Sunday, January 31, 2016

Using Realia in a Language Classroom

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One of my favorite activities with my students is pulling out realia (especially when we do a food unit) from Spanish-speaking countries for them to look at. They get familiar with several aspects of the language that we normally don't focus on in our lessons. For example, they get to see the metric system in use on food packages. They see how the number one thousand is written (1.000). They get exposed to the culture of the country the realia is from.

I have collected realia over the years from my own travels and the travels of my students. I have items from Argentina, Uruguay, Mexico, Spain, and Bolivia. I saved ads and wrappers...anything with Spanish on them. This was before the days of the internet. You can now do online to find a plethora of realia items. Here is my Pinterest board collection...

Follow Debbie in AK's board Teaching Spanish- Ads and Realia on Pinterest.

Realia can be used in multiple ways...for example, you can use pictures of license plates from various countries to have your students practice letters and numbers. (NOTE: There is one picture of plates on my Pinterest board). You can use menus during a food unit. You can talk about how the ad works or doesn't work to entice people to buy. You can introduce cultural items through realia. The ideas are endless!

While it is far cheaper to find realia on the web or if you are already traveling to a Spanish-speaking country, there is one resource available that uses realia to teach. Big Book of Spanish Realia Volume I & Volume II is on the pricey side, but provides you with realia in different categories (food, fashion, home) and activities to go with them. I have not personally used these volumes so I can't speak to how well they are put together, but it might be something to look into. If anyone has personally used it I would love to hear about the activities!



Saturday, January 30, 2016

Picture Dictionaries in Language Teaching


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Picture dictionaries are a great jumping off point for conversations in the target language you are teaching.  I love using the types of dictionaries that have "scenes" that you can use to talk about many different topics.  The dictionaries I have listed here are {at the time of this posting} out of print {at least the Spanish versions are...other languages are available}, but they are readily available on the used market through Amazon and other sites.

Picture dictionaries with scenes can be used in a variety of ways.  Here is a list of ideas:

{NOTE: All of these activities are done in the target language...on both the teacher and student side.}

1. Ask where certain items are in the target language and the student points them out.

2. Counting items on the page.

3. Show them a scene and they have to describe it in the target language.

4.  Practice prepositions by describing where things are located.  I normally do this by giving the student(s) two items in Spanish.  They then have to tell me how the first item is positioned in regards to the second item.  For example:  El gato esta encima de la mesa.

5. Call out an item and the students give you an adjective for it.

6. Have the students describe the actions going on in the scene.

7. Discuss the emotions of the people in the scene.

8. For pages with lots of food pictures on them call out a color and the students tell you the foods that are that color.

9. Also, for food pages, call out an adjective like sweet or salty and have students list foods that fit that description.

10. Call out a letter of the alphabet and see if students can list any items on the page that start with that letter.


Let's Learn Spanish-Picture Dictionary-I love this dictionary particularly for its opposite page {see above}.  With this page I ask questions like, "Where is the fast mouse?"  "the tall mouse?", etc.


First Thousand Words in Spanish-This dictionary is the one I have used the longest in my teaching.  Scenes in the middle with vocabulary around the sides.


Everyday Words in Spanish-Most of my younger students love this book with claymation type characters. Once again there are scenes with vocabulary on the sides.

I have found that if I have enough copies of dictionaries (they don't all need to be the same) that my small group of students can have a little friendly competition. I call out a review word and each student looks through their dictionary to see if they can find a picture of the word first.



Friday, January 29, 2016

Language Facts in a Classroom


Last year I started making mini-posters to display where my students could read a few facts about Spanish. Many times there just isn't enough time in a lesson to go over concepts, history, or other facts about a language. These tidbits of information can be read when students have down time. So here is a look at some of my fact cards. These can be done for other languages also. It is just a matter of finding information on the language or the history of it. I also do a series of cards called "Which word do I use?" to show my students the variety of vocabulary in the language. For languages spoken in several areas of the world these cards are great for exposing your students to the idea that there are many differences in the language.














Thursday, January 28, 2016

Book Series for Kids in Spanish


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When I am teaching younger kids I always take the opportunity to read to them. Children's books are a great way to listen to the language and pick up vocabulary along the way. I especially like when I can find a series of books to read to my students. They get familiar with the characters and fall in love with them. They also start predicting what will happen, because of their familiarity with the personalities in the books.

Recently, I found two great series my students have been enjoying, the Estela books and the series of books on the lady that swallows everything (i.e. flies and the like). Many  of them are out-of-print, but easily found cheaply on Amazon.

The Estela Books

Estela and her brother Sam have great adventures at the beach, in the snow, in the forest, and at night. The conversations they have are super cute. Sam is always asking his older sister about the world around them with questions like, "Do snow angels fly?" or "Do seahorses gallop?". There are four of them available...

