Friday, October 26, 2018

Teaching Spanish Number Vocabulary to Elementary Students

Last spring, a number of my tutoring students graduated.  I had been working with many of these students for 5 years or more and I was both proud and a little sad at their moving on to the next stage of their lives.

This also meant that I was able to accept new students to work with.  I have been so pleased with the variety of levels and ages that I am working with this fall.  I have a number of kindergarten and early elementary students at a very low level of Spanish.  Several of them are math oriented so we started our lessons by learning how to count in Spanish.

Here are five of my favorite activities:

1.  Sing, sing sing!  Unfortunately for me, many of my students do not love singing, but I still try to push it a bit as it's a great way to learn new vocabulary and gain confidence in speaking a new language.  Some of my favorite numbers songs are:

Un Elefante Se Balanceaba

Cingo Monitos

Cinco Pececitos Se Fueron a Nadar

2.  Roll-A-Die Drawing:

My students absolutely LOVE drawing crazy pictures so much they barely notice that they are learning!  There are several sites that I love that have great ideas:

Roll-a-Doodle, Roll-a-Face, Roll-a-Landscape

3.  Dice Games:

I wrote a post outlining some of my favorite dice games that help teach larger numbers.

Recently, I found these Yatzy Scorecards online.  Yatzy is so much fun as kids love to roll dice (the more the better!) and this game practices both small numbers (reading the dice aloud) as well as larger numbers (adding the dice and later on the scores together).

Another fun dice game is Qwixx. Its scorecard has minimal verbiage so I do not translate it into Spanish for my students.

4.  Card Games:

Uno7 ate 9, and different card games like Cinquillo or Crazy Eights are a lot of fun to practice smaller numbers.  I especially love teaching kids how to play Cinquillo as they are blown away by the Spanish deck of cards (Why doesn't it contain 8s and 9s???) and the card designs are so much fun.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Starting Over Once Again

So here we are, very slowly, more slowly than I would like, coming out of the cave and into the light. It was a long pregnancy but then I blinked and my newborn "POOF!" turned into a toddler!

So what have I been up to?  How have I begun to create a Spanish environment for little Freddie?

With my older boys, they were born so close together that I could almost treat them as twins.  When my eldest was about a year old, I began to speak to him only in Spanish (as did my husband) as a default language.  We would change to English when we were socializing with English speakers.  This continued until the boys were about 4 years old and we had to prepare them for Kindergarten entrance exams.  I switched over to English, and my husband continued to speak to them in Spanish.

As the boys have grown, more and more of their friends and schoolmates do not speak Spanish.  Even though they attend Spanish school Wednesday evenings and communicate with their father and abuelos in Spanish, it has gotten more difficult to keep the minority language going.

I want this to be easier for Freddie.

Lucky for me, this kid is a talker.

Lucky for me, this kid has two big brothers who adore him and love teaching him.

The following is a (very) basic roadmap as to how we have been introducing two languages to Freddie:

**  From birth to age 2, the entire family exclusively spoke to him in Spanish.  We sang songs in Spanish, read books (sometimes doing a spontaneous translation) in Spanish, watched videos from time to time in Spanish (he loved "Little Baby Bum").

**  At around 2 years old (he is 2.5 now), my boys and I started to speak English to him about 50% of the time.  We introduced English stories and songs, but kept the Spanish favorites.  We introduced the older brothers' favorite "Cantajuegos" and "Pocoyo", but also "Mr. Rogers" and "Llama llama".  We made playdates with both English and Spanish speaking friends.  We create rituals and daily rhythms (before nap time I tell him a story in English, but before bedtime the story is in Spanish) in both languages.

**  Every weekend, the abuelos and my boys have a video conference over the iPad for about 30 minutes to tell them about their week.  We also make it a priority to visit for 3-4 weeks every summer.

As far as special language materials go, at this stage, there are none to buy except books and music. We have a lot of these from when the older children were young and we try to use the local library.  Our challenge is finding authentic and original (not translated from English) materials.  I find that we often need to wait for our summer trip to Spain to buy these for the following year.

