What Everybody Should Know About Comprehensible Input

What Everybody Should Know About Comprehensible Input

Inside: What is comprehensible input? How do students acquire language?

In Part 1, we talked about proficiency: where we are going in the language classroom. Here in Part 2, I’ll talk about acquisition: how students take language in. If our goal is students who “rise in proficiency” (World Language Classroom), how do they grow? What do they need? What is the best way to get language “in”?

 

 

When people find out I teach Spanish, 95% of the time I get a comment like this: Oh man, I took 3 years of Spanish. It’s usually followed by a joke using the few words they remember: Mi casa es su casa. Hah!

Seriously– I get this all the time. From those very informal observations, it seems that we’ve been doing for decades now just isn’t working. When I discovered proficiency-based language teaching, I saw where I wanted to go: I wanted students who could communicate in Spanish, not just perform isolated exercises. And I needed to find a better way to teach them.

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What Everyone Needs to Know About Language Proficiency

What Everyone Needs to Know About Language Proficiency

Inside: What is language proficiency? What does it mean for my Spanish classroom?

Last year I wrote a post explaining why I was throwing out my Spanish textbook. Of course, throwing it out was the easy part. But what to do next?

I’m writing this series because I remember so clearly what’s it’s like, to be on the edge of that cliff– poised to jump into textbook-free land, with a mind-boggling array of choices below. I just wanted someone to hold my hand, help me sort it all out, and put me touch with the experts. And that’s exactly what I’d like to do here.

So, here’s my after-story to going textbook-free. I found I had three major tasks in developing a plan for the year: figure out our objectives, research how students acquire language, and then choose methods and develop content. Here in Part 1, I’ll share how I formed a big picture and zeroed in on targets for each class.

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50 Picture Books Every Spanglish House Needs

50 Picture Books Every Spanglish House Needs

Inside: Bilingual books in Spanish and English, for kids.

No Spanglish home is complete without a stash of bilingual books for kids in Spanish and English. Thankfully, there are more and more available now!

I often walk in the door exhausted after a day of teaching, to kids who have heard English all day. Even though my brain just wants a break, they need these hours to be in my non-native language. So we grab one of my childhood favorites, cuddle up under a blanket, and get the best of both worlds. And really, they’re not the only ones who need rich input. I do too!

I have a separate post of authentic children’s books in Spanish, with a focus on Latino culture. This bilingual lists includes book originally written in English or translated from a third language. For more book lists and suggestions, be sure to see my Spanish children’s books page. 

This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for your support!

 

Our Top 50 Picks of Bilingual Books in Spanish and English

Arandanos Para Sal
Blueberries for Sal is an endearing story about a little girl and a baby bear getting mixed up, while out picking blueberries with their mothers. Robert McLosky’s memorable illustrations and sweet stories are not to be missed, in Spanish or English.


Se Venden Gorras
Caps for Sale My kids love this story of naughty monkeys and an unfortunate cap-peddler, based on a folktale.

 

El Cuento de Ferdinando
The Story of Ferdinand Set in Spain, Ferdinand tells the story of a quiet bull who accidentally gets chosen to go to Madrid for a bullfight. We love this one.

Harry, el perrito sucio
Harry the Dirty Dog is about a little dog who escapes and gets so dirty his family doesn’t recognize him. Sweet illustrations and funny story that kids love.

 

El Conejito Andarin
The Runaway Bunny follows a baby bunny who tells his mother his imaginative plans of running away– and the mother’s plans of how she would get him back. Very sweet.

 

Corduroy
Corduroy is a bear who want a home more than anything. He lives in a department store and thinks finding his missing button will help him find a family.

 

Richard Scarry’s Best Word Book Ever / El mejor libro de palabras de Richard Scarry Richard Scarry’s detailed illustrations and clever characters make his books a must for every home library. My kids will spend hours pouring over his books!

 

Diez deditos de las manos y Diez deditos de los pies / Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes bilingual board book is a sweet rhyme about babies from all over the world. The poetry is really beautiful and I l always ove Helen Oxenbury’s illustrations.

 

La oruga muy hambrienta/The Very Hungry Caterpillar: bilingual board book This classic is my kids’ current favorite right now, and how they know the days of the week in both Spanish and English. Follow the life cycle of a butterfly in story format, starting with a little egg.

 

Abran paso a los patitos
Make Way for Ducklings was my family’s favorite book growing up! The illustrations are wonderful, as is the story of a family of ducks trying to find and make a home in busy Boston.

 

Un Dia de Nieve
The Snowy Day tells the story of Peter, who wakes up to a day of adventures in the snow.

 

Freight Train/Tren de carga is just the best if you have little train-lovers like I do. They also love the colors of the train in the illustrations.

 

Oso pardo, oso pardo, ¿qué ves ahí?
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?

