How I plan a K-2 lesson… Building Blocks- After the story

So, how do I plan a lesson for my Kindergarten – 2nd grade class?

Here is my first post about Building Blocks of my lessons- TPR.

Here is my second post about Building Blocks of my lessons- PQA.

Here is my third post about Building Blocks of my lessons- STORIES


Things that I continually use throughout a lesson.

So the story is over…now what?

Well, if it was a good storytelling day, then make the most of it.

If it wasn’t (and we have all been there), then we can still salvage it. Call it STORY REHAB.

There are lots of activities to choose, but here are some of my favorites. You can choose just one, 2 of them or all. It just depends on your goals.

Number 1 —  DRAW THE STORY

As you retell the story, students draw the story on their paper. I use a simple 4 box storyboard.

4 box storyboard

I like to draw with them so that as I draw I can describe what I am drawing. And, many kids don’t know how to draw certain things like speech bubbles, expressions, and adding details. The very creative kids draw their ideas, and kids who need some extra support can look at my drawings to guide them.

What is great about this activity is all the extra repetitions the students hear, and it is a less stressful time for students to ask questions.

After you have the drawings, you can retell the story as students point to their drawings. You can then do it out of order to check listening comprehension. You could have some of the students try and tell about one frame in Spanish or all of them. I always make this optional and worth classroom points. (For more information on classroom points, see my observation notes of Annabelle Allen La Maestra Local)

Number 2 —  Character Study

Which character?

If your story had 3 or more characters, then you either have students draw the characters separately or create a document quickly with google images or images free of copyrights on Students then cut them out, or you can cut them out ahead of time.

Screenshot 2017-06-06 18.58.09Download PDF of the image above – Character Study Butterfly

Once students have all the images, you describe the character. For example, tell something they might say or something they do in the story to the class. Students listen and raise the picture or pictures of the characters matching your description.


  • Put pictures of the characters around your room and students walk to the picture of the character you are describing.
  • Take the activity outside! Students draw the characters on the sidewalk with chalk, and then as you describe the character, they can jump on top of their drawings.
  • Now take those same images and students act out the story as you retell it. Or, as you retell the story, they hold up the character you are talking about at that time and switch throughout the story.

Number 3 —  Parallel Story 

I like to make a PowerPoint of a story that I can use year after year that is similar to the story I know I will tell or we will create as a class. Sometimes I have the story written out on the slides, or sometimes it is just the images. You can also check Storyteller’s Corner on TeachersPayTeachers for GREAT stories. I love to tell her stories in class and print them for my classroom library.

Below is a sample of one of the PowerPoints I have made.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Number 4 —  Act out the story again

Something great about little kids is they will love to act the the story. You can have another set of actors to act out the story, OR you can put the kids in groups and have the groups act out the story at the same time as you retell it. (All the World’s a Stage)

Number 5 —  Musical Story Review

I love to turn on the music. It can change things enough to make it novel. So, turn on your favorite Spanish song. Students walk around the room. Then, when you stop the music, they listen for a sentence from the story that they then act out. For example, (stop music) “The butterfly flies to México” or “The snake says -I like the desert-” Of course you do this in the target language.

Number 6 —  Drawing

I love this one when I have an unexpected 5 minutes left after telling a story.

Pass out half sheets, and have students draw:


  • their favorite scene from the story. You can have requirements like there have to be 2 characters and/or the setting around the characters.
  • what happens next in the story OR maybe draw a spin-off scene (like in the story of “The King doesn’t have a mouth” the students draw HOW the king lost his mouth).
  • a story ending. Cut the story off before you end it. Your students draw the ending. For example “The boy opens his present, and it is ______ .”


Stories in K-2 classroom (Building Blocks for how I plan a K-2 lesson)

So, how do I plan a lesson for my Kindergarten – 2nd grade class?

Here is my first post about Building Blocks of my lessons- TPR.

Here is my second post about Building Blocks of my lessons- PQA.


Methods that I continually use throughout a lesson.


Story-asking is a very big part of Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling (TPRS). If you have had training in TPRS at conferences like NTPRS or iFLT, then you know the method.

Here are some blogs that explain it better than I can. Some of these links include DEMO videos.

