Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Resources & Ideas for Teaching About Colombia in Your Elementary Spanish Class

COLOMBIA IS ONE OF MY "PAISES ADOPTADOS", one of several countries I am particularly attached to outside of my native US. I have many dear friends from Colombia, who have made the culture a treasured part of my heart. Here are some ideas on how you can incorporate this amazing country in your elementary Spanish classes:

Resources for Teaching about Colombia in Elementary Spanish Class

*NATIONAL SYMBOLS: Just as here in the US, national symbols are a great introduction to the culture and identity in other countries, ones which little kiddos are typically really interested in. Coloring the flag is a great place to start, along with looking at the map and identifying regions and/or landmarks. Colombia's national symbols are:
-National Flower: Cattleya Trinnae, May Flower, which is a species of orchid
-National Bird: Andean Condor
-National Tree: Wax Palm Tree

*MUSICALIBRE.COM.CO is an incredible website from Colombia full of children's songs, games, and more. And don't miss Cantoalegre, another AMAZING resource of songs and videos from Colombia!

Resources for Teaching about Colombia in Elementary Spanish Class

*FERNANDO BOTERO is a famous artist whose paintings and sculptures (the ones appropriate for littles) can be used to practice colors, numbers, shapes, and lots more! Along with images of his works, here is a great short video for kids from Argentina :


*MAKE PATACONES...MMMMMMMM! One of my favorite Colombian foods, I can't get enough of them! And, since they are so easy to make, they are a great choice for class (as well as not having to worry about nut allergies or gluten free!). Here's a link to a simple recipe from Una pizca del hogar.

*SPEAKING OF DEAR FRIENDS, CAROLINA from Fun for Spanish Teachers has a series of great resources about her native country. Here are a few, and be sure to explore her blog for more!
-A FREE downloadable mini book featuring various aspects of Colombia- grab it by clicking this link!
-Super cute BULLETIN BOARD SET!! I love the photo booth props that go along with it! Click here

Resources for Teaching about Colombia to Elementary Spanish Class

*EL BIBLIOBURRO is truly an amazing man (Carolina has met him!) and an inspiration to all. Team up with your school librarian to teach about him and reinforce the importance of reading and books in one's lives. 'Waiting for the Biblioburro Esperando el Biblioburro' by Monica Brown is a great picture book to share with elementary students.

*PEPITA VA A COLOMBIA Activity Pack is part of our travel series featuring our rabbit, Pepita, and introduces students to Colombia in context with simple sentences in Spanish, and includes additional activities to teach about this terrific country! You can find it here!

Resources for Teaching about Colombia in Elementary Spanish Class

Have fun!

https://photos.google.com/photo/AF1QipMk0RMH8MFmOB_yJMuvVMH7xBx_qfLl8oqOQXbA

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Using Photos of Yourself and Family to Convey Meaning in a 90% Target Language Classroom

I'M A BIG PROPONENT OF TEACHING FROM 'I' OUTWARD in foreign language classes, meaning beginning with autobiographical information and working outward from there. When I think about novice speakers and what situations they might find themselves in in relation to native speakers, most likely they will be introducing and/or answering questions about themselves, so vocabulary and structures that help them interact is key. To that end, learning the first person singular becomes quite important, and serves a secondary purpose as well- building community in your class. There are loads of activities you can do that involve students talking about themselves, such as graphing and polling the class about how many brothers/sisters they have (or pets!), what their favorite color/fruit/animal/number/etc is, sharing likes/ dislikes/ preferences with food, and so on. All of these are very accessible activities for novices, and helps them stay in the target language rather than tasks which see students devolving into using English because the task really isn't at the right language level for them. But I digress....

Strategies for teaching 90% in the target language

OF COURSE, IF WE WANT OUR STUDENTS TO SPEAK IN THE FIRST PERSON SINGULAR, and we also teach 90% in the target language, I believe we need to model the construction. Yes, you can also translate, or go through an explanation of the 'why', but most specifically with little kids (and with all ages, in my opinion), modeling concrete sentences works very well for these types of simple autobiographical constructions. I find that one of the best ways to help me convey meaning when modeling sentences using 'yo' is to point to photos of myself WITH my family, my pets, my house, etc. My students quickly intuit that I am talking about myself, because I am in the picture! The construction(s) we are focusing on then becomes all the more comprehensible and I can ask them questions whose answers use that construction, without needing to translate.

