Nothing like the sounds of traditional music, and the stories behind it! I love when I am able to find a song that belongs to and represents one of the Spanish speaking cultures – and use it in my classes. Bringing traditional songs to the classroom is a way to teach our students that the Spanish speaking world in not just one culture, but that it’s made up of many cultures. It’s a way to show that there is all kinds of cultural diversity out there. However, using traditional songs in elementary school is not an easy task. Finding traditional songs that suit the levels we teach can be challenging because sometimes they have too much vocabulary and complicated structures and sometimes not enough repetition. So I know I have to work on simplifying them for my students to comprehend. Sometimes I just choose parts of a song to focus on, which usually happens to be the chorus.
This is how I recommend teaching traditional song at the elementary level:
Identify the vocabulary or structures you want to focus on.
Provide background about where the song is from. Use a map to locate the country where the song is from – and with today’s technology you are even able to prepare your students with virtual field trips using Google Earth. You can even make a play passport for your students to keep track of when they learn a song from certain country.
Make it comprehensible. Create a slide show with images from the song. Taking a screenshot works great! Use the Movie Talk strategy to talk about what the children see in the picture. If there is no video available you can create your own slide show with pictures that are representative of the song. (See sample below.)
This may vary a little from teacher to teacher, but I let my students listen to the whole song without stopping the first time.
Focus on creating meaning. I also like using TPR and create gestures that go along with the song. When songs are too complex for my level, I focus on the chorus which most of the time provides a lot of repetition.
This is also optional, but if you happen to have some of the instruments that are used in the songs, pass them around and have your students experience them.
If you have a library in your classroom, print the Powerpoints, laminate the pages, bind them together and add them to your library.
Sing and enjoy!
This is one of my favorite songs. I used it with my kindergarten students this year, and their reaction was beautiful! The first time they heard it they were in love with it, but some of them expressed sadness. I love how they were able to feel the song without the need to understand every single word.
I created a Powerpoint to talk about the song before teaching it to the class. I took screenshots of the video and added more images to use while taking about the pictures. Believe it or not, there is a lot to talk about in these pictures. Below you may find a sample of a script that I used while talking about the pictures. Expect some of the children to come up with more details. I used this song with kindergarten close to the end of the school year. I noticed that sometimes my students participated by using English, but I let it go to avoid frustration and would do the following instead. For example, one of my students said “There is a sun!” Then I pointed to pictures saying “Hay un sol,” then pointed at the side pictures on the slide, saying “Hay una luna.” Then I went back to the slide and said “¿Hay un sol o una luna?” In this way, I was giving them some vocabulary prompts and avoided some frustration at this level, allowing it to flow naturally.
Here is an example of the conversation I had with my students using the slideshow I created to make the song comprehensible.
¿Qué animal es? ¿Es un perro? ¿Es un gato? ¿Es una llama? No, no es una llama. ¡Es una vicuñita! ¿Es un perro o una vicuñita? ¿Dé que color es la vicuñita? ¿Hay vicuñitas en Austin, Texas? ¿Qué animales hay en Texas? ¿Dónde hay vicuñitas? Hay vicuñitas en Perú, Bolivia, Argentina y Chile. This is a great opportunity to pull out a map!
¿Qué animal es? ¡Hay una persona! La persona mira la vicuñita. ¿La persona es amiga de vicuñita? ¡Hay un sol! ¿Hay un sol o una luna? Hay cerros, muchos cerros. ¿Hay playas? ¿Hay playas o cerros? ¿Hay playas en Austin?
Recycle structures from the previous slides. You will see that by this time the children will start recalling vocabulary on their own. You can add “¡Hay otra persona! Hay un niño y una niña.” You can go to the class and count how many niños and niñas are in the class. Again, recycle structures from previous slides, for example “La persona es amiga de vicuñita.”
¿Qué animal es? ¿Es un elefante? ¿Es un perro? ¿Es un gato o una vicuñita? La vicuñita dice, “yo soy vicuñita.” La vicuñita dice “¿yo soy un perro?” La vicuñita dice “¿yo soy un perro o yo soy vicuñita?”
Hay otra persona. ¿Es una niña o un niño? La persona no es amiga de vicuñita. Es un cazador (hunter). ¿Es un doctor o es un cazador?
Vicuñita está triste. ¿Vicuñita está triste o feliz? Vicuñita no está feliz. ¿Vicuñita está en la playa o en los cerros?
Hay lana, mucha lana. ¿Hay lana o plástico? El pelo de vicuñita es bueno para lana. El cazador quiere la lana de vicuñita para hacer un suéter.
Hay un círculo. ¿Hay un círculo o un triángulo? Vicuñita está con sus amigos.
Here are the lyrics of the song. I also created a Powerpoint with the lyrics, that I also use when not using the video to sing along. I chose just a few structures that I really wanted my students to get from this song. I might focus on more “chunks of language” with grades that have had more exposure to Spanish. These are highlighted in the lyrics below:
Del cerro yo vengo con mi vicuñita,
Del cerro yo vengo con mi vicuñita.
Cantando y bailando para mi cholita,
Cantando y bailando para mi cholita.
Yo soy vicuñita y vengo de la Puna,
Yo soy vicuñita y vengo de la Puna.
Vengo escapando de los cazadores,
Vengo escapando de los cazadores.
Mala ya la hora de ser vicuñita,
mala ya la hora de ser vicuñita.
Todos me persiguen por mi lana fina,
todos me persiguen por mi lana fina.
Last, but not least, we create gestures together to go along with our singing of the song.
This version is also great to show your students the instruments that are used to play this song:
It definitely takes time to make sure the song is understandable for the children and even more at the beginning levels, but the reward is worth it. My students kept asking for this song, and a few of them shared with me in the end of their year evaluation / reflections that La vicuñita was their favorite song. I shared a post on Instagram where you can hear just how much they were feeling the song.
