Wednesday, November 25, 2015

A Simple Guessing Game for Language Learners

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I love the game, Secret Square , and have been really lucky to come across one of them on the used market. They aren't readily available as far as I can tell. However, there is a real simple way to reinvent this game if you have access to flashcards with different objects on them. Last year I did rhyming words with my students and used these cards. The cards don't need to have words on them. It is also good to have a variety of items in your cards like foods, animals, household objects, etc. I can now take those cards and play a version of Secret Square with them. 

Basically, you lay out a bunch of cards and put a small, flat plastic chip under one of the cards. {Or for that matter you could use a small piece of construction paper.} Students then ask yes/no questions to try to figure out which item you have chosen. So, for example, if a student asks, "Is it red?" and the answer is "no", you then remove all the cards that are red. If the answer is "yes", then you remove the cards that have no red on them. {TIP: The person who hid the chip should be the only one touching the cards. I have found that the guessers may mistakenly pick up the card with the hidden chip if you allow them to start removing cards.} Questions continue to be asked until one of the students figures out which item has the hidden chip.

Here are some questions that students could ask in the target language...

Is it alive?
Is it red {or another color}?
Is it an animal?
Is it {Fill in the blank with an adjective}?
Is it a fruit?
Can it walk?
Can it fly?

As you can see there are all kinds of questions students can use depending on the pictures you have. It is more challenging the more cards you place on the table. My students enjoy the game more if there are over 25 cards. Another way to do this game is for the teacher to ask questions instead of the students. I tend to play it both ways with my students.

Have fun guessing!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Christmas Gifts for Bilingual Kids

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When my boys were little I spoke to them in both English and Spanish. I tried to incorporate children's books in both languages into our reading time. We also had several toys and games that could be used bilingually. So here is a look at gifts you can buy for your kids if you are raising them bilingually. Some can be used with any language and other are more specific...

 Guess Who can be used in any language since it is based on just pictures of people. A great way to review vocabulary related to describing others. Although it is currently not being made,Guess Where, is another great game if you can find it on the used market at a decent price.

Pengoloo can be played in any language. It is great for those learning their colors. To add language to this game I require my students to say the color words as they play.

Snug as a Bug in a Rug  is another preschool game that can be used in any language. It includes colors, numbers, shapes, and size. Once again, it is important for your kids to use the vocabulary as they play.


Books in the languages you are using in your home are a great way to build vocabulary and memories. Here  is my series on 31 books in Spanish for kids.  


Mr. Potato Head- Believe it or not, this toy that has been around since the 1950's is a great way to talk about body parts and clothing. There are all kinds of accessories out there! Read here how I use Mr. Potato Head in another language.

Spot it! Games are a favorite of my students, and the great thing is there are so many versions, and they can be used in any language! Here's how I modify it if kids are still learning the vocabulary. Here are versions I love...

Spot It Junior Animals
Spot It! Numbers and Shapes
Spot it! Splash Card Game
Spot It! Alphabet

Learn Shapes and Draw Placemat in English, Spanish, French, and Chinese!



For older kids, how about Bananagrams in another language? Spanish Bananagrams is available as well as other languages.


Melissa & Doug Spanish Alphabet Floor Puzzle -For those kids who are learning Spanish and the alphabet.

This Spanish Clock Puzzle is a great way to work with numbers and time.


Spanish/English puzzles- There are several versions of these...

Spanish & English Things to Wear
Spanish & English Shapes & Colors
Spanish & English Opposites


These blocks are BEAUTIFUL and come in tons of different languages! Here's a short list:

Uncle Goose Spanish ABC Blocks
Uncle Goose German ABC Blocks
Uncle Goose French ABC Blocks
Uncle Goose Japanese Character Blocks
Uncle Goose Italian ABC Blocks
Uncle Goose Chinese Character Blocks

There are also Greek, Korean, Dutch, Swedish, and the list could go on! You just need to search for the specific language to see if they are available.Take a look here to find the language you want.

And I have to share one more resource from Etsy...these Spanish and English placemats for kids. They are so cute! Check them out!