Martina Bex: Story-asking

Julie Baird: Story-Asking

TPR stories: Story-asking

(AWESOME resource for LOTS of information)



Here are the differences:

TIME/ATTENTION- Most story-asking in my upper elementary and middle classes last for 20-30 minutes. I do not attempt this with my younger students. I started to take stories and divide them into mini-stories that can be combined into 1 BIG story. I gave an example in my post El Rey no tiene una boca of how I divided that story. These mini-stories take between 5-10 minutes. The rest of the class, I do CI activities like songs, games, PQA, TPR etc.

FEWER OPTIONS- When I do story-asking with my older students, I ask for lots of details. I, also, ask more open ended questions or questions that need a longer answer. Why does the character do this? What does the character say? Where does the character go?

With my younger students, I don’t ask as many questions. I ask for a name sometimes. Many times, especially in Kindergarten, I ask an EITHER/OR question. Did the character go to Pizza Hut or Dominos? I stay away from open-ended questions and long answers because most students don’t have the language yet to express that kind of answer. I also keep to a tighter script with fewer details. Lots of times “story-asking” can be more “story-telling” like you will see in the example below. I start a story by telling students the set-up.  Then, they get to choose the details in the next parts of the story.

PROPS/VISUALS- I try to do this with all my classes but I am very deliberate about providing visuals for my younger students. There are student actors or puppets for everything. If I have a mask or wig to help then I use those, too. If the character is moving to a new location, then that student actor or puppet must move. Reoccurring structures (quiere, tiene, va a, le da etc.) all have a gesture that I do and have the class do with me when telling the story. I have a set of location posters that a student will hold up during the story. I also will take pictures or have a student worker take pictures as we tell the story for students to see when retelling the story another day.

CLASS PARTICIPATION – I like to have all my students participate during a story. I like to have my students mimic the characters. One character begs for the other character’s pizza. First, I have the actor do it. Then, I have another student beg in the same way. Then, the whole class begs. Anytime I use a frequently used structure the whole class does the gesture and says it with me.

  • My older students have jobs while telling a story (drawing the story, summarizing the story, taking pictures,  etc.). When you have time, check out Bryce Hedstrom and Ben Slavic posts about classroom jobs.

VOTING – This goes along with class participation because it includes the whole class in a story. At the end of a story, I give students two options for the ending. I will put a motion to the ending. Then one by one each student votes for the ending using Spanish (points for using Spanish) OR they can just do the motion. I will repeat back their answer for the class. It is very similar to what I described in the LE DA game I learned from Leslie Davison.



This is going to be very detailed, so consider yourself warned!
I am sharing my style with you. It is not the only way it can be done.


STORY SCRIPT (Part 1 of “El Rey no tiene una boca.”)

Hay un rey. El rey tiene un problema. No tiene una boca. ¡Qué lástima! No puede comer. No puede hablar. No puede cantar.

There is a king. The king has a problem. He doesn’t have a mouth. What a shame! He can’t eat. He can’t talk. He can’t sing.

TELLING THE STORY IN CLASS (what actually happens)

“Clase, hay un rey.” I write “el rey” on the board and translate because it is a brand new word. I choose a male student, and I have a crown for him to wear. Then, I gesture and say “Siéntase,  rey” for him to sit on the teacher stool as a place of honor. “La clase dice -Hola, rey.-” The class responds. “Oh clase, más formal” Es un rey. La clase dice –Hola  rey-” We bow formally to the king and say -Hola- in our most snobbiest accents.

“Clase, El rey tiene un problema.” The class responds with the automatic response we established earlier in the year. “DUM DUM DUUUMMM,” I whisper dramatically and slowly for effect. “Clase, el rey tiene un secreto.” I make sure everyone is engaged. I might call on individual students to ensure everyone is listening. “Eric, el rey tiene un secreto.” Then,  I list all the things that the king has. “El rey tiene ojos. Los ojos son cafés.” “El rey tiene una nariz.” “El rey tiene pelo. Tiene pelo rubio.”

(Dramatically) “El rey … no tiene … una boca.” I pause. I act shocked and repeat it a couple times either to the whole class or addressing individual students to fish for dramatic reactions

“Clase, ¡Qué lástima!” This is usually already posted as a rejoinder, but if not, I write it on the board to introduce or remind students what it means. “La clase dice -¡Qué lástima!” The class responds.

