Friday, November 22, 2013

Spot It! Games for Learning another Language

I love using games that are already prepared for me in my Spanish lessons.  I recently came across Spot It!  I have been using it with my students and they are loving it.  At first, I feared it wouldn't work if my students didn't know all the vocabulary on the cards, but I have found that this isn't a problem.  The game actually teaches and reinforces learning!  It is also fast moving which brushes away any boredom your student(s) may have. Without fail, I have parents who watch me play this with their kids and then have to go out and buy it. It is that good!  This game would also be a great time filler in a classroom for students that finish early.

Here is how it works:

Each card has several pictures on it.  Any two cards in the deck have a matching picture.  The goal is to be the first one to call out the name of the picture. I have modify the rules a bit for my language learners.  If they spot the match, but can't remember the word they need to point to it.  I then supply them with the word.  It only takes a few times of supplying the word before they remember.  The more you play the more they learn.  Students are highly motivated because they want to be able to call out the word first!

There are several versions of this game...

Spot It! Numbers and Shapes

Spot It! Alphabet
Spot It (The original game)

Spot It Junior Animals (a favorite of my students)

There are also several other versions that have very specific vocabulary.  There is a baseball, hockey, Halloween, and road trip version. There is even a Spot It! Basic Spanish! Check them all out!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Arriba y Abajo

Anytime you read a book to a child it is an opportunity to teach.  Recently, I invested in several of Oliver Jeffers' books in Spanish.  They will become a springboard to teach and cement extra vocabulary.  Here is what I did with the book Arriba y abajo:

Arriba y Abajo is a sweet story about a penguin who wants to fly.  In the end, the flying adventures make him realize that he would rather be with his friend, the little boy in the book.

First of all, I picked out the words that I thought would be important to introduce to my students.  Here is my list which are mostly opposites along with a description of which picture each word is in the Go Fish cards below (scroll down to see link):

arriba-up (little guy pointing down)

abajo-down (little guy pointing up)

tocar and jugar- to play (Each has a different meaning.  Tocar is to play an instrument and jugar is to play a game. While the word "tocar" is not in the book there is a great illustration of each of these actions-see above)  (Tocar-a tuba and jugar-backgammon like in the story)

juntos-together (penguin baby and mom)

solo-alone (penguin baby by itself)

volar-to fly (little guy with green cape)

aterrizar-to land (helicopter landing)

las alas-wings  (pilot wings)

I created cards of the above vocabulary and we played Go Fish with them to solidify the meanings in their memory. 
I make sets of four to play Go Fish.  I also can use the deck for Memory if I pull out some of the cards as you only need sets of two for each word.

{Close up of one of the cards I made}

To make the cards I cut up the graphics from the below file and put them on 3 by 5 index cards cut in half or these bulletin board cards I found at JoAnn's.

Here is a link to the graphics for the cards:
Arriba y Abajo cards

I will be posting more about Oliver Jeffers' books and a few activities to go along with them in the near future. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Children's Books to Teach Hispanic Culture

Do you want to teach your kids about Hispanic culture? Not all of Latin America has the same customs. For example, a tortilla is made of flour in some countries whereas in other countries like Spain and Argentina, a tortilla is a potato omelette. Here in the United States we all know what tacos are, but in some countries in South America, tacos are not something you eat, but rather something you wear...high heel shoes! Just because Spanish-speaking countries all speak the same language doesn't mean they share the same culture. One way to introduce your kids to different Hispanic cultures is through picture books and unit studies.  Here is a long list of books, unit studies, and lapbooks you can use to teach about the many Spanish-speaking cultures. The unit studies and lapbooks can be found on Homeschool Share.

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Gauchada-The story of a necklace made by a gaucho {Argentine cowboy} that is given to several people.  While this book may be out of print it is not to be missed!!  As of the time of this posting it can still be found cheaply on the used market. Here is the HSS unit.

On the Pampas-This is an excellent book to teach various aspects of Argentine culture on the pampas {Argentine grasslands}.  Kids will learn about mate, the rhea {South American ostrich}, and gauchos. There is a HSS unit available for this book.

The Magic Bean Tree: A Legend from Argentina-A legend from the pampas about a carob tree.


A Pen Pal for Max-This book tells the story of Max from Chile and what happens when he slips a note into a box of grapes that his family has grown headed for the United States.

Mia's Story: A Sketchbook of Hopes & Dreams-A girl from a village in Chile searches for her lost puppy.

Pablo Neruda: Poet of the People-The life of another famous Chilean author


Up and Down the Andes-Highlights a Peruvian festival.  Cultural notes in the back of the book.

Tonight Is Carnaval-Another look at a festival. For more information and activities for this book, click here.

Moon Rope/Un lazo a la luna-An ancient Peruvian tale

The Llama's Secret - A Peruvian Legend-A version of the Flood story


At Homeschool Share there is a lapbook available for Colombia!

