A few years ago I wrote a short story to use with my students to make a curricular connection with the butterfly life cycle in second grade science class. It is a twist on ” The Very Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle, which many of my students are already familiar with, and it’s also a popular title in kindergarten. This new version I created of my own story has more repetition and simple structures.
Before teaching the story you might want to pull out a map and point at the different countries mentioned in it: Colombia, México, La República Dominicana, Cuba, Argentina, and Perú. There are some traditional dishes mentioned in the story. You might want to talk about them. This will also be a great opportunity to talk about your students’ favorite food.
Pre-teach some of the vocabulary using TPR: va, tengo hambre, come, canta, duerme and dice.
Read the story to your class. Some questions you might want to consider while reading the story.
¿Dónde está la oruga? ¿Está en Colombia o Bolivia?
¿Qué come la oruga en Colombia? ¿Come pizza? ¿Come sancocho?
¿Qué hace la oruga? ¿La oruga duerme o corre?
¿La oruga es un perro ahora ? ¿La oruga es un perro o una mariposa?
¿La oruga dice “hola”? ¿La oruga dice “hola” o “adiós”?
After reading the story I like going back and talking about each picture. Talk about the colors in the different flags included in the story.
Act it out! You can have individual actors or have different groups going to different places. Print some masks, pictures of the different foods and flags of the countries included in the story.
Click here to download the story “La oruga va Latinoamérica.”
This story is a great follow up of the story I do during the fall called “Monarca va a Michoacán.” I also use this story to create a connection with their science curriculum, as well as to create a cultural connection with “El Día de los Muertos” celebration in Mexico. Read more on how I use “Monarca va a Michoacán” here!
To be able to talk about the integration of culture in a Comprehensible Input class, it is first necessary to define “Comprehensible Input” and “culture.”
The “Comprehensible Input” theory is one of the theories of language acquisition proposed by the American linguist Stephen Krashen. In his hypothesis, Dr. Krashen explains that there can only be the acquisition of a language when the input, linguistic component or message is understood by the learner, but in addition to being understandable it should be of interest to the learner and that it be about an issue with which the learner can relate and connect. Visit Comprensible.com to learn more about CI.
Culture is a term that has been defined by different authors in different fields. The definition most commonly used and that challenges people in different fields is that of Clifford Geertz (cited in Ortner, 1999) who defines culture as “a system of values and beliefs that represent a group, as a network of meanings within which people live. Meanings encoded in symbolic forms (language, artifacts, etiquette, rituals, calendars, etc.)” (p.3).
Taking into account the definitions of “Comprehensible Input” and “culture,” I will explain a little the process of how I integrate these two elements in practice and offer you some advice, too.
I find it helpful to start with the goal or the objective of the topic. Why do I want to share this topic in my class? Where do I want my students to arrive with the exploration of this topic in class?
Then I think about the developmental stage and the linguistic level of the students. Is it a topic that is easily understood with the level of L2? Is the subject relevant to the students’ age?
I suggest you consider this approach:
Define the theme or cultural content that will be shared with the student. Once the theme is defined, make sure that the content that is going to be shared is true and does not fall into the perpetuation of stereotypes. If possible, check that information with someone from the culture. Another important aspect to take into account, especially at the beginner levels or early grades, is whether it is a specific issue and whether it allows generating connections and space for comparisons. The cultural theme should not be limited only to the culture of L2.
Determine the input: In this case, it is not important for the students to understand each word, but the input must be by context and the use of cognates.
Determine what type of material can be used to support the topic: Photos, videos, songs, artifacts or authentic resources, etc.
It is possible to teach culture in a world language class, but in this case, it is very important that this input is understandable so that there is a success in the fusion of culture and Comprehensible Input.
Here are some resources that might help you get started with this topic. Ready, set, go!
I have these Day of the Dead books in my classroom and have seen how my students get motivated to look at them to read and look at the art. In the elementary Spanish program at the school where I teach, the Day of the Dead is one of the cultural explorations we do to help our students to understand what this celebration means to many communities in Mexico. We are not celebrating it, but we aim to show appreciation of a tradition that’s important to another culture. The Day of the Dead is not related to Halloween. The Day of the Dead is a two-day celebration to remember loved ones who have passed away. This is a happy and colorful celebration. Here are my five top book picks:
Uncle Monarch and the Day of the Dead has a beautiful story that shows the importance of Monarch butterflies in this celebration. In some places in Mexico, it is believed that these butterflies carry the souls of loved ones who have passed away.
I feel that these next two books need teachers to provide a little bit of background about this celebration before sharing them with the children.
Clatter Bash!: A Day of the Dead Celebration is a vivid book! There is not much text, but it’s great to use to describe the pictures. The illustrations will keep your students engaged. At the end of the book there is plentiful information about the Day of the Dead celebration.
Last, but not least! Here is a banner to decorate your classroom!
If you explore my blog, you will find a few posts related to The Day of the Dead. This celebration takes many forms in Spanish speaking countries, and it also changes names and meanings in the different countries. In some countries, it’s just one more name on the calendar. In others, it is celebrated in some parts of the country, which is the case of Guatemala and Colombia. While in Mexico, it is an important celebration across the country that has been included by UNESCO on its Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
While incorporating this tradition in your curriculum, it’s important to clarify with school administrators and parents that you are not celebrating this as a holiday in your class, you are just sharing about a cultural celebration that others celebrate (i.e. you’re exploring and honoring others’ traditions, not appropriating them as your own). You might like to read the following posts. Just click on the pictures to read them all!
Every year since 1988, when President Ronald Reagan first implemented Hispanic Heritage Month, the United States recognizes September 15 to October 15 as Hispanic Heritage Month. It’s a month to celebrate the different Hispanic cultures and their contributions to the United States.
What a great opportunity to highlight the diversity of the different Spanish Speaking countries! Here are some recommended resources for elementary Spanish:
This is a short traditional poem that is perfect to teach a little bit of geography of the Spanish speaking countries, and also numbers from 1 to 10.
Use a map to locate Perú. If you have technology at handy, take a virtual trip to Perú using Google Earth. You can find pictures and short videos about Perú. Make sure you prepare in advance, and choose the material you would like to share with your students.
This poem is also used to jump the rope! You can challenge your students to count beyond number ten. It can also be used as a cooperative game to learn names. See videos below!
¡Hola! I am Carolina, a Colombian elementary Spanish teacher based in Austin, Texas. Fun for Spanish Teachers is the result of my passion for teaching Spanish to children and my desire to inspire collaboration and creativity in a vibrant teaching and learning community. It’s the perfect stop if you are looking for songs, games, teaching tips, stories, and fun for your classes.