FAVORITE prop in my classroom- Señor Patata

DSC00040I am going to warn you now. My favorite prop has become a student obsession!

His name? Patata…Señor Patata.

Last year as I was starting 1st grade’s unit on “le duele” in the second book ¿Qué comes? from ConversaBooks. I needed to review BODY PARTS. We had sung “Cabeza, hombros, piernas, pies”, “Chuchua” from Cantajuego, but I still wanted more repetitions in context. It just so happened that at the same time my 2 year old twins got “Mr Potato Heads” for their birthday. I was working with them to say all the body parts. Where is his nose? Does he have a big nose? Why is his ear on his head?

THEN IT HIT ME!!! I was doing CI with my kids in English

…so I could use the same for my Spanish classroom.

I was nervous the first day. Would they think I thought they were babies? Would they check out?


I started with Señor Patata with no parts. I had all his body parts in a bag, and I proceeded to have each child pull the part out of the bag. (¿Qué hay en la bolsa? style) Thanks Carol Gaab and ConversaBooks for that great activity that never gets old.

The repetitions and language are endless. “Tiene dos brazos. ¡Oh no! Tiene un brazo pero quiere 3 brazos.” “¡Pobre Señor Patata no tiene pelo! Quiere una gorra.”

***My favorite is when a student pulls out “the mouth”, and we decide how he feels by turning the mouth upside down or right side up. ¿Está contento? ¿Está triste?

My first graders LOVED it and we did it for 3 class times in a row. It was the new PAT activity. Then I realized I could make more activities for it.

My 4th graders did the SAME activity but we added. “no puede + infinitive” He can’t sing because he doesn’t have a mouth ¡Pobre Señor Patata! He can’t see because he doesn’t have eyes. (Even better when coupled with Señor Wooly’s “Billy la Bufanda”)

Then I took photos of Señor Patata, and we did reading, listening and writing activities.

Now Señora Patata shows up in all my stories. The first picture that you see in the blog is from 5th grade where he shows up at the dump to look for legs. (Don’t worry. He uses bacon.) One group even had him fall in love with Barbie at the dump.

He stays in my room on a shelf, and my students between classes will change him. I never notice until the next class comments. I even do this same activity with 8th grade on KINDERGARTEN Day.

I have thought about adding a video from Toy Story or the Mr Potato Head commercials to get more repetitions. Who knows what Señor Patata will do next?

Sooooo…long story short,

That is why Señor Patata is my FAVORITE prop.

What is yours? What gets your students excited?

NTPRS – Top Take aways (1-3)

So now that is it almost OCTOBER!! ¡AY! I am finally sitting down to write out what I learned at NTPRS this summer in Chicago. Here are the first 3 things. In no particular order because I can’t begin to rank the importance of each thing.

Número UNO- TIME

I teach Kindergarten through 8th grade. That is 9 classes. I see my students when they are 6 years old until they turn 14. It is definitely an advantage compared to other schools. However I have let that fool me into to thinking I have lots of TIME with them. (Thanks Jason Fritze!) I see my K-6th grades twice a week. That’s 8 times a month for 45 minutes.That’s 6 hours…a month.

I see my students for 2.5 days per school year.

WHAT?? ¡Qué ridículo! When I really thought about it, I realized I was wasting so much time. I was taking a whole 9 weeks to build up to a story. A story. Why was I waiting to move forward with the things I know help us learn language. What was I thinking? I needed a push (kick in the pants) to reevaluate the whats and whys of my curriculum.

How much TIME do you have with your students? Do the math and leave a comment.

Número DOS- Props

I consider myself pretty outgoing. I love a performance. However my storytelling was starting to be a chore, a burden, and worst of all BORING. Step one- PQA, Step Two- Story, Step Three- Read. Rinse and Repeat. All it took was one story from Leslie Davison to realize the potential of a story with PROPS.

PROPS are good. PROPS in a students’ hands are AWESOME!!

For example-  I was helping a teacher get a chair down from her closet and noticed these dusty fabric bags. BAM! 3 fabric bags full of stuffed sea animals including 15 red fish and 1 black fish. So when a student told me “Quiero un pez”… Boy, was I ready for him. I had 1st graders enraptured with every word I said for 15 minutes circling “tiene” “quiere” just by having a mysterious bag of fish that got passed out to different students except of course the one student who wanted one. Oh props, where have you been all my life?

Número TRES- PQA leads to story

OK, don’t you hate when you realize that you know something is good practice, but you forgot about it and haven’t been doing it. I am confessing right now that PQA was a chore. It was the necessary evil of my day. Until I realized…

PQA is a treasure hunt.

I was hunting for the story. PQA was not the separate activity to the story, it was the backstory. It was my sales pitch to investors… my students, to create a story that meant something to them. Bryce Hedstrom, Ben Slavic and countless others have been making this point for years. Why didn’t I listen before?? The inside jokes and references to all that we discussed are PRICELESS to my students. You can’t force it, and you can’t plan it. You have to let it happen and trust that it will. Does that mean every story is a home run? No, just like every treasure hunt doesn’t end with gold. But when you find it…man, it is sweet victory.