Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Where did you go? Fun Back to School Activity for World Language Classes

I DON'T KNOW ABOUT YOU, BUT I ALWAYS ENJOY A NEW BACK TO SCHOOL ACTIVITY for my elementary Spanish classes....even though I have a whole host of ones I've done and loved, I am always on the search for something different, especially as I like to differentiate what I do at each level so I don't hear "we did this last year, Señora" (gotta keep it fresh, my friends!). This past year, after every vacation we did a poll to find out where everyone went during the time off. I framed it as a simple question "¿Adónde fuiste durante las vacaciones?" and gave the sentence starter "Yo fui a ____" as a prompt along with some possibilities (locations such as the name of various states, towns, stores & restaurants, as well as My grandma's house, My friend's house, etc). It was a great way to re-enter school after vacation, and allowed us to expand on the conversation via follow up questions and reactions in the target language.

Write a Postcard Back to School Activity for Spanish Class

TO BUILD ON THIS IDEA, having students write a postcard telling where they went is a natural next step! Whether it is as simple as one sentence for younger students, or several lines for middle or high school, telling about your vacation is an authentic way to communicate, and is very relevant- AS LONG AS THE INFORMATION IS SHARED. Having students tell about their vacation only to have the information turned in makes little sense and doesn't give meaning to the activity.

AN EASY WAY TO SHARE WRITING for younger students is to have them read their postcard aloud to the class while you record the answers on the board. As repeats come up, you can put tally marks next to the answer. Once all postcards have been read, debrief, counting up as a class how many people went where, asking follow up questions such as asking other classmates whether they, too, had gone to destinations named during the activity, whether they liked it, etc.

Write a Postcard Back to School Activity for Spanish Class


FOR OLDER STUDENTS, have them come to the center of the room and form two circles, one inner and one outer, forming pairs. Provide the supportive language "I also went to ___" and "I didn't go to ____". The activity starts by one partner reading their postcard to the other- the second student has to respond with one of the above. If they both went to the same place, they can raise their hands and you can mark a point on the board. (See more about this in a moment!). They then switch and the second partner reads his/her postcard and first student responds. Again, if they both went to the same place, they raise their hand and a point is awarded. Monitor the conversation, ring a bell or other sound to have the inner circle move over one space to a new partner, and start again. Keep going in this fashion until students have gotten all the way around the circle. Tally up the points and have a competition between classes in the same grade level- winners get a 5 minute dance party or other fun activity!

NEED POSTCARD TEMPLATES TO INCORPORATE THIS IDEA IN CLASS? We've got them in both Spanish and French!

Write a Postcard Back to School Activity for Spanish Class


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

Saturday, July 22, 2017

How to Send Your Stuffie or Mascot on an Imaginary Trip for Spanish Class

PEPITA, OUR INTREPID BUNNY RABBIT, has gone on trips to visit her family in South America every year for almost two decades. Yes, that's right! And with the advent of email and social media more readily accessible in the classroom, bringing this to life with my elementary Spanish students has been even more fun and meaningful!

Send Your Class Mascot on an Imaginary Trip

MOUNTING AN IMAGINARY TRIP FOR YOUR STUFFIE is a great way to incorporate travel, culture, and communication skills in the target language and most importantly, taps into young childrens' imagination, which is still very much intact. Little kiddos still believe that stuffed animals talk and go on adventures, which means they will be very motivated and excited by their class mascot going on a trip. Here are some tips to make this successful:

*HAVE YOUR STORY THOUGHT OUT BEFOREHAND: In the first few years of doing this activity, I was not prepared for the many questions my students would ask about how Pepita got to the airport, plane details, who would pick her up at the airport in Argentina (that's where her family lives), and so on. I quickly learned I had to have these details thought out so the questions were easy to answer- 'Oh, I bring Pepita to the airport.', 'Yes, the stewardess will take good care of her on the plane and help her at the layovers', 'Yes, she loves the pretzels on the plane!', 'Her parents will definitely be at the airport!', 'Yes, her family has a computer.' and so on.

*PLAN AN ITINERARY: Before your stuffie heads off, you and your students can go over her 'itinerary'- this is a great way to incorporate maps and travel plans! You can also "pack" her suitcase!

*TAKE SOME PHOTOS OF YOUR STUFFIE WITH OTHER STUFFIES: These will be great to "send back" to the class during her trip! One year I bought 7 rabbit puppets (it was Easter time) and kept them hidden- they were Pepita's family. I actually started having one come back with her for a visit after she returned- that was hilarious!

*WRITE A POSTCARD TO YOUR STUFFIE: Writing a postcard to the stuffie while he/she is away is a great communicative activity that little kids love to engage in, and because they believe the stuffie is real, it is an authentic activity for them. Before starting the activity, brainstorm and review postcard writing conventions such as appropriate greetings, leave takings, messages and so forth. For little kids, post these on the board so they can copy them without having to try and sound out / spell the target language- this allows them to focus on the message.

*HAVE YOUR STUFFIE WRITE TO THE CLASS: Whether your mascot writes an email, a postcard, sends messages via Instagram or Snapchat, this is a great way to share culture with your students while your stuffie is on vacation. You can find photos on Pinterest or the internet to "send" to the class or use your own from travels. You can also pose your stuffie in front of a picture in a book to make it look like she/he is in the location.

WOULD YOU LOVE TO HAVE YOUR STUDENTS WRITE POSTCARDS but need a template? Grab ours here!

Write a Postcard Activity in Spanish Class


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

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