El Año Viejo is a common year-end tradition in Colombia and other countries in Latin America. On December 31st, everyone gets excited about the New Year and its obligatory resolutions for change. Años Viejos are used in many places to symbolically leave behind bad things from the previous year. Traditionally, this involved burning effigies full of firecrackers or pockets of gunpowder, but for safety reasons, the practice has evolved into something less spectacular but no less important. Below you can find a video of how intense and exciting this celebration can be.
The Año Viejo is now crafted as a small doll in a tin. People take small pieces of paper and write all the bad things that have happened during the year. They then burn them and the doll in the tin as a symbol of renewal.
Some towns in Colombia and Ecuador host daylight parades on December 31st to show the effort and artistic talent that has been put into making the doll before it gets burned in the middle of the night.
There is a song about not forgetting the “Año Viejo” and being grateful for the great things in life. This song was composed by Cresencio Salcedo, a Colombian songwriter and made famous by Mexican singer Tony Camargo. The song is played all over Latin America during the December celebrations and and has been danced to for over 60 years! Below is a video of the original singer who never got to meet the writer of the song.
Yo no olvido el año viejo porque me ha deja’o cosas muy buenas.
Me dejó una chiva, una burra negra, una yegua blanca y una buena suegra.
This is one of those traditions you can easily share with your students. Have them decorate their Año Viejo and have them think about what they would like to do in the future. I have a simple and fun activity where students put together their own paper “Año Viejo” and write about their goals for the new year. This resource is available on Teachers Pay Teachers. Please note that this activity doesn’t include an “Año viejo” doll.
La Noche de las Velitas is one of the most exciting celebrations in Colombia since it marks the beginning of the Christmas season. What a great opportunity to share this with your students and make it part of your class! I have written some blog posts in the past that provide more background and introduce you to some activities you may use to bring this celebration into your classroom.
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?
December 7th is an exciting day in Colombia! It’s the day when many people celebrate “La Noche de las Velitas” also known as “El Día delas Velitas.” Although the origins of this celebration are religious (as the night when many families welcome and celebrate “The Immaculate Conception”), it’s also seen as a way for families to welcome the end of year festivities in which many people, but not all, celebrate Navidad. Farolitos (luminaries) and candles are seen everywhere.
I have blogged before about the importance of this celebration in Colombia. Visit the links below to read my previous posts and find other activities to help you share with your students about this and other Christmas traditions in Colombia.
This is a simple way to make farolitos with your students. You will need:
1. Paper lunch bags
2. Led tea light – battery operated
3. Templates of different Christmas shapes
4. Tissue paper – preferably green and red
Use the opportunity to bring some language to the lesson. Visit my previous post with some ideas about questions for this activity. Talk about the colors and materials needed to make the farolitos.
You will need to prepare the templates in advanced and pre-cut the pieces of tissue paper.
1. Trace the shape on the paper lunch bag.
2. Cut out the shape. Younger students might need help to start cutting the shape.
3. Glue the tissue paper inside the paper bag.
4. Insert tea light
This is optional. Students can make designs around the edges of the bag.
5. Get ready to sing some villancicos while celebrating La Noche de las Velitas in class. Here is a great playlist on YouTube. I also recommend the “Mi Burrito Sabanero” version by Colombian singer Juanes.
Mamá Tortuga, who is also a Colombian bloguera has another awesome tutorial to make farolitos with your students. Please hop over her blog – rápido y no a paso de tortuga- to learn all about it!
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.
¡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.