When children are engaged with the language, they learn. It can be a challenge, though, to keep kids engaged, especially when you are working with several children or a whole class. Even in a small group, if kids have to wait long their attention wanders. In a class of fifteen three year olds, structuring activities to keep everyone engaged with the language is essential. I am always thinking through ways for a number of kids to interact with Spanish words and sentences at the same time. I have had a lot of success using a big collage for different kinds of activities. These are the activities I did in one class to teach veo, including the script for the story I told and the printable take-home activity.
I make my big collages on sticky paper. Kids can cut out the pictures and help make the collage if you are at home or have class time that allows for longer projects. Finding and cutting out pictures is an excellent language activity. I use sticky paper because it is faster and easier than gluing, and the collage is much more durable (you can just roll them up). Be sure to put your biggest pictures on first and then fill in the spaces with smaller pictures. You can fill any empty spots with tissue paper. Also, spread the vocabulary evenly along the collage so that children will be able to see pictures of all the words no matter where they are.
Keeping everyone doing something is especially important when you are introducing new Spanish words. With the collage, everyone can search, find and repeat at once. When I introduce vocabulary, I structure activities to combine Spanish words kids are familiar with and new language. For example, with the collage in the photos, the children had already been introduced to the animal words and ¿donde está? The new vocabulary was veo, I see.
First, we read an abbreviated version of Oso pardo, oso pardo, ¿qué ves? We had read it the week before too. I left out the colors because this was a new group (their 4th class). I had everyone repeat Veo un.. the way they thought the animals would say it. I pointed to my eyes to emphasize the meaning of veo.
Then, everyone found a space along the collage and I would say, for example, Veo un gato and make the animal sound to reinforce the meaning. They looked for un gato and repeated Veo un gato as they touched the picture. Of course, there were lots of shouts of ¡gato! ¡gato!, but then we would repeat together Veo un gato and soon they got the pattern.
I followed up the collage activity by telling a ridiculous story. I use small stuffed animals (beanie bag type) and make them talk and move. Stick puppets would work just as well. In my story, I was using the animals the kids knew: un gato, un perro, un caballo, un oso and un pájaro. My three and four-year-olds love this story, probably because there is so much dramatic crying.
1) The cat comes out, jumps up to something. I sit on the floor, so he jumps to a chair beside me. The cat yawns loudly, curls up and goes to sleep.
2) The dog comes out:
Dog – ¡Gato! ¡Gato! ¿Dónde está el gato? ¡No veo el gato! (looks around, but never looks up). ¿Dónde está el gato? No veo el gato…no veo el gato…(dog tucks his head down and starts to sob)
3) The horse comes out:
Horse – Hola, Perro. ¿Cómo estás?
Dog – Hola, Caballo. No estoy muy bien. No veo el gato. ¿Dónde está el gato? No veo el gato.
Horse – (looks around, but never looks up) No veo el gato. ¿Dónde está el gato? No veo el gato. (horse sits down beside the dog, tucks his head down and starts to sob too).
4) The bear comes out:
Bear – Hola, Perro. Hola, Caballo. ¿Perro, cómo estás?
Dog – Hola, Oso. No estoy muy bien. No veo el gato. ¿Dónde está el gato? No veo el gato.
Bear – Hola Caballo. ¿Cómo estás?
Horse – Hola, Oso. No estoy muy bien. No veo el gato. ¿Dónde está el gato? No veo el gato.
Bear – (looks around, but never looks up) No veo el gato. ¿Dónde está el gato? No veo el gato. (Bear sits down beside the dog and the horse, tucks his head down and starts to sob too).
5) The bird comes out:
Bird – Hola, Perro. Hola, Caballo. Hola, Oso. ¿Perro, cómo estás?
(Dog, Horse and Bear each respond with Hola Pájaro, No estoy muy bien, No veo el gato and continue crying).
Bird flies up and wakes up Cat.
Bird – Hola, Gato. ¿Cómo estás?
Cat – ¡Estoy muy bien, gracias! (in a ridiculously excited voice for the sake of contrast)
Bird – Gato, salta. Salta, Gato. ¡Vamos!
Bird and Cat arrive. Dog, Horse and Bear see Bird and all jump on him saying ¡Veo Gato! ¡Gracias Pájaro!
The take-home project for this class was a wheel to practice veo. I put the eyes on the top wheel to remind them of the meaning of veo, but they look a little creepy. I think that it might be better to have each child draw a face on the top wheel.
First, the kids colored the animal wheel. (You might want to mention that if they color the animals with dark colors they are hard to see, especially the horse) and then we put the top wheel on with a metal brad. If you only cut out two sides of the window, leaving a tab, it is easier for little ones to turn.
As you help put the wheels together, and the child spins it, say Veo un gato, veo un perro, etc.
Some of the animals on the wheel repeat.
Link to Printable Spanish Word Wheel
You may also be interested in this post: Printable Spanish Activities – Looking and Listening Walks