Spanish Homeschooling 101: Tips for Non-native Parents

Spanish Homeschooling 101: Tips for Non-native Parents

Inside: Tips for Spanish homeschooling and finding the best resources to use at home.

 

Are you a homeschooling parent who wants to teach Spanish to your kids, but who finds yourself struggling to get past “hola”?

If so, that’s okay—I’m here to help! My name is Anne, and I’m a fellow homeschooling mama on this language learning journey with you. Thanks to Elisabeth’s generous invitation, I’m writing today to provide you with a crash course in homeschooling Spanish. The tips that I’m sharing have been honed through my years as a language instructor at the University of Virginia—where I also earned my PhD in Spanish—and through my experience as a non-native speaking parent raising two bilingual kids.

In all this time, what I’ve discovered is that there are really only three basic things that you need to homeschool languages effectively: a basic understanding of how languages are learned; a workable study plan; and access to human support and resources.

I want to help you get these three things in place, because I believe that homeschooling Spanish is a supremely worthwhile endeavor. By teaching your kids a foreign language, not only are you giving them loads of cognitive benefits and academic advantages, but you are also teaching them some of the very things that are most important in this life: empathy, dedication, and a love of learning.

May these tips help you get off to a great start this school year—and no matter where you are on your language learning journey, know that I am rooting for you!

 

TIP #1: EDUCATE YOURSELF ABOUT HOW LANGUAGES ARE LEARNED.  

 

While learning a language is possible at any age, it’s important to know that young children do learn differently than older children—and you’ll want to adjust your teaching and expectations accordingly.

If you have a child under 12, you’ll want to teach mainly through an immersion approach: providing real-life exposure to the language, reinforcing learning with multi-sensory language games, and creating opportunities for your child to practice speaking in a low-stakes environment. You may choose to use a curriculum to guide your child’s learning and help you be consistent, but the focus at this stage shouldn’t be on learning complex grammar and drilling conjugations. Instead, your goal should be to get your child using the language as quickly as possible and feel confident doing so, even if his/her language skills are quite basic. If you need a little structure to help you get there, I highly recommend Elisabeth’s excellent Spanish unit studies—they work great for kids in this age group!

 

If you have older children—say, middle school-aged or above—all of the above strategies apply, but they can also benefit from direct grammar instruction. Although you may have heard that young children learn languages best, older children can actually learn languages more efficiently, because they can draw parallels between their native language and the one they’re trying to learn.

You can choose a curriculum that takes advantage of this natural tendency, but you should also seek out opportunities for them to interact with native speakers of the language—be it through online Spanish classes, online conversation practice, or be interacting with Spanish-speaker in your local community. Middle school and high school-aged children in particular may be reticent to practice speaking—since learning any language can be a bit awkward—so although they may resist, it’s important to keep seeking out opportunities to develop this skill.

 

TIP #2: CHOOSE AN APPROPRIATE CURRICULUM AND PLAN TO USE IT CONSISTENTLY.

 

We are lucky to live in an age with an abundance of resources for teaching Spanish at home. No matter the age of your children, the size of your family, or your chosen homeschool philosophy, you can find a Spanish curriculum to fit your needs—take a look at my homeschool Spanish curriculum round-up to find one that will work for you .

Once you have that curriculum in hand, consistency is key. Short, daily practice sessions are much more effective for language learning than twice weekly lessons—and the more practice, the better. For younger students, you can help yourself be consistent by pegging your Spanish practice to another daily activity—perhaps including it in your Morning Time schedule, or dedicating your afternoon snack time to Spanish practice, followed up by a special Netflix viewing in Spanish.

If you have older students, you can plan regular formal lessons into your homeschool day, and I would recommend scheduling supplemental practice sessions as well. These don’t have to be teeth-pulling exercises or activities that require your participation; instead, they can include watching sports in Spanish, listening to audiobooks in Spanish, or playing on a gamified language app. Since motivation is really important for language learning, try to match that extra practice to your child’s other interests or activities, if at all possible.