Freddie is really into imaginary play with cars, stuffed animals, and puppets, and that can be done in both English and Spanish.  Art projects can be done in both languages.  We go for walks and explore.

He is just beginning to be interested in "school" and sitting long enough to create something.  I am looking forward to guiding him in both languages and sharing my ideas with you!

Monday, September 12, 2016

"What happened in school today?" (Opening Dialogue in the Target Language)

As the new school year starts, the age old question of "What happened in school today?" makes every kid's eyes roll and mouths shut tight.

I was inspired after reading this article to change my habits and start asking my boys more interesting questions about their day.

To be fair, I often follow up the "¿Qué tal tu día?" with "¿y con quién comiste?", "¿Qué libro ha leido la maestra?" and specific questions about different classes they have.  However, I love the more general questions like "Who in your class is the exact opposite?" or "If aliens came to school and beamed up 3 kids, who do you wish they would take? Why?" and "Which one of your teachers would survive a zombie apocalypse? Why?"

I decided to make a list in Spanish of different questions I could ask my boys.  I plan on asking each one two or three after school over the next couple of weeks, and we will see how it goes!
  1. ¿A qué has jugado en el recreo?
  2. ¿Has ayudado a alguien hoy?
  3. ¿Has hecho a alguien feliz hoy?
  4. ¿Quién te ha hecho sonreír hoy?  ¿Por qué?
  5. ¿Has cometido algún error hoy?  Entonces, ¿qué has aprendido del error?
  6. ¿Ha pasado algo que te ha sorprendido hoy?
  7. ¿Cuál ha sido un reto difícil de hoy?  ¿Cómo lo has superado?
  8. Dime 3 cosas buenas y una cosa mala que ha pasado hoy.
  9. Dime 3 palabras que pueden describir a tu clase.
  10. ¿Cuál es la comida más popular de tus amigos?
  11. ¿Alguien ha hecho alguna tontería hoy?
  12. Dime algo que aprendiste de un compañero de clase hoy.
  13.  Si pudieras tener súper-poderes dentro del colegio, ¿cuales serian? y ¿por qué?
  14. ¿Si pudieras cambiar de vida con uno de tus amigos durante un día, ¿quién seria? y ¿por qué?
  15. Dime la cosa más interesante que has aprendido hoy.
  16. ¿Qué seria la canción temática de tu clase?
  17. ¿Ha sido el cumpleaños de alguien hoy?  ¿Cómo lo habéis celebrado?
  18. ¿Si tu profesor/a tuviese una identidad secreta (como Superman), quien seria? y si tuviese súper poderes, ¿qué serian?
  19. ¿Cómo crees que era tu maestra de pequeña?
  20. ¿Qué crees que hace el director del colegio (o la profesora…) cuando no está en el colegio?
  21. ¿Me puedes contar dos cosas que ojala no tendrías que volver a hacer en la escuela este año?
  22. ¿Qué seria tu deseo para este año escolar?
  23. Dime 3 cosas de las que te acuerdas del año pasado escolar.
  24. Si tuviste que explicar como es y para que sirve un colegio a un alíen, ¿qué le dirías?
  25. ¿Hay algo que fingiste que entiendes, pero en realidad no lo entiendes?  ¿Qué?

Monday, January 18, 2016

9 ways to jumpstart your bilingual child (and 3 that didn't work)

When my boys were little, it was pretty easy to run a bilingual household.  I suppose was lucky to have such compliant little boys who were able to switch from Spanish to English and back again enthusiastically and without any problem.

When my boys started school, and spent more time learning in English with English speaking friends, their Spanish level began to stagnate and even decline a bit.  Far from worried, we continued using the OPOL method and the boys did fine.  

This past summer, we were unable to go to Spain for the first time since they were babies.  Without these weeks of immersion into the Spanish language and culture, my boys began to struggle.  Words were forgotten, and (gasp!) English was spoken with Papá.  Something had to be done!

