Wednesday, January 10, 2018

5 Activities to Incorporate the Winter Olympics in Spanish Class

I'M A HUGE FAN OF THE OLYMPICS, AND MOST ESPECIALLY THE WINTER OLYMPICS, when countries from around the world get together, there's lots of excitement in the air, and we root for our favorite teams and athletes. Being an international event, the Olympics lend themselves very well to foreign language classes, and it goes without saying it's a great opportunity to teach sports vocabulary in are FIVE ACTIVITIES to incorporate them in class:

Incorporate the Winter Olympics in Spanish Class

1) CHOOSE A COUNTRY TO FOLLOW DURING THE OLYMPICS: head over to the official Olympics website (click here), change the language to the target language you teach by scrolling down and clicking on the little globe (see photo below), and use the website to follow competitions and medal counts.

2) DID SOMEONE SAY SPORTS VOCABULARY? There are so many ways you could use this vocabulary in and of itself-movement activities, 4 corners listening comprehension, a poll or interview of your favorite sport to do or watch during the Olympics, play Charades, play Bingo with the vocabulary, and so on.

3) THE MASCOTS ARE SO CUTE!: Each Olympics there are two mascots, one for the Olympics and one for the ParaOlympics, and they are adorable (even though I'm not sure what a few of them are lol)! Pull up this page from the Olympics site and use the mascots for vocabulary practice-year, type of animal/mascot, what color they are, what they are wearing, etc. Below is a super awesome video of the PyeongChang mascot, Soohorang, participating in each of the winter sports-fantastic for vocabulary practice!

4) USE HULA HOOPS TO REPRESENT THE RINGS: For little learners, placing hula hoops on the floor, identifying their colors, and then doing a bean bag toss (or other small item) is a fun way to bring the Olympics to a preschool or early elementary class room. You can name the color they must aim for, or, for older kiddos, you could assign a number to each ring, then keep score based on which ring their bean bag goes into. TIP: Talk to your Phys Ed teacher to borrow hula hoops!

5) MOUNT YOUR OWN VERSION OF THE OLYMPICS IN CLASS! Create stations with different sports for a game day, provide game vocabulary posters in the target language and have some fun! I've saved a number of photos and games you can do in class on my Pinterest board here! (I'm super partial to the bobsled races lol!)

Incorporating the Olympics in Foreign Language Class

WHAT OTHER IDEAS DO YOU HAVE? Share in the comments!

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Ideas for Using a Wildlife Nature Documentary in Foreign Language Class

I LOVE NATURE DOCUMENTARIES, AND SO DO MY ELEMENTARY SPANISH STUDENTS!  Animals of all kinds are of high interest to my students, and there is so much you can glean from even a short clip. And, they serve really well with any proficiency or grade level; you just adjust your questions to be appropriate for your students. Weather, climate, habitats, geographical features, adjectives of all kinds, verbs, animal vocabulary, emotions, family vocabulary, food, ecosystems, environment, conservation, food chains...the list goes on in terms of what you can tap into depending on the clip you use and the level of your students.

Ideas for Using a Wildlife Nature Documentary in Spanish Foreign Language Class


*WATCH A SHORT CLIP rather than the whole thing. You may find that given your time constraints, a portion of a video may be better than trying to show the whole thing. Even a clip of 2-3 minutes can be stretched depending on the activities you do with it.

*FOR MY ELEMENTARY STUDENTS, I typically don't expect them to understand the narration; the language is usually too challenging. However, depending on the clip, I can have them listen for specific words (naturally I preview the clip ahead of time) and instruct them to raise their hands when they hear particular words.

*Q/A: the easiest way to view a wildlife / nature documentary with students is to preview it ahead of time, developing a list of questions you can ask your students, and then as you are watching it together, hit the pause button each time you want to ask a question. I also like to get kids to expand on their answers when, if I ask ¿Hace frío o calor? and they answer 'Hace frío', I might follow up with '¿Hace mucho frío? (Imagine a documentary of penguins for ex!) or if we are watching a sloth and I ask 'What is the sloth doing?' and the answer is 'climbing', I could then ask 'Is he climbing quickly or slowly?' and so on.