And one more thing: while this may be an unpopular opinion, I feel obliged to note that not every language learning tool necessarily works as a homeschool curriculum. Rosetta Stone, Duolingo, and Mango Languages all have their place, but none of them were designed for children, and all lack the comprehensive approach that young language learners need to reach proficiency. For those reasons, although I recommend Duolingo and Mango Languages as supplemental tools, I would not rely on any of those programs as your primary curriculum, especially for a child under 14.

 

3.) SURROUND YOURSELF WITH RESOURCES AND SUPPORT.

 

No matter whether you are learning Spanish alongside your children or are a native speaker yourself, no mama should try Spanish homeschooling alone! As a non-native speaker myself, I deeply value our Spanish-speaking friends and neighbors, who share both their language and their lives with us, supporting our entire family on our quest to raise bilingual kids.

With a bit of intention and planning, you too can find ways to surround your child with authentic Spanish-language resources and find others who can partner with you on your family’s language learning journey.

Here are a few ways that we’ve done that in our own family and which you might find useful:

  • Look for Spanish-language story times at your local library and get to know the leaders and other families there.  
  • Ask your librarian to give you a quick tour of your library’s Spanish-language collection—and grab some books for Spanish read-alouds!
  • Look for Spanish-language playdates in your community on sites like Meetup.com or through local Facebook groups.
  • Reach out to other homeschool families studying Spanish and plan a conversation playdate or Spanish Poetry Teatime together.
  • Volunteer with a church ministry or community organization that serves Spanish speakers. This can naturally lead to relationships where your children can practice their Spanish!

Of course, these aren’t things that you have to do all at once. It might make sense to tackle one in the fall and add another one on in the spring, or just to keep them in mind for future use. If something doesn’t work, try a new activity: the key is to think creatively about how to get your kids using their Spanish in the real-world, because if they can see how useful—and fun!—it is, they are much more likely to be successful in learning the language.

And in case those three tips weren’t enough, here’s one more: think of Spanish like an elephant. After all, as the saying goes, if you want to eat an elephant, you have to do it bite-by-bite. Learning Spanish is no different. What can you do this day, this week, to support your children’s Spanish learning? Focus on creating those good habits, and don’t stress about the rest—just be faithful to the process. You’ve got this!

Anne Guarnera is a bilingual homeschooling mom of two with a PhD in Spanish from the University of Virginia. Combining her experience as a language teacher and a bilingual parent, she writes at Language Learning At Home to equip other homeschooling families to study foreign languages successfully.

 

Do you have any Spanish homeschooling resources or tips to add? Let us know in the comments below!

 

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SPANISH HOMESCHOOLING TIPS

Spanish Homeschooling Tips

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Spanish Parts of the Body Songs for Kids

Spanish Parts of the Body Songs for Kids

Inside: Spanish parts of the body songs: a list for kids on YouTube.

 

Here are my favorite songs for learning the parts of the body in Spanish. There are lots of games that work well with this theme, too, like Simón dice. Once your classes know the basic parts of the body, brain breaks are super easy to do! Give commands like “tócate la cabeza” or “cierra los ojos,” and stay in the target language more easily. 

 

Spanish Parts of the Body Songs

 

1. A mi burro

 

This authentic song in Spanish includes some body parts (cabeza, cuello, corazón) . It also repeats “le duele” a lot, if you’re teaching how to express that something hurts. 

 

 

2. Cabeza, hombros, rodillas y pies

 

Most kids already know this one in English, and it’s a fun one to teach as the pace gets faster and faster. 

 

 

3. Saco una manito

 

To learn about hands, this is a sweet classic. It’s nice to use right before story time or circle time when we want everyone sitting with hands in their own space!

 

 

4. Todo mi cuerpo

 

These lyrics are similar to “cabeza, hombros, rodillas, pies,” but with more high frequency parts. As always with Calico Spanish, the song is easy to understand. 

 

 

5. Baila la cumbia

 

Get in some culture with this fun mix of cumbia and body parts!