I am happy to report that after a few painful months, we are starting to get back into the groove of things.  Below are some things that worked for us:

1.  Have an activity that only occurs in the target language:

This can be anything from making dinner to grabbing a quick snack after a soccer game.  Just make sure that it always occurs in the target language.  For my boys, we find it easiest to have mealtime in the target language.  We play games such as Two Truths and a Lie and other games we found at the Family Dinner Project website.

2.  Read lots and lots of books:

My eldest is a bookworm and has the vocabulary to prove it.  Unfortunately, this vocabulary seemed to be limited to the English language.  As he showed interest in different series such as Amulet and Harry Potter, I lied (!!) and told him that the next book in the series was only available in Spanish.  We also found some V.O. books that were pretty fun to read together and learn Spanish slang, etc.  In another post I will review several steps you can take to make sure that your child is really benefiting from the books he is reading.

3.  Listen to music (and sing along!):

My middle child loves music.  I learned a lot of Spanish from Salsa music (love love love Victor Manuelle!) and my husband learned a lot of English listening to The Police and Sting, so it just made sense to use music to reinforce Spanish learning and improve my boys'  vocabulary.

My husband likes to listen to music as he prepares breakfast for the boys.  We made sure that it was in Spanish instead of English. When Christmas rolled around, we started playing Villancicos on rotation.  We did sing alongs, karaoke, and my boys even performed for us!

4.  Play games together:

We have several Spanish board games and card games that we play in Spanish.  In fact, was only until my youngest's seventh birthday that he realized that "Clue" could be played in English as well.

At restaurants, we bring along Spanish Fill-Ins (such as this one below) which are fun for the family.

Click here to to purchase Fill-Ins

5.  Watch Videos in the target language:

Yep.  We pulled out the big guns! We rented videos from the library, such as "La Leyenda de la Nahuala", and watched old favorites such as "D'artacan" and "Mike el Caballero" on YouTube.  When your kids are as screen time deprived as mine are, they begged to see more episodes and even started imaginary playing the characters after the shows were over.

6.  FaceTime with the abuelos:

When the kids know that they do not have an alternative to speaking in Spanish, they seem to rally.  We set up weekly FaceTimes with their abuelos and other friends in Spain for them to talk about their day, answer questions, etc.  Not only is this a great way for the kids to improve their Spanish, but it also strengthens the family bond (isn't that what this is all about anyway?)

7.  Use baby as an excuse:

My boys were super excited about the arrival of our newest Casado.  Like any good mamá, I looked for ways to take advantage of this enthusiasm (**cue evil laughter**).

I told the boys flat out that they could only speak to the baby in Spanish.  While I was pregnant, we spent time re-learning rhymes and songs that the baby would like as well as talking to the belly.  Now that the baby is born, they practice reading simple books to the baby as well as playing and singing with him.  The coolest part is that they REALLY enjoy it!

8.  Take advantage of holidays and cultural events:

We used every excuse from Reyes Magos to my kids losing teeth to get them to write in Spanish. 'Nuff said. 

9.  Don't forget academics:

Click here to see verb conjugation technique
Unfortunately, it was not all fun and games.  A bit of tutoring was in order.  We cracked the Spanish text book and made up some worksheets to review grammar.  Not much, and not very often, probably about 30 minutes twice a month.

What didn't work for us:

1.  Online learning: We tried a popular online program, and while I have found it to be an awesome resource for older children and adults learning Spanish as a second language, it did not work for my bilingual boys.  My 8 year old's spelling and grammar is not perfect (even in English), and he found it frustrating to be marked incorrect for these mistakes.  We will keep looking for a better fit.

2.  Reward Charts: Perhaps my boys are getting too old for reward charts and prize boxes (although they still love them at school) or maybe they just have too much "stuff"?  Either way, they were not motivated to speak more in order to earn a trinket or outing. (I'm secretly happy about this as I would like for their Spanish to be more organically motivated).

