El Día de los Muertos is celebrated in many countries around the world on November 1st and 2nd. This holiday is celebrated nationwide in Bolivia, mostly on November 2nd, and is known as “El Día de los Difuntos.” They celebrate the return of the souls of their ancestors. In preparation to receive them, people typically set up altars with pictures, candles, flowers, fruit, and a special bread called “Tantawawas” which in the Quechua language means babies made out of bread. They also have a bread called “Tantachachis” which means grandparents made out of bread. This tradition is also shared with Perú, Ecuador, Argentina, and a specific region of far south Colombia called “Nariño,” where this kind of bread is called “guaguas.” Bolivian Tantawawas have a specific characteristic in which the faces placed on the bread are made out of clay.
This video below explains how this beautiful holiday is celebrated in Bolivia. People go to the cemeteries to paint graves and decorate them. They also set their offering at home where it is important to have horses to help the souls arrive to the table. There are also stairs made out of bread to help the souls go back to the sky. The videos below have been helpful for me to educate myself about this holiday, as well as exploring Bolivia’s official website for tourism and culture. Please feel free to watch the videos to learn more.
Get inspired and create your own Tantawawas in class. I know time is limited, so I recommend you use modeling clay with your students, acknowledging that we need to be respectful of this tradition and share with your students why a different material is being used in class.
I was able to find white and brown clay. I mixed them up to produce a shade closer to the real bread. I drew the face of the Tantawawa on a piece of white paper and cut it out to place it on the Tantawawa shape. Here are the results:
A few years ago the science teacher at my school approached me with an exciting idea. It was September, and she started the year off teaching about the Monarch butterfly migration. She wanted to create a cross curricular connection and shared with me the idea of joining a symbolic butterfly migration through an organization called “Journey North.” It was the best idea ever! She taught the butterfly life cycle in her science class, which included raising the butterflies in her classroom. She also taught the Monarch migration and why they are important connectors of ecosystems and landscapes.
In our Spanish class we learned about the butterfly migration traveling from north to south because it was the fall. These are some of the questions we used and might help you start a conversation in class. Having a map and a paper butterfly helps a lot! ¿Dónde vivimos? ¿Vivimos en Colombia o en Estados Unidos? ¿Cuál es la estación? ¿Es el verano? ¿Es el otoño? ¿Qué animal es? ¿Es un perro? ¿Es un gato? ¿Es una mariposa? ¿Es un gato o una mariposa? ¿Qué clase de mariposa es? ¿Por qué van las monarcas al sur? ¿Adónde van las monarcas? ¿Adónde en México van las monarcas? ¿Cuándo van las monarcas a Michoacán? ¿Qué se celebra en México el 1 y 2 de noviembre? ¿Qué representan las monarcas para las personas en Michoacán? Each student decorated small paper butterflies and wrote basic information such as: Yo me llamo _________. Yo tengo ______ años. Yo vivo en __________. Mi color favorito es___________. We also decorated a bigger butterfly the size of a filing folder and added a picture of our class in the middle. We also needed to include a self-addressed, stamped envelope (10” X 13”) in order to get our butterflies in the spring. I uploaded a picture of a big butterfly to the Journey North website and shared it with parents. On the map, we were able to see the schools that were participating in the country, as well our our big butterfly. We made a connection with the homeroom teachers. During their reading time students had different books related to butterflies and also to “El Día de los Muertos.” It’s believed that Monarchs are the souls of the departed and loved ones, and they arrive in Michoacán to join the celebration. Students read “Uncle Monarch” in their classrooms, and that helped us make a connection to explore the Day of the Dead celebration.
We also got to say “adiós” to our real butterflies before they embarked on their journey south.
In Spanish class, we read a bilingual book called “El Día de los Muertos.” It led us to make a comparison between Halloween and this beautiful celebration for them to understand the meaning of the Day of the Dead and why it’s important to the Mexican people – and how it differs from Halloween.
When the spring came, we had an awesome surprise! We got mail from Journey North with beautiful paper butterflies made by children in Mexico and other parts of the United States. This was an amazing experience not only for the teachers who got to work together, but also for the children who were excited about their paper butterflies. This is also an opportunity to raise awareness about Monarchs and what could happen if they go extinct. Thinking about joining the journey this year? Click here to visit the link to learn how to participate and download the “Teacher Packet” with all the steps to join the symbolic migration. The deadline to join is around the first week of October, so make sure you don’t miss the date. Visit Señora Speedy’s blog to read what she has done in her class with the Monarch butterfly migration. Also, visit Mundo de Pepita’s blog to read up on her experience too! Last, but not least, I recorded this song with some friends in 2012 to use in my classes. I am not the best singer, but had a lot of fun recording this song.