 

spanish body parts songs

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The Very Hungry Caterpillar in Spanish: Activities and Resources

The Very Hungry Caterpillar in Spanish: Activities and Resources

Inside: Resources and ideas for teaching The Very Hungry Caterpillar in Spanish. 

 

The Very Hungry Caterpillar has to be one of the most endearing picture books out there. Lucky for us, almost all of Eric Carle’s iconic works are available in Spanish as well! My own kids truly never seem to tire of his books, and our copy of La oruga muy hambrienta is beyond well-worn. 

In this post I’m gathering resources for teaching Spanish through La oruga muy hambrienta. It’s the perfect book for covering numbers, colors, fruits, some foods, days of the week, and high-frequency words like come, es, tiene hambre, grande, pequeño, etc. 

There are two directions you can with a book like this, and Spanish learners. You can teach them every single phrase so they understand the original language, or you can teach the words they need to understand the story. I usually choose the second option, focusing on the essential, high-frequency needed to narrate the story. 

The Very Hungry Caterpillar in Spanish

 

Los números

 

La oruga hambrienta focuses on numbers 1-5. Here is a great list of numbers songs in Spanish to get started. 

The song Cinco monitos is a perfect tie-in as well. You can check out my freebies and post on activities for los Cinco monitos.

One of my favorite games for practicing any vocabulary is musical cards. For that one, pass out cards with 1-5 written on them. Play music, and have the students walk or dance around while holding their cards. When the music stops, call out a number. All the kids with that number sit down, and see which students stay in until the end. 

 

Las frutas

 

I like to focus on the fruits in the book, since several of the other foods are not so high frequency. Besides using real fruit or play food to talk about them (how many? what color?), I like to do a graph of favorites. If you are working with a small group, you can have the students ask their family members or friends (¿Cuál fruta te gusta más?) and color in a graph. 

Here is a video for learning the fruits:

 

Los colores

 

The colors aren’t directly part of the story, but they’re an easy tie-in with each fruit being a different color. You can see my lesson and activities for colors in Spanish, or keep it simple with the same game described above for numbers. 

Here’s a freebie from my Orugas y Mariposas unit, too! You can work on both numbers and colors to add circles to the caterpillar (try using a bottle cap as a stamp for paint). 

Los días de la semana

 

Of course, you can’t teach this book without the days of the week! The days can be an abstract concept for very young kids, so keep that in mind. If you are working with K-2 students it will be a bit easier. I recommend starting with a días de la semana song. You can also display a calendar with the days of the week, and discuss what your students do on which day. 

Once you have read the actual story, you can do some sequencing activities to show what the caterpillar ate on which day.

 

 

Ciclo de vida de la mariposa

 

Once you have read the story (or before), it’s fun to learn about the life cycle of butterflies. Here are two free PPTs I made to learn about caterpillars and butterflies (the life cycle PPT is part of the unit on TpT). 

 

 

 

Once you’ve worked on caterpillar and butterfly facts, it’s fun to do a simple wheel or craft to show each stage in the life cycle. There are sooo many ideas on Pinterest for this!

 

Related videos for The Very Hungry Caterpillar in Spanish

 

 

 

 

Want to See My Unit?

 

I’ve made picture cards, games, mini-books, printables, displays, stories, and PPTs all about Orugas and Mariposas. Teaching this unit will set your students up with the essential vocabulary they need to understand La oruga hambrienta. 

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5 Steps for Overcoming Social Media Overwhelm as Spanish Teachers

5 Steps for Overcoming Social Media Overwhelm as Spanish Teachers

Inside: Dealing with teacher anxiety and overwhelm of social media, as language teachers. 

 

It’s a Tuesday night and I should be sleeping— it’s a long day tomorrow. 

But I’m not asleep. Instead, I’ve got my laptop propped on my lap, in bed, with Netflix in the background. 
 
“Guys, this amazing new app that is changing the way I teach. You HAVE to try it. 
 
“Studies show ‘activities’ don’t work. Want your class to acquire Spanish? Cut everything except reading and discussion.”
 
Scroll, scroll. 
 
