Tierra del Olvido- this is great for keeping rhythm with maracas, a güiro, claves, etc


*Chan Chan also great for rhythm