Monday, August 27, 2012

Feelings Lesson Plan (Los Sentimientos)

We spent a week learning about los sentimientos.  The boys and I really had a fun time with this topic.  Below is an outline of our lesson.

**Note:  The activities listed below are not the ONLY Spanish activities we do throughout the day.  We also intersperse the lessons, videos, books, computer games, songs, etc.  These are just the activities we completed under our theme of Feelings.


(feliz, triste, emocionado, mal, asustado, frustrado, regular, cansado, sorprendido, avergonzado, contento, enojado, confundido, satisfecho, enfermo, aburrido)


Feminine vs. masculine words
Tú vs. Usted, Está and Estás

Day 1

Introduce Vocabulary

First I said each vocab word one by one.  After each one the boys would act out the emotion.  We did this a couple of times.

Next I had black and white outline pictures of some of the emotions we were discussing (feliz, triste, contento, regular, emocionado, enojado, sorprendido, asustado) for the boys to color.   I also had labels for each emotion that I had printed on Avery label sheets.  Once they were finished coloring, we labeled each emotion, then matched up the ones that were opposites (or somewhat opposites) and glued them back-to-back on a popsicle stick.
Neither one of my boys love to color, oh well!

I gave the boys different scenarios (in English) and they had to hold up the emotion they would feel for that situation.  For example: Your ice cream cone falls in the dirt.  When they held up the emotion they would feel, we all said it in Spanish.  Then I asked, "¿Qué es el opuesto?" and we would all say the opposite.

Day 2

Read and Discuss Los Sentimientos by Patricia Geis and Sergio Folch

This is a great book for discussing emotions and how you feel in various situations.  There is a spot in the back of the book to draw the emotion, with dry-erase, that Coco is feeling.
Here is the link to it on Amazon.

Review Vocabulary

On day 2, we reviewed the vocabulary by playing charades, a game we all love.  As I mentioned in my post on Easy Spanish BINGO, I created emotions flash cards using clipart from Microsoft Word and Avery printable business card paper.  We used these cards to play charades.  Since the pictures on the cards are obvious, my 3-yr old could play without much assistance.  

Grammar Lesson

Although we had previously talked about masculine vs. feminine endings, it's always good to review grammar points and point out new situations in which they apply.  Before we had talked about gender with relation to physical characteristics.  On day 2, we applied the rule to emotions.  Since my kids are so young, we don't spend much time on grammar points.  I feel like if they hear the rule several times along with its correct usage, they will pick it up without having to drill and kill the point.  So, we limited our grammar lesson to practicing saying how various people were feeling with either an "o" or "a" on the end depending who we were talking about.  I used the emotions flash cards as we were talking to allow the kids to visualize the emotions as we discussed them.

Day 3

Review Vocabulary

To start our vocab review today, we played one of our favorite games, BINGO.  Once again, I used the cards that I described in my previous post found here.  

Then, as if BINGO weren't enough fun, we took the cards out of the plastic holders and played Go Fish.  We worked a little grammar into Go Fish by practicing asking, "Tienes _______?" and answering, "No, Vete a pescar" or "Sí, lo tengo."

Day 4

Review Vocabulary

Do you see a trend here? We try to review vocabulary every day.  The more the boys hear each word, the more likely it will stick in their heads.  On day 4, I allowed the boys to each choose a review activity.  My oldest chose charades and the youngest chose memory match.  

Grammar Lesson

I explained to the boys that in Spanish some words are different depending on if you are speaking with an adult or another kid and that it was similar to calling adults Miss/Mr./Mrs. in English.  We talked about Tú and Usted when asking someone how they are doing.  After that we did some role-playing, taking turns asking "¿Cómo estás?" and "¿Cómo está?" while pretending to be different people.  I let the kids take turns wearing some of their daddy's accessories when they were pretending to be an adult.
¿Cómo está usted?

Day 5

Review Day

I try to make our last day of a lesson a fun, review day.  For our feelings unit, we made puppets out of fuzzy socks, googly eyes, foamies, and yarn, and then had the puppets ask/answer how they were feeling.  

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Easy Spanish BINGO

My kids can't get enough of BINGO.  This week we are studying feelings (los sentimientos), and today we played several rounds of feelings BINGO.  Afterwards, my son asked me when we were going to start schoolwork.  (Ha! Success!)  Since it's such a great, fun learning tool,  I came up with this versatile, fun way to make Spanish BINGO cards.

First, I went to a nearby office supply store and purchased printable business card paper, then got home to find it about half the price on Amazon (Oh well, next time!).

Next, I purchased clear 8 1/2 x 11 business card holders at the Dollar Store.  I think there were 10 to a package.