“Ugh. I just overheard the teacher down the hall teaching CONJUGATIONS. Unbelievable.”
 
Scroll, scroll. 
 
“Check out these pics of when I brought homemade flan for all 247 students and we made authentic piñatas last week.”
 
“My students all passed the Spanish AP exam and we didn’t even study for it! Wepa!”
 
 
The internet is so full of helpful information. It’s also a source of guilt, anxiety, and overwhelm
 
Is it just me? Ya’ll, I’m not even in a traditional classroom right now, and I feel it. I reach for my phone, I scroll, and I’m flooded with amazing ideas. I’m challenged, and learn new things. But this month I’m also feeling the anxiety shoot up… because it’s so much. 
 
It’s that time of year when people are dog-tired. And yet our insane teacher-brains are already thinking ahead to August; we’re reflecting and thinking of new ideas. How to not make ourselves go crazy?
 
I’ve decided I really need to take control of my online life… especially social media intake. It’s not that the internet isn’t helpful: the problem is that the pace doesn’t give us space to process all the good info out there, and the good info is usually mixed in with negative stuff. 
 
There’s no shortage of ways to feel anxious as a Spanish teacher (dealing with language anxiety for non-native speakers, feeling trapped in a system that isn’t working, or letting go of the textbook and figuring out what comes next.)
 
But just for today, I wanted to address social media and internet overwhelm. Here are some concrete steps I’m taking for June:
 

 

1. Remember that anxiety starts with me. 

 
It’s true that the internet age is overwhelming. But times are always changing; that what’s they do. Anxiety is always searching: even if life is pretty great, it will find something to be anxious over. 
 
I’m the one with the habit of reaching for my phone in a moment of quiet. I’m the one who sees the homemade flan and feels bad about myself. I have to learn the difference between: “what a good idea— I want to try that!,” and “what a good idea— good for her.” 
 
Sometimes we absolutely ought to re-think things or change up certain activities. But hear this: you are not a bad teacher just because someone is doing something good that you’re not doing. Last week, I came across a teacher sharing a proud moment of every student passing the AP exam, and I started to feel bad about myself. 
 
Guys, I’ve never even taught AP Spanish..  That’s teacher’s wonderful success has nothing to do with my students, and it’s my choice to let the anxiety in, or be glad and move right along. 
 
 
 

2. Be pickier about who I follow. 

 
Put simply, pay attention to what I feel as I scroll. If I’m feeling needless guilt, anger, etc.: UNFOLLOW!! Is it wasting my time? UNFOLLOW! You can always re-follow, later. 
 
(Instagram is also rolling out a mute feature– you can take a break without unfollowing if need be.)
 
 
 

3. Adjust my group settings. 

 
I love groups. They’re basically a black hole of fascinating threads for me. Literally, I pick up my phone to see the time, and 20 minutes later I emerge from a discussion about non-targeted CI in the context of post-modern classrooms blah blah blah. I love it and learn, but I’m just not very good at controlling myself. 
 
For Facebook, there’s this cool option now: Snooze this group for 30 days. WHAT? So, when it’s a Friday night and you have a glass of wine, go ahead and indulge yourself in all the rabbit trails you want. You don’t have to leave groups, and you can scroll or search whenever. But most of them are not popping up in my feed for the month of June. 
 
 

4. Be more intentional about getting information. 

 
Don’t be a mindless scroller, like me. Instead of just seeing bits of information and acronyms floating around, consider buying a book or attending a conference to help get oriented. The problem with social media and blogs (even mine!) is that we get bits of information and it can feel chaotic. 
 
Alternatively, take some time this summer to really sit down and read through some of favorite blogs. There are really good, informational blogs, but if you just stick to articles that show up on your feed you might be missing out. 
 
Podcasts are another option for more curated information, without wasting time. (Check out Language Latte, Tea with BVP, and Inspired by Proficiency.) And remember that Pinterest is a good way to tuck away things for later, especially if you have super-specific boards. You don’t have to research all the good thing right now, just because they showed up in your feed. 
 