Oso panda, oso panda, ¿qué ves ahí?
Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do You See? Board Book

Oso polar, oso polar, ¿qué es ese ruido?
Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear? These little books introduce different animals in a series of rhymes, and are not to be missed!

 

Ve, Perro. Ve!: Go, Dog. Go! Another whimsical rhyming classic from P.D. Eastman, Go Do Go! is about dogs moving around in different vehicles and meeting each other. It’s also a clever introduction to prepositions!

 

El Gran Granero Rojo
Big Red Barn is a lyrical rhyme that says good-night to the animals on a farm. Sweet and soothing language and pictures.

 

Un Pez, Dos Peces, Pez Rojo, Pez Azul
One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish Dr. Suess is beloved the world over, and this one is one of our Seuss favorites.

La silla de Pedro, Peter’s Chair Peter’s family has a new baby, and Peter isn’t sure what to think about his little sister.

 

Buenas noches, Gorila
Good Night, Gorilla A gorilla frees the animals in a zoo so they can sleep in the zookeeper’s house.

 

 

 

 

 

This innovative and sweet series features animal friends that each speak a different language (in this case, Spanish and English). There currently aren’t available on Amazon, but you can read more here.

 

Peluche
Gosset I so wish more of Shirley Hughes’ books were translated into Spanish! Her everyday stories of English children might be my favorites.

 

Sapo y Sepo son amigos / Frog and Toad Are Friends The clever stories here will have your kids re-reading these stories even when they’re older. The Frog and Toad books are good early readers as well.

 

La Senorita Runfio
Miss Rumphius Barbara Cooney’s books are just lovely, and I love this one about travel and making the world a more beautiful place.

¿Eres Mi Mama?
Are You My Mother? A baby bird searches for his mother, and finally finds her.

 

Mike Mulligan y su máquina maravillosa
Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel live in a world where diesel is taking over, and no one wants a steam shovel to work for them. But they are up for the challenge when a small town needs a cellar for their new town hall.

 

Un beso para osito
A Kiss for Little Bear was created as a beginning reader, but my kids like listening to the imaginative world of little bear.

 

De la cabeza a los pies
From Head to Toe Board Book is another Eric Carle classic that teaches body parts and movement.

 

La Pequena Locomotora Que Si Pudo
The Little Engine That Could is a beloved little book about a train that needs help, and finds it from a small friend.

 

Cinco monitos brincando en la cama/Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed
Cinco monitos subidos a un árbol / Five Little Monkeys Sitting in a Tree
The five little monkeys are always popular with little ones, as are the rhymes that tell about their mischievous escapades!

 

La araña muy ocupada
The Very Busy Spider gets asked to play by all the other animals, but doesn’t have enough time while she spins her web. I love how this shows the actual progression of web-spinning.

 

Chica Chica Bum Bum ABC
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom introduces the alphabet as a catchy rhyme that kids love.

 

Buenas Noches, Luna
Goodnight Moon I just love Margaret Wise Brown, and my kids definitely have this one memorized. I don’t really care for the Spanish translation, which loses some of the beauty of the original poetry.

 

El camioncito Azul
Little Blue Truck A little truck gets stuck in the mud, and all the animals pitch in to help.

 

Es hora de dormir/Time for Bed is a warm, lovely book, perfect for bedtime.

 

Tikki Tikki Tembo
Tikki Tikki Tembo is an old Chinese folktale about a boy who needs help and has trouble getting it because of his long name. I love the illustrations!

 

La Semilla de Zanahoria
The Carrot Seed A little boy plants a seed and patiently wait for it to come up, even when everyone around think it won’t.

 

Bunny Cakes (Max and Ruby)
BUNNY CAKES (Max and Ruby) Max and Ruby are bunny siblings who decide a to make a cake for grandma’s birthday.

 

Adivina cuanto te quiero (Spanish Edition)
Guess How Much I Love You A papa hare and his son talk just how much they love each other. My kids love to tell me how much they love me too, from this book.

 

Siempre te querre (Spanish Edition)
Love You Forever is sweet story of a mother’s love for her son, all throughout his life.

 

El Pez Arco Iris (Spanish Edition)
The Rainbow Fish is a beautiful fish who learns to be kind.

 

¿Tu mamá es una llama?
Is Your Mama a Llama? A baby llama searches for his mama, and all the other baby animals help him.

 

Donde viven los monstruos
Where the Wild Things Are is an imaginative journey of wild creatures inside Max’s head, who is sent to bed without supper.

 

La historia de Ping
The Story about Ping follows a flock of ducks on the Yhangtze River in China. Ping as a mischievous little duck brought to life with beautiful illustrations.

 

Harold y el Lapiz Color Morado
Harold and the Purple Crayon is a story about a boy’s imagination as he colors his world purple.

 

Stelaluna (Spanish Language)
Stellaluna is a baby bat separated from her family and taken in by a family of birds. There’s a happy ending and good lesson on differences.