Finally, I used Microsoft Word to make picture cards.  Word had a great selection of emoticon clipart, and it's super-easy to make the business cards using Word's label creator.  I placed and labeled one picture per card then printed off 2 sets.  I finished them off by laminating them.

For BINGO, I placed the cards randomly into the clear business card holders and let my kids pick which card they wanted to use.  I wrote the names of the feelings on little pieces of paper and drew them out of a cup.

The great part about these little cards is that we can use them for memory match, flashcards, Go Fish, and lots of other activities.  It is somewhat time consuming, finding the images, printing the cards, laminating, and cutting them out.  However, we can use them in so many ways, I think it's well worth it.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Taking Your Child from Alphabet to Reading

I've had several friends ask me recently how I taught my son to read.  Each of these friends has either a 3 or 4-year old who already knows the alphabet and letter sounds.  To them, and many others, the idea of teaching a child to read can be very intimidating.  However, you don't need an advanced degree or even an education degree to teach a child how to read.  I'm no reading specialist or expert by any means, but I did teach first grade for a short time, taught my 4-yr old how to read, am currently teaching my 3-yr old to read and have attended several conferences on reading strategies.  Below are some of my suggestions for bridging the gap between letter sounds and reading.

Find books that interest your child  

In my opinion, this is the single most important part of teaching a child to read.  If your child is bored with whatever he is reading, then he will have no motivation to comprehend the text, read fluently, or progress.  Figure out what it is your child loves to read about and head out to the library.  The beauty of teaching your child to read at home is that you don't need a textbook, all you need are books.  Reading textbooks are beneficial for classroom teachers who have to teach a wide variety of students on varying levels.  But homeschool parents working with their children individually, can find books at their child's exact level that get him excited about reading.  There are plenty of leveled (beginner, intermediate, advanced) books that appeal to all readers.  My boys like Cars and Star Wars, and I have found easy and intermediate readers at the library about both.  

Start Slow

Five to ten minutes per day (or a few times a week) is plenty for a 3 or 4-yr old.  If you notice that your child is becoming frustrated, then it's time to stop and continue another day.  The last thing you want is for your child to dislike reading or to create a mental block.  The goal is to build confidence and a love for reading.

My System

--We begin with short vowels, introducing one per week.  We do lots of activities (listed below) and simple reading.  We also learn 3 sight words each week.  (See below for more information on sight words.)

--After we have gone over all the short vowels, we move on to blends and digraphs (th, sh, ch, pl, pr, sp, etc.) with short vowels.

--Next I introduce long vowels with silent e.  We do many activities (some listed below) comparing short and long vowel words.  Once my son has mastered the silent e pattern, then we will look at long vowel diphthongs: ai, ea, ee, oa.

--From the long vowel diphthongs we move to more complex diphthongs: oo, ou, ow, etc.

--Finally we study the more complex word families: ight, ough, etc.

--The whole time we are reading, reading, reading every day.  Listed below are some of the reading strategies I use to teach the skills listed above.

Building Phonemic Awareness

Phonemic awareness is the ability to distinguish and manipulate the individual sounds in a word.  It is important in building reading comprehension and fluency and learning to spell.

Word Sounds Game

--This is a great car or dinnertime activity.  Ask your child, "What sound do you hear at the beginning of cat?" or "What sound do you hear at the end of cup?" or "What sound do you hear in the middle of rip?" 

--At the dinner table, you could have your children take turns naming the first letter in each item on their plate.    

--Take turns thinking of how many words can you think of that start with a certain letter.

--Have a beginning sound scavenger hunt (ex. find 3 things that start with "t".)

--Play the animal game.  Think of an animal, then announce, "I'm thinking of an animal that starts with the letter ___."  Children take turns guessing until someone guesses right. The person who guesses right gets to go next.

Picture Sorts

--I cut out pictures from a Kidergarten skills workbook, laminated them, then arranged them into various sorts.  For beginning or ending sound sorts, I found pictures that either began or ended with 3 different consonants and mixed them together (ex. T, W, S).  Then I wrote each letter at the top of its own piece of paper.  I gave the pile of pictures to my son and explained to him to place them on the correct paper according to the beginning sound (or ending, depending on which one we were working on).    

--I did the same thing for short and long vowel sorts.  When we're studying short vowels, I have my son sort "a" from "o", "i" from "e", and so on.  When we've moved on to long vowels, we will sort short "a" from long "a", etc.

Sound Manipulation

--I use magnetic letters and it goes like this, "Find the letters to make CAT, /c/ /a/ /t/.  Great, now change cat to bat.  Change the bat to sat.  Now make the sat sad.  Great, now make sad into sod."  You get the idea.  