 

5. Know that you can’t do all the good things. 

 
I am good at thinking of systems and ideas, and I’m terrible at follow-through. I HAVE TO KEEP IT SIMPLE!
 
(And here’s a dirty little secret that might help: bloggers write about ideas we don’t follow through on.)
 
Even so, there are a LOT of ideas out there. Really good ideas. So many ideas, in fact, that you could never implement them all into a classroom. I recommend first being sure of your philosophy: how do YOU believe students acquire language? What do they NEED to acquire it? If you are very sure on those things, you can choose your methods, strategies, and activities with peace of mind. You can more quickly see an activity and know whether to reject or embrace it.
 
In my opinion, there are right and wrong ideas about how students need input to grow in proficiency. But there is great freedom in the actual activities you plan for providing that input. 
 
Novels, storytelling, storylistening, story asking, weekend talk, art, games, story-book projects, authentic songs, accountability for speaking in class, Spanish movies and shows, passwords, brain breaks, class jobs, Spanish podcasts— they are all activities and ideas that I like and respect. I just don’t do all of them! And I certainly didn’t try implementing all of them at once, as a newbie.
 
Focus on the activities that work with your students. Start with the ones that bring life to your teaching, and slowly add or drop as you go. 
 
 
I hope this helps and I would love to hear what’s been helpful for you in reducing stress as a teacher!

 

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Spanish TV Shows to Use in Spanish Class

Spanish TV Shows to Use in Spanish Class

Inside: Spanish TV shows: a list of series you can (hopefully!) use in class.  

 

If you’d mentioned movies or shows to me as a new teacher, I’d have assumed you meant how we teachers sometimes use them (hey, we’ve been there right?): that last day before winter break, when the stack of grading gets too high, or a weird testing day when half the class is gone. 

Since then, I’ve realized just how amazing Spanish TV shows in class can be. We can bring native speakers straight into our classrooms. We can travel to different places and cultures. I can get them hooked onto authentic resources they’ll remember for years.

When using Spanish shows in class, I vary my approaches depending on the circumstances.  Sometimes I incorporate a lot of extra activities, because when it comes to TV, it’s not just “listening practice.” As my classes get invested in the characters, and story, it’s a really great chance to have rich discussions and readings. If the show if not immediately comprehensible to them, it takes these extra activities to turn the show into meaningful input.

Sometimes, though, if I’m sure the language is accessible, I let them get absorbed and try not to pause too often. At the end of Spanish 2, one year, we were getting frazzled and sort’ve limping to the end. I enacted a Spanish-only rule, and told the class that every day, for the rest of the year, I would write “10” on the board. That meant 10 minutes of Extra, at the end of class. If I heard English, I erased a minute. If I slipped into English, I added a minute.

It was so much fun, and served two purposes: motivation, and input. Because, as we all know: if it ain’t compelling, they aren’t acquiring much. That’s why a good show is gold.

I used to use a lot of isolated listening “practice” clips that my students totally dreaded. Part of reason they dreaded those clips was that they had no relation, no meaning we cared about. But give them an interesting show, and they can’t get enough. Why? Because they care about the plot and the people. 

 

FREE SPANISH TV SHOWS

 

 See my Spanish movies and shows page for many more Spanish-language suggestions, and of course let me know if I missed one of your favorites. 

 

1. Mi Vida Loca

 

Designed for absolute beginners, BBC produced this free show to introduce basic language, the kind you would need to get around town while traveling. Set up as an interactive mystery show, my students really got into this one and didn’t mind that it’s a tiny bit outdated. This is a perfect end-of-the-year treat when students are getting restless, or to watch over the summer and keep up the language from Spanish 1. If you click on the link above, you can watch interactive lessons. If you don’t have flash, you can also use the episodes on YouTube. 

Level: Novice-Low and up
Episodes: 22

 

 

2. Extra

 

A loose spin-off of the sitcom Friends, Extra is fantastic for beginners, in the sense that it provides compelling, highly comprehensible input. My students loved it and by April it was the perfect little reward to watch at the end of class, a bit each day. 

