Monday, February 13, 2017

How Parents Can Help with Language Learning

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Being bilingual is a valuable skill for our kids. It gives them an understanding of the world around them, improves their knowledge of their native tongue, and makes them more of an asset in the workforce in the future. I have taught Spanish for over twenty years and have found that parents play a key role in language acquisition for their kids whether it is a first or second language. Parents can add a second language into daily family life to encourage learning. Many times parents are at a loss on how to do this. The task seems overwhelming. So here are some ways you can promote a second language in your home. There are activities for all language level abilities of parents and for all ages of kids.

Common Commands- Using simple everyday commands when appropriate can build a child's vocabulary. Whether a child is getting dressed, helping in the kitchen, or getting ready to leave the house parents can add a few simple commands to their routines in the target language.

Here is a set of commands in Spanish.
And another list in Spanish

Or how about your child giving commands to a pet?  Here are some simple commands for dogs in Spanish...The graphic is pretty small, but if you copy it, enlarge, and then print it, it should work.

Spanish Dog Commands

Reading Books-If your kids are young enough and you feel reasonably confident in reading to them in the target language, there are tons of books out there for kids in other languages. Reading stories to kids helps improve their vocabulary and allows them more opportunities to hear the flow of the language. If you are uncomfortable reading the target language, check online resources where the stories are already read aloud for you.

31 Spanish Books for Kids
Learning Through Spanish Books for Kids
Spanish Children's Books Online
French Children's Books
Italian Children's Books
German Children's Books

Games and Fun- Games are a great way to add some fun to language learning. It's my sneaking way of getting kids to learn without them realizing it. Here are some games that work well in a family environment...

Bananagrams and More...-I love pulling out Bananagrams and playing "Beat the Teacher" with my students, but you can play "Beat the Parents". Basically, you set a timer for a couple of minutes and with all the tiles face up your child(ren) try to create more words in the target language than you can. Sometimes it helps to have a list of vocabulary words to work off of (like clothing or body parts).
Spanish Bananagrams
French Bananagrams
German Bananagrams

KLOO- This game, which comes in Spanish, French, or Italian, is great for older kids or high schoolers. Your kids should have a basic understanding of the sound system so they can read the cards outloud. Also, some basic vocabulary under their belt helps, too. These games are awesome as they are self-teaching...everyone learns vocabulary the more you play! You can check out these games here.

Post it-If your children are at the age where they can read then using Sticky Notes to label the things in your house in the target language may be a fun way to increase their exposure to vocabulary. You can label furniture, rooms, even the food in your fridge or cupboards! Sure it might look a little strange when company comes over, but it sure will be a topic of conversation. When the stickies are up you can call out items and see if your child can find them in the house. Also, just the fact that they are seeing the words day in and day out will help them internalize them.

Picture Dictionaries-Language picture dictionaries have lots of opportunity for language learning. Here is a post with tons of ideas on how to use them with kids.

Hang up the Humor-I put up comics for my students to see in Spanish. They normally are motivated to figure out the punch line or source of humor even though it is in another language. If you are doing Spanish in your home, here is my Pinterest board with tons of easy humor for language learners. Having some of these up around the house and changing them from time to time adds to more learning.

Finally, I found this graphic from Spanish Playground with helpful ideas to support your child as he/she learns the language.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Teaching Ideas for Spanish in the Spring

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Here are several resources you can use during the Spring months as you teach Spanish...books, learning activities, and so much more! Happy Spring!

Spring Books in Spanish- Here's a list of great books to read during the spring months.

El Nabo Gigante spans not only the spring, but into the fall harvest time. This post has learning activities to go along with the book.

Arriba, Abajo, y Alrededor is a great gardening book in which you can focus on prepositions and words for vegetables.

Y De Pronto es Primavera- A sweet story of how spring can surprise us!

Plant Unit- I have created a plant unit that you could use during the spring months. Lots of vocabulary related to plant parts and types of veggies in this post!

Easter Resources- Here you can find some books, "emotion eggs", and other activities to do close to Easter.

Compound Words with Eggs- Last year my younger students worked with compound words in Spanish. We used Easter eggs to review their vocabulary!

