Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Dia de Reyes y la Hora de Código

Over Thanksgiving break I was trying to decide if I wanted to try and teach coding since Hour of Code was coming up. And then there was the decision of which holiday traditions I should try to tackle when it dawned on me that I didn't have to choose between the two but I could combine them! So right before break my students learned about Los Reyes Magos traditions in Spain and used coding to get the Kings and Santa Claus to their different destinations.

First we watched these two videos.

In the younger grades, we compared and contrasted Papa Noel with Los Reyes Magos and sorted different items like los zapatos, las calcetines navideños, Roldofo el reno, los camellos, etc.

With the older students, I used this awesome infographic made by El Mundo de Pepita and students had to agree or disagree with the following statement, "Christmas celebrations in Spain are similar to celebrations here in the United States." Using evidence from the infographic, they had to support their position. We did do this part in English but only because I find reflecting on culture difficult to do in the TL at the novice level. With the rest of the unit's instruction in Spanish, this made up of my 10%.

Once students had an idea of who Los Reyes Magos and Papa Noel were we moved on to some coding. First we practiced together in a group, learning the direction words arriba, abajo, derecha, and izquierda. Then we applied them on the Hour of Code site with Mapas Felices and Laberintos with Angry Birds. (I did skip a few levels but my students didn't seem to suffer, mostly because they have done Hour of Code before with our STEM teacher.)

Next, we combined the two concepts - coding and Los Reyes Magos - by coding on paper. They had to get Los Reyes to Bélen and Papá Noel to the house by writing the code. Then we did it "live." Students moved the shoes around on a giant grid I had taped on my floor and then they wrote the code to get one of the kings to the shoe and deliver the gift. Once they were done they read their code aloud while one of their classmates listened and followed their directions - wearing a crown and holding a present of course!

Tres Reyes esperando por el mandato "Des el regalo."

A 5th grader listening to the code his classmates wrote.

The last two days before break, when students are the craziest, I let them get on the Hour of Code site with a partner. My older students I let play any game they wanted as long as it was in Spanish - most chose Frozen or Minecraft. My younger students I let play Star Wars since it had the vocabulary we had learned and wasn't too difficult that they got frustrated. It made for a fun, relaxing, and educational way to spend the days before break.

The computer lab teacher was also doing Hour of Code right before break so I offered extra special purple bubbles (on our Si Se Puede bubble sheets purple indicates they've been using their Spanish outside of class) to anyone who changed the language to Spanish in computer lab.

When we get back from break we will review the celebrations related to Día de Reyes and if they've been very good everyone will get a small candy cane taped to the shoe they've colored on Friday, January 6th. We'll also do a fun and quick assessment using Plickers.

Overall, this unit will take about eight 25 minute class periods but could be adapted for longer classes and for most age levels. Although most of my kindergartners didn't quite grasp the coding concepts (they were the only ones who didn't code alone on the computer for this reason) it was still a good introduction for them.

If you're interested in the coding on paper worksheets you can get them in my Teachers Pay Teachers store. 

So that's Hour of Code in Spanish class! I think I might do this every year. I can even change the Christmas tradition we study - I could see doing this with Las Posadas or Nochevieja traditions. Do you teach Hour of Code in your class? How do you teach Christmas traditions in Spain and Latin America? Share in the comments below or on Twitter with the hashtag #earlylang!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Picasso Portraits - Integrating Art & World Languages

Right before the break, my second graders finished making and writing about Picasso inspired portraits. I got this idea from my awesome colleague, Alfonso de Torres Núñez, I know he's presented it at KWLA and at ACTFL on how to integrate Art and World Languages.

First, we started out by singing Todo Mi Cuerpo and playing Diego Dice to practice body parts. Then we looked at some Picasso portraits and talked about the colors, how the women feel in the paintings - tired, sad, happy etc -  and we labeled their body parts. I introduced the word cubismo - which they recognized from their Art class because the Art teacher had just finished teaching about Picasso in her class in English. (I wish I could say the timing was on purpose but I just got lucky!)

We practiced by doing a Roll a Picasso, although I scratched out the English and wrote in the Spanish body parts and numbers.

I also meant to read them this book - Picasso's Trousers -  (translating it to Spanish as I read)  but because of interruptions for field trips and assemblies this time of year I only managed to that in one class. Still it's a great book that has great illustrations and is easy to understand even in Spanish.

And if you need a dynamite sub plan, you could leave this book along with the Roll A Picasso for a great cultural lesson that doesn't require a sub to know any Spanish!

Then we made our own portraits. The first part was a listening exercise. I passed out pieces of white paper, crayons, and scraps of construction paper in different colors. Then I gave them directions in Spanish of how to draw their portrait.

Ok, clase - ahora vamos a dibujar la cabeza. Dibujan la cabeza. La cabeza es un círculo. Para dibujar la cabeza necesitan dibujar un círculo. 