Señora: Soy yo. Yo tengo un perro. Es mi perro, Yosha.
Señora: Mason, soy yo, Señora. Yo tengo un perro. ¿Cuántos perros tienes tú?
Mason: dos
Señora: Ah, bueno, yo tengo un perro. Tú tienes dos perros, ¿cierto?
Mason: Sí.
Señora: Ah, repite 'Yo tengo dos perros.'
Mason: Yo tengo dos perros.
Señora: ¡Qué súper! Y Lila, ¿cuántos perros tienes tú? Yo tengo un perro, y Mason tiene dos perros. ¿Y tú, Lila? ¿Cuántos perros tienes tú?

and so on, coming back to kids who have already answered, sometimes asking them the question again to elicit the answer a second time (I like to keep them on their toes! :) ) and gradually adding in more questions, always modeling and pointing to the photo as I go. This example activity can be done completely in the target language with the aid of just one photo! (and my adorable Yosha :) )

So, get your camera out, co-opt your family into a photo shoot and corral the pets! Have fun! :)

https://photos.google.com/photo/AF1QipMk0RMH8MFmOB_yJMuvVMH7xBx_qfLl8oqOQXbA

Monday, July 3, 2017

Reflections on Teaching Kindergarten Spanish 100% in the Target Language

SO, THIS PAST YEAR I DECIDED, SOMEWHAT LAST MINUTE, TO TEACH MY KINDERGARTEN CLASSES ALL IN SPANISH, 100% in the target language....oh, and not only that, but I pretended that I didn't understand English either, which as I look back, was one of the best professional decisions I have ever made. I'll come back to that in a moment, but suffice to say, the language learning I saw taking place in my students was amazing, even better than all my other kiddos being taught at 90%, which I had been thinking was astounding in and of itself. Here are my reflections on how my year went, a year where after 23 years teaching, it was so exciting to still be learning, growing professionally and trying something new!

Teaching Kindergarten Spanish 100% in the Target Language

LET ME START FROM THE BEGINNING, as it were...the first week of school I asked my Kindergarten homeroom teachers to introduce me to their students, tell them that I teach Spanish, and that I don't speak or understand English. Honestly, I hadn't planned on that part (the no speaking/understanding English part) until a few minutes before my first class arrived, but as I said above, I am so grateful I did! Why? Because it set up a dynamic where my students had to figure out how to communicate with me in a way I would understand. This is profoundly different than the typical dynamic where we, as teachers, are the only ones in the room trying to figure out how to communicate in a comprehensible fashion, and that difference is key. I firmly believe my students' brains had to literally rewire in order to function effectively in class, a true immersion setting within the short time frame I have with them each week. Rather than relying on English when they couldn't remember a word in Spanish, they had to learn to use gestures, point, act things out, and use the limited Spanish they did know to get their requests, messages, and needs across....AND THEY DID IT!  And they did it because they BELIEVED they needed to. Some better than others, admittedly, but WOW! my kiddos picked up vocabulary and expressions on a scale I had not seen before, even my 90% students.

SO HOW DID I DO IT? Honestly, I'm not entirely sure! It was very organic, and often experimental, but here are a few things that were key:

*I took the concepts of teaching 90% in the target language and applied them to every minute of class. (Click on the categories '90%' and 'comprehensible input' to see my many posts on this!)

*I learned to be even more patient than usual... as in, I didn't expect language acquisition to happen at the snap of the fingers. Waiting for the process to unfold, without rushing it or worrying that it wasn't going to happen at all, was a true test for me...I had to have faith that, yes, they were going to understand this one word or phrase, I just had to give it time. And just like teaching 90%, as a teacher, it's necessary to make the commitment to having some things just take longer (like giving instructions for example!).

*I narrated everything I did (part of the 90% technique- see my post here on this) which provided loads of input in context.

