I teach PreK-3 Spanish in a FLES program. I don’t have a classroom, which means I am always on the run. Sometimes I consider myself lucky not to have a classroom – like a traveler who can live simply with whatever she can carry instead of building up “stuff” or having to take care of a “home base.” It’s also really nice to get to know what’s happening in all the different teachers’ classrooms so I can coordinate my curriculum and tailor or tweak my lessons to support some of the units my students are exploring with their homeroom teachers, and to match each classroom’s distinctive look, feel, and personality. However, the downside to being an itinerant viajera (traveler) is that my school is laid out as a campus, with several small buildings scattered about, and when the weather gets bad, I suffer from all the things I have to carry with me (though I save money on gym memberships, but that’s another story…). I have been teaching for 15 years and have found that every year I have been developing strategies to make my job easier when moving from classroom to classroom. In this post, I’ll share what I’ve been doing, hoping this can help you too 🙂
TOTE BAGS ARE GREAT!I use rigid canvas tote bags because they remain open, making it easier for me to reach my materials at a moment’s notice when teaching. Since I teach from Pre-K through 3rd grade, I use three bags: One for Pre-K and K
One for First and Second grade One for Third Grade
LET’S TAKE A LOOK INSIDE ONE OF MY BAGS
They might look heavy, but really they are not! I’m careful to pay attention to the weight I put in my bag, again like a backpacking traveler! Many of the objects I have are made of fabrics or paper – more bulk than weight.
USEFUL PROPS TO CARRY IN YOUR BAG
1. Clipboards: I use clipboards to carry my lesson plan for the day and my schedule.
2. Chime: I have a chime in my bag just in case my chants don’t work to call the
students to attention!
3. Balls: I use them in games to give turns to children. There is also a game called “Pasa la Bola” that my students love to play. You can find more info about this gamehere.
4. Hangers: I use them to carry a calendar and posters.
4. Puppets: My younger students always love when I invite puppet friends to class to sing songs or play games. Here is a post that will give you more tips to use puppets in class.
5. A map: I found one at a fabric store, and I love it! It has every single continent, and I just fold it and put it in my bag. I am still trying to find one in Spanish!
6. Gloves: I use gloves for storytelling with my younger students. I love making props out of fabric and just add velcro on the back. Students love stories and poems with props!
7. Flash cards and fly swatters: Flash cards are always easy to carry and are helpful when introducing vocabulary. Here is a postthat will help you with different games to play with flashcards and fly swatters.
8. Cookie tray: I use cookie trays with small pictures and magnets on the back. I also use them to place work that I collect from my students.
9. Music: An iPod or CD players are always helpful. Believe or not, not every teacher has a device to play music in their classrooms, so it helps to have my own. Plus, I can pre-load playlists according to my lesson plans and class adventures.
10. Last, but not least! This one is not heavy and belongs inside your heart! Creativity and passion for what you do!
I am really happy to welcome all the new teachers! Thank you for spreading the love of learning a new language in your school community and to your students!
Planning is one of the most important aspects to ensuring a successful class over the course of a school year. Of course, getting to know your school community and the needs of your students are intimately tied to this part of the teaching process. You also need to be clear regarding what kind of language program your school wants to develop or has in place so that you tailor it to the demand and expectations appropriately. In many cases, we language teachers are in charge of planning our class 100% while building a curriculum from scratch, especially since textbooks at the elementary level have limited applicability for a natural approach to language teaching and learning.
In over fifteen years of teaching languages to children, I have found that planning a week in advance for the following week works perfectly and gives me time to assess the material, reflect on the way I am teaching, and to adapt for my students as needed. Although there are fancy higher tech ways to do this, I’m old school when it comes to planning, choosing to keep it simple. I plan for every day on a single sheet of paper, and by the end of the school year, I have about two big binders with all my lesson plans collected in one place. I re-use this lesson plans the following year, but I create a new binder with changes as I adapt activities year by year.
How to write a lesson plan for a 20-30 minute lesson
Prepare a routine: Make sure you develop a clear routine for your class. A routine doesn’t equate to boredom and doesn’t mean that the activities are always presented in the same way. Creating a routine means creating a space for learners to feel safe about their knowledge and to be ready to switch gears. Prepare two to three elements that are always in your routine, but make sure they can be presented with plenty of variation.
