Monday, January 29, 2018

Teaching Young Kids Spanish Numbers 11-20

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When it comes to counting in Spanish, once kids have 1-20 memorized the numbers up to 100 become easier. Most kids in the US already know 1-10 in Spanish or at least most of those numbers. Eleven through twenty tend to be more challenging. Last week I did a simple activity with some of my young students to get them counting and help them memorize their numbers. The key ingredient? STICKERS!

There is something motivating about stickers for kids. While there isn't much prep to this activity it does require stickers in bulk. I also prefer to have different colored stickers so that we can practice the colors. Just a word of warning...we found that stickers shaped like stars or other intricate cutouts are harder for young hands. The rounder ones worked better. Here are some resources:

Colored Smiley Faces
Colorful Paw Print Stickers
Star Stickers (these are actually round stickers)
Multi-Colored Stickers
Multi-Colored Stickers II
Furry Friends

I cut sheets in half to hand out to students making sure I cut them so they have a variety of colors. Each students will need several (about four) half sheets. I also provide each student with a piece of paper with the numbers 11-20 written down the side (see above picture). I then call out a number and color (the color is optional) and the students have to find that number on their paper and put the correct number of stickers in a line by that number. They are required to count in Spanish while they do this.

So here are some tips for this activity:

  • Make sure you have already spent some time working with the numbers. Don't do this activity right after introducing 11-20.

  • The stickers are highly motivating. I tell my students that as I walk around and listen if I can hear them counting in Spanish they will get extra stickers at the end to take home.

  • Be prepared for some students to lose track as they count and get a little frustrated. Some students can count and not lose track; others struggle because they are hearing their classmates around them counting and then they lose track. To deal with this it is best to separate students so they aren't so close together. I also help those that lose track by counting with them from time to time. It can be a struggle, but in the end they learn the numbers really well.

  • I don't do all the numbers 11-20 with stickers. The activity would be way too long for young kids. So I do about seven of the numbers and the rest are left blank or they can do them at home. I make sure I call out the number 20 so that they get practice going through all the teen numbers.

  • Walk around and listen to them count! Help if they get stuck. Recount with them if need be. 

Soon they will be counting to twenty with ease!

Monday, January 15, 2018

Online Listening Activities {Free Printable}

There are so many more opportunities for students these days to listen to Spanish as the internet and podcasts have opened up a whole new world. When I was learning Spanish (oh, so long ago!), your options were to go to a language lab or use tapes! So I would like to share with you two options (among the many) that I use with my students and a free printable to use with them.

Veinte Mundos is an online magazine for language learners. There are a plethora of articles (close to 200) categorized for students by intermediate and advanced levels. These articles include audio, the transcript of what was being said, comprehension questions, defined words, and other videos related to the article. I love that culture is taught through the articles. Students can learn about dulce de leche, biblioburro, tapas, and so much more!

Duolingo has just introduced a new podcast! These stories are for intermediate students and are bilingual. My understanding is that they are real life stories. The Spanish is a bit slower and English is injected throughout the story. These podcasts are definitely for high schoolers and up who are still struggling in their listening skills. My favorite podcast so far has been Memorias y Milanesas which touches on a compelling story of the Falklands War in 1982.

If you would like a follow-up activity, see the printable below. It can be used with the podcasts from Duolingo or with the Veinte Mundos articles. Students need to identify the places that are mentioned on the world map, make a list of vocabulary they don't know, and write a summary of what they listened to in Spanish.

You can download the free printable HERE.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Valentine's Day Ideas for Spanish Class

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El Día de San Valentin can be called by many different names depending on which country you are in. It's El Día de los Enamorados (Argentina and Chile), El Día del Amor y La Amistad (Mexico, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador) or El Día del Cariño (Guatemala). Regardless of its name, it's a great time to do some activities surrounding the ideas of love and friendship.

Need some ideas for Valentine's Day to use in your lessons in February? Here's a list of books, games, and ideas!


Adivina Cuánto Te Quiero-A sweet book between a father and son and their love for each other.

