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.
This carnival has been declared by UNESCO as one of the “Masterpieces of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.” That’s a mouthful, but it really is amazing! It’s important to share this with our students not only because of its recognition, but also because it’s an opportunity to bring some language to the classes in a colorful way. It’s also worth mentioning that this is the city where Shakira was born and raised. I am a big fan of using Google Earth in class when doing cultural explorations. You can also add the use of play passport. With your students, first locate Colombia and then find Barranquilla. Bring the language alive by asking students question such as: ¿En qué continente está Colombia? ¿Cuál es la capital de Colombia? ¿Qué lengua se habla en Colombia? ¿Dónde esta Barranquilla? ¿En el norte o en el sur? ¿Qué pasa en Barranquilla en febrero?
Carnival time is a happy one in Barranquilla. Dances, parades and even children celebrating in their schools. Here is a short video of “El Carnaval de Barranquilla.”
One of the most iconic characters is la Morimonda. It’s a funny character – a combination of monkey and elephant.
December is a busy month in Colombia. Many schools close early in the month, and everyone gets ready to celebrate “la Navidad” with friends and family. Everything starts on December 7th with “La Noche de la Velitas,”a night for everyone to celebrate la Inmaculada Concepcion. You will find candles in many houses, and they will stay lit all, night and the celebration continues until December 8th.
From December 16 to the 24th, many families gather to recite prayers and sing Christmas songs next to the Nativity scence. This is called “Las Novenas” because it lasts nine days.
December 24th is a family night, when everyone awaits with joy the rebirth of “El Niño Jesús.” People share Colombian treats such as natilla, brevas, and manjar blanco to celebrate. The children that attended all the novenas without missing a might will get presents from the family hosting the celebration. This is the most important night when people stay up waiting for Niños Dios to arrive. Children have to go to bed before midnight to be able to receive their presents.
December 25th is the day when the children celebrate opening the presents “El Niño Jesús” left next to the Nativity scene, the Christmas tree, or under the bed.
All these celebrations lead to December 28th, “El Día de los Inocentes,” a day that is similar to April Fools in the United States. It is a day filled with jokes and fun.
And on December 31st everyone gets excited about the New Year and the resolutions it brings. Año Viejosare built in many places to leave the bad things from the previous year behind and make a new start. They are be burned at 12:00am. The five minutes before the year ends are crucial and frantic, with yellow underwear for good luck, suitcases filled to go around the block (to ensure you travel much), a dollar bill in your pocket (you probably get the reason for this one), 12 grapes with 12 wishes or resolutions, and many other exciting and fun thing for a new start to a new year.
January 6th is usually not a big day in Colombia, but it is in other countries like Spain. In Colombia, it’s the date that marks the end of the Christmas season which means it’s time to put away the pesebre for next year!
I am one of those Spanish teachers that loves singing in class for many reasons. Through songs, students learn new vocabulary, internalize grammar structures that may be useful in the future, and explore vocabulary in context – and singing along to a tune is a great way for them to practice pronunciation.
I teach at the elementary level and of course some songs may be complicated for my students. However I ensure there is a natural progression, where I first introduce some basic rhythms, and later, with greater familiarity of beats and timing, we use the rhythms in the various songs we learn in class. We sing the songs while adding some features of the rhythms and some basic dance steps, which adds some movement to the singing and gets everyone moving in class to break the ice and get circulation moving! I also have a set of flash cards with some famous singers that I show while doing the activity. You can download the cards for this activity HERE.
This is how I use the cards:
Rock: Pretend you are playing an electric guitar while singing. Bachata: Use a soft voice and pretend to hold a microphone. Salsa: Sing faster and use the basic Salsa step. Merengue: Use the Merengue step and sing fast. Ranchera: Use a deep voice and pretend to hold a sombrero while singing. Vallenato: Pretend that you are playing an accordion, which is the main instrument in Vallenato.
I have put together a list of songs that go along with the pictures. This might help your students identify the rhythms with the singers. This is also a fun way to bring some culture (and pop culture) into your classes. Feel free to add more traditional rhythms to your list. ¡A cantar y bailar!
¡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.
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