*WATCH THEN SHARE: Much like 'Turn and Talk/Share' the idea behind this activity is to show a short clip of a video, then have kids turn to a partner and share something about what they have seen. For novices, particularly Novice Low, this could be as simple as naming something they've seen, while for students with more proficiency, they could describe using sentences. Or for more advanced students, you could pose a question that elicits an opinion or a statement of position, such as 'Why do you think the people are converting habitat into farmland? or 'Should the government stop the clearing of land in this region?'. Students share their answer/opinion/position with their partner and vice versa.

*WHICH DO YOU LIKE MOST?: At the end of the clip, create a voting chart to practice the sentence 'I like ___ the most'. Write the names of some of the animals shown in the clip/ video as columns, then have students tell which is their favorite/ the one they like the most. Count up the answers at the end and determine the most popular animal from that clip!

NOTE: A couple of things I have learned include the following
-don't show videos of animals hunting or eating other animals to elementary students. Though we all know it's just part of life, it can really upset some children. Better to not use it, or at least not that part of the video.
-another no show is animals fighting or mating. Again, disturbing and weird for little kids. Not something you want them to go home and tell their families about.

INTERESTED IN SEEING HOW THIS CAN LOOK IN YOUR CLASS? Here is a clip of one of my Kindergarten classes last year watching the preview to a Spanish film on Cantábrico

The link to the trailer we watched is here: and for more nature videos, you can visit my Pinterest board here, where I've saved a number of them, (Be sure to vet first to ascertain appropriate content for your level of students):

AND DON'T MISS OUR NEW NON FICTION MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION! The first edition (Jan-Apr 2018) focuses on endangered animals of South America-each issue comes with a series of Youtube links to reinforce learning! Click here to subscribe!

Mira el Mundo Non Fiction Magazine Subscription in Spanish

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

A Simple Cultural Comparison Activity About Christmas Trees

I FREQUENTLY LIKE TO BEGIN MY CLASSES WITH A QUESTION OR POLL, something simple that my students of any ability can answer and engage in. These types of activities are particularly great for novice learners as there is entry for all. During the month of December I like to ask about decorations and traditions my kiddos are doing at home (I teach in a district where all students celebrate Christmas, even the few Jewish families, who celebrate both Christmas and Hannukah), so I don't run the risk of leaving any little friends out.

OF COURSE, I AM ALWAYS LOOKING FOR A CULTURAL CONNECTION whenever possible, so I reached out to friends and colleagues in and from a variety of Spanish speaking countries to find out about what type of Christmas tree is most often put up, real or artificial. I put the results into a simple infographic that can be used to extend the question: Is your tree real or artificial, yes or no? I have purposely kept the text simple so even Novice Low students can access information. The circles are a general representation of the breakdown in each country represented (don't quote them as exact statistics :) ) A huge THANK YOU to all who helped me with this project!


Cultural Comparison of Christmas Trees in Spanish speaking countries

I ALSO RECORDED ONE OF MY 3RD GRADE CLASSES ANSWERING THE QUESTION ¿Has armado un árbol de navidad en casa? You can see the video here.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Christmas E Cards to Download in Multiple Languages

NEW CHRISTMAS E CARDS FOR 2017! Last year I debuted our FREE downloadable e cards, and have been hard at work making this year's set, featuring more languages! You can grab last year's if you missed them by clicking here :)

JUST CLICK ON THE LINK BELOW EACH E CARD, download and send some holiday cheer via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or email to family, friends and colleagues! Once again let's fill cyber space with multicultural and multilingual joy :)

French Christmas E Card
Click here to download
Spanish Christmas E Card
Click here to download
Russian New Years E card
Click here to download
Spanish Christmas E card
Click here to download
Bon nadal E card
Click here to download
German Christmas E Card
Click here to download

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Illustrated Chorus to the Traditional Villancico Campana sobre campana