If I haven’t posted “puede” and “no puede” before, then I write them on the board now and translate. These are not new words to my students because I have introduced them at the beginning of this unit. I have a stack of signs/flashcards of infinitives that students recognize. (They know “come” means “he/she eats” so I have a sign with “comer” and someone eating.)

“Clase, ¿El rey puede comer?” (holding sign of COMER) The class responds “NO.” One student might say “¡Qué lastima!” If they don’t then, I prompt them by saying it myself. “Clase, el rey no puede comer.” I act shocked and repeat dramatically with examples. “Caroline, el rey no puede comer… chocolate.” SHOCKED “Toby, el rey no puede comer…pizza.” SHOCKED “Clase, el rey no puede comer… ¡EL HELADO!” SHOCKED. “Clase,¿el rey está contento o está triste?” The class responds and I have my actor be sad.  I also compare students who can eat chocolate or pizza to the king. I have those students act out what they can do.

I then go through a sign or two of actions he can do.  “Clase, ¿El rey puede escribir?”(holding sign of ESCRIBIR)  The class responds. “Sí clase, el rey puede escribir porque tiene… “The class responds “manos, brazos, dedos etc.”  I have the actor playing the king act out by pretending to write or really writing something on the board. I might have other students write. The whole time I am narrating. “El rey puede escribir. Caroline puede escribir. etc.”

“Clase, ¿El rey puede bailar?”(holding sign of BAILAR)  The class responds. “Sí clase, el rey puede bailar porque tiene… “The class responds with different answers “piernas, brazos, manos, etc.” I will have my actor dance then, I will have other students dance and then the whole class. “La clase puede bailar. Toby puede bailar. Yo puedo bailar.”

“Clase, ¿El rey puede hablar?” (holding sign of HABLAR) The class responds “NO.” One student might say “¡Qué lástima!” If they don’t, then I will prompt them by saying it myself. “Clase, el rey no puede hablar.” I act shocked and repeat dramatically with examples. “Caroline, el rey dice -Hola- “No, porque no puede hablar.” “Patrick, ¿El rey dice -Tengo hambre.-” “No, porque no tiene una boca… No puede hablar.” I try to keep asking and giving examples until the class is finishing my sentence. “El rey … NO PUEDE HABLAR.”  Each time it makes sense, I will throw in a “¡Qué lástima!”  Hopefully, students are starting to do that for me. I will continue to compare students who can eat chocolate or pizza to the king. I will have those students act out what they can do.


Then, I am done for the day. I don’t go any further than this. Sometimes I will even break this story up with a brain break or other activity if it is going on for too long. I don’t always extend each part if I feel like I need to keep it moving. If the class is responding well, then I will extend it.

When the story is done, I usually do an up and moving activity because, for the most part, students have been sitting through this activity.

The next class time I will review part one and continue the story into part two.

How I plan a K-2 lesson… Building Blocks- PQA

So how do I plan a lesson for my Kindergarten – 2nd grade class?

Here is my first post about Building Blocks of my lessons- TPR.


Methods that I continually use throughout a lesson.

Personalized Questions and Answers (PQA)

PQA is a great way to get in repetitions of your vocabulary especially in 1st and 2nd person. It’s BIGGEST benefit for me is the class environment it creates. You get to know your students. Students get to know you. They see that you care about them, and it makes the content more personal and compelling.

There are LOTS of ways to do PQA. Some teachers are so good at it that they get all their content from these conversations. I am not really that teacher. I am confessing that PQA is not my strength. So this is how I personalize in my K-2 lessons in a way that works for me. All these ideas are from other teachers, but I don’t really remember who. (If you know, then message me and I will give them credit.)

Here is how I do PQA in my classroom with K-2.

  1. DRAWING- I have students draw their answers on a half sheet of paper then I collect them. As we go through the unit, I discuss 2-3 papers at a time each lesson.As we get closer to the end I stop telling them who the paper belongs to and they have to guess who I am describing. **TIP- if your students’ drawings are too hard to interpret you can make it a game to guess or as they draw, walk around and write at the bottom of their drawing what it is they are drawing.
    • For example, in the “El Rey no tiene un boca” I have a half sheet that has “PUEDO” (I can) on one side and “NO PUEDO” on the other side. Students draw something they can do and something they can’t do.


