Monday, April 24, 2017

Instant Lesson Plans for Your Language Classroom


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Let's face it. While teaching can be incredibly rewarding, it is also draining emotionally and physically (especially when you are sick). There are times when I really struggle to get through a teaching day. While I don't teach in a regular classroom (I give private and small group lessons), I still struggle from time to time to get through a lesson. Recently, I decided that I needed a master list of easy activities I could do with students when...
  • I'm not feeling well.
  • They have a make-up lesson.
  • We have a game day at the end of the semester.
I prefer not to waste precious time with my students with activities that don't further their language learning, and yet there are days when we need to step back and do something different. I was also realizing that coming up with ideas when I'm pressed for time or feeling ill wasn't working for me. I needed a ready-to-go list I could just pull out. So on a quiet afternoon, I did some brainstorming of all the activities my students have been exposed to that we could do on a game day or a day when I'm sick. (Or if you are teaching in a regular school...a day when you need a sub). I created a file and then printed out several copies to have on hand. I teach a big age range (age five through high school) and a myriad of ability levels. So it is easier for me to have a master list and circle the activities we are going to do based on the ages of the students and their abilities. It becomes my instant lesson plan.



If you are teaching larger groups, you may need to break students into groups and have "stations" where they move from activity to activity during the class. That way no one gets bored and all the teacher has to do is monitor the groups.


Here's some of what is on my list with links to see how it's all done. However, since every teacher is different it would be ideal for you to come up with your own list of activities that work in your classroom.




So pull out a piece of paper or open up a file and start brainstorming ideas for the days when teaching is tough!! I welcome any other ideas in the comments!!

Monday, April 17, 2017

Family Trees in Spanish


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I love using "garage sale dots" (You know... those little round stickers you see used every summer as people endeavor to sell their excess possessions. 😏) These dots have become valuable teaching tools when it comes to my language lessons! One of the ways I used them this past year is to create family trees with my students.



I had my students choose a different color for each generation. They then could create their families (or a pretend family) with each dot representing a different person. Then finally, they drew arrows between people and wrote in Spanish how they were related.


This simple exercise not only helped them retain the vocabulary, but also understand the relationships better. For example, they get to see how cousins are connected because their parents are siblings or how a person can be a sister, niece, cousin, and daughter all at the same time. Such a simple exercise that only takes dot stickers, a blank piece of paper, and a pen or pencil! Give it a try with your students the next time you work with family vocabulary! (NOTE: For younger kids, it is helpful to first show them examples of family trees with pictures of people and then create the one with dots.)

Here are a few more resources while working with family member vocabulary:



This file folder guessing game uses house and family vocabulary.



A sweet story about a boy who gives away his animal crackers to different family members.

Here's another activity with colored dots that my students love!!! Check it out!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Seasons Activities in Spanish {Free Printable}


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Seasons are hard words to remember in another language. Over the twenty years I have been teaching I find that even though it is only four vocabulary words they can be forgotten quickly. So I was really pleased to come across a book in Spanish that beautifully illustrates the changing of the seasons...



Las 4 Estaciones Desde el Gran Arbol shows the progression of the seasons with a tree in the forest. The animals around it come and go as the year passes. The weather changes. The plants grow and become dormant or die. And during the whole time there is an owl in the tree watching the events around him. The book has cut outs that allows you to see the animals in the tree. There are several activities that you can do as you read the book and then afterwards. Let's take a look...


For my students that can write I have them re-create the four seasons with pictures and words in Spanish. (You can download this page here.)  They can draw in the way a tree would look for each season and then label the squares with the correct word. I also have them add color and weather words related to each season in the appropriate square. Another set of vocabulary that could be added are the months in the appropriate season, but be careful with this! What if you are in the southern hemisphere? This would be a great time to discuss how summer happens in December, January, and February in South America (like in Argentina and Chile).

During the reading of the book you can point out all the animals that are throughout the story. One of the reasons that I love this book is because there are so many animals and they reoccur several times on the different pages. For younger kids, I call out the name of an animal and they can count them. For older kids this is a great time to play Spot It! (the animal version) to review the names of animals. (See here how I use Spot It! as a teaching tool AND game at the same time.)

For more advanced students that know their prepositions, you can do a drawing activity with them. Students start out with a blank piece of paper and you describe a scene with a tree in Spanish that they have to draw. Here's a sample description that could be drawn:

Hay un árbol grande con un sol brillante en el cielo. En el árbol hay dos búhos y tres ardillas. Debajo del árbol, hay una familia de zorros. Un zorro persigue una mariposa. El árbol tiene manzanas en las ramas y un nido lleno de huevos.

Finally, here are some resources that are great for working with the seasons...



Y De Pronto Es Primavera-A sweet story about waiting for spring to come.

Froggy Se Viste- Frogs are not supposed to go out in the snow and play! A story filled with winter words (especially clothing).

Un Recorrido Por Las Estaciones- Scenes from all the seasons with an emphasis on each month.

A simple puzzle for younger kids.  Actually, this concept for be great for kids if you make flashcards. Can they put the objects in the right season?

Finally, I use this vocabulary sorting activity with older students. It's a great way to familiarize them with more words that they need to put into one of the four seasons.


Saturday, March 18, 2017

Numbers and Math in a Foreign Language

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Let's face it numbers in another language are hard! I find that while they are taught early on when a person is learning another language, they are one of the last sets of vocabulary to really be mastered. There are so many things you can do to get your student more comfortable with numbers in the target language...

One way to review numbers is to play games. Here is a list of ideas that you can do at home or in the classroom...



One of the biggest issues with numbers in another language is just knowing what a number is without having to count up to it. This simple card game from Spanish Mama called "Mano Nerviosa" will solve that problem! And the beauty of this game? Everyone is engaged and paying attention!






I always have dice within dice on hand. They can be used in a variety of ways in a foreign language classroom. (See this post.) When it comes to math you can do simple problems. Have your students roll one of the die (which is really two of them) and then say a math problem out loud with the numbers on the dice. They can use addition, subtraction, or multiplication.





Sequence is a great game for all ages and there are several different versions out there (from different versions for kids all the way to the grown-up version of the game). Sequence Num6ers uses addition and subtraction problems. As students take turns, they say the equation out loud in the target language and then can place their chips on the board.






Lately, I have been playing Multiplication War with some of my students. In order to incorporate Spanish, I have my students say the answer out loud before they decide whose number is bigger. There is also Addition and Subtraction War.




This simple game called I Sea 10! can be played in the target language. The object of the game is to collect chips that equal up to ten. As chips are turned over, have your students call out the numbers in the target language. When they see two chips that equal ten they can also say so in the target language (i.e. in Spanish..."Veo diez").







If you have a group of kids or students you can get them into a big circle and have them pass/toss a beach ball to each other. The first person to have the ball starts counting in the target language (For example, they say "uno".) Then the next person to receive the ball says the next number (dos). Continue until they have counted up to a predetermined number. This can also be done with skip counting.


Another way to practice with numbers is through literature. For example, here are some simple rhymes that can be used with younger kids. Also, children's books are another great way to work with numbers. Here are some of my favorites:




There are a series of books called "Know Your Numbers" that have been translated into Spanish. They focus on skip counting...

Huevos y Patas (Counting by 2's)
Montones de Mariquitas (Counting by 5's)
Correle, Correle Ciempiés (Counting by 10's)






I have also used this book and a bag of candy to review numbers and colors. The exercises in this book have students do grouping (the beginning of multiplication) and shapes.



And finally, when my students have a basic grasp of numbers 1-100 I use mystery pictures with them. Here is my post explaining how I do it.

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 (Here's the 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...