*I didn't worry if they didn't understand every single word I said; it was my objective to surround them with language, most, but not necessarily all, of which was comprehensible. I relied on the idea that they would negotiate / intuit meaning based on the context.

*I never reacted or answered a kid who said or asked me something in English. I stayed in character the entire year; I did fudge some "understanding" on my part when they were trying to get a point across, most especially when it was a behavioral issue where a kiddo was upset. In these instances I would "understand" far more quickly than in some other situations where it wasn't key that I dealt with hurt feelings, bullying, or other issues. This 'staying in character' was one of the most challenging aspects, especially when around other adults, students, or parents in the building.

*My tone, facial expressions, and body language did a lot of the heavy lifting in terms of building relationships with my students. It is amazing how much we convey without ever saying a word, and put to bed any worries I had that I wouldn't be able to build relationships with my students without the use of English.

*As always, I was very intentional about building a common core set of vocabulary that we all worked off of- I say this because I want to be sure I am clear that I still followed my curriculum, helping my students learn the skills that I have laid out for Kindergarten Spanish. The backbone of the curriculum centers around themes in which vocabulary/ structures are introduced, practiced, and reinforced, with subsequent themes building on and expanding previous content. Without a common language to interface with, one that I've identified as key words/structures/ skills, I feel too much random action can happen which is more difficult to build upon throughout the year and, going forward, throughout the K-4 sequence and beyond. This is not to say impromptu conversation didn't, or doesn't happen; it happens regularly in my classroom, but I look for ways to tie that impromptu conversation back into, or bring into that impromptu conversation, our core vocabulary and structures so that they keep coming up, keep being reinforced and practiced. This goes back to that intentional planning behind everything I teach; it's always at the back/ front of my mind, and continued to be the focus even while teaching 100% in Spanish. Intentional planning + comprehensible input + organic, natural interactions= a great equation for learning!

*I reached out to parents and informed them of what I was doing and why. This was important to get them on board, and to reassure them that their kid would be well taken care of - which, they were!

WHAT WILL I ADD/ DO DIFFERENTLY NEXT YEAR?

*Establish a set of signs (hand signals) that I can teach the kids from the start so they can communicate certain requests with me- we already have a sign for going to the bathroom, but I would like to add a few others. (Such as 'It's an emergency!'). These I will couple with visuals to help convey meaning when they are initially introduced.

*Have a series of photos on my wall of various locations and people around the school, most especially the nurse's office and nurse. These I can then point to (or they can) when referencing these locations and people. (Other locations, for instance, include the playground and cafeteria). These, along with other key visuals, I will be sure to put at a height THEY can reach to point to!

*Model, teach, and incorporate the following key words/phrases right from the first day together: yo, tú, es mi turno, repite, quiero, esto/esta (I, you, it's my turn, repeat, I want, this). There are lots of other words that I did start with and am glad I did; I just want to be sure these are included as well, right from the beginning. I think I waited too long to realize I needed to emphasize these. I mean, seriously, how did I miss how important 'turno' is to a 5 year old??!!

*Speak with my colleagues, secretaries, principal and parents beforehand to give them a better head's up of how I was going to interact with THEM when my Kinder students are present (as in, no talking in English with them if the Kinders are in earshot). The importance of getting their cooperation and understanding around this became more and more evident as the year progressed.

*In the spirit of the above, I need to create a series of short phrases in Spanish and images to go along with them that allow me to communicate with colleagues, etc, when it is necessary without lapsing into English. Some examples include '_____ is in the bathroom.', '_______ is at the nurse's office.', 'I need to touch base with you later about ______.' I can then point to these when talking in front of the students.

CURIOUS AS TO HOW MY CLASSES LOOKED AND SOUNDED? Visit my Youtube channel where I've posted a number of videos of us in class, including this one from our very first day together:



https://photos.google.com/photo/AF1QipMk0RMH8MFmOB_yJMuvVMH7xBx_qfLl8oqOQXbA

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Narrating Your Actions in the Target Language to Provide Comprehensible Input

THERE ARE MANY WAYS WE PROVIDE COMPREHENSIBLE INPUT in the target language during our time spent with students. A simple way to do this that allows students to intuitively understand what you are saying, and over time they pick up vocabulary, is to narrate your actions as you do them. So, for example, if I am tying a kid's shoes, I narrate the entire process, step by step, in Spanish. Or if I am getting materials out, or helping a kid with an activity, whatever I might be doing, I narrate my actions. This input is not always the key vocabulary we are working on, but it fosters genuine communication in the language and creates an environment where the language is used all the time as the mode of interaction, just as you would talk to a child in any other setting- in a natural, interactive way that just happens to also provide loads of input.