Biblioburro: A True Story from Colombia-the story of a traveling library.  A great time to teach the word "biblioteca" to your kids if they are learning Spanish.

Waiting for the Biblioburro-Another story about the same concept


Abuela's Weave-The story of a grandmother and granddaughter.  This story highlights Mayan culture, weaving and the idea of taking goods to a market.


A lapbook on Mexico at Homeschool Share

Hill Of Fire -A true story of how a volcano was formed in Mexico.

Cuckoo-A Mexican folktale

Under The Lemon Moon-A touching story of generosity.  With Spanish sprinkled throughout the story.

Diego-The story of the great Mexican muralist, Diego Rivera

Puerto Rico

There's a Coqui in My Shoe-About the famous frog of the island

Juan Bobo: Four Folktales from Puerto Rico-Juan Bobo is a well-known character from Puerto Rico

The Coqui and The Iguana-This story takes place in La Paguera, one of Puerto Rico's bioluminescent bays.


Roberto's Trip to the Top-A boy takes a trip to the top of the mountain near his village



A lapbook for Spain is available here.

The Story of Ferdinand-A classic, not-to-be-missed story about a bull named Ferdinand.  You can teach about bull fighting without the gore of it.  Here is a lapbook to go along with the story.

Don Quixote and the Windmills-Every child that studies Spanish should at least know who Don Quixote is. The Misadventures of Don Quixote is another picture book that introduces the character of Don Quixote.

Books from Various Countries

A Picture Book of Simon Bolivar-The life story of the liberator of parts of South America.  Simon Bolivar is sometimes known as the "George Washington of South America".  The country of Bolivia was named after him.

The Gold Coin-Lovely fable set in South America

The Cazuela That the Farm Maiden Stirred-A story of creating rice pudding, a typical Latin America dish.

Personajes del Mundo Hispanico-A series of books written in Spanish about several famous Hispanics {Gabriela Mistral, Miguel de Cervantes, Jose de San Martin, Simon Bolivar, Pablo Neruda}.

Other resources to teach about Spanish-speaking countries

Ecuador lapbook
Costa Rica lapbook

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Teaching the Alphabet in Spanish

Teaching the alphabet can be a whole lot of fun!  There are so many activities out there to reinforce the names and sounds of the letters.  Here are some ideas that I have used when teaching the Spanish alphabet to preschoolers all the way to highschoolers...

If your child or student is young enough you will want to start with letter recognition and formation. After I have introduced the letters through Spanish Alphabet Flash Cards, I will call out letters and have the student create them with playdough or build them with felt or wooden shapes.  Here is a file to help you create the shapes for the felt or wooden letters.

Another idea is to use Paper Letters for various activities.  Here is a list of what can be done with them...

-Hide the letters and then call out a letter that they need to go find.

-Mix up the letters and have them put them in order.  Review their Spanish names once they are in order.

-Spell Spanish words with them and see if your students can create the word you spelled.

-If using different colored letters, call out a color and they collect all the letters that are that color.  The students then have to tell you in Spanish which letters they collected.

-Have them create their names with the letters and then tell you what letters they used.

-Hide the letters.  Give them instructions on where to find each letter.  For example:  La "a" esta debajo de la mesa."  To make this more challenging you might hide two or three different letters in the same spot.  They have to retrieve the correct letter.

Alphabet Shape Stickers can be used in a variety of ways.  I use picture pages like the one you see below from Basic Vocabulary Builder.  I tell my students in Spanish which letter sticker to put on which picture.  This way they are not only reviewing letters, but other vocabulary.

Spanish alphabet books can enhance your unit on letters also.  Here are a few...

Gathering the Sun: An Alphabet In Spanish And English (Spanish Edition)-for older students
Albertina Anda Arriba: El Abecedario / Albertina Goes Up: An Alphabet Book (Bilingual Books)
A is for Airplane/A es para avion
Calavera Abecedario: A Day of the Dead Alphabet Book
ABeCedario Nutritivo

Here are a few more activities:

-I also do a fly swatter or "slapping" game.  I make cards with a letter on each card.  I use the complete Spanish alphabet and a few duplicates (like I may have two or three cards each of several of the letters).  I then lay out all the cards on a table.  I call out a letter and the first student to slap the correct card either with his or her hand or a flyswatter gets the card.  The student with the most cards at the end wins.

-Make a set of cards to play "Go Fish"  (Pesca) with the letters. Have the students play in Spanish by asking "Tienes la "c"?"

-Have the students use a Spanish dictionary to find unique words.  They have to spell the words to you in Spanish.  See if they can stump you with a new word you don't know.  My high school students love this activity and I have increased my vocabulary by doing it!

What other ideas do you use to teach the alphabet in Spanish?