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!






Celebrating Señor Wooly Week

If you haven’t heard, it is SEÑOR WOOLY WEEK!!!! There are surprises each day for subscribers starting today with the release of the video “NO LO TENGO.”

My students LOVE Señor Wooly, and the subscription to his website is money well-paid! So I thought we would enjoy Señor Wooly week to the fullest at my school.

So I created the SEÑOR WOOLY TOURNAMENT BRACKET which includes the bracket in PDF form, an editable Word document, and ballots for voting.

I got the the idea from the people below who have done this with Popular Spanish Music:

**  Bethanie Drew


**  Mis Clases Locas

How did I divide the songs?

  1. I divided 20 videos into 4 subcategories: Older videos, Newer Videos, Animated Videos and Wild Cards
  2. There were 5 videos in each category, so the math doesn’t quite work. So, I chose my favorite from each category, and it got an immediate pass to the second round.
  3. The second round has a choice of 3 videos instead of 2.
  4. There are technically 21 videos, but my students have never seen Me Duele in my class.  I took that one out because it made the math easier.

Now what…

  1. Each of the students fill out their own bracket (just like a March Madness tournament bracket).
  2. Each day we watch the videos from that round, and then the students vote by secret ballot. **The second round has 3 videos to choose from instead of 2.
  3. We call out the votes, and reasons for each vote.
  4. Each class votes and the video with the most votes moves on to the next round, and is added to the large classroom bracket.
  5. If everything goes as planned, we will have a CAMPEÓN Friday afternoon.

My students are really excited! I can’t wait to see who wins.



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)



El Pollito Pío- VIRAL VIDEO

So I have followed Annabelle Allen  in provided DANCING brain breaks. SO MUCH FUN!! I want to share some of the songs I have been using. One is the Viral Video – El Pollito Pío. (This song has been translated into 20 different languages!)


I use this song as a Brain Break as well as an addition to “Los Pollitos Dicen”. It is a song about animal sounds. It also uses “hay- there is/there are“.

PLUS- They are so many different videos to show your kids and there are MOTIONS!! YAY! I like to switch it up and show them different videos to keep it special.

I have resources I made for this song below that go along with DICE unit 1 of Martina Bex’s Spanish 1 curriculum.-

El Pollito Pío Lyric Sheet

El Pollito Pío Resource Packet.


Motions video

SLOWED DOWN VERSION (for learning the motions and lyrics first)

Videos with lyrics


Funny lip-sync version

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?


How my class fell in love with El Perdón by Nicky Jam

So I have taken the plunge into Teachers Pay Teachers. I have so much more appreciation for those teachers that I have bought materials from on TPT. It is so detailed, stressful and scary to put your stuff out there.


I was reading a blog post on Musicuentos about the song El Perdón by Nicky Jam (featuring Enrique Iglesias), and I got so excited to introduce this song to my 8th graders. As I started planning, my mind got rolling with ideas. My students have seen present progressive, but I wanted a way to put it into context for them that would be fun and engaging.

I started by just focusing on the chorus. We looked at the important vocabulary. I used a Word Cloud (made from We listened and searched for the words. I also used a cloze passage as a listening activity. I started to notice as we continued my students were changing the lyrics to the chorus to make other words with -ando and -iendo. They would sing them in rhythm to the song “Estoy hablando a mi amigo…”  So one day I gave students time to come up with our own lyrics. It was so much fun to hear their versions.

Then I started looking at Nicky Jam as an artist. Did you know he was discovered while rapping on his break at his job in a supermarket by the wife of an executive director of a record label?? What a cool story! So I wrote up a pretend story about a boy who is always singing and rapping at work (using present progressive). Then I had students read about Nicky Jam’s real life experience.

We had a BLAST with this song so I thought I would share. I even played the English version for them at he end. They didn’t like it, and asked me to turn the Spanish one back on. They sing it in the halls and ask for it even now as we have moved on. I hope you can have just as much fun with your class.

The first shorter version of activities is a 3 day activity packet with lesson plans. You can preview and download it for FREE here.

The other packet is a 6-day activity packet with lesson plans. It has the story inspired by Nicky Jam’s real life experience of getting discovered in the supermarket and the reading about Nicky Jam.


When do I teach this unit ?

 I use Martina Bex’s curriculum I teach this song after Storytelling Unit 08: La comida latina and use it to teach the present progressive tense. I also recommend Martina Bex’s notes and activities for the present progressive tense.

How do I address “tomando” which in the song means “drinking” (implied alcohol)?

In my class we have already learned “toma” which they know to mean “he/she takes” OR “he/she drinks” I go over “tomando” before looking at the lyrics, and I do not mention alcohol. I let them choose which meaning to draw in their dictionary, and we discuss either or both. Later when we go over the lyrics, I tell them what it means in the context of the song. Then, we talk about good and bad decisions for when you are upset. We come up with better ideas. (exercising, talking to a friend, listening to music etc.)  When it comes to“Como un loco tomando” while singing, we switch out the “oh” at the end of the phrase for a more responsible drink like Coca-Cola, leche, jugo or Fanta. It becomes fun to add in a different drink each time we sing.


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?