Teaching with Comprehensible Input in the Foreign Language

A KEY PART OF TEACHING IN THE TARGET LANGUAGE is keeping up your own language skills- follow pages and accounts on social media that provide the kind of input that helps you provide this kind of 'narrative' input. For example, on Instagram, I follow a lot of primary teachers from Spanish speaking countries- I love reading their posts about activities they are doing in the classroom! Here are a few of the accounts I follow (and don't forget to follow us! @mundodepepita)
* @elauladecarla
* @letratouille
* @aprender_jugando
* @laclasede_elena
* @maestrasmolonas
* @maestras_activas
* @maestra.primaria
* @maestra_lis
* @candelaclase


Happy teaching!
https://photos.google.com/photo/AF1QipMk0RMH8MFmOB_yJMuvVMH7xBx_qfLl8oqOQXbA


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Tips for Having Your High school Students Teach Spanish to Elementary School Kids

MY DISTRICT IS VERY LUCKY IN THAT WE HAVE AN ELEMENTARY SPANISH PROGRAM starting in Kindergarten (I started the program in 1998, if you can believe that!), but I know that many districts are not so fortunate. One way districts have found to provide a fun language connection in the elementary school is to have high school students come down to teach basic vocabulary to the littles. Here are some quick tips to make that a successful venture in your district (until there's enough funding to start a full on elementary program! :) ) :


*CHOOSE VOCABULARY SETS THAT ARE CONCRETE, such as numbers, colors, animals, foods, etc and that of high interest to little kids. These also provide a great base to work off of!

*KEEP THE ACTION GOING! Little kids have short attention spans, so having a variety of activities is key! Mix up the lesson with movement activities, songs, games, and LOTS OF HANDS ON activities. The average attention span in minutes is approximately the same as the age of the kiddo- so, a five year will be focused for about 5 minutes before he/she is heading to squirrel town... yep, I live this every day! Four Corners is a great activity to keep them moving and practicing vocabulary-here's how I get the most out of it!

*DID I MENTION HANDS ON? Toys, counters, cut out pictures, games that involve manipulatives, play food, etc are always going to increase the motivation of elementary students, so incorporating them in lessons will keep more focus on your budding teacher and less on the ant crawling across the floor. My students LOVE pom poms- click here to see a post I wrote on activities you can do with them!

*WHOLE GROUP ACTIVITIES are extremely helpful for class management, especially for the really young ones (Kindergarten and First Grade). Waiting to take turns is hard for littles, especially with their short attention spans (yes, I mention it again!), so songs, whole group games, stories, poems, etc are great ways to keep everyone together and learning. If your high school student does want to do a turn-taking activity, look for something that has a surprise within it, or something that the whole class can take part it even while one kiddo is taking a turn.

Go fishing game to practice numbers in elementary language class
Attach paper clips to pictures of fish (ours have different amounts of fish on each card) and have a kiddo 'go fishing' with a magnet attached to a ribbon or string... in our set we also have a shark- if he's caught, he eats all the fish already caught! Chomp! Part of our Numbers Activity Pack here.
*CUTTING AND WRITING ACTIVITIES are challenging for many little kids, especially the younger ones, so having fewer of these is probably a good idea. Five and six year olds often still lack in these skill areas, so it is best to steer clear... instead, gross motor activities like rolling a ball for a greeting activity, categorizing items by color, acting out/ following commands for actions, dancing, etc are great ways to keep kids engaged.

*PREPARE YOUR HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS BEFOREHAND; they are not teachers, so giving them some guidelines and tips on how to behave with the elementary students is very important. Be sure they have prepared ahead of time what they will be doing, and double-check the content of what they will be teaching to ensure it is accurate. And it goes without saying you want to have students participate that are reliable, want to work with little kids, and are outgoing and cheerful :)

*NEED IDEAS FOR SONGS & GAMES? Click on our category 'Games' right here on this blog to find lots of games perfect for elementary school, and for songs, head over to our Pinterest board here!