So what gifts have you found helpful for your kids if they are learning more than one language? I would love for you to leave me a comment and let me know!



Sunday, November 8, 2015

Teaching Tips for Language Learners

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I just recently started writing  a series coming to Debbie's Spanish Learning in January 2016! I am collecting a plethora of teaching ideas and tips to use in a classroom, small group, or homeschool setting. Some will be totally new ideas I haven't posted about before. Other posts will collect all my teaching tips for different topics like verbs, vocabulary, etc.  Many of the ideas will be applicable to other languages, too. So here is a quick look at some of the ideas I will be sharing with you...



This week I will begin incorporating Rory's Story Cubes into some of the lessons I will be doing with my more advanced students. I am planning on using the Action Story Cubes to review verb conjugations and tenses with my top students who are struggling with keeping all the endings from the different tenses separate in their minds. I am also thinking of using these cubes for writing and speaking exercises to develop my students' fluency.



I just finished typing up two new "Card Talkers" activities. If you are unfamiliar with these printables that I offer {They are free!}, please check out this post. All you need are the printables and Spanish Playing Cards (one deck per five students) to do this activity.

I am also developing some ideas for using word clouds to help with vocabulary building. Here is my Pinterest board of Spanish word clouds.  If you have used these before in your teaching, what do you do?  I would love to hear how you incorporate them. They are great for thematic vocabulary!

I am also planning on sharing the Spanish Fun Facts that I display for my students. Over the past year I have been collecting facts about the Spanish language my students can read about. For example, do you know the other name for "Spanish"? Castellano. How about how many Spanish-speaking countries are there in the world? I have also made small posters that talk about vocabulary differences within the Spanish-speaking world.

I will also give ideas for teaching concepts of time (months, seasons, days of the week, clocks) for younger students.  Other topics will be about using pictures, dice, games, stories, and even colored pencils to help you teach language.

So please come back in January for all the tips and teaching techniques. It is my hope you will find something you can use in your classroom or with your own kids!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Christmas Teaching Resources in Spanish {Free Printable}

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Early November is the perfect time to start thinking of what you will be teaching your students around the Christmas season. Since I only teach my Spanish students the first two weeks of December I need to begin a littler earlier. There have been many winters where I haven't spent anytime on Christmas vocabulary and the like. This year I decided to get a jumpstart on it...

Here are some simple ideas you can incorporate into your teaching during the holidays...


I recently came across Christmas Spot It! Game. So exciting! My students LOVE Spot it! games. I find them to be the best game out there that is pre-made and helps build my students vocabulary quickly. Take a look at this post on how to play it when you are teaching students the new vocabulary for the game. It has to be modified slightly until they master the words. Since one of the biggest challenges of this game is to have a list in Spanish of all the items, I have provided one here for you. Please download it and use it!

Spot It! Christmas Vocabulary

Here are a few children's books to read during the season:

La Mejor Navidad De Froggy- One of the favorite series for my students are Froggy books. They love the humor in them. This one (like most of the Froggy books) is out-of-print, but is cheap on the used market at Amazon.

Un Día una Señora se Tragó una Campana - A cute, shorter story for the younger set similar to "There Once Was an Old Lady that Swallowed a Fly".

Estela reina de la nieve - Not specifically a Christmas book, but because it deals with snow it would be a great book for December. Estela has such cute and funny conversations with her little brother, Samuel!

Un Dia de Nieve -A classic about playing in the snow.

Celebra La Navidad Y El Dia De Los Reyes Magos- I haven't gotten this book yet, but I love Alma Flor Ada's books. This story is set during the Day of the Three Kings.


Here are a few more Christmas resources:

Christmas I Spy- I would use this to practice vocabulary and counting with my younger students.

Winter I Spy



Here are printable cards to use during December. If you print out two sets you can play Go Fish and Memory with them.

Spanish Playground has a post with tons of Christmas-related printables. Check it out!

Any other ideas for teaching Spanish during the Christmas season? I would love to hear from you!