Feed the Monster in Spanish Class

Thursday, January 31, 2013

I love teaching this unit in my classes. I especially love teaching names of fruits that are endemic to Latin America, mostly from Colombia, the country where I am from.

In preparation for this activity you will need to create a monster prop, similar to the one in the picture below, which is very simple to make  - with no sewing involved. I used felt fabric of different colors, glue, staples and wiggly eyes. Make sure to put a space in the mouth so the children can feed the monster. The monster I made is big, and my students enjoy its visit to class. I use a hanger to carry it from classroom to classroom. You will also need plastic fruits or pictures of different fruits, depending on the ones you would like to introduce.

Once the monsters and fruits are ready I like to introduce them using Total Physical Response (TPR).  I often use American Sign Language (ASL) because I don't think it makes sense to spend time creating my own gestures when I can use the beautiful ASL that children may already be familiar with or encounter later in life. Plus, ASL is a language in and of itself, so my use of it just provides another advantage for my children and their multilingual brains! My favorite resource on the Internet is Signing Savvy. On this site, you just have to type a word, and then you get a video showing the corresponding sign.

I use a magic box or bag and introduce the name of each fruit with the sign. I review each fruit by asking the children to show me the sign while saying the name in Spanish. Then we go over each fruit and describe it by colors and sizes. I will also ask my students questions like "¿te gusta comer manzana?" and then have them respond back to me by saying "sí, me gusta", "no, no me gusta", or "me encanta."Since my students are young and many don't have experience in the language, I ask questions in a way that models the answers so they feel confident about it:
Me: ¿Qué es?
       Es una manzana.
       ¿Qué es?
Student: Es una manzana.

 After students have learned the vocabulary, I use other activities to complement and assess the topic. Here are some examples:
  • Place a fruit into a bag or box. Ask a student to follow commands: Encuentra la manzana, pásale la manzana a Peter.                        
  • Give a fruit (picture or plastic) to every student. You need to have a flash card or picture of each fruit. Ask "¿dónde está la manzana?" The student who has the fruit must answer "¡Aquí está la manzana!" (Don't forget to model the question and the answer). 
  • Check for TPR gestures for each fruit showing the sign you taught for each fruit.
  • Ask students to draw pictures of the fruit you name. Erasable white boards are great for this activity!
  • Charades: A student makes a TPR gesture and the rest of the class has to guess it.

Tell a Story: El Monstruo Comelón

This is where the monster you made comes alive. Tell the story while feeding the monster.

El monstruo se come un banano.El monstruo se come una piña.El monstruo se come una pera.(Do the same for each fruit you have decided to include in your unit)¡El monstruo se engordó!
Ask questions after telling the story:¿El monstruo come piña o pan?

¿Qué come el monstruo?
¿Te gusta comer piña?
¿El monstruo se engordó o se durmió?
¿Qué le pasó al monstruo?

Act it out!

Play with the story before you let students act the story out. Pick some students to retell the story.
You will need a narrator, and to make it more fun and interactive, you can give a play microphone to the narrator.
Choose other students to put the fruits inside the monster's mouth. They should say the word aloud and make the appropriate TPR gesture.

Happy teaching!

The Color Game

Tuesday, January 29, 2013
Have you ever wondered what to do with an empty box of baby wipes or Clorox? Here is a simple and easy idea that my younger students love!

Find different pieces of fabric of various colors. Tie them all together, and put them inside the box. Next have your students guess the color that might be next. First, I have my students guess what could be inside the box, then I tell them that the box is filled with different colors. I simply ask "¿qué color es?" I then take some guesses, and finally I invite one of the students to pull one colored piece of fabric out of the box while we count "uno, dos, tres."

This idea is very simple, but its a good way to reuse before recycling, and the children in my Pre-K and K classes love guessing the colors. I hope yours do too!

Have fun!

Ready, Set, Go! Ideas for Traveling Teachers

Sunday, January 27, 2013

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 is that my school is laid out as a campus, with several small buildings scattered about, and when the weather gets bad, I suffer with 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 :)

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

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.


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 game here.

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 post that 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!

Happy travels!

Fun For Spanish Teachers
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