Using stories to teach Spanish to young learners can be an effective and engaging way to introduce children to the language and is a great tool for language acquisition. Here are some tips and ideas to help you make the most of this approach:
Choose age-appropriate stories: When selecting stories, it’s important to consider the age and language proficiency level of your students. For younger learners, simple stories with basic vocabulary and repetitive phrases can be helpful. As they progress, you can introduce more complex stories with a wider range of high-frequency vocabulary.
Use visuals: Including pictures or illustrations can help children better understand the story and increase their engagement. Use visuals to introduce new vocabulary or help children make connections between words and their meanings.
Ask questions throughout the story: Encourage children to participate and interact with the story. You can ask yes or no questions or provide choices for students to respond.
Act out the story: Acting out a story can help children better understand the plot and vocabulary. Use props to make it more fun and interactive. You can use students as actors while telling or reading the story.
Incorporate music: Including songs or rhymes related to the story can help children remember new words and phrases. Music can also create a fun and engaging atmosphere in the classroom. You can come up with your own songs to support the story!
Follow-up activities: After reading the story, incorporate activities to reinforce learning and keep children engaged. These can include games, crafts, or writing activities related to the story. You can also have students retell the story in their own words or pictures, or create their own versions of the story.
Use diverse stories:ry to incorporate stories with diverse characters and cultures as well. This can help children develop empathy and understanding for people from different backgrounds. Bring both fun stories and stories where your students can see themselves represented.
Stories provide a rich and effective way to aid in language acquisition. Sometimes, children forget that they are hearing a different language because they become so immersed in the plot.
Story asking is a teaching strategy that can be applied in the classroom with zero to low preparation. It involves the teacher asking a series of questions in the target language to help students collaboratively create a story.
To implement story asking, the teacher begins by introducing a theme or topic for the story, such as “Los animales” (Animals). This establishes a framework for the students’ storytelling. The teacher then proceeds to ask the students questions in the target language about the setting, characters, and plot of the story. These questions can vary depending on the students’ proficiency level and the desired language skills to be practiced. For example, the teacher might ask questions like “¿Qué animal es?” (What animal is it?), “¿De qué color es?” (What color is it?), or “¿Cuántos años tienes?” (How old is it?).
As the students provide their answers, the teacher can write them down on the board or a piece of paper to visualize the evolving story. This visual aid helps students see the progression and coherence of their collective narrative. The teacher can also ask follow-up questions to deepen the students’ ideas and encourage further development. For instance, if a student mentions a cat, the teacher might ask, “¿Cómo se llama el gato?” (What is the cat’s name?) or “¿Qué le gusta comer?” (What does it like to eat?).
Once the story has been co-created, the teacher can read it back to the class in Spanish, incorporating details provided by the students. Once the story is ready, the teacher can ask questions about the story to engage the students further and assess their comprehension. The results with elementary students are usually a few paragraphs.
Story asking not only promotes language acquisition but also fosters important skills such as collaboration and active listening. By working together to construct a story, students learn to value each other’s contributions, build on ideas in the target language.
A parallel story is a powerful tool that language teachers can use to engage their students and reinforce language learning. By taking an existing story and modifying it slightly, teachers can create a new and exciting experience for their students that still retains the language patterns and vocabulary of the original story.
After using the book “La vaca que decía oink” by Bernard Most in class, I decided to create a parallel story for my kindergarten students. Though I worried they wouldn’t enjoy listening to a similar story, my students surprised me by engaging with it and recognizing familiar language patterns. I made some modifications, such as shortening the story and changing characters. We even plan to act it out and sing “La granja” to accompany it.
Parallel stories offer a time-saving approach, allowing you to reuse language patterns and recycle familiar vocabulary with minimal changes. Revisiting the same story also gives students an opportunity to process and predict what comes next. Occasionally, I like to add a surprise by altering the ending.
To create a parallel story, find a story familiar to your students and adjust it to their language level. Use props or Story Listening to tell the story, then create the parallel story by changing the characters, setting, and adding your twist. Finally, share the parallel story and prepare for your students to make connections!
Parallel stories are a fantastic way to engage language learners and reinforce language learning!
My love for using stories in my classes is never-ending! Read some of the reasons why I use stories in my classes:
THEY ARE FUN AND ENGAGING
When using stories, students always want to know the end of it, so it really keeps them engaged. In my experience, the stories are even more engaging when they are simple and students can follow the plot in the target language.
AN OPPORTUNITY TO SHARE ABOUT OTHER CULTURES
You can also bring stories that give students opportunities to learn about other cultures. Make sure to check facts before bringing the story to the class. It’s important to avoid stereotypical stories or overgeneralization.
PRESENT LANGUAGE IN CONTEXT
Stories are perfect to provide “chunks” of language, rather than isolated vocabulary words. Stories present useful language and grammar in context. Make sure the stories you use with early language learners provide enough repetition and use high-frequency vocabulary and phrases.
CHILDREN NEVER GET TIRED OF THEM!
Find different ways to retell the story. You could have your students draw their favorite part of the story, and later you might use their pictures to retell the story.You can add more fun by retelling the story and having your students become active participants in it! This way you are providing repetition without your students even noticing it!
STORIES I USE!
Although these are my own stories, I also include a variety of stories from other authors and cultures:
These are three simple and easy to understand stories that I have written for elementary students, although I have also been delighted to hear from middle school teachers that they have used them with their beginner classes. These stories have a lot of repetition in them.
Make sure to download the free resources that go along with them. Just click on each picture below, and it will take you to a new link to download the stories and activities.
This is a short story with a simple goal, to raise students’ awareness about the negative environmental impacts of latex, plastic, and other materials. I created a story after being inspired by another video (further below in this post) that demonstrates why releasing balloons into the air can have such terrible consequences for animals, especially birds.
In my short and comprensible story, a red balloon listens to two birds talk about how another bird died after eating a piece of a popped balloon. This makes the red balloon sad, and it wishes never to be big. Download the story to see what happens next!
Earth Day is on April 22nd, and using this story is a great way to introduce this celebration to class. You can download the story for free from my Teachers Pay Teachers store.
You might also take a look at organizations such as Greenpeace to complement the story. Greenpeace has YouTube channels for some Spanish speaking countries: Argentina, Colombia, México, Chile with many videos that are short, sweet and simple and can inspire many interesting lessons and reflection.
Here is a link to the video that I came across, made by Mexico-based Pamela Quibec, which served as inspiration for Simón el globito:
¡Hola! I am Carolina, a Colombian elementary Spanish teacher based in Boston, MA. 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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