El Primer Beso de Froggy-My students love Froggy books! This one is about the gifts and the kiss he receives from Froguilina.

Mi Amor Por Ti-Cute book that uses numbers 1-10 and comparisons like "taller than" and "bigger than".

Oso Cariñoso y La Tarjeta del Día de San Valentin-Story of a bear that has a hard time expressing his feelings.

El Primer San Valentin De Clifford


Have your students been learning prepositions? This ¿Dónde está el Cupido? drawing activity will help them review. I even modify this and make it into a listening activity instead of a reading one.

These charts allow your students to practice creating whole sentences with guidance. You will need some dice for the activity. The vocabulary is related to the holiday.

I am planning on using this silly sentence game this year with my students. It is based on the idea of "media naranja", the Spanish phrase for "soulmate".

A printable and ideas to go with it.

Using the photo given in this post you can have a question and answer session with your students. I like the fact that the photo is from a Valentine's Day fair in Chile.

You could play bingo using Spanish vocabulary instead of English.

Valentine's Day Glyphs
I love these glyphs! Students answer the questions in Spanish by coloring each section of the picture with the color assigned to their answer. These would be great to do and then hang up to display!

Valentine Podcast Activities
These activities are for upper level students (Third year of Spanish in high school and above). All of it is in Spanish!


I love these lists that Spanish Mama has come up with...terms of endearment for kids and for couples. A great way to add more vocabulary and culture into your lesson!

Conversation Hearts in Spanish

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Dice Sentences {Free Printables}

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Want a quick and easy way to do some review in groups with verbs and the formation of sentences? All you need are these printables {see below} and some colored dice {These work well.}. Basically, students roll four dice at a time (red, green, blue, and orange) and depending on what numbers they get on each colored die they create sentences.  Here's an example:

Let's pretend that a student rolls the following: red 2, green 3, blue 4, and orange 6. The sentence he or she creates would be "Tú estudias español todos los días en la biblioteca." These sentences can be done in groups out loud as a class starter. They can also be written by students. Small groups of students (3 to 5) tend to work well for this activity. 

I have created four printables: 

You will notice with some of the charts the students create a sentence that conveys four pieces of information: who, what happens, when, where. Other charts have three pieces of information and then the type of sentence they are to create (affirmative, negative, interrogative). This adds another level to just straight sentences and makes them think about how to form different types of sentences.

So pull out some colored dice and get your students forming sentences!

Friday, October 20, 2017

Hide-N-Seek Vocabulary Game (for Second Language Learning)

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I struggle sometimes on how to get my youngest students to use the language especially when they are in the first few months of exposure to Spanish. The first problem is that with lower elementary-age students their attention span is very short, and when you add the fact that they have limited vocabulary at the beginning it can be challenging to find activities to get them talking in the target language. This week though I came across an activity that really worked! Not only does this activity require that they speak in Spanish, but it incorporates repetition of the vocabulary in a way that keeps them motivated. Here's how it works...

I create picture cards with the vocabulary on them we are working on. The ones you see here are for the weather, but the cards could be any group of vocabulary as long as you can use pictures: clothing, rooms in a house, places in a city, foods, etc. I laminate the cards (VERY IMPORTANT) so that I can use the dot stickers on the back of them. If the cards aren't laminated then you won't be able to get the sticker off as easily.  I lay out the cards face up on the table. If you have a large group of students you can make bigger cards and hang them up. Then I ask my students in the target language to turn around (away from the cards) and close their eyes (young ones are expert "peekers" so I have them do both actions). I then take a colored dot (See these here as they are easy to remove.) and stick it to the back of one of the cards. Then all my students can turn around and open their eyes. They take turns asking in the target language about a card to see if the dot is behind it.