3.  Playdates: While I think this would be a great motivator for younger kids, at 7 and 8 my boys know who their friends are and did not want to have new playdates "only in Spanish".  That said, they were more than motivated to speak in Spanish with their classmates from Spanish class and I think enrolling them into a Spanish soccer league or swimming class would work well (if I could find such a thing in NYC).

I would love to hear:  what activities work (and don't work) for you and your family to promote bilingualism?

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

3 Easy Games to Increase Vocabulary and Get Your Kids Talking in Spanish!

At 6 and 7 my boys are becoming little men.  They have adventures (both good and bad, but nearly always hilarious) that I don't know about until I ask them.  But sometimes they don't want to tell me!

A couple of months ago, we began to make a concerted effort as a family to sit down and eat lunch and dinner together on the weekends.  I've also tried to sit with the boys for dinner (my husband works late and I eat later when he gets home) during the week.

Since transitioning to the OPOL method, the boys don't always want to speak to me in Spanish.  However, I'm finding that as my husband works longer hours, their vocabulary is not what I would like it to be.

What to do?

Play some games, of course!

These games can be played any time, but I have found them fun to play when we are on the subway, waiting in line for something, and, of course meal times!  They can be played in any language, but we play them in Spanish.  (As a bonus, they have also worked well for me in the classroom!)

Game #1:  Dos Buenos y Un Malo

Last year, my youngest was transitioning from a sweet PreK school to Kindergarten at a big (800 students!) public school with a yellow school bus ride to the other side of the city.  He adored his teacher and had a few close friends, but often came home exhausted and upset about events in his day.  Everything was negative!  To mitigate this, I told him that he could tell me as many bad things as he wanted, as long as he told me 2 good things that happened to go along with it!

It took a while, but he started to become more positive about his time at school.  Instead of "Tuve un mal dia." he would tell me "Tuve un dia normal." By spring, he actually had several "dias buenos" even though he had broken his arm and could not participate in many activities that he loved.

Anyway, this game has now turned into a good way for me to find out the good and the bad of what is going on for my boys.  We simply go around the table and saw 2 good things and 1 bad thing that happened to us that day.  Often, the bad things are fairly innocuous: "I forgot to wear my thick socks, so my feet were really cold today." or "They ran out of my favorite meal choice just as it was my turn." But sometimes they give me things to pay attention to: "I didn't feel like playing soccer at recess so I sat alone." or "Daniel pushed me at lunch so I fell into my applesauce and messed up my shirt."

The game is excellent to introduce school-related vocabulary that they may not hear at home and it's been an excellent way to bond (and snoop!) on my kids!

Game #2:  ¿Qué Palabre Se Te Occurre?

This was a game that we played at bedtime with the boys as part of their bedtime routine for years.  Somehow we stopped playing, but have recently brought it back at mealtimes.  It's a lot of fun, and sometimes gets a little crazy!

Here's a very straightforward example:

The first person says a word that could also sirve as a category.  For example:  colors.  We go around the table as many times as we can, everyone trying to mention a new color.  If you really want to step it up, you can repeat all of the previous answers BEFORE you give yours.

You can also play by saying a word and asking what words do you think of when you hear this word. This is where the game can get a bit out of control when one of the kids is a jokester like my son (but it's a bit more interesting that way too!)

For example, recently, I gave the word, "avion" (airplane).  We went around the table:
Volar (to fly)
Alas (wings)
Pasajeros (passengers)
Viaje (trip)
Comer (to eat) ?????
The game pretty much fell apart after that....

To be fair, here is my son a few years ago explaining what he is going to do on the airplane.  ("Comer" does come up first in the conversation!)

Game #3:  El Juego de Los Animales (20 Preguntas)

This is an oldie but goodie.  We play this variant of 20 Questions during the 40 minute subway ride to Spanish school on Saturday mornings.  I don't think the kids even know that you can play this game in English!