Yes! Another school year has ended, and now it’s time to reflect upon on it. I have always been good about writing a list OF reflections at the end of the school year, thinking about what worked or what didn’t, what I need to continue working on, and what I will keep doing in the new school year. However, since it’s essentially a note to myself, I rarely benefit from anyone else’s experiences (something I value highly!) and I often lose the list during the relaxation and shuffle / travel of the summer. This year I decided to use my blog as an open forum to reflect on my school year. I know it will always be here (unless Blogger shuts down!) so I can come to back to it when I need it. I have also saved a copy in Google Drive, something I suggest you can use to safely store your reflections too! This document can also be used as a reference to set your goals for the new school year.
Teaching in the Target Language
As a native speaker, I find it an easy task staying in the target language (TL) and keeping my instruction at the proficiency level of my students. I come from teaching in a FLES programs where we were required to stay 100% in the TL, to the point that my students thought that I couldn’t speak English. Yes, the children were trying harder to communicate with me in the TL, but there was more to it than that. Once I moved to a different school, the policies about teaching 100% in the TL changed. That was when I realized that I had been missing an opportunity to connect with my students and get to know a little bit more about them. It was okay for them to use their L1 to communicate with me during recess time. I feel that because I am a native speaker, they need to know that I am bilingual and that I also have interest in their language and culture. Keeping my class at 90 to 95 % TL in my classroom continues to be my goal.
Whole Brain Teaching
This was my first full year using WBT. As a result I feel that my students were more engaged, and I spent less time focusing on discipline issues in my class. Due to the limited amount of time I have with my students I only use level 1 in WBT, which involves these steps:
1. Five Classroom Rules
2. Teach OK
3. Attention Getters
5. Hands and Eyes
I will need to be more consistent in using the steps and definitely need a wider variety of “Attention Getters” in Spanish. If you use WBT, please share your Attention Getters with me! Also if you would like to try WBT next year, here is a link to the visuals in Spanish.
I use the WBT Scoreboard system for the whole group. I use the “pesos system” for individual participation. If a student challenges himself/herself to stay in the target language, they would get a copy of a printed peso to keep in their billeteras (a paper craft made at the beginning of the year). There were three opportunities for the children to use their play pesos to buy from my “tienda”. The tienda was filled with pesos, stickers and erasers. We got to practice sentences such as “¿Cuánto cuesta?,” “yo quiero un lápiz,” or “deme un lápiz, por favor.”
The “pesos system” got a little bit messy by the middle of the school year when students started to lose their pesos and billeteras, and, as a result, a lot of feelings of frustration were in the air. I have to find a better way to keep track of their points which translate into participation using the TL during
When using Interactive Notebooks, it needs to be clear that if you let your elementary students do this alone, they will take a lot time on it! This is my third year using Interactive Notebooks, and I sometimes forget about this. It is also necessary to put the samples together in advanced to have a visual to show to your students so they know what the final outcome will be. It is also important to be sure that the activity is at the level of your students. Something that has worked for me is to do activities with my students at the same time, making sure that they don’t get behind and always leave coloring for the end. Don’t use liquid glue – don’t even have it in the classroom because I learned the hard way this year when one of my students spilled glue all over his notebook. Glue sticks are the best! What I really love about Interactive Notebooks is that at the end of the school year students have a resource to take home to practice during the summer. I didn’t use them a lot this year, which I regret a lot because the excitement about this in past years has been great!
I started my school year strong on this, making videos for my students and sending communication with families about it. I teach at the elementary level, and the success of this really depends on how involved and available parents are to be able to sit with their kids. I might give it one more try in the new school year, but not keeping it as my priority goal.
I have to confess that one of my biggest fears is passing down stereotypes of other cultures to my students. Remember that I have reserved 5 to 10% of the L1 to use in the classroom when needed. On the issue of culture is where I give myself permission to use the L1 in class, especially to clarify any messages that can come across as stereotypes. I know some teachers have an strong opinion about doing this completely in the TL, but I do have to confess that I feel better if I allow room for using the L1 to clarify and maybe have deeper conversations about other cultures. That’s what has worked for me so far!
I incorporated some “light” use of the culture into my daily routine comparing the weather and temperature in different Spanish countries and sometimes even calling my mom in Colombia to allow my students to have basic conversations with her, and they loved it! I still have to work on stepping out of my comfort zone to share with my students more about cultures other than Colombia and Mexico.