This objective is one objective or piece of an objective drawn from the objectives planned for the entire unit. Remember that a spiral curriculum plan will allow you to come back to your other objectives later. This singular focus helps ensure that your entire lesson is well-targeted and clear. It’s the foundation for all that you do with your students.
Includes your routine (calendar, weather, birthdays, etc). Singing or playing a game related to the routine or theme of study helps students warm-up for your lesson and creates a positive environment.
The activity is the core of your lesson. In this stage of the planning, students will get engage with your theme for the unit. Different strategies are stated here to allow students to accomplish the lesson’s objective. It is important to determine the steps of the activities and to be clear about them to create a confident learning environment. An unclear set of activities will create confusion between students.
This allows you and students to know clearly when a class is over and feel a sense of accomplishment. This ending can be done through a simple game or by reviewing some elements that were explored in the lesson.
In a FLES class, the assessment is mainly done during the progress of the lesson. Try to focus on a few students per lesson, and observe them closely during the development of the lesson.
List all kinds of resources you will need to teach your lesson effectively. This will also help you to prepare in advance and avoid trips to your office during class.
I have been extremely lucky this summer during my trip to Colombia to have had the opportunity to find amazing people who can continue contributing to my professional development and to become better at what I do, teaching language to children. This time I had the opportunity to learn from Jaime Andres Castaño of Corpoteatro. Corpoteatro is a small organization that provides workshops for teachers to learn more about how to incorporate theatrical techniques into their teaching. It also offers workshops for children and anyone who is interested in learning how to use theatrical techniques in their daily life. Reminds me a bit of all the ads I’ve seen on the subway (T) cars in Boston for Improv Asylum and their ads that say “No More Group Hugs with Brad From Accounting,” targeting corporate team building, as well as all the amazing ways theater is used in social cause grassroots organizations. Theater is essential – it really enriches the theater of our lives and is fantastic for teaching people of all ages.
One form of theatrical art involves puppets. With my visit to Corpoteatro, I wanted to learn more about basic techniques to use with simple puppets. With their help, I learned that mouth puppets work great because they are very simple to handle and give me one free hand to point at other materials. I have always loved puppets and use them frequently into my teaching (I am a PreK to 3rd grade Spanish teacher in a FLES program) because puppets give me excuses to create silly and joyful situations that open the children to learning and make a dynamic conversational environment based on play and make-believe. Puppets are a great teaching tool that allow children to forget they are listening to a language they are just learning and gives space for a playful and natural-feeling environment. In many cases, my puppet friends show up in class to teach something new, or to ask my students about something we recently learned. Their appearances in my classes are usually very short, which makes my students ask for their puppet friend in the next class. Each of my puppet friends has a name, and I usually use a name that is tied to a cultural connection or refers to a word in Spanish. For example, I have a puppet girl that I have named Cumbia (traditional Colombian dance) and another one I named Rana (frog).
Tips to Keep in Mind!
Andres gracefully shared his basic tips that can help educators when using puppets in their classes.
1. Treat your puppet like any other class member. Give it a name, a voice, and a space in your class. This puppet cannot be used by your students. They need to show respect to the puppet too!
2. Make sure you always use the same voice for this puppet, and don’t confuse it with any other puppet. Limit yourself to one or two characters for the school year. This will make the children feel confidence and know that it creates a safe environment for everyone.
3. Use syllables when your puppet talks. You want this puppet to look very natural.
4. Always look at your puppet when he or she talks.
5. Make sure to greet your puppet when he joins the class and also say adiós when he leaves the class. Put it away very carefully. Have a box or bag where you always place it.
6. Most importantly as with all teaching, smile and have fun!
I do have to admit that at the beginning it is not comfortable when using puppets, but once you see your students’ faces, you will see how rewarding it is to have puppet guests in class!