The first player thinks of an animal.  The other players take turns asking questions that must be answered with a "yes" or "no".

¿Tiene cuatro patas?
¿Vive en el desierto?
¿Pone huevos?

Of course, this game has become a bit more tricky now that "Pokemon" are considered animals in our household, but, hey! a mama can stand to learn some pop culture as well!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

My Family Was Profiled by La Españolita!

This weekend has been exhausting--running from Spanish school to a fun get together with friends, to surviving Daylight Savings, to ice skating and soccer lessons.  Uff!  I'm surprised we made it through in one piece.

Now that the kiddos are soundly sleeping, I thought I would check in and share the exciting news that our family was interviewed by Audrey, over at Españolita blog!

It was so much fun chatting with Audrey and walking down memory lane to find the right photos for the profile.  You can read about our journey and learn different things we have tried to maintain a bilingual household.

Please do give it a read and let me (and Audrey!) know what you think!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

St. Patrick's Day...In Spanish!

St. Patrick's Day is right around the corner!

I have to admit, that while I am absolutely 0% Irish and I nearly ALWAYS forget to wear green, I am a sucker for this holiday.  When else can you sing songs about unicorns with strangers and contemplate what you would do with a pot of gold if you were able to catch the sneakily little trickster we call a Leprechaun?

Speaking of, every year my boys spend hours designing and creating a Leprechaun trap similar to this one below:

Finally in First Blog

(The above photo was posted on the Finally in First Blog--hop on over there to see some other great ideas for this activity!)

St. Patrick's Day Math and Language Arts Spanish Bundle for Early Elementary

On a more "traditional" academic front, I like to take advantage of holidays for them to review different concepts that we have been working on in Spanish.

As soon as I began printing, both boys begged me to work on "Sumar y Pintar".  It is common core aligned with addition facts up to 20, but who am I to deny my 2nd grader more math practice?

Here we are getting started:

My eldest also loves to color:

Putting on some finishing touches:

My 1st grader wanted to stick with math, so he worked on a graphing activity.  Here he had to count the number of objects that he saw and record using tally marks.

Then, he graphed them using a different color per object:

We finally worked on some dictionary skills:  putting a list of words in alphabetical order.  It was a good exercise as he was not familiar with all of the words (especially reading them!), but he was very excited to complete this exercise!

My 2nd grader wanted to continue with math as well, but I wanted him to work on reading skills.  We compromised with some story problems.  They were simple for him mathematically, but provided him with a great opportunity to read a bit more in Spanish.  After he finished the exercises, we decorated the paper together!

He did give in and worked on some sentence editing.  While he writes very well, he still forgets to use correct punctuation and capitalization at times, but he did great!  He even found the incorrect verb conjugation and missing accent on "mamá" without my help!

Over the next week or two, we will continue to work on some other activities in the packet including skip counting, writing prompts, noun and verb sort, etc. Click through if you would like to see more information about the St Patricks Early Elementary Spanish Language Arts and Math bundle.

St. Patrick's Day Fill-ins (in Spanish)

Another fun St. Patrick's Day themed activity that I have shared with my kids are "Fill-ins."  They are inspired by "Mad Libs" and 100% in Spanish.  Fill-ins are an awesome way for students to work on reading, writing, parts of speech, and vocabulary development.  The best part:  they never realize that they are learning!  I encourage my students to be as silly as possible and create crazy stories.

My boys are probably a little young to be doing fill-ins (I recommend them for students in grade 3 and up--for Traditional Spanish as well as Dual-Language/Immersion students) but with a little help from me, they did just fine.

First, they took turns filling out the word list:

It can be a lot of work to think of the right word (he was trying to remember the word for "paperclips" in Spanish).

Some of the questions just make you giggle!

They ended up with a cute little story about Igor the Leprechaun!

The packet has a total of 3 fill-ins -- all in present tense and appropriate for children.  

If you would like more information about it, please check it out in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

I hope you are able to use some of these ideas for your kids on St. Patty's Day!!!