I would love to hear what activities you do with your Spanish students during the spring months!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Spanish File Folder Guessing Game

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A few years back, I found an old game at a garage sale in which you have to guess where the family members are located in your opponent's house. It is a GREAT game for talking about the rooms in the house, using the verb "estar", and discussing family members. However, I only had one game for two players so I never could use the game in groups. So I decided to make my own! While this project is a lot of prep, the work is worth it as your students will spend about 10-20 minutes completely in the target language, and the games can be used over and over again. So let's take a look at how the game is played...

{See the photos as a reference.}
Each person has a game board/folder with two houses on it. One house is where the player arranges family members in certain rooms. The other house is for recording where the family members are in his or her opponent's house. To set up, each player places all eight family members (grandpa, grandma, dad, mom, brother, sister, dog, and cat) in one of the houses. They lay the other set of family members off to the side. Then the players take turns asking yes/no questions about each other's houses like...

Is the dad upstairs?
Is the dog downstairs?
Is the mom in the bathroom?

They keep going back and forth with questions until all of the second set of family members are placed correctly in the second house. The first player to figure out where every family member is in his/her opponent's house wins.

To play the game, each person needs a playing board that has two pictures of the same house, two sets of family members, and I also include a card that helps my students with vocabulary and forming the questions (photo #6).

In order to make the boards you will need the following items to make this game:
To assemble the boards:
  • Print out the houses (two houses per game folder). Make sure you print a size that will fit in a file folder after it is laminated. Laminate them.
  • Print out the family members (two families per game folder) and laminate them. Make sure that the family members are printed out to a size in which they can fit in the rooms of the house.
  • Adhere two houses onto the inside of a folder (See the picture below). I used glue dots or you could use liquid glue. Make sure you DON'T center the houses but rather put them off to the side so that you can put the envelope of playing pieces (photo #5) and the vocabulary list (photo #6) in the folder.
  • Use glue dots to adhere the envelope to one of the sides of the file folder.
  • Print out a vocabulary list and/or a list of possible questions to use during the game. Laminate it and put it on the other side of the folder. 
  • Adhere the clear part of the Velcro dots to the rooms in the house with the E-6000 glue. I put only one or two dots in each room. You want as many dots in the house as family members. I used 8 people (grandpa, grandma, dad, mom, brother, sister, dog, cat). You can kind of see the dots in photo #4.
  • Adhere the white side of a Velcro dot to each family member using the E-6000 glue. 
  • Let dry.
  • Play the game!
NOTE: The Velcro dots already have an adhesive on them, but I used the E-6000 glue to make the game extra durable.

I have my students use the top house to place their family members while the bottom house is where they place the people once they figure out where they are located on their opponent's board. The file folder makes an excellent "shield" so that the opponent can't see where the family members are placed.

I have a feeling that the possibilities could be expanded for this type of speaking game. For example, you could have pictures of an empty fridge and have students converse until the fridge is full with the correct foods. Or you could have a simple street map in which students have to guess where the different buildings are in their partners' city. Another idea is to have faces in the file folders and players have to guess what the face of their opponent looks like (hair and eye color, hair length, facial hair, etc.). So many ideas you could use to help your students work with the vocabulary they are learning!

Here are some other resources when teaching house vocabulary and family members...

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

All Things Winter for Spanish Teachers

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Winter is fast approaching so now is the time to get ready with some learning activities that go with the season.

Froggy book and activities- Froggy Se Viste is a great book to share with your younger students during the winter months. There is a ton of clothing vocabulary related to the cold.

Winter books- a list of great books in Spanish to read during December, January, and February.

Of Ice Blocks and Penguins- A cute way to review prepositions.

Polar animals unit- A full unit with books to read, activities to do, and a free printable.

Christmas teaching-Ideas for December!