Estela, la estrella del mar
Estela reina de la nieve
Estela, Hada del Bosque
Estela Princesa de la Noche

The "There Once Was an Old Lady" Books

My youngest students love the Lady who Swallowed a Fly! There is a whole series of books in which she swallows different items related to a theme. The language in these books is repetitive which aids in retaining some new vocabulary.


¡Un día una señora se tragó una mosca! -the traditional version
¡Un Día Una Señora se Tragó una Caracola!-filled with beach vocabulary
Un dia una senora se trago una campana!-the Christmas version
¡Un Día Una Señora se Tragó unos Libros!
Una Senora Con Frio Se Trago Un Poco De Nieve!-Vocabulary related to winter


The Froggy Books

I have mentioned the Froggy books several times here in the past. My students adore Froggy and the antics he does! Actually, they love him so much that I have even gotten a few of the books in English and translated them into Spanish for them.

Froggy Books in Spanish





Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Using Stories to teach Spanish

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I love a well-written story. It is through stories we learn about the world. Stories open up our hearts to learn in situations when we are closed to new ideas and concepts. I own a huge collection of children's books in Spanish for my younger students, and I am constantly collecting good literature written in Spanish for my high school students. Many of these stories I have posted about here on the blog. If you are looking to use stories in your teaching here are some posts with book suggestions and ideas.

By far my most popular post is the one on literature for high school students. In my post called Teaching Spanish Literature, I talk about a book called Album. This is an excellent collection of short stories for advanced students who are starting out with literature. It is out-of-print but very cheap on the used market. One of the stories in the book shouldn't be missed, Una Carta a Dios. Here is a post with more information and resources for the story.

Last year in January, I did a series of Spanish children's books for kids. Here is the post. There are thirty-one books to check out for your younger learners.

Here are a few more posts with some great children's books...





Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Comics in Language Learning

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Humor motivates learning. Whenever I can I try to add comics in Spanish into what we are doing. I post them on the door leading into where my students take lessons from me. I collect comics to read with them that demonstrate the future tense when they learn the endings for it. I go over with them the ones they don't understand so they can get the meaning they missed. For several of my students, it is motivating to try to figure out what is going and to find the humor in the scene. So here are some resources if you would like to add comics to what you do with your students...

Here is my Pinterest board filled with comics in Spanish. I tend to print these, laminate them, and then display them where my students can read them.

Follow Debbie in AK's board Teaching Spanish-Humor on Pinterest.



Laugh 'n' Learn Spanish : Featuring the #1 Comic Strip "For Better or For Worse"- I have not used this book, but it looks intriguing! Using the comic For Better or For Worse in Spanish, this book also has a simple exercise for each comic and language tips.



10 años con Mafalda-I have the complete collection of Mafalda, the famous comic strip from Argentina. This book is a collection of some of the best of them. Please note that the Kindle version has significant issues, but as a teacher having the book in print is better anyways. Not all of these will be accessible to language students, but I hand-pick ones that my students can understand and learn from.



Spanish a la cartoon- I have used this book before. It is more appropriate for high schoolers and up.


Here are great ideas for you in you teach another language...


Monday, January 25, 2016

Flyswatters in a Language Classroom



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Many people used to walk by my classroom when I taught at a local high school and would shake their heads in disbelief. During my high school teaching career I would hand each of my students a flyswatter, break them into groups of five and then start a vocabulary review game that would bring out excitement in my students. So, yes, flyswatters are useful in a language classroom! It may not look like learning with a bunch of students with swatters in hand, but it actually was a great way to review vocabulary.

Basically, I would make multiple decks of cards (one deck per group...each deck contains the same cards) with either Spanish words or pictures. My students would lay the cards out on the floor and form a circle around them with their flyswatters in hand. I would then call out a word. Depending on the cards I had I would either call out a word in English for them to find the written word in Spanish or I would call out a word in Spanish and they would have to find the correct picture. The first student to put their flyswatter over the correct card would take that card. At the end of the game when all the words had been called out, students would count out how many cards they had. The one with the most won in the group.

This game was one of the absolute favorites of my students. They begged for it! Yet, because I was using flyswatters with them and things can get out of hand easily I had some strong rules associated with the game. They were NEVER allowed to use their swatters on another student. If they did, they were out for the duration of the game. Normally, I didn't have too many problems with this since I was real consistent with this one particular rule. My students enjoyed the game so much that they rarely violated the rule. However, you know your students and what they can handle.

These days I work with much smaller groups (less than five in a lesson) and we use our hands. I still have the same rule...no slapping each other! However, because fingers can get hit easily I may end up getting a few swatters. The beauty of this game is that it works with one small group all the way up to a large classroom of students that you break up into groups.

{Rhyming cards used in a flyswatter game}

Another variation of this game is to used cards in which you have pairs (like pairs of opposites or pairs of rhyming words). You then call out one word and students need to put their swatters on the opposite word or rhyming word.

So here are some possible ideas for flyswatters...

Word And Number Swatters
Hand Swatters
Fly Swatters (set of 24)