When I think about teaching cultural lessons I usually come up with a list of excuses that looks something like this:
Who can relate to these excuses? I know that focusing on cultural topics is something that I want to do more of with my students, but I always find reasons not to...until now! At ACTFL I was inspired by Martina Bex's session on teaching language through culture. In her presentation, Martina took us through the steps of how to take a cultural product, practice or perspective and create an entire comprehensible input (CI) friendly unit (did I mention that she also made this process look totally effortless?). I'm taking baby steps, so instead of making an entire unit I created a mini unit that I can finish before winter break.
My mini unit focuses on el Día de los Reyes in Spain. I started the unit by looking at pictures and reading an explanation of the holiday with my students.
El Día de Reyes es una celebración en España. Los niños escriben cartas a los Reyes Magos con una lista de los regalos que quieren. Los Reyes Magos llegan a las casas el 5 de enero. Los Reyes Magos tienen regalos para los niños buenos y carbón para los niños malos. Los Reyes Magos ponen los regalos en los zapatos. El 6 de enero los niños se despiertan y abren los regalos.
Phew! Talk about something that looks easier than it is! Writing a summary that is interesting and comprehensible is tough! It was hard to not include so many of the details that I find interesting about this holiday, but my new mantra for writing is less is more!
After the reading I used MovieTalk to show a short video from Nickelodeon. The video is about the anxiety that one boy feels when he can't find one of his shoes on the night the Reyes are coming. I focused on the following vocabulary structures for this MovieTalk:
After we watched the video we acted out different variations of the video using All the World's a Stage (I narrated the story and all of the students silently acted out what they are hearing). It was fun to think of creative places to make them look for the shoe and to see their reactions when I told them different items were in the box!
My younger students wrote letters to the Reyes Magos. In the letter the students explained how they behaved this year (I had them circle different smiley faces), drew a picture of one item they wanted and signed their name. I shared each of the letters, circling vocabulary words as I went, and finally the students put their letters in an envelope addressed to the Reyes.
If you would rather write the letter as a class here are some great online platforms where you can email a letter to the Reyes.
If your students are too old to write a letter and you are looking for a service project the group 'Reyes Magos de Verdad' is an organization that emails you a letter that a child wrote to the Reyes Magos and asks you to send a gift.
Even though I am still far away from creating a cultural unit as complete as the ones that Martina presented, I am excited to start creating CI lessons that focus more on culture!
I'm sure that all teachers can relate to the craziness of Halloween...the costumes, the classroom parties, and the candy! I've finally learned that it is best to embrace the excitement that comes with this day. Pick activities that will match your student's excitement! Below are some ideas for activities that I do with my students to celebrate Día de los muertos.
We read Rosita y Conchita by Erich Haeger aloud as a class. The book is in Spanish and English but I rewrote the text using simple Spanish that I know my students can understand. Some details of the story are lost when you simplify the text, but the basic plot line stays the same and the language becomes comprehensible for your students. One of the best advantages to rewriting a text is that you can target specific language that each grade level is working on. On a side note, the Kindle version of Rosita y Conchita includes a game where students click and drag items to make their own ofrenda. After reading the book we make ofrendas together on the SmartBoard--so fun!
I also love the book Day of the Dead by Tony Johnston. This book is in English so I rewrote a simplified version of the text in Spanish to make it comprehensible for my students. This book hits on a lot of traditional foods and symbols for Día de los muertos and it is easy to rewrite in simple Spanish for lower level students.
After introducing my students to Día de los muertos we usually do a simple art project to celebrate this special day. My 1st graders use pictures from Día de los muertos celebrations as inspiration to decorate their own skull masks. After decorating the face they cut out the faces (I usually help them cut out the eyes) and tape a popsicle stick at the bottom to make a mask. Below are the templates I use for the masks.
My 2nd graders make skull faces out of paper plates. A co-worker cut out the idea from a magazine and they look awesome! Again, we look at images from Día de los muertos celebrations for inspiration on how to decorate the faces.
The 3rd graders make papel picado. Here are some simple instructions--it is basically the same process as making cutout snowflakes. I usually have my students make 3 or 4 panels and then send the panels home with a string to hang them (I fold a piece of construction paper in half and put the papel picados inside to keep them from getting torn on their journey home). Insider tip: having the students glue at home is key--when they glue in class the tissue paper always manages to get stuck to another student's project, creating a sticky mess.