  1. 4 CORNERS- I place signs for designated places in my room for 2-4 different possible answers to a question. I have a series of questions that students answer by going to that part of the room that matches their answer. OR I ask each student individually (dramatically of course). Then the student goes to that part of the room or adds their name to a chart. To keep it novel you can have the class start to guess what each student will choose. I usually do this when I have already asked half the class. I like to stop and count the number of people in each group or ask students more questions if their response is unexpected.
    • For example, Series of questions- What do you like on your pizza? Students go to the “Yo quiero” (I want) or the “No quiero” for each ingredient.
    • One question- What is your favorite sport? Football, Soccer, Baseball or Basketball
  2. POP-UP PQA– (A lot like “pop-up grammar”) It is short and quick. Maybe I’m in the middle of an activity like a story or MovieTalk. I’ll ask a question that relates to what we are discussing.  I stay with the question until the class checks out. That may be 4-5 questions with one student or it may be 1-2 questions with multiple students. Then I move on. I might check in with students as we continue to compare their answers to what is going on in the activity.
    • Let’s say a character in a story goes to the beach. I stop and ask if a student likes the beach. Did you go to the beach this summer? Where? Did you go with your family? Did you swim in the ocean? Do you like the mountains or the beach? Later on I might say something like “The character goes to Daytona Beach, not Panama City Beach like Caitlin did this summer” or maybe the PQA can make an appearance. “The character goes to Daytona Beach and sees Justin because that is Justin’s favorite beach.”


**NOTE- I do not have all the answers but I can tell you what I know so far, and I also want to share some of the people that helped me on this road.

GREAT RESOURCES for PQA (If you have other good resources then let me know and I will add them to the list)

Ben Slavic– one example of PQA “Circling with Balls”

Bryce Hedstrom– PQA activity  “La Persona Especial”



How I plan a K-2 lesson… Building Blocks- TPR

I have had some emails the last few weeks about Elementary Curriculum and Lesson Planning. If you are one of those people, you are not alone. I do not have all the answers but I am 10 years into this journey so I can tell you what I know so far. I invite you on my journey that is far from over. I also want to share some of the people that helped me on this road.

So how do I plan a lesson for my Kindergarten – 2nd grade class?


Things that I continually use throughout a lesson.

Total Physical Response- (TPR) created by James Asher

TPR is a great way to increase vocabulary for actions in a game like setting. It is a play on Simon Says but everyone wins! Here is the research and explanation from Berty Segal Cook.

I have a running list of words I teach in 1-3 small sessions of TPR in every K-2 class. It is a great brain break and a way to reenforce words you want to use in a song or a story. THESE TPR SESSIONS ONLY LAST ABOUT 5 MINUTES. Sometimes is is a 30 second break in the story to remind them of what a character is doing. It can be more if you are doing mini-situations with them.

TIPS to keep it novel.

  1. Don’t forget to add adjectives. (Walk slowly, quickly, Jump high, Jump low, Sing sweetly)
  2. Comparisons (Walk like a monster, walk like a baby, walk like an elephant, Look at Patrick. Patrick you walk. Class, walk like Patrick, Dance like Barney)
  3. Numbers and Combinations (Jump 4 times, Eat 13 pizzas, Dance and write, Dance Write and eat pizza, Lift 2 hands, Jump and say “Shoe”)
  4. Mini-situations- The class is happy. The class dances. The class jumps. etc. The class is tired. The class is thirsty. The class wants water. The class drinks lots of water. The class drinks lots of water and sits down. There is an insect in the water. The class says “How disgusting!” (other examples: The class builds a snowman, the class makes snowballs and has a big fight. The invisible ball

Erica Peplinski (a MUST follow for elementary TPRS/CI teachers) has a list of TPR terms along with other resources like books to read aloud and MovieTalks to reinforce the TPR terms. LISTA ACTIVA

Jason Fritz (EL REY) does a great job with this because he makes the actions into mini stories and also he divides the classes into countries to compare and contrast.


Michel Baker has a great series of blog posts about Jason. ENJOY!






El Rey no tiene una boca

ONE OF MY FAVORITE STORIES comes from the “Elementary Awesomeness” session with Leslie Davison at iFLT 2016 in Chattanooga. I originally heard it from her at NTPRS 2014 in Chicago. My version is a little different. You can see her version at the end of this post.

** Note- I never tell a full story in one class time with 1st graders. It would take too long. So I divide the story up into mini-stories that make one big story. Sometimes I have 3 parts, sometimes 4. It just depends on my little people and what they can handle. I like to divide this story into 4 parts because I introduce the word PUEDE in the story. So when I establish the main character and their problem I introduce PUEDE, and we spend time on what he can and can’t do.