So for example, if we are working on weather words they would ask, "¿Está nublado?" or "¿Hace viento?". I then reveal the underneath of the card to show them whether the dot is there or not. After I have hidden the dot a few times, I let some of my students do the hiding. If you have a large group, you may not be able to let everyone hide each time you play the game. So you may want to keep track of who has hidden the dot so that next time other students can do it. My students absolutely LOVE hiding the sticker and being in charge of answering the questions and revealing the backside of the cards. Another variation I do (normally at the end of the activity) is for me to "hide" the dot one more time. However, this last time around, I don't actually hide the dot on one of the cards. I put it some place else out of sight. This forces the students to ask about ALL the cards and review all the vocabulary. When the last card is revealed there may be some surprised looks! 😊

While I have used this with great success with elementary-age kids, it can be used as a quick review for older students (like in high school). I love how it requires students to use the language and how they get to hear the words/phrases over and over again. The other added benefit? If a child has the task of hiding the dot, he or she then also has to practice finding which card the other student is asking about. There's plenty of repetition and review without it being boring!

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Motivate Target Language Speaking

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Have you ever been to a baby shower where they hand you a clothespin or two and forbid you to say the word "baby"? If you do, another party guest can take your pin. The one with the most pins at the end of the party wins a prize. I have been to tons of baby showers and even some wedding showers that have played this game...

So today I was teaching Spanish to a small group of kids who were speaking WAY TOO MUCH English during the lesson, and the idea hit! Why not do the same thing with my students? So I pulled out some clothespins and gave each student about three of them and told them the rules. I was thrilled at how well this worked! My students immediately started to strive to speak Spanish. When they couldn't communicate in the target language they acted out to the best of their ability what they were trying to say. It was stretching for them and satisfying for me to watch them go through the process, or shall we say...the struggle.

Here are a few tips to implement this idea:

  • Limit the game through groups. If you teach a whole classroom, you might want to break the kids down into groups. They may only take from those in their group. Those they sit closest to would be the ideal candidates.

  • Define the time. How long will you maintain the game? With bigger groups, you may want to start small when it comes to length of time...maybe have them complete one or two activities while maintaining communication in the target language.

  • Be creative with the item you use. It doesn't have to be clothespins. At my daughter-in-law's bridal shower this past summer we played the game with gaudy plastic rings. You just need an item that they can attach to themselves so they don't lose it unless they start speaking in English.  Binder clips would work. These smiley face clips would be cute. There are also decorated clothespins like these that might be fun.

  • I give my students the option to use English once during the session if they have a question about what they should be doing in the lesson. They must request from me in the target language the ability to speak in English. They are allowed one question, and that's it, which makes them really think through how to avoid English until they absolutely need it. Many students will opt to not even request a question in English. 

Have fun! By limiting English you will find that your students will become more animated with their gestures and more creative in their communication. Another side benefit? Your classroom will become a bit quieter since they can't speak in their native tongue!😊

Monday, September 18, 2017

Clothespin Monsters and Language Learning

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I am always looking for new ways to teach Spanish vocabulary I have taught for years. It adds spice to my lessons and also keeps the teacher (me) engaged. Last week I came across this post on making little monsters and decided to make them in all the colors that I have taught my students. I also laminated them and used this glue (click here) which is incredibly durable. In the post, she suggests playing games with pom poms (find them here) with the monsters. I am using the monsters and the pom poms to review colors. Here's how I do it:

I lay out all the monsters on the table and then give instructions in Spanish like "El monstruo rojo come azul." One of my students then needs to find the red monster and use him to pick up a blue pom pom to deposit in a nearby cup. Once I have done this enough with students, I then ask them to "be the teacher" and give instructions to fellow classmates. 

Another activity is to have small disposable bathroom cups for each child. Lay out all your pom poms on a table. Each child gets a clothespin monster to use. Time them for thirty seconds or one minute and have them fill their small cups with as many pom poms as possible using only the monster to get them in the cup. When time is up, have them count the pom poms in their cups in the target language and tell you how many they got.

I also have doll clothes that I use for teaching which can also be used with these monsters. Give students instructions on which colored monster is going to eat which article of clothing. Have them deposit the clothes in another container that serves as the "stomach" for the monsters. Actually, these monsters can be used for all kinds of vocabulary in this same manner as long as you have something for the students to pick up with them. 

If you have any more ideas on how to use these monsters in a language classroom I would love to hear them!