However, I feel that it’s often awkward and borders on inappropriate, even for high school. I usually kept my clicker in hand and skipped awkward parts; you can preview and use your judgement. 

Level: Novice-High and up (with support)
Episodes: 10

 

 

3. Destinos

 

Destinos is a bit dated, but if you can get past that, it’s a great resource! Follow a lawyer around the world as she tries to solve a mystery and travels the world in search of answers. This is a great way to get immersed in Spanish in the context of a telenova, with culture thrown in too.

Level: Novice-High and up (with support). 
Episodes: 52

 

 

4 ¿Eres tú, María?

 

Created by Realidades for Spanish beginners, this is another (somewhat dated) mystery show. 

Level: Novice-Mid and up
Episodes: 10

 

 

5. La Catrina 

 

A 17-year-old Hispanic-American studies in Mexico for the summer.

Episodes: 14
Level: Novice-High and up (with support)

 

 

6. Violetta

 

Many teachers showed Disney’s Violetta– about a musically gifted teen who moves to Buenos Aires– when it was on Netflix, but it’s since been removed. Most of the DVDs on Amazon seem to be foreign (do you hear us, Disney/Amazon? We want to give you our money), but there are episodes available on Vimeo and YouTube (I have no idea how long these will be there). 

 

 

SPANISH TV SHOWS ON NETFLIX

 

All of these are authentic shows, and only truly “comprehensible” to Intermediate-Mid or High and up. However, many teachers have developed materials (readings, discussion, guides, etc) to make the material more accessible to their students. 

Most of those materials are not currently available to purchase or download, but 

 

1. El Internado (The Boarding School)

 

Students in an isolated boarding school become involved in mysterious events and dark secrets from the past, as friendships and loyalties are tested. (Sidenote: I haven’t watched the wholes series. It’s VERY popular among many amazing teachers, who choose to skip over some scenes. There is language, and if you put on English subtitles, the language gets translated more strongly than in the original Spanish. I didn’t feel comfortable using it in my own classroom, but you decide!)

Check the following resources if you plan to use the series:
Kara Jacobs
WilliamsonCI
Mis Clases Locas

 

2. El Tiempo Entre Costuras

 

El tiempo entre costuras is a mini-series based off the novel of the same name. Set during the Spanish Civil War, it follows a  Spanish seamstress who ends up in Morrocco after an ill-fated love affair, and eventually gets caught up between spies in Franco’s Spain.

This is one of my very favorite Spanish TV shows, and I’ve used it in class along with a study of the Spanish Civil War. The first few episodes have some scenes I skip, but it is generally a clean show and one I love using. 

 

 

3. Gran Hotel

 

Set at the turn of the century, a young man applies for a job at a hotel to investigate his sisters’ disappearance. Forbidden romance, intrigue, and danger follows as the truth comes to light. 

Here are resources from Mis Clases Locas for using the show. Though it has scenes I would skip, it’s one of the cleaner shows out there and so good. 

 

 

4. Soy Luna

 

An Argentine telenovela produced in partnership with Disney, this series is currently on Netflix. A teenage girls who loves to skate moves to Buenos Aires with her parents. I haven’t watched the entire show, but it looks appropriate for middle school and along the veins of Violetta. (If this isn’t available for you in the U.S., you still may be able to access it by adjusting the VPN on your device.) 

 

 

5. Rebelde

 

Six different teenagers– all interested in music– attend an exclusive private school together. Preview this one before using at school. 

 

 

5. Silvana sin Lana

 

A wealthy family’s life comes crashing down when the dad leaves and their fortune is lost. The mother must get a real job and the kids have to adjust to a “normal” life. I haven’t seen this one to the end, but the first episodes are pretty clean and funny. 

 

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Spanish TV Shows for Class

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Food Truck Day: A Fun Field Trip Idea for Spanish Class

Food Truck Day: A Fun Field Trip Idea for Spanish Class

Inside: Looking for field trip ideas for Spanish class? Try a food truck day!