1st grade Target structures:

tiene una boca– he/she has a mouth

no puede– he/she can’t

escribe- he/she writes

Here is the my version of the script without the circling and personalization. I used actors and props. All the details are from my 1st graders.

PART 1- Hay un rey. Se llama Felipe. Felipe tiene un problema. Tiene pelo. Tiene una nariz. Pero no tiene una boca. ¡OH NO! Felipe no puede comer. No puede comer pizza, tacos, o chocolate. No puede hablar. No puede cantar. ¡Qué lastima!

PART 2- Felipe busca la boca. De repente ve a George Washington. ¿Felipe habla con George Washington? ¡NO! Porque no puede hablar. George Washington no comprende y le da una hamburguesa a Felipe. A Felipe no le gusta la hamburguesa. No quiere la hamburguesa porque no puede comer. ¡Qué lastima!

PART 3- Felipe busca la boca y de repente ve a un minion. ¿Felipe dice “¡Hola!”? ¡NO! Porque no puede hablar. Pero Felipe tiene una idea. Felipe puede escribir. Felipe escribe “No puedo hablar. Quiero una boca.” Pero hay un problema. El minion no puede leer. ¡Oh no! El minion no comprende y le da una banana a Felipe. El minion dice “BANANA” A Felipe no le gusta la banana. No quiere la banana porque no puede comer. ¡Qué lastima!

PART 4- Felipe busca la boca y de repente ve a Pikachu. ¿Felipe dice “¡Hola!”? ¡NO! Porque no puede hablar. Felipe puede escribir. Felipe escribe “No puedo hablar. Quiero una boca.” ¿Pikachu puede leer? ¡Sí! Pikachu puede leer y le da una boca a Felipe. La boca es muy pequeña y anaranjada. Felipe puede hablar. Felipe le dice “¡MUCHAS GRACIAS! ¡TENGO UNA BOCA!” Felipe puede comer. Felipe come la hamburguesa y la banana. Felipe puede cantar. Felipe canta “Cabeza, Cabeza, La cabeza tiene pelo. Pelo, pelo, pelo la cabeza.”


Here is Leslie Davison’s version that she shared with “Elementary Awesomeness” group at iFLT 2016. (with her permission)



What’s in the bag?

Do you have a ‘bag of tricks”? I shared some in my last post about my advice for teaching younger students. But I wanted to share some of the activities and “tricks” I have collected from multiple people over the years. After you have taught a little, you start to have a “bag of tricks” which are reliable activities that you know will work well. So here is one of the activities from my bag of tricks for younger students. Ironically enough I call it …

¿Qué hay en la bolsa? – What’s in the bag?

I first learned this activity from Carol Gaab. Basically you put things in a bag and the kids pull it out one by one. Too simple? Oh no, it’s magic. There is something about the mystery of not knowing what is in the bag. We have a chant in my class that we say until someone picks something out of the bag.


Here are some things I put in the bag for my students and the structures I am targeting.

se llama (he/she calls himself/herself)– This is an activity I want to try for next year. The first day of class for my Kindergarten is all about learning their names and letting them have fun with me in Spanish. So I want to have notecards with their names in the bag. Then I am going to tell them that the bag is MAGIC. It can tell me their names. Then I will have students come up to pull out their name. Of course the odds are that it will be wrong name, but that is too funny pretending to be confused with the bag giving the wrong name. The big pay off is I get to know their names in a fun way while teaching se llama (he/she calls himself/herself).

se llama (he/she calls himself/herself)– I have laminated pictures of famous people my kids know. Elmo, Phineas and Ferb, President Obama, etc. I pretend not to know their names. I even make some wrong guesses. Then I have the kids tell me their names.

hay / los colores (there is/are, colors) – The starburst activity is also from Carol Gaab. You put starbursts in the bag and discuss what colors the students pick. You can also add in quiere (wants) by asking the student which color they want then letting them pick and tiene (has) telling what they have. I also like to get the kids to keep their wrappers for me. Then we put them into a bar chart to discuss how many red/orange/yellow starbursts we ate.


animales & grande / pequeño (animals & big/small) – Pictures of dogs, cats or any other animals is various sizes and colors. I love to throw in crazy colors like blue, green, or pink. Then as the students pull them out of the bag, I like to display them in a pocket chart to compare and contrast as we go. (How many dogs are there? How many big dogs are there? How many pink animals are there? etc.)