--As your child's level increases, you can increase the difficulty, adding in digraphs and blends (th, ch, pl, br, etc.), then eventually long vowels.  "Find the letters to make RAT, now make rat into rate.  Now make rate say late.  Change late to slate.  Make that slate say slat." 

Sight Words

Sight words are the most common English words in print.  Many of them are words that do not follow the normal rules of phonics.  Therefore, they cannot be sounded out, and must be memorized.  Ex. the, have, of.

Here is a website with lists and printables of sight words.

Tips on Teaching Sight Words

--Start simple by only introducing two to three per week.  Begin with easier words like, "I, it, if, on, in."  

--Have sight words displayed on a wall (I use a pocket chart).  Once the words have been introduced, have your child point to the words as you say them.  Then have your child read the words as you point to them.

--As you read books to your child, have him/her read the sight words as you come to them.  Have him/her count how many he/she can find in one book. 

--Play sight word games, such as memory match, bingo, or fishing.  You can make an easy fishing game by placing a paperclip on each sight word paper and attaching a magnet to a small stick or wand.

Word Families

Word families  are words that share the same ending.  Easy examples of word families are words that end in -an, -at, or -ar.  More complex word families are words that end in -ight, -ough, or -ation.  Learning to sort and manipulate word families helps children to categorize, organize, and store phonemic information in their brain.  It gives them a bank for figuring out words that they have not yet learned.  

Activities to Teach Word Families

--Have your child sort word families written on slips of paper.  Ex: ow words that say, "ou" vs. ow words that say long "o" or ough words that say, "uff" vs. long "o".  

--Play the same manipulation game listed under phonemic awareness, but with word family chunks like "ing" words, "out" words, etc.  An example is "Make fling, change to sing, change to spring, change to sprout, change to shout."

--Make a train, parts of a race care, necklace or whatever you can think of that your child would enjoy.  In the train example, the engine has beginning sound/blends and has to attach to word family endings to make words.

--Tape beginning sounds and word family endings to legos, then attach the legos together to make words.

--Write several different word families on fish shapes.  Have a fish bowl for each family.  The child then sorts the fish into the correct bowl.

Build Confidence

I have found that teaching a child to read is very similar to teaching so many other life skills, such as swimming or riding a bike.  It's more about building confidence and becoming comfortable than it is about the actual skills.  Sure, you have to learn how to kick your feet and move your arms to be able to swim, but you'll never get to that point if you're not comfortable putting your face in the water.  The same is true with reading.  It can be overwhelming and scary to a child.  It is just as important to get your child comfortable with words and reading as it is to teach them phonics.

In each circumstance of my oldest son learning to swim, ride his bike, and read, he had all the necessary skills but lacked the confidence to move forward and succeed.  He knew how to swim, but was fearful of jumping in or swimming in the deep end.  He could ride a balance bike perfectly, but was too scared to go fast enough on his pedal bike to be able have enough forward momentum to stay balanced.  He understood phonics and how to read words, but lacked the confidence to read a beginner book.  In each circumstance, at some point something clicked in his head, and it was like a switch turning on.  He suddenly had confidence in his ability and took off at light speed.

So then, how do you build confidence?

--Start with early readers, like the Bob Books.  My youngest son loves these!  They start very simple and then increase in difficulty.  With only a few simple words, even the earliest reader can make it through an entire book.  My son was so proud to tell his daddy that he read an entire book by himself.

We purchased these two sets of Bob Books from Amazon for around $10/set.  Most libraries also carry them.
--Gradually work up to simple, "real" books.  Some of my favorites are Dr. Seuss' Hop on Pop, Ten Apples Up on Top, and Green Eggs and Ham.  P. D. Eastman's Fred and Ted books, Go Dog Go, and Are You My Mother? are also great books for early readers.  Read one page or one line and have your child read the next.  Then it isn't so overwhelming.

--Join reading programs from the local library or Book It.

--Give lots and lots of praise and make a big deal about reading.  Have your child call Grandma or an Aunt or someone to announce that he read an entire book by himself.  After all, it is a BIG DEAL!!!

A Word about Teaching a Child to Read in English vs. Spanish

I have read a decent amount of research that shows it is possible to teach a child to read in two languages at the same time.  However, I prefer that my children become fluent readers in English before learning to read in Spanish.  Reading in English is much more difficult than learning to read in Spanish.  I feel it is better to master reading in the more difficult language first, then to move on to the easier of the two.  Plus, our home is not a bilingual home; it is very English-dominant.  Therefore all the vocabulary and background information my children have accumulated over the years is in English.  Reading in English makes sense to them because they already know what the words mean.

Good luck and please feel free to share success stories about your child learning to read!  

