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Children learn house and size vocabulary from this Spanish poem.

¡Qué tan grande era todo cuando yo era chico! is a Spanish poem to share with children. It uses basic vocabulary that is appropriate for beginning Spanish language learners. This poem is about the sensation children have that the world around them is getting smaller as they grow. Many kids remember when they could not reach the counter or the faucet, for example.

The poem is by the well-known Argentine author and illustrator Douglas Wright. His books are hard to get in the United States, but he generously shares his work on his blog El jardín de Douglas and gives me permission to share it here.

The Spanish poem has lots of repetition of the phrase ¡Qué grande…! and is a great way to introduce or reinforce that useful structure with adjectives. The rhythm of the poem depends on the repetition of that line and the rhyming final lines of each stanza. Be sure to read the Spanish poem aloud so that children can hear the rhyme.

¡Qué tan grande era todo cuando yo era chico! uses ser in the first and third person singular of the imperfect (era). It is the only verb until the last line. The poem offers clear examples of how we use this verb in the imperfect for description in the past.

Activities for the Spanish Poem ¡Qué grande…!

  • There is an illustration to accompany this Spanish poem on El jardín de Douglas. Have children identify the lines in the poem that correspond to the illustration. Kid can illustrate another part of the poem or their memories of the same feeling.
  • Ask ¿Qué cosas eran grandes cuando era chico/a? Kids probably will not have all the vocabulary for the things they want to mention (playground equipment, the bathtub). If they answer in English, give them the words in Spanish.
  • The question ¿Qué era difícil hacer? is related to being small and is a good way review common verbs: Era difícil vestirme. Era difícil lavarme las manos.
  • Use the structure ¡Qué + common adjectives! to describe pictures. List adjectives on the board first. You can also do this as a guessing game. You can use the structure to describe a photo and the kids can say which is being described. For example ¡Qué rojas! – Las manzanas. If the adjectives are familiar enough, the kids can describe photos for others to guess.
  • Students can use the verb form era to describe themselves when they were smaller. Cuando era chica, era (preciosa, llorona, bonita, callada, simpática, traviesa.) They can also describe their favorite toy, a place they liked to go or anything that makes sense in the past (given that they are fairly young!).
  • With older students, you can talk about the last line and the idea that things seem never-ending when we are young. Specifically, you can relate it back to noche and mañana and from there talk about how our awareness of time changes as we get older. Whereas a school day seems endless to a small child, older students will be aware of school years ending and beginning again, of time passing. Depending on the age of the students, you can broaden this discussion to talk about our growing awareness that life ends. If you do have this discussion, be sure to re-read the title and ask students how their idea of the title and the poem has changed. Is the poem about physical size or about how short life is, or both?

As always, many thanks to Douglas for permission to share his poetry with the readers of Spanish Playground.

¡Qué grande era todo cuando yo era chico!

¡Qué grande era todo
cuando yo era chico!,
la silla, la mesa,
la puerta, la cama.

¡Qué grande era todo
cuando yo era chico!,
grande era la noche,
grande la mañana.

¡Qué grande era todo
cuando yo era chico!,
grande era ese cielo,
allí, en mi ventana.

¡Qué grande era todo
cuando yo era chico!,
¡todo era tan grande,
nunca se acababa!

You may also be interested in this post: Spanish Poems about Winter
Photo Credit: quinn.anya via Compfight cc

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