Have fun!
https://photos.google.com/photo/AF1QipMk0RMH8MFmOB_yJMuvVMH7xBx_qfLl8oqOQXbA

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Activities for Summer Camp Part Two, DAY 5- New Ideas for Camp Programs that Integrate Spanish Language & Culture

IT'S OUR FIFTH AND FINAL DAY OF SUMMER CAMP ACTIVITIES, and we hope you have found some great ideas, both on our blog and on Fun for Spanish Teachers! Be sure to visit Carolina's final post by clicking here! And, don't miss our activity below- a take on the traditional game 'I'm going on a picnic and I'm bringing....

Activities for Summer Camp in Spanish

I ALWAYS HAD FUN WHEN I WAS A KID PLAYING the picnic game... I confess, I have a decent memory, so even when I was one of the last kids to have a turn, I could often remember what everyone else had put in the basket- but even when I could, it was still always a challenge (I LOVE challenges!). When playing with my students in Spanish class, I make a few modifications to make the task a little easier, primarily as a scaffold for vocabulary recall, which can be tricky for some kiddos.

I'm going on a picnic activity for Spanish class

BEFORE STARTING TO PLAY, I PUT OUT A SET OF FOOD IMAGES that represent vocabulary my students already know- these serve to jog the memory and help those kiddos who have a harder time coming up with a word without assistance. They also serve to corral the possibilities to those shown/ provided, which helps to move the game along.... no 'Señora, how do you say ____?' which can bog down forward movement, and the unfamiliar word is harder for the rest of the crew to remember since it is...well, unfamiliar. By scaffolding the game, everyone has a lot more fun! And, you can encourage kids to add adjectives or quantities to what they say, so instead of... 'I'm making a picnic and I'm bringing a donut', a kiddo could say 'I'm making a picnic and I'm bringing a huge, chocolate donut.' :)

Have fun!

And don't miss our other posts for summer camp activities!
*Make worry dolls with a clothespin
*Make agua fresca
*Mount a puppet play (with FREE downloadable script)
*Make a paper arpillera

https://photos.google.com/photo/AF1QipMk0RMH8MFmOB_yJMuvVMH7xBx_qfLl8oqOQXbA

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Activities for Summer Camp Part Two, DAY 4- New Ideas for Camp Programs that Integrate Spanish Language & Culture

IT'S DAY 4 OF OUR COLLABORATION WITH FUN FOR SPANISH TEACHERS, highlighting activities for summer camp in Spanish...we hope you are finding some great ideas (I know I am- loving Carolina's posts!). Her post for today features a parachute-be sure to head over there and read it! Click here to read it! Today we bring you another fun traditional craft, la arpillera.

Summer Camp Spanish Activities

I LOVE ARPILLERAS, and they are a wonderfully tangible authentic example of culture that kids love, too. Since I am not overly excited about needles and thread with little kids, making paper arpilleras is the option of choice! Provide campers with a piece of blue paper for the background, along with lots of other colors they can use to cut out shapes (houses, trees, shrubs, mountains, a sun, clouds, hills, llamas, sheep, etc) and glue in layers on the background piece to make their own arpillera.

Make a paper arpillera

WANT TO BE SURE AND INCLUDE LANGUAGE ALONG WITH THE CULTURAL COMPONENT? Arpilleras are a perfect vehicle for talking about colors, numbers, and all the items one sees in an arpillera. Here's an example of me asking my class questions related to how many of each thing are in an arpillera to give you an idea:



HAVE FUN!

DON'T MISS OUR OTHER POSTS THIS WEEK!
*Make Worry Dolls with Clothespins
*Make Agua Fresca
*Put on a Puppet Play (with FREE script download!)
*Play I'm going on a picnic and I'm bringing...in the target language

https://photos.google.com/photo/AF1QipMk0RMH8MFmOB_yJMuvVMH7xBx_qfLl8oqOQXbA