I JUST LOVE THE SONG CAMPANA SOBRE CAMPANA, it is such a huge part of my Christmas each year, and I try to make it meaningful for my students, too. In 3rd and 4th grade, my students learn the chorus-it's easy, concrete, and repetitive, the perfect ingredients for an authentic resource for novice learners. I created this infographic which you can download for FREE by clicking here. During our winter assembly my kiddos sing the chorus, and hum the rest of the song. I use the version from the book/cd 'Villancicos' by Constanza Basaluzzo (available on Amazon), but there are many other wonderful choices on Youtube (I've put a few below the infographic). Enjoy and have fun!

Campana sobre campana letra ilustrada

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Tips for Assessment Part 2 - Ideas for Elementary Foreign Language Classes

ASSESSMENT IN ELEMENTARY FOREIGN LANGUAGE CLASSES is a daunting task, especially when you have literally hundreds and hundreds of students, and you need to manage tracking data in order to provide reliable and valid grades for report cards. In Part 1 of this series, I shared some ways I assess which have been successful (click here to read this post!) and in this one we're going to look at some ways to keep all that data straight (Part 3 deals with rubrics and determining a grade-coming soon!).

SO, GOT DATA? I SURE DO! On average, each of my classes has anywhere from 17-24 kiddos, and I am grading them on 5 standards (with sub categories under each one) and 3 work habits. I am sure you are faced with a similar number...and you just can't keep all that information in your head! (Or, at least, I wouldn't recommend it :) ) I do assessments for the 5 standards at the end of each theme I teach, plus a variety of mini assessments through out each theme. I also record formative assessment grades on a regular basis, both for the standards and for work habits. I will say, we grade on a 4 point scale (4 being Above and Beyond, 3- Meets, 2- Needs assistance, and 1- Area of Concern). We send out report cards at the end of each trimester, which is to say by the time the first one goes out at the beginning of December, I have seen each of my classes a total of approximately 12 hours (not factoring in holidays, field trips, assemblies, etc). That's not a whole lot of time to be grading a kiddo... but I digress...

Tips for Assessment in Elementary Foreign Language Class

LACK OF TIME NOTWITHSTANDING, I MARK DOWN DATA EVERY CLASS, whether it be for work habits, or a formal or informal assessment. Here are some examples of how I keep this data organized:

*CHARTS: Yes, we all use them! I started using this mini charts a few years ago to track work habit data. You could use them to track any type of formative data (or summative for that matter) over time- I like them because they are small and easily portable. Even though I am no longer on a cart, this is still a big consideration for me! #oldhabitsdiehard The ones in the picture below are for work habits (Using time wisely, taking care of materials & room, being focused & taking part in activities).  If you would like to download them for free, click here!

Tips for Assessment in Elementary Foreign Language Class

*REUSABLE DATA COLLECTION CHARTS: I had used a variation on this for a few years but found it time consuming to make new names, so switched to this creation this year and am loving it. I got some library pockets, marked each 4,3,2,1, & absent, then made strips with my kiddos names on them (one folder for each class). Sometimes it is challenging to get to my computer to input grades in the moment, so this system is fantastic as I am circulating around the room. To make it even easier for me, I used two colors, yellow for girls and blue for boys-searching for a name is quick and painless! I just stick their name strip in the appropriate pocket as I am grading, then input the grades later in my computer. And, if I want to make a particular note on a student, I can do so on the name strip. TO MAKE: Use file folders, such as manila ones (or super nice ones from Staples or other supply store!) and stick library pockets on the inside-be sure you have the openings pointed upward when the folder is closed on BOTH sides!. Label each pocket with a grade, along with one pocket for absent kiddos. Label the folder for the homeroom teacher-make one for each homeroom. Cut strips of paper and write kids names on them- I house them all in the 3 (Meets) because statistically most kids perform there, and therefore I only have to change a small number of kids-unless a large number bomb the activity, which prompts me to look at the assessment and try to figure out why! #maybeIneedtoreteach