Have fun singing!
You might also like these resources available on Teachers Pay Teachers
I have made it a tradition to end each school year with a post reflecting on the year. It’s become a way for me to keep track of my progress as an Elementary Spanish teacher. I have been teaching for 20 years, and every year I find myself ditching things that didn’t work, adapting old things, and incorporating new ideas. I have discovered that I always like to try new things each year. This was my second year teaching in Austin. I am no longer the only Spanish teacher at the elementary level, as I was in the schools where I taught in Boston. I am extremely happy that I have two new compañeras that I get to learn from everyday. Given that this was my second year at this school, it felt better than last year. I spent last year getting to know my new school and the community. I also came to a school where part of the curriculum had already been created. Things were in many ways easier this year, and I feel that I was able to find my voice and share more ideas with my fellow teachers to bring new things into our curriculum. (Wow! I can’t believe how serious my post sounds! Believe me! I am not that seria!)
Teaching in the Target Language
My goal is to stay at 90% to 95% in the target language. There are days when I am able to stay in the target language 100%, but there are days when I feel that using that 10% of English (that I like to say I keep in my pocket) for classroom management, making sure every student understands, and making connections with my students is totally fine. My students clearly know that I am from Colombia, and I am immigrant, so I also want them to know that I am bilingual, and since I am teaching them a language, I want to be a multi-dimensional role model for them.
Let’ be honest! We all have those days when kids are all over the place! This year I made a poster with more simple rules. I used that poster as reference all the time, and I noticed that having the poster close allowed me to be more consistent and make sure the class was a safe learning space for everyone. I can’t take credit for the simple rules. One of my colleagues shared them, and since I love designing resources, I turned them into a poster for my classes. I placed the poster in front of the room, and I could refer to it when it was needed.
I have had years that I haven’t use a system and years where I have used different reward systems. For example, los billetes, la clase/la maestra points from Whole Brain Teaching, Secret Student, and, this year, Class Dojo, but for some reason this felt tiring to me so I decided not to use the points in the middle of the school year, and I can say that it was a relief. I felt that I was wasting time when children were trading their points for prizes and sometimes it felt that some of them were willing to work hard and follow directions just for the points. I also asked my students to vote, and many of them voted for not having points because it was stressful for some of them. At this point I don’t plan on using any point system next school year. I will focus more on using Responsive Classroom since I have been trained in it, and it was used widely in the previous schools where I taught. I will also use the SEL (Social Emotional Learning) program we use in my current school.
I am a brain break fanatic and I used a lot of them this school year. Some of my students wrote in their feedback that they feel that I need to use even more, so I plan to look for new ones this summer to add to my repertoire. Yoga worked great with my kindergarten and first grade students. I am looking forward to incorporating more mindfulness in the Spanish class since the school has a strong program too.
This is something I still need to work more on. Of course, because I am from Colombia I love teaching and sharing my culture with my students. We have included in our curriculum to share facts about two countries per month, but I still feel that we need to study this more deeply. Goal for next year!
Communication With Parents
In all the years I have been teaching, I can say that this year was by far the one I have communicated the least with parents. We are a team of three, and it wasn’t easy sometimes to coordinate to send newsletters. We have had conversations about using Seesaw more to communicate with parents. So far, I have used it as an assessment tool, but not as much I as I need too. Working on this next year!
What Am I Excited About Next Year?
It will be my third year teaching in Austin, so I know the students, the community and the curriculum! I am excited about being able to finally add my own voice and identity to the curriculum. I am excited to continue learning more about CI and TPRS, and I will also be writing stories! I also look forward to attending some conferences and maybe presenting again! And most important, really using the summer to recharge!
How was your school year? What goals do you have for next school year?
Every year before the school year is over, I like creating a list with resources for students to continue practicing their Spanish during the summer. My list normally includes free online resources, information about cultural venues and events in the city where the school is located, YouTube channels, a list of songs we learned in class this year, and suggested books and resources for parents to find in their local library. Putting the list together requires a little bit of time, but I always feel like it will be worth my time an enrich the learning for my students that I’ve worked so hard to cultivate over the course of the year. Click here to see a sample of the list.
These are some of the resources I have added to my summer newsletter for 2018:
I hope you find all these resources helpful to create your own list. Even if your school year has already ended, you can still put the list together and share it with families. If you have any other resources that you know of and would like me to add to the list, please share in the comments.
Every April is celebrated in the United States “National Poetry Month,” and I couldn’t let April go by without sharing some of my favorite poems in Spanish. The poems are a goldmine in the Spanish literature. Since I teach in a FLES program, I only share portions of the poems because some words are not easy for elementary aged students in a FLES program to understand. I’ve included poems by Juan Ramón Jimenez (Spain), Federico García Lorca (Spain), Gloria Fuertes García (Spain), and Amado Nervo (México). Download them all here!
Let’s be honest! Paying for professional development from a teacher salary is not an easy thing. Many school districts also have limited budgets to pay for outside professional development. I remember a time when I really wanted to attend a weekend conference in the same state of the school where I taught, and I had to put my name in a hat along with seven other Spanish teachers to choose to winners to go to the conference. I remember being sad because I didn’t have the opportunity to attend. Going to a conference or a training also give you the opportunity to meet other colleagues face to face, and as I refer to it, “sharing the same air with people who like to do the same you do.”
Nowadays, there are endless possibilities for free professional development online. The teaching community is one of those communities where individuals really like to find ways to give back and offering opportunities for others to have access to professional development at no cost is one of them. Planning your summer? Here are some options for you!
The University of Texas at Austin has a complete course called “Foreign Language Teaching Methods.” It has different modules for teachers to get training in the different aspects of language teaching.