 

La casa adormecida
The Napping House

 

Jorge el curioso y el conejito/Curious George and the Bunny (Spanish and English Edition)

I like the original Curious George stories best, and these two are our favorites.

 

El árbol generoso
The Giving Tree
loves a little boy, and does her best all her life to take care of him. It’s a bit of a sad ending and food for thought on what unconditional love means.

 

Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Grades PK – 3: Ricitos de Oro y los tres osos Keepsake stories has an entire series of bilingual folk tales and fairy tales that includes all the classics.

 

 

What are your favorite bilingual books in Spanish and English? Leave a comment below with anything you think we missed!

Picture Books for Kids in Spanish and English

Welcome

Hey! I’m Elisabeth, a teacher and mom raising two bilingual kids in the Peruvian jungle. Read our story here. I love digging up the best Spanish resources for all you busy parents and teachers!

An Easy-Peasy Activity to Learn Spanish with Songs

An Easy-Peasy Activity to Learn Spanish with Songs

Inside: A fun & easy activity to learn Spanish with songs in class, only using a piece of paper.

 

One of my favorite things about teaching textbook-free is that authentic songs in Spanish are central to class now. If you’re not sure how to start, read how to teach Spanish with authentic songs, and then browse my suggestions for Songs in Spanish by theme and category, for all ages.

I can be a scatter-brained teacher, and my go-to activities are always the simple ones. I call this listening activity Draw, Listen, Check. It works for authentic songs and only requires a piece of paper– perfect for last-minute fillers and reinforcement. Here’s how it goes!

 

Draw, Listen, Check: An Activity to Learn Spanish with Songs

 

Choose a song your class is already familiar with. Pull out 4-6 structures you want to emphasize, and write them on the board, or dictate them. The students should divide a paper into 4-6 sections, and quickly illustrate one structure into each square.

This is what one student drew when we did Vivir mi vida by Marc Antony. The target structures were:

  • la lluvia
  • reír
  • bailar
  • vivir mi vida
  • para qué llorar
  • para qué sufrir

Draw, listen, check image

Erase the target structures from the board, and play the song without showing the lyrics. The students should put a check mark in the boxes each time they hear the corresponding phrase. That’s all!

This is not an assessment, but just a quick way to highlight the target structures, get some input, and practice listening skills. My students like it because it’s low-pressure and they usually see it as a personal competition to get the closest score.

Some variations on Draw, Listen, Check:

  • Pair up the students. Cut up one paper by section, and spread out the papers on a surface between the students. Listen to the song again, and students try to slap the phrase they hear, first. I literally have no way to keep track of points– this one is probably best for small, responsible classes.

 

  • Before listening to the song, use the phrases to play Charades or Pictionary.

 

  • Some songs repeat certain phrases a LOT. If you have a song like that, crumple up a piece of paper after doing Draw, Write, Check. Stand in a circle and play the song. Give the paper to one student, to start. Every time the phrase is sung, the student can pass the paper to the next person. If you pause the song, the student holding the paper is out. (See? Like Hot Potato!)

 

Continue as long as you like until you have a winner or several winners.This would be a really fun brain break!!

Have more ideas for learning Spanish through songs? Leave a comment!

Like it? Pin it!

 

Welcome

Hey! I’m Elisabeth, a teacher and mom raising two bilingual kids in the Peruvian jungle. Read our story here. I love digging up the best Spanish resources for all you busy parents and teachers!

Creating JOY in the Bilingual Home

Creating JOY in the Bilingual Home

Inside: Joyful bilingual parenting, as part of the “A to Z of Raising Multilingual Children” series, from the Piri-Piri Lexicon.

Good teachers know this about their students: they won’t remember most of what you say. They will always remember how you made them feel. These are good words for parents of bilingual kids, too, as we make our hundreds of parenting decisions. What is best: OPOL, or minority language at home? Where should the kids go to school? What if the kids refuse to speak the home language?

And in the end, our kids will decide how they want to live. Perhaps they will see our hard work and sacrifice right away, or maybe they’ll put that minority language on the shelf, most of their adult lives. I suspect it will partly come down to how they feel about the languages they know.

So I want my kids to look back on their bilingual childhood as a beautiful and rich time, one in which the feeling was joy.

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Remembering Why We’re Doing This

It’s easy to get caught up in the logical reasons we’re raising bilingual kids, and to be driven in our approaches. Of course we want them to be successful in school or careers. But that doesn’t get at the joy we’re going for. Over the past four years, I’ve spoken to my kids in my second language, and at times it’s been tiring, hard work. I do it because I know it will make their lives richer and better. I remember the friendships Spanish has given me, and the wonder of making Peru my home for a time. I think of the conversations they can have with cousins and grandparents, and how they will develop empathy and appreciation for other cultures. I think of jokes and laughter that can’t be translated. Those are the beautiful things make it worthwhile; they provide a why big enough to carry into adulthood. (more…)

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