Friday, August 10, 2012

Fantastic Spanish Language Resource

Scholastic Classroom Magazines in Spanish

I just received the September issues of Scholastic's classroom magazine, Let's Find Out in Spanish.  I remembered using and loving the Scholastic News magazines as a classroom teacher and was thrilled to be able to order Let's Find Out as a homeschooler.  Let's Find Out is written on a Pre-K/K level, but I think it would also be appropriate for 1st grade beginning language learners.  

Homeschoolers have two options for ordering.  One is to call Scholastic at 1-800-SCHOLASTIC and order one subscription per child.  I'm not sure what the cost is for ordering under 10 subscriptions as it isn't listed on the website, but I believe it is under $10/subscription.  The downside to ordering one subscription/child (unless you have 10 children) is that you will not have access to the online activities.  The other option is to order the 10-subscription minimum at  **If you do not already have an account, you have to sign up first.  If you have any trouble signing up online, give them a call.  Their customer service is outstanding, and they are very willing to work with homeschoolers.**  Ordering 10 subscriptions gives you the educator discount and access to all the online activities.  It amounts to $55.00 ($5.50/subscription), which is a big chunk of change.  I fretted for 2 days trying to decide whether or not to make the purchase.  I ended up going for it, thinking that I would send the excess issues to the school in Honduras where I once worked.  

After looking over the online materials tonight, I've decided it's one of the best purchases I've made.  The online materials are fantastic.  There are short videos to go along with the theme for each magazine.  The videos are educational and simple with fantastic pictures, perfect for a language-learner.  There are also games (in Spanish) to go along with each unit, as well as printable worksheets.  The best part is that Scholastic has done all the work of putting the units together.  No more scouring the web for additional activities to go along with a theme.  Each month's 4 issues arrive with ideas for extension activities, poems, and lesson plans plus the additional online activities.  The amount of resources you get with a 10-subscription purchase is well worth the cost.

These are all the goodies that came with our September issue:  A magazine for 4 weeks, lesson plans/activities for each week, 2 large posters (the noses poster is pictures, and there is another on the back of it), worksheets to copy, and a list of online resources to accompany each week.

For a list of topics that will be covered this year, click here

Signing up with as a homeschooler also gives you access to the Scholastic Book Clubs.  Club Leo is their Spanish book club, offering levels Pre-K-6 (although the selection is much better at the lower levels).  The Book Clubs are one of the most economical ways (besides the library) to access books in Spanish.

Side note: I know that many years ago when I taught 1st grade dual-immersion, Scholastic offered each grade level of Scholastic News in Spanish, but I couldn't find them available on their website.  I was only able to find Let's Find Out and then some older level (grade 6 and up) magazines.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Tuning Out the Little Voice

Well, it's been months of planning and a week of school already under our belts, but still there's that little voice in the back of my head telling me I can't, that it won't work, that I should just give up.  Each day is different.  Some days I feel great, like I'm a supermom, like I accomplished 2 days worth of work in only 1 morning.  Other days it seems like I work hard all day only to accomplish one minor task.  On those days the voice is loud and clear, "You're wasting your time.  All this work for that one little activity?  Will the kids even get anything out of it?  You should be cleaning the house.  You're going to put in all this effort and your kids still won't speak an ounce of Spanish," and on and on.

If you know me, you are probably surprised to hear this.  Even though I may give off the impression that I have things together, each day is a struggle to overcome the voice and maintain confidence in what I'm doing.  Some days it's simply moving forward rather than maintaining confidence.  After all, it's difficult to maintain something that isn't there.  On those days the goal is to just keep going.

Bottom line is that I believe strongly in language education, and I know that home education is the best course for us at this point.  Those two facts the voice cannot shake.  I truly believe that God led us to this path, and that's what keeps me going on the days when my confidence wanes.  Whenever I feel like 1)We're not hitting the Spanish hard enough or 2)It's not doing any good, I have to constantly remind myself that some Spanish is better than no Spanish.  I also have to remind myself, even though I know this from experience, that languages are not acquired in a few weeks.  It takes time and dedication.....and patience, which I am sometimes not the best at!

Finally, I have to remember to keep my expectations in check, expectations for myself and the kiddos.  While I definitely don't want to have low expectations, sometimes I think they become a little unrealistic.  On those days I have to remind myself, yes, Heather, it's ok if the breakfast dishes stay on the counter until dinner, it's ok if the folded laundry sits in the basket for an extra day, and on and on.  Heather, you're not sitting on the couch eating bon-bons everyday.  You're doing the most important job that you can do, the job that God has created you to do, educating your children.   And as far as the children go, they are 5 and 3.  It's Kindergarten and Pre-K, no need to stress out about the lessons at this point.  They both already meet most of the Kindergarten standards, so just relax and enjoy this time with them.  Oh and, try to ignore that other voice, will ya?