Christmas gifts for bilingual kids-Ideas for those kids in your life that are learning more than one language. {NOTE: This post also contains ideas for kids that speak languages other than Spanish.}

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Teaching the Sounds of "C" and "G" in Spanish

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Lately, I have been noticing that my students struggle with knowing which sounds to use when they see words that contain "C" and/or "G". Both of these letters are "vowel dependent" meaning the vowel that comes after them dictates their sound. To learn more about how "C" and "G" behave there are two great videos online:

The Letter G
The Letter C

I used these following units from Teachers Pay Teachers to create decks of cards. One deck has "C" words, and the other contains "G" words. I made two cards for each word so that I could play Memory, Go Fish, and the slapping game with my students. (With the slapping game, I lay out the cards on a hard surface and call out a word and they have to put their hand on the card before other students in order to capture the card. The student with the most cards at the end wins.)  These cards also double as flashcards in which your students can practice reading the words. These cards are great for early elementary kids. Here are the units I used:

GE and GI Words
GA, GO, GU Words
CE and CI Words
CA, CO, and CU Words

Another great tool is the story El Nabo Gigante, which contains a plethora of "C" and "G" words. Here is my post on how to use this book to work with these words. Here are a few other books that have a higher frequency of "C" and "G" words:

Carros, Camiones, y Aviones
El Ratoncito, La Fresa Roja Y Madura Y El Gran Oso Hambriento

There is also a Crazy Eights game available here that specifically focuses on these words! This would be for slightly older students who are reading Spanish for the most part, but struggling with the sounds of these two letter.

By taking a little extra time to focus on these words, it is my hope that my students will gain a better understanding of their sounds as they read the language.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Activities for Teaching Food Vocabulary

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Here is a collection of ideas to teach your students vocabulary related to foods: games, books, and more!!

Books and Activities

El Nabo Gigante is a cute story about a turnip that is almost too big to harvest!

Arriba, Abajo, y Alrededor is great for teaching vegetables and prepositions!

How about having your students make "food people"? The instructions are here.

I recently purchased these two books by Adam Rubin in Spanish. They are cute and hilarious!! Must reads for a food unit! 

I always have on hand play food when I am teaching. There are tons of sets on Amazon...check them out here!


KLOO Game in Spanish- This post has several games mentioned in it, but the KLOO game has a whole deck related to foods. This sentence-building game is really well done and helps students with the structure of the language. It also teaches them new vocabulary as they play.

Fast Flip is a game I recently picked up at the store. You can also find it here. It is fast-paced and helps students learn some of the names for different fruits. It is also a good review for younger kids on the numbers 1-5. I make my students call out the fruits and numbers in Spanish.

Slamwich is another fast game in which you play with cards that have pictures of different ingredients that go in sandwiches like lettuce, peanut butter, tomatoes, cheese, etc. I make my students call out the items in Spanish as they lay down cards.

Have fun teaching foods to your students!!!

Saturday, August 20, 2016

How to Wash a Woolly Mammoth {Book Activities for Spanish Learners}

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There are just some children's books I read that are so endearing that I immediately have to share them with my students. Como Lavar a un Mamut Lanudo is one of those books, because don't we all need to know how to wash our woolly mammoths?! This precious book takes you step-by-step through the process. Fill a bathtub. Add bubbles. Add a mammoth. You get the picture. So here are a few activities you can do with your young Spanish students after reading this book...

Younger students can count the steps (There are ten of them.) mentioned in the adventure of mammoth washing. You can also have them count in Spanish the useful items (that can clean your mammoth) on the back cover. Another idea would be to count how many times the "pato" shows up in the story or count the leaves in the illustration of the messy mammoth at the beginning of the story. Here is a coloring page to go along with the book in which your students can count the bubbles.

With the story you can do a  review of body parts and the learning of a few new ones your students may not know like tusks, hooves, and wool. Teach and review the words and then call them out to see if they can find the parts one one of the pictures of the mammoth.

There are a ton of actions words in the story...have your students get out a piece of paper (after you have read the book to them) and call out one of the steps in cleaning a mammoth. Can they draw the steps that you call out? Along the same lines, can you call out two or three of the steps in Spanish and have your students tell you if they are in the correct order or not. The steps could also be written out on cards to see if your students who are reading Spanish can put them in order.

This book lends itself well to doing some bubble painting! Here are some simple instructions for this cool art activity. After the painting are done and dried, you can talk in Spanish about the bubbles represented in the art and work on noun/adjective agreement...

Burbujas moradas, burbuja grande, burbuja chiquita, burbujas verdes, etc.

Have fun learning all about giving woolly mammoths baths!