Communication with Parents
I used a website hosted on Haiku, but because it was password protected it made it hard for some parents to access it during their busy routines. My goal was to get rid of paper newsletters, and I did, but the password protected site wasn’t helpful this year. I have heard of other teachers using Instagram and other social media outlets to share with parents while still protecting the privacy of their students. I might look into it and decide on what to use next year. I am open to any suggestions you might have, so please share them with me in the comment box!
What Am I excited About?
After 15 years of being in Boston (which is also the total of years I have been in the US) and 7 years of teaching at the same school, my family and I will be relocating to Austin, TX this summer. I will be teaching in grades K-5 at an elementary school, so I am excited to be working with a wider range of groups. I was the only PreK-3 Spanish teacher in the school I was teaching at in Boston, and now I will be part of a team of two more teachers teaching the same grades! How sweet is that?! I am excited to have more companeras.
This summer I will be attending the iFLT conference in Tennessee for the first time, and although I already use TPR I can’t wait to take it further and start with TPRS!
How did your school year go? What are you plans for the summer? Any goal for the new school year yet?
Over several years of teaching Spanish I have collected coins and bills from different Spanish speaking countries. Either someone brings them to me or I collect them during my own travel. I got to a point where I didn’t know what to do with them. It occurred to me that I could use them for a center in my class. I laminated all the bills for students to manipulate easily and placed them with the coins in a basket. I printed and laminated maps where all the Spanish speaking countries are listed.
This is now a center for early finishers or when I do a center-based class. My students really enjoy looking at the different bills and coins, comparing them to the United States bills, and locating the countries on the map. If you don’t have real bills, you can print a few from the internet and it will serve the same purpose.
I have decided to go ahead and end the school year with an engaging project that can be used at the beginning of the new school year. Every year, from September 15th to October 15th, Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated in the United States. It’s a month to celebrate the Hispanic presence in the US and contributions to the country.
This celebration starts just a week after the school year has started here in Massachusetts. Because it’s so early in the school year, I feel it’s hard to start my class with a project when I am working hard just to make sure everyone understands the routine and dynamic of the class as we get used to new year.
I found a simple project posted on a middle school blog run by Señorita Lona. This past school year, I piggy-backed on her project for creating this poster. I had my third grade students pick a famous Hispanic person from the list below.
They did basic research on Wikipedia to find the person’s full name, date of birth, country of origin, and why the person was famous. They had to pretend they all were alive to be able to write the sentences in the present tense. Due to the limited time I had available for the project, I gave my students the questions in advance that they had to glue on their posters.
After getting all the information together, they had to answer using full sentences and decorate their posters.
Many of the students worked in pairs during this project. We recorded their voices with one being the interviewer and the other one being the interviewee, using a free version of the app called “Voice Record.” Then I created the QR codes with a free program called “QR code.” I plan to display the posters around the school in September and invite family members, school staff, and faculty to use their devices to listen to the children reading their interviews. That will be a starting point for my students to help celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month in my school.
This game has been motivating my second graders a lot lately. We did a unit on family members, we talked about the diversity in families, and they then described their own immediate families orally and in a small written project. I modified the well known game called “Who Stole the Cookie for the Cookie Jar?” to support this unit. Instead of a cookie, I printed a picture of an empanada. This added a small cultural twist to the game (and made me hungry for Colombian comfort food…).
I told my students the story of abuelita, whomade just one empanada and that someone in the family had eaten it without her permission. I added a detective to this version. I printed a picture of a detective and gave it to one student. I also gave printed pictures of different family members to the rest of my students. I got them from my “La Familia” set that I have in my TpT store. When you play it, you can also print pictures of family members from other sources.
I gave each student in the room one picture to represent a family member, and I made sure to include pets such as a cat and dog. Before playing the game, I made sure to go over the lines of the chant. We chanted every line and also helped the detective say his/her line.
How to play the game?
Once you have assigned the different pictures of family members to the students, choose one student to be the detective. The detective will have to leave the classroom. While the detective is outside the room, give a student with the picture of a family member the picture of the empanada. Everyone in the room has to pretend to have the empanada in their hands. The detective comes back to the classroom and will have three opportunities to guess who has the empanada. The class chants: ¿Quién se comió la empanada de mi abuela? (two times) The detective answers: ¿El papá se comió la empanada de la abuela? (two times) Usually the class helps the detective chant. Depending on who has the empanada the class will answer: “El papá no se comió la empanada de la abuela.” or “El papá sí se comió la empanada de la abuela.” Remember that the detective has three turns to guess. You can play this game for a long time in class and get everyone using some language skills that they’ve learned in your class.