 

I am so pleased to share this guest post from Courtney Nygaard at Field Trip Spanish! Instead of trying to take your classes out on a field trip, bring the field trip to you. Getting started will be easy with her (very organized) ten steps to making it happen. Enjoy!

Are you interested in hosting a Food Truck Day at your school? For the past three years, I have planned a Food Truck day for my high school Spanish students and it has become one of the highlights of the year. All year long my students ask me if we are going to have our Food Truck Day again. I know the idea of planning an event like this can be overwhelming, but don’t worry! From the experience I’ve gained over the past three years, I’ve come up with ten steps to planning a Food Truck Day at school. In this post, you’ll learn how to successfully organize a Food Truck Day and additionally, how to use it as a fundraiser.

 

1. Get it approved by your principal.

 

It may seem obvious, but the first thing you need to do is make sure hosting this event is approved by your principal. You want to make sure you are complying with school rules and aligning the event to the school calendar as best as possible. Nothing worse than planning a large event only to find that students have standardized testing or a field trip for another class.

 

red taco truck

 

2. Plan Teacher Supervision During Lunches

 

This step will depend on how your school’s lunch schedule is set-up. At my school, we have three lunches. I coordinated with the other Spanish teachers to make sure that someone was outside during each lunch. One thing I did to ensure teacher supervision at all times was physically bringing one of my classes outside to sit on the lawn and work on their assignment. They enjoyed the chance to be outside for the hour and I was able to supervise the event. If this won’t work for you, you may need to request that your school provide a substitute for the hour you will be outside supervising the event.

 

students in line for a taco truck

 

3. Survey Students

 

I survey my students using a Google Form before I contact the food trucks. I make it clear that students will need to pay around $10 for their lunch which influences some students’ decision, depending on their economic situation. Of course, I wish every student could participate, but ultimately this event is a fundraiser which ends up funding other activities for all students later on in the year. If students choose to not participate in the event they simply attend lunch in the cafeteria as usual.

In the survey, I ask them for their name, what lunch they have, and if they plan to eat at the food trucks that day. This survey is conducted before I contact the food trucks, because in order to get a food truck to agree to attend, they need to know the approximate amount of students they will be serving. This survey also informs me how many food trucks I need to contact.

At my school, our lunches are very short (about twenty-five minutes). It’s important to know how many students will need to be fed in the amount of time you have allotted for your school’s lunch. Knowing this information allows the food truck (who is well versed in their serving capacities) to know whether or not it is possible to serve the number of students you have, in the amount of time your school allows.

 

tacos with beans and rice

 

4. Contact the Food Trucks and Set a Date

 

Now that you have an approximate student count for who will be eating lunch at the food trucks, you can begin to contact food trucks in your area. The first year of setting this up is always the trickiest. Food trucks need to be sure that it will be worth their time and can be hesitant to come to an event that will also have another food truck. In my case, I had 181 students that planned to eat lunch at the food trucks all within an hour and a half time span across our three lunches. So I needed two food trucks.

If you need multiple vendors, find food trucks that are available on the same date and inform them of the number of students, the time crunch, and arrival details. Be sure to ask about their electrical needs so you can be sure that they are close enough to the building to run an extension cord if they don’t have a generator.

It must be worth their time. The following year, a food truck actually initiated contact with me because they wanted to do this event again. The second year I hosted this event I asked if they would be willing to do this as a fundraiser for our Spanish classes. They were more than happy to donate 10% of the profit to our Spanish classes! This was great because we have been able to use the funds earned from our Food Truck Day to pay for our Three Kings Day party with our students.

 

field trip ideas for spanish class

 

5. Alert Necessary Personnel About the Event

 

Now that the date is finalized, you will want to alert necessary personnel. Contact the city about the area in which the food trucks will be parking (this may or may not be necessary for you). Put in a request to your custodial staff for several large garbage cans to be placed nearby on the day of the event. Also, make sure to contact your lunch monitors about the passes you will be using for students to be excused to leave the cafeteria for the event.