My 4th graders make calaveras de azúcar. Here is my tried and true recipe. The students decorate with the pre-made cake icing that comes in tubes (I limit each student to only 3 colors of icing in the hopes that it will still resemble a skull when they are finished). We usually spend one day making the skulls and one day decorating them. While my students are waiting to be called up to make/decorate their skulls they complete reading activities on Textivate!
Check out the finished products!
The majority of you have probably already heard about the animated short Día de los muertos. If you haven't then you should watch it right now because it is fabulous for a MovieTalk! In her Día de los muertos packet on Teachers Pay Teachers Martina Bex uses another animated short entitled Día de muertos by Sofía Aviles. Both are great videos, although the second video is probably better suited to older students (I'll let you watch them both to figure out why). After watching the video there are a lot of different activities you could do to reinforce the key vocabulary structures...
What are some of your favorite ways to celebrate Día de los muertos with your students?
To celebrate Valentine's Day my classes created stories about...love! Don't worry, it's nothing mushy--just an innocent story about two boys liking a girl and trying to find her the perfect gift for Valentine's Day. To avoid any awkwardness in this story I chose a cast of either all boys or girls and used puppets. Let's be honest, the puppets are dopey, but that is perfect for this story. Embrace the dopey nature of the puppets! Describe how guapo/a they are and let the students have fun trying to pick up the objects in the story with the puppet's hands and mouth. Let your students play!
The story script includes fill in the blanks because each of my classes came up with their own story details. I am still continuing to backwards plan to read Brandon Brown quiere un perro in the spring, so this story introduced recoge and regresa to my students (both words appear throughout the novel).
The story focuses on the following structures:
Es el 14 de febrero, un día muy especial--es el día de San Valentín. Francine, Antonio y Carlos están en ________. Antonio ve a Francine...Antonio le gusta a Francine. Carlos ve a Francine...Carlos le gusta a Francine. ¡Antonio y Carlos les gusta a Francine! Antonio y Carlos buscan el regalo perfect para ella. Van a ________. En ________ Carlos busca el regalo perfecto. No recoge un libro, ¡Qué ridículo! No recoge un lápiz, ¡Qué ridículo! No recoge una pizza, ¡Qué ridículo! De repente, Carlos ve el regalo perfecto. Carlos recoge ________ (have students decide the gift or pull an item from the Caja mágica--the more ridiculous the better). Ahora Antonio busca el regalo perfecto. Antonio no recoge un crayón, ¡Qué ridículo! Antonio no recoge una planta, ¡Qué ridículo! De repente, Antonio ve el regalo perfecto. Antonio recoge ________. Antonio y Carlos regresan a ________. Carlos camina a Francine y le da el/la ________. Francine le dice "¡No me gusta!" Carlos está muy triste y llora. Antonio camina a Francine y le da el/la ________. Francine le dice "¡No me gusta!" Antonio está muy triste y llora. De repente, un chico muy guapo y importante llega. El chico se llama Umberto. Umberto ve a Francine...Umberto le gusta a Francine. Umberto busca el regalo perfecto. Umberto recoge ________. Umberto camina a Francine y le da el/la________. Francine le dice "¡Me gusta mucho!" Francine y Umberto corren a ________ y viven felices para siempre. ¡El fin!
This story also gave my students a chance to practice the third person plural form of verbs. My 3rd and 4th graders can tell me that the 'n' means 'they'!
It is finally Thanksgiving week! The students are excited about spending time with their families for this holiday, so I decided to embrace their excitement and do a fun mini-story about Thanksgiving. I found the book El Pavo de Acción de Gracias by Cassie Williams on Amazon. I love instant gratification, so I downloaded the book onto my iPad for only $2.99 and it immediately showed up on my Kindle app (you can download this app for free in the iTunes store, all you need is an Amazon account to purchase books).
This book was a great find because, in addition to recycling high frequency vocabulary like quieres and te gusta, it is very entertaining. There are so many wonderful Spanish children's books, but often the language is too complex for my students to comprehend and I end up rewriting the story. This book was a great find because it was already written at the level of my students.
Lesson: I started out my lesson by talking about what my students eat during Thanksgiving. I put of pictures of different Thanksgiving foods and asked them questions (all in the target language of course).
I then picked a few actors for my story. I had all of the actors sitting at a table with plates in front of them. My students had been working with pone (puts) so I had the actor playing the roll of the mom put different foods on each person's plate to get some more repetitions of this high frequency structure. Once everyone had food on their plates I told them to start eating and the dad put his knife in the turkey. Just before the knife went into the turkey the actor that was playing the turkey screamed. The turkey stood up and said "Espera" (wait). I then read the book where the turkey is trying to convince the family to eat other foods instead of him.