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 amigos ¿cómo están? (Hi friends -boys-, how are you?)
Muy bien! (Very well). Hola, amigas ¿cómo están? (Hi friends -girls-, how are you?)
Muy bien! (Very well).
Bienvenidos amigos (welcome(boys)),
Bienvenidas amigas (welcome (girls))
Bienvenidos, bienvenidas, la, la, la,
Bienvenidos, bienvenidas, la, la, la.
Activities: • Use a friendly puppet to introduce the song. Have a short interaction with the puppet: You: Hola, ¿cómo estas? Puppet: Muy bien gracias Puppet and you: Bienvenido, bienvenida a la clase de español . • Pass the ball in the circle asking each student “Hola, ¿cómo estas?” and giving them the opportunity to answer “muy bien gracias”. Invite students to volunteer using two puppets with the same question and answer. • Make instruments with recycled materials such as cereal boxes, milk bottles, and spoons. Have students sing the song while playing instruments. Divide the class in two groups. Ask one side of the class to sing “hola, ¿cómo estas? And have the other group respond “muy bien”
(My name is Julián) A, E, I, O, U ¿Cómo te llamas tú?
(What’s your name?) A, E, I, O, U Yo me llamo Alana
(My name is Alana)
Activities: • Bring a puppet to class. Introduce it by saying “Yo me llamo ….”(my name is), and then say “¿Cómo te llamas tú?” (what’s your name) pointing at the puppet and have the puppet respond to you. • Have a puppet ask the children in class ¿cómo te llamas tú? • Have the class stand up in a circle. Throw a ball while asking “¿cómo te llamas tú? They should respond by saying “yo me llamo…” or simply say their name and throw the ball back to you, and then proceed to sit back down.
• Variation: The student with the ball responds to the question saying “Yo me llamo…” and then throws the ball to another classmate asking “¿Cómo te llamas”. Once their classmates answer, the student who had the ball previously can sit. The game continues until they are all seated.
¡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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