Señor Patata (Mr. Potato Head) -One of my favorites! I wrote about this in a previous post.  I have now added Señora Patata to our classroom. I use this activity for lots of target structures like tiene (has), quiere (wants), necesita (needs), no puede (can’t), and body parts.

¿Te gusta? (Do you like?)– I could put in all kinds of objects for this. I usually have props of fake food. The student pulls out the food and then we discuss if we like it. You could also use pictures with different restaurants.

El Numero (The Number) – I read about this one somewhere but can’t remember. If you recognize it then let me know so I can give credit. I have all the numbers spelled out on pieces of paper. They are on strips of card stock and laminated. At the beginning I have all the numbers in a pocket chart and we count together to the designated number  (1-10, 1-20 etc.) Then I put all the numbers in the bag. I pull out the secret number from the bag. I don’t show the students the number. Then they have to guess what is the missing number. They tell a partner or me (to keep things honest) and then we start to pull numbers out of the bag one by one until we figure out which number is missing. This can be done in one sitting or over multiple classes.

¿Qué es? (What is it?) I got this idea from a group of CI teachers in Chattanooga. Deborah Tucker and Jennifer Raulston from the Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences told us about this activity they use in their elementary French class. Take an object and put it in a box or bag. Then have students feel inside. They can describe it to the class (hard, soft, big, small, has hair, etc.) Then the class tries to guess what it is.

La bolsa mágica (the magic bag)- This is an activity I read about on Martina Bex’s site. It is an activity maybe for an older and more advanced group but I love the creativity of taking simple objects and giving them such meaning.

Have you used an activity like this in your classroom? What did you do?


Little Language Learners- What I have learned

I have college students who come to teach in my classroom who struggle with teaching young kids so I have collected some tips I shared with them over the years. I would love to hear from some other “veteran teachers” (Yes, those college students call me “ma’am” and it breaks my heart a little every time.)

***DISCLAIMER***- I am not a child development expert. So I am not claiming that these tips work in every situation or are backed with research I have done. I give these tips based on the 9 years of experience teaching Kindergarten through 8th grade. (And having two almost 5 year olds myself.)


So this one is pretty obvious. The younger the child the shorter the attention span. I once heard a teacher describe it like this. “The activity should last the same minutes as their age.” So, if your students are 5 years old, then shoot for activities that are 5 minutes long. Does this ALWAYS apply? No, but it is a good reminder.  Naturally you are going to have to plan more activities for a Kindergarten class compared to a 6th grade class. However, the activities are not as long.

Sometimes we don’t always have a good idea of how long 5 minutes can be. I tried an experiment where I turned on my timer for 5 minutes and started teaching my Kindergarteners. Every time the timer went off, I changed the activity. It is not something I would do more than one day because the timer is there to remind me what 5 minutes “feels like.”

The beauty of having engaging and compelling input is that 5 minutes can be extended as long as you be keeping an eye out for when their brains start to wonder. I can get 10-15 minutes sometimes if they are SUPER engaged with what I am doing.


I like to plan the order of activities based on what my students are going to be doing. Thanks to Annabelle Allen, I start class with a quick “follow the leader” dance party for a minute or 2 (not a full song). This is an UP activity because they are up and moving. I will follow it with a DOWN activity like listening to a story or ¿Qué hay en la bolsa? (Carol Gaab style). I try to plan a lesson that has my students alternating getting up and moving followed by sitting “still” and listening. I plan Up, Down, Up, Down, Up, Down etc.

FAVORITE “UP” Activities

  • Songs (with motions),
  • Follow the Leader – Dance Party
  • TPR (I break my TPR goals into short sessions to sprinkle between DOWN activities)
  • “All the World’s a Stage” (Group retells of a story where all the students are acting out the story)


I find that in my older classes I am leading each lesson to a final point. My main objective for the lesson is farther into the lesson. However, I have learned that even though the 5 minute activity for the 5 year old is helpful, getting their attention at the beginning of the lesson is MUCH easier than at the end even when you have followed that rule. So, I put my most important activity as close to the beginning as I can. We spend it telling a story or PQA.