Tips for Assessment in Elementary Foreign Language Class

*I LIKE TO SEE HOW MY KIDDOS ARE DOING OVER TIME,  especially with vocabulary we use on a regular basis. This is a great way to show growth over time-identify a vocabulary set which you consider key content, incorporate it regularly so kids practice it frequently, and track their responses. You should see an increase in responses, as well as more accurate responses over time, which you can then use to show growth. A set of vocabulary that lends itself particularly well to this is greetings, emotions, and mini conversation vocab. My kiddos do a greeting activity at the beginning of every class in which they greeting someone else and ask how she/he is doing. Over the course of the program, more and more vocabulary is added so kids have many choices and can express a variety of emotions and modifiers. I track their responses every class, using a simple system of checks (no prompt needed), a P (prompt is needed for kid to say phrase/word), - (even with prompt kiddo can't express in Spanish). Each class I have 6 kiddos take a turn (so we don't use all of class for this activity)- I use colored markers so I can see responses for each round. This gives me an idea of when they start adding new responses, which frequently happens over time. Here is an example (the T3 is for Trimester 3):

Tips for Assessment in Elementary Foreign Language Class

and one with P's- note how those change to checks over time:

Assessment in Elementary Foreign Language Class

Interested in this chart? You can download it for free here.

*AND SOMETIMES I MAKE NOTES ON STICKIES... every year I say I am going to get away from this practice, but there are those times when you just want to make a quick note and the stickie is the best way to go!

I hope this has been helpful! Please share your data tracking tricks in the comments- I would love to learn from you!


Monday, November 6, 2017

Cultural Connections: Comparing Turkeys in México & US as part of a Thanksgiving Theme in Spanish Class

WANT TO BRING CULTURE TO YOUR SPANISH CLASS AROUND THANKSGIVING? Here's a simple activity that is perfect for all ages- comparing TURKEYS! Those of us who live in the US are very familiar with the wild turkey of our woods and fields, relatively drab brown and once a contender as the national bird, but have you ever seen photos of the Ocellated Turkey of México? It's feathers are reminiscent of a peacock, with blues, purples, mauves, and more, making him quite a looker! This fancy turkey is a great way to infuse some culture into an otherwise very American holiday celebration, and little kiddos LOVE to talk about animals so you can be sure your students will be interested! (I have a picture of this turkey outside my classroom all year round, and my students regularly comment on it!).

Thanksgiving Turkey Comparison Activity for Spanish Class


*START BY SHOWING A PHOTO OF THE US WILD TURKEY; your kiddos will most likely be familiar with it! Ask some simple yes/no questions about him such as 'Is this turkey from _____ (insert your state name)? Do you like to eat turkey? Do you have turkeys at your house? (If you live in a rural location this is probably going to resonate with your students! We have them in backyards all over the place here in Maine ) Then, place him on a large map using a smaller picture (you might want to have several since there is wide distribution across the states)

*NEXT SHOW A PICTURE OF THE OCELLATED TURKEY- can you believe this is a turkey, too? Indicate where this turkey lives (NOTE: Ocellated Turkeys also live in Guatemala!) and place a small picture on the map in México/ Guatemala. You can find pictures of both turkeys on line; I have a few of the Ocellated Turkey (el pavo ocelado) saved on my Pinterest board here.

Thanksgiving Turkey Coloring Page Cultural Comparison for Spanish Class

*REVIEW COLORS BY IDENTIFYING THOSE OF EACH TURKEY (US & México)- project pictures of each turkey on a smartboard or have them printed out and ask kiddos to name the colors of each turkey. You can list the colors named underneath each turkey, and/or put them on sentence strips.

*LASTLY, KIDS CAN COLOR THE ACTIVITY PAGE, coloring each turkey appropriately. This is a great way to bring the learning together. You can download this activity page for FREE here.

*AS A FOLLOWUP ACTIVITY you can create a writing center activity with the photos and have the kids label the colors on each turkey.


Thanksgiving Turkey Activity Pages for Spanish Class