Magic boxes are always fun to have, and they are an amazing teaching tool and classroom ritual (college professors of education might even classify them as excellent to use as an “anticipatory set.”) My students, from the youngest to the oldest grades, enjoy guessing and imagining what could be inside the box. Magic boxes are great for describing objects and brainstorming with the children using a wide range of vocabulary.
This year I decided to create a new magic box which I will customize little by little using some objects that I have collected in different countries, lending a bit of cultural spice. I used fabric with sparkles to let the magic flow, and added the questions marks in Spanish to make it more appropriate for class. What do I include in the box? I include flash cards related to what we are learning in class, stuffed animals and other kind of props I can find in it. Sometimes I just include one thing and give them clues for them to guess what could be inside the box.
I always sing this song when I use the magic box:
¡En la caja mágica encontrarás Una sorpresa que te encantará! (3 times) Click here to sample/buy song on Amazon We also chant: ¿Qué hay, qué hay en la caja mágica? ¿Qué hay, qué hay en la caja mágica?
After singing the song, I will also give them clues. I usually put something related to what we have been doing in class in the box. For example, 1. Hay un animal. 2. Hay un animal verde. 3. Hay un animal verde que tiene ojos grandes. 4. Hay un animal verde que tiene ojos grandes y salta.
Then I count to three and start taking guesses. Once I reveal the the secret, I ask questions about it again and use a lot of gestures. These are some of the questions I would ask: 1. ¿Es un animal o una persona? ¿Qué es? ¿Qué animal es? 2. ¿De qué color es? ¿Es verde o amarillo? 3. ¿Tiene ojos grandes o pequeños? 4. ¿Nada o salta? 5. ¿Te gustan las ranas? I really love this teaching strategy because it gets the children engaged. I now have two cajas mágicas. Please see the pictures below. In the first picture, you see a shoe box that I open to reveal “el secreto.” The box in the second picture is “la caja mágica sensorial.” I place objects in them, and children can take a guess by telling me “es grande,” “es pequeño,” “es suave,” “es duro,” and so on. If the children say the words in English, for example by saying “it’s soft,” I would say “sí, es suave,” “¿clase, es suave?” Get ready for some noise and for everyone to expect (or demand!) a turn.
I have been teaching parent – child classes for a while and parent involvement is the key to these kinds of programs.
Our sessions run for 8 to 10 weeks depending on the season. At the beginning of each session we provide parents with information about the program, the benefits of exposing their children to a new language at an early age, rules in the class, the importance of their active participation in class and what it means for their child’s learning process. I don’t use posters with lyrics because I observed that some parents were focusing their attention on trying to understand every single word and also more likely to mispronounce them.
I currently create the music and curriculum for the program because I find that many of the traditional songs don’t provide enough space for repetition or have the target vocabulary that I need in context. At the beginning of the session I provide parents with a music CD that contains all the songs and games for the session along with lyrics and translation. You can also look for songs that parents can purchase to support what you do in your classes, extend the learning at home and keep those little ears and mouths listening and singing outside the class.
There are also many online resources you can create such as creating a blog where you can upload small audio files (that can actually be recorded with a small digital camera for pictures) for parents to listen to the songs you sing in class and sentences to use at home. From my experience I advise you to write the sentence in Spanish next to the audio file and to avoid using the phonetic spelling to avoid mispronunciations (especially of vowel sounds and “rr”)
It is also useful to have some props such as a parachute, bubbles (to count) and objects that are colorful and appropriate for little hands to handle, e.g. finger puppets to accompany a song. Movement is also important when teaching toddlers – that’s how they grow and learn. Make sure they have space to run, jump and enjoy the class, but at the same time make sure you have a transition song to bring them back to the circle. I also use ASL with some of the songs; there are many resources on the Internet to find the signs. At the end of the class I provide a few minutes for parents and children to socialize. Parents take advantage of this time to meet other families and also to ask you how to say phrases and sentences in Spanish.
This song is perfect to review feelings and emotions. I love teaching it to my second graders.
I cut out five paper pumpkinsso the children can show their faces (see picture above). They each pick a feeling in the song, while the rest of the class chants/sings the song. Each child has to show the face that matches the feeling they picked. They love doing it over and over again and have a lot of fun seeing their friends’ facial expressions.
¡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.