Para los ojos necesitan un papelito. ¿Qué color quieren? Pueden usar rojo o verde o azul, no me importa el color. Ya dibujan los ojos en el estilo de Picasso. Cuando terminan con los ojos pegánlos en sus papeles. 

You get the idea. Most students understood because of the repetition but if they didn't then they could see it as I did it. This took us two classes to finish because I only have 25 minutes at a time. Then they finished coloring their portraits and cut them out. They wrote a paragraph using sentence frames on the board to describe their picture.

Of course, some students work a lot faster than others so those that got finished early could do a fast finisher. The last day when we only had a handful of stragglers I set them to work on making flip books, which I assembled and sent back with them to put in their class libraries. 

Their smiles and pleas of  "Can we take these home today?" combined with how well they did on their mini assessment make this unit a winner. ¡Gracias a Alfonso por la idea!

How do you integrate art in your World Language class? Share in the comments below or on Twitter with the hashtag #earlylang!

Saturday, December 10, 2016


I absolutely love going to conferences. I've been to my state conference every year since I started teaching in the States. I went to SCOLT two years ago. This year I got to go to ACTFL for the first time and it was amazing!  So many sessions! So many more elementary people - especially at the NNELL Breakfast! So many ideas  - big and small!

I know this is a little late - most people have already blogged their impressions - but I came home and turned around and went on a family vacation to Florida. And then there was the flurry of catching up the week after break because I hadn't done any planning because I was on a family vacation in Florida. But I think the extra time (and the 14 hours in the car) helped me to better process what I can use and not use from this year's conference.

Today I'm sharing a small bite - something that isn't mind blowing or completely changed my thinking toward teaching but something I was already doing but with a small twist I'd never thought of that makes big difference and that I started using right away.

On Friday afternoon I attended Implementing Content Based Instruction: A Tool For Teachers presented by Dr. Heather Hendry. She demonstrated a lesson on density by having us see if different school supplies would float or sink. At the same time we incorporated math by graphing how many floated and how many sank and how many floated. We did comparisons by talking about if the different items were more dense or less dense than the water. It was a great take on something we all teach.

But what I really loved was how she had us give our opinion before we put each item in the water. Every person had a paper that had "float" on one side and "sink" on the other side that we held up. Those of us who spoke Spanish (and were more comfortable in the TL of the lesson) shouted out our answers in addition to showing our cards. The teachers who taught other languages started by just holding up their card but by the end were also shouting out their answers.

It was fantastic - this one piece of paper gave us automatic differentiation and reinforced literacy. It helped the class stay in the target language and while the teacher could easily see what each student thought.

Kindergarteners after their Thanksgiving performance - hence all the turkeys!

And there are a million and one ways to use it. I came back to school and immediately made them for my kindergartners with Me gusta on one side and No me gusta on the other side. My third graders are using them with Estoy de acuerdo and No estoy de acuerdo. I envision using them with Quiero and Necesito with wants and needs. With same and different when doing comparisons. The list goes on and on.

Like I said, something really, really small and not even the heart of the presentation but something I loved and am using right away in lots of different ways.

How do you have student show what they're thinking in class? Share in the comments below!

Saturday, December 3, 2016

La noche de las velitas

Need a holiday craft that is culturally relevant? How about La noche de las velitas in Colombia? I got the idea for this from Fun For Spanish Teachers. December 7th is a special night in Colombia. People light candles, put out luminaries, party with friends and families, and set off fireworks. It's the start of the Christmas season. It also makes for a fun and interesting cultural lesson.

La noche de las velitas lesson (takes three 25 minute lessons):

You will need - paper bags, glue, scissors, tissue paper, crayons or markers, LED tea lights (buy some here on the cheap!), La noche de las velitas reading exercise and La noche de las velitas worksheet.

1. In the first 25 minute class have students complete the La noche de las velitas reading exercise using RallyCoach. 

2. In the second class have students start their farolitos. I had the  La noche de las velitas worksheet already in their folders so for their bellringer they had to get it out and get started. Then they glued the completed sheet to a paper bag. 

3. Once students have their worksheet glued to their bag they drew an easy shape on the front of the bag. They open the bag, punch through the middle of shape with their scissors and cut it out. With a glue stick they put a LOT of glue all around the edges of their shape on the INSIDE of the bag. Then they took a piece of tissue paper, inserted into the bag, and pressed it into place. Finally they decorated around the cut out shape with crayons.

I might have gotten bored after a few classes & started making Dr. Who themed farolitos.

4. In the third class, students got 10 minutes to finish up their farolitos. Then we passed out las velitas, turned off the lights, and sang along to Mi Burrito Sabanero and Feliz Navidad. At the end they returned my candle, but took their farolito (with the information about what La noche de las velitas is glued to the back) home to share with their families.

My helpers turning on las velitas and getting ready to pass them out.

My students really enjoyed learning about this tradition and it was a good way to redirect all that extra holiday energy into something fun and cultural. How do you teach winter celebrations in your class? Share in the comments below or on Twitter with the hashtag #earlylang!