Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Culture, Crafts, and Language Learning

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It's been SEVERAL months since I posted. Life has been much busier than I ever imagined. This past summer I did Spanish camps and loved teaching more kids the language and introducing them to the cultures where Spanish is spoken. At some point, I hope to do some posts on those adventures and share my teaching ideas.

This fall I decided to offer a new type of class... ¡Explora Español!, a six-week class that gives kids a taste of Spanish through culture and crafts. I have really enjoyed this class more than I would have imagined. With each week, I teach a bit of Spanish and then connect it to a cultural component which leads into a craft. Let's take a look at one of the classes I did to see how it all works together...

One week I taught the kids body parts. Since I tend to use Mr. Potato Head in my regular classes when teaching body parts I figured I would do the same in my exploratory class also. Then it hit me. Potatoes are originally from South America. There was a tie-in. So after teaching body parts, we talked about the potato and where it came from. I mentioned the many varieties out there...many more than my students had ever seen. We then reviewed the body parts using Mr. Potato Head. I then gave each student a potato and we got to work. This craft was done mostly in Spanish. We started with the "ojos" and did the complete face. The sombrero and zapatos were next. We finished by placing cut pipe cleaners on the sides for brazos. 

The paper parts I cut out ahead of time to save time. {Also, it is a good idea to wash and dry the potatoes ahead of time so the glue will stick.} You can find several templates online like here. Make sure to resize them so they will fit on the potatoes you are using.  We would review the name of the body part in Spanish and then students would put glue {We used this one, and it works well.} on the piece. Because the potatoes are round it helped to hold the pieces in place for a few seconds. I had the students count to twenty in Spanish before taking their fingers off one of the pieces. With the shoes, it was helpful to use these glue dots instead of the liquid glue. Aren't they so cute?

Here are some other ideas for connecting language, culture, and crafts into your lessons {You can click on the link for each craft to get ideas}:

Names of animals-- Talk about the importance of llamas in South America-- Paint a llama 
Clothing vocabulary-- Talk about Guatemala and worry dolls-- Make a worry doll

House Vocabulary-- Talk about the neighborhood of La Boca, Buenos Aires, Argentina-- Make "La Boca Houses"
Weather Vocabulary-- Talk about the Atacama Desert in Chile-- Make a Chilean rainstick
Fruit and Veggie vocabulary-- Talk about Chile and Peru and arpilleras-- Make an arpillera
Telling time-- Talk about the artist Salvador Dalí-- Make melting clocks

Do you have any other connections for teaching language, culture and then adding a craft? I would love to hear them!!

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Easter Island {Cultural Craft for Spanish Students}

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I am gearing up for another summer of Spanish camps and so looking forward to it. My camps are composed of language practice, cultural crafts, games, geography, and stories. It is a great introduction for kids in the language. You can find all my posts about summer camp if you click here.

Last year we made personal piñatas, molas, Chilean rainsticks, and a few other cultural crafts. For the kids that will be returning this year, I needed to have some new material to teach them and some new crafts. One of the days we will focus on body parts and the country of Chile so I thought it would be a great opportunity to make Moai, the famous Easter Island statues. 

I wanted an easy, quick way for students to make the statues without us taking too much time. I happened to find this ice cube mold and thought it would be perfect! (You can find it here.) Next I wanted a no-mess, easy clean-up clay that would air dry. This air dry clay is perfect, and I bought several packages in gray to make the heads with. To add to the educational value of the craft we are going to model the actual island (which is triangular) and  add a little bit of the ocean around it. I am thinking that I will make the clay for the island and the water to save on money. You can find a recipe here.

Along with making the islands, we will be spending sometime learning/reviewing body parts. I have made some extra statues in order to play a game that I saw online a few months back. Here's how it is done: You create two lines of students and have them face each other so that each kid has a partner. They need to be seated on the floor/ground. Place between each set of kids a Moai statue. Then begin to call out body parts in Spanish. Whatever body part is called the students have to place their hands on that part of themselves. So for example, if I say "cabeza" they will put their hands on their head. Call out several body parts. Then at some point say "Vayan" (or even "estatua") which means the pairs have to grab the little statue that is between them. Whoever grabs it first between the two kids wins and gets to stay in the game. Have the remaining that are still playing pair up with a new partner and do another round. Continue until you have only one student remaining. You can modify this game to make it a little less competitive for younger kids who sometimes struggle with winning and losing. Don't have anyone exit the game. Let everyone continue playing no matter who got the statue first.

I am also planning on doing a scavenger hunt with the statues by hiding them in an outdoor area and having the students search for them. I will probably do directions in the target language for older kids.

Here are some other resources to use in conjunction with this craft...

For my summer camps I limit the number of students so that kids get to practice in the language. So I will probably be buying several sets of these excavation kits for kids to work on in pairs. They get to dig up some Moai! (You can find them here.)

Also, have you been to Mundo de Pepita? It is an awesome blog with tons of resources and ideas for teaching Spanish to children. She also has a Teachers pay Teachers store which you can find HERE. She recently came out with a bulletin board set for the country of Chile! I will be using it during my camps as I like to have visual representations of the different countries we study. The set includes Moai, guanacos, the Chilean flag, some of the flora of the country, and a few other items.

Finally, here is a game to use, especially if you are breaking your students into groups to do center work. They can call out the numbers in Spanish as they play. The game is called Sneaky Statues and can be ordered HERE.

If you have any other ideas to go along with the Moai I would love to hear them!!

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!