**Secret (confession time)- I don’t start my class with the calendar because I don’t teach calendar outside of what is needed for a story.** We used to sing a song about which day it was and the date but not anymore. If I felt like I HAD to teach calendar, I would put it at the end because it is not the most important part of my lesson.

Why don’t I teach calendar? – It is not high-frequency language. It would be better taught in context with a story or PQA questions separated from sequencing. It is too abstract for some kids. Children 5-7 years old still struggle with the abstract idea of time. (My Pre-K almost 5 year olds ask every other week if they are going to Kindergarten this week even though I explain that is next year.)


At the age of Kindergarten-2nd grade, we spend LOTS of time on their lives, their favorites, and their stories. It is all about them. They want to tell me everything. So in Kindergarten we spend lots of time talking about our favorite ice cream, our favorite movie, or our favorite restaurant. Their lives become our stories.


My Kindergarten students LOVE to add in expressions as we talk about their lives. (rejoinders) This is a way for them to express their opinion, show off their Spanish skills and participate in a conversation with their limited language and a one person story can involve the whole class. As soon as one student says it, then I repeat what made them say it, and then we all do it together. (Hello repetitions!!) My students get points for shouting out rejoinders throughout class as long as it makes sense and doesn’t interrupt me.

Some of my FAVORITES- ¡Qué ridículo!, ¡Qué asco! Yuck!, ¡OH NO, OH NO, OH NO! ¡Qué lastima! ¡No me digas!


If you have ever been lucky enough to be in an elementary workshop with Leslie Davison, then you have probably seen this video.

In the video the lady is singing “Ken Lee” instead of “Can’t live.” Leslie’s point is that a student, especially a younger student,  will memorize the sounds of a song because it might be fun to sing, or is pretty (or it is required of them), but they don’t know the meaning of the words. This is why it is SO important to check for comprehension…often. Not just once. Check until they look at you and sigh “Señora, we know that. It means __ .”

Personal example-

On the way home…

Twins: (singing) I’m in the Lord’s army (yes, sir) I’m in the Lord’s army (yes sir) I may never march in the “impatree”, ride in the “calorie”…

Twin 1: Wait, wait! Mommy, what is a “impatree”?

Twin 2: I know. I know. It is a tree that has all the fruit on it and it makes all your dreams come true…if you dream of fruit.

Twin 1: I don’t think that’s right. And you march in it??

Twin 2: Yup


Both continue singing -I may never march in the “impatree” ride in the “calorie” shoot the “artillerme” I may never zoom over the enemy. But I’m in the Lord’s army. YES SIR!

Moral of that story- Check for comprehension! Check often!


A major step in any language classroom should be the READING step. But what do you do with pre-literate or emerging readers? First, you don’t hide the words. Show the words! Write them on the board. Point to them. Project your story and have them illustrate it.

BUT…. know that your students are not ready to rely on written word for their meaning. They need to be exposed to it but not expected to use it alone for meaning. (Kinda like my 7 month old needs to eat solids but is not relying on them for his main nutrition.)

So, do you just skip that last Reading step? NO! You replace it with MORE listening!! You need to DOUBLE UP THE LISTENING step. This is why I love a game like ¡PARA! that gives me more repetitions while staying engaged.

Other ideas 

  • Character Descriptions- You give them pictures/drawings of characters from a class story and then the teacher describes the character. What did they do? Where did they go? What did they say? How did they feel? Students raise the picture in the air when they figure out which character you are describing. **Lisa Timmerman Schauer and Megan Hattersley Hayes at iFLT 2016 suggested taking this activity outside. They can have drawings, a chalk line or chalk names on the ground that they jump to when they hear the description.
  • All the world’s a stage- Karen Rowen– Where you have all the students act out the character as you retell, or you divide the class into different characters.
  • Retell the story with different student actors.
  • Retell the story but change the speed (super fast or super slow), you sing it and they sing their lines, they are now penguins instead of humans… etc.
  • LE DA game
  • Retell the same story but make it a “new story” because now it is about Sebastian not Annie. (ex. STORY 1- Annie goes to Sweet Frog to eat vanilla ice cream. STORY 2 Sebastian goes to Jandy’s to eat chocolate chip mint ice cream.)

The list goes on and on…

So now “veteran teachers” what are your tips to those young “whipper snapper” teachers who are teaching a foreign language to little language learners?