 

quesadilla

 

6. Contact Parents

 

Your event is starting to take shape! Send out an e-mail to parents alerting them of the event. Some parents may need extra time to get $10 together, so it’s important to be conscientious of all income levels. Attach the food truck menus, along with the prices. Inform parents that this event is optional; their son or daughter does not need to participate, and that if they prefer their child to each lunch in the cafeteria like normal, they may.

 

purchasing from a taco truck

 

7. Make Passes

 

Because of the time crunch, it’s likely that students will need a late-to-class pass. They may need an extra fifteen minutes of lunchtime so they can order their food, and have the time to eat it. If you would like a free download of these late-to-class passes and an event checklist you can get those here.

Something new that I’ll be doing for my Food Truck Day this year, is color coding the lunch-passes according to the lunch time-slots. This pass will be used to show the lunch monitors that a student is free to go outside for lunch. Additionally, this pass will help in identifying which students belong at each lunch as there tends to be a time overlap outside. Basically, if a student has first lunch, I want to quickly identify that they do not belong outside during third lunch. This will prevent students from abusing the system, skipping class and staying outside too long.

This event is exclusive for Spanish class students (or whichever language department is hosting your event) so passes work as an effective way to easily tell who is supposed to be there.

*Note: I don’t give students the late to class passes in advance. I give these to them if and when a particular lunch is ending, and they are still eating outside.

 

late to class pass for Food Truck Day

 

8. Go Over the Menu with Students

 

You will want to go over the menu and prices with students ahead of time. Remind them to bring cash and make sure students who have food sensitivities or allergies are aware of what’s on the menu. This is a great time to go over the vocabulary and key phrases for ordering food in Spanish (or again, whichever language department is hosting this event).

 

pouring hot sauce on tacos

 

9. Survey Students Again

 

The week of the event, survey students again in order to give a more accurate number to the food trucks.

 

picking up the order

 

10. Contact School Lunch Staff & Teachers

 

With the latest numbers, notify the school lunch staff of how many students will not be eating lunch in the cafeteria that day. This helps the school reduce food waste.

Send out an e-mail to all teachers letting them know some of their students may be arriving late to class (with a pass) that day. Attach a photo of the late-to-class pass in this email. This will give teachers an idea of what to look for in the event a student were to arrive late to their class.

Also, inform teachers that they are more than welcome to purchase lunch at the event themselves. Notifying them additionally, that the best time-frame to do so will be before/after normal school lunch slots if they prefer not to wait in line. Some teachers have prep during those times. The lines will most likely be long during lunches, and it is always a good idea to look out for your colleagues.

 

Three Mexican style tacos with lime and radish on the side

 

Final Tips for the Day of the Event

 

The day of the event I have a Bluetooth speaker outside playing upbeat music in Spanish, which always adds a nice vibe. Since students eat out on the lawn, some of them bring blankets to sit on, which I think is a great idea!

As lunch times change, ask students to show you their pass, so you can verify whether or not they should still be there. If they need more time to finish eating, give them a late-to-class pass.

Final note: You may be concerned about students who cannot afford to eat lunch at the food truck. As this event is a fundraiser, you could use the funds you raise this year as scholarships for next year’s event. So in the year following, the students’ whose family may not be able to afford it would simply need to check a box on the Google Form survey stating that they would need a scholarship in order to participate.

You should be able to prepay with the vendor in order to get pre-paid tokens allowing students to order pre-determined food options. Pass the tokens out to your students the morning of the event. At this point, you should be set for a cultural experience you and your students can thoroughly enjoy!

 

students with taco truck

 

 

Courtney Nygaard is a high school Spanish teacher in Minnesota. She also runs a website for Spanish learning called Field Trip Spanish and a travel blog called Travel For Days. You can find Courtney’s teaching resources for your Spanish class at her Teachers Pay Teachers store – Field Trip Spanish by Profe Nygaard.

 

 

 

 

Do you have more fun field trip ideas for Spanish class?

Leave a comment below and tell us about them. 

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field trip ideas for Spanish class

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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!

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