4 Practical Tips for Teaching Foreign Language to Preschoolers

4 Practical Tips for Teaching Foreign Language to Preschoolers

Inside: Tips and tricks on teaching foreign language to preschoolers. 

 

Today I’m welcoming Josefina Cabello, who is an Ecuadorian Spanish Teacher in Tennessee and TpT creator. She has been teaching Spanish since 2011, taught ESL for 5 years in Ecuador, and loves empanadas (I’m right there with you, Josefina!). She’s got some practical tips for those of us teaching that extra-lovable and extra-wiggly age: preschool learners!

 

Teaching Foreign Language to Preschoolers

 

Teaching preschoolers for the first time can get a little challenging. The famous saying “time flies” becomes a reality with these kids. Having extra activities “just in case” becomes a must for every lesson planning.

After almost 10 years of teaching, my preschool classes are the ones I find the easiest when it comes to plan and teach. Here are my 4 tips when you are teaching foreign language to preschoolers.

You also might like: Preschool Spanish Lessons and Ideas

 

Tip #1: Plan ahead and a little extra.

 

Plan accordingly and ahead. Depending on the time length of your class, plan activities to keep your students engaged

Here is a how a typical preschool class goes for me (30 minutes period)

  1. Sing songs or chants to review colors, numbers and shapes. (length: 5 minutes)
  2. Introduce content: Bring something to get student’s attention, use realia, puppets, costumes, the list is endless. But this stage is very critical to keep students engaged (length: 5-7 minutes)
  3. Review content: Use flashcards, memory game, bingo, I spy, anything visual and that keep students moving (length: 10 minutes)
  4. Worksheet or group work: I create worksheets where students have to cut, paste, circle, color or follow my commands. Work together with your students, monitor them at all times. (length: 5 minutes)
  5. Extras: We read a book, watch a video or play a game to review our content. This extra is always good in case any of the previous activities do not work right.

 

Tip #2: Don’t Be Afraid to Be silly! 

 

Kids love it when you “play games” or “act silly.” It’s like you are speaking their language (even if you are speaking, say, Spanish). Bring on the puppets and action figures, kids love it when teachers use toys to teach their lessons.

When I am showing my flashcards teaching parts of the body, I love to joke with my kids. I tape a flashcards to my arm or to my nose and act like I do not know where it is. This way when kids say “your nose” I say “Oh, mi nariz?” and is not until my student repeats the word “nariz” I miraculously find the flashcard.

 

Tip #3: Listen to your preschoolers, but stay on task.

 

Johnny wants to tell you about the Daniel Tiger episode when the cake got smushed. Sandy wants to show you her Peppa pig t-shirt and Danny wants to tell you about the Paw Patrol party he had on Saturday. Kids love it when you listen, and even more when you get engaged in the conversation, but you also need to stay on task. A sweet and nice way to ask them to stay on task  could be by replying: “that sounds great, maybe we can talk about that after our circle time” or “I love Paw Patrol! maybe you tell me a little bit more after our circle time”. Keep your promise and ask them later.

When students are working on their worksheets, when you see them on the carpool line or in the cafeteria, show them you care. Tell Johnny that you hope Daniel Tiger gets a new cake on tomorrow’s episode, tell Sandy her new Peppa Pig shirt looks so pretty and ask Danny who is his favorite pup from Paw Patrol (just say yours is Chase or Marshall).

 

Spanish flashcards with preschoolers

I created these for my students to review “feelings”. I have some Daniel Tiger fans in my classroom. They were beyond thrilled with these.

Tip #4: Keep it short, fun and fresh

 

Short: I try to keep my activities’ length no more than 5 minutes. Preschoolers have a short attention span and once you lose the attention from a couple of kids, it is a domino effect in the classroom.

Fun: Keep them moving. Teach them a “bachata” song to introduce the word “amigo”play “flyswatter” to review family members vocabulary, or  review Christmas vocabulary with fun activites. 

Fresh: Preschoolers like routines, but also things that are new and fresh. Keep the routine for songs and chants to review numbers and colors. But bring some fun elements to the classroom, specially when you are introducing new content.

If you include flashcards in your class, here are some fun ideas:

  • Find your match: Give a group of students the labels and another group the pictures, ask them to find their match.
  • Left or right: Get two flashcards and place one on your left hand and one on your right hand. Call out one flashcard and make students guess in which hand you have it.
  • Flyswatter: Place all flashcard on the board.  Give 2 students a fly swatter and ask them to “hit” the word you call out.
  • Thief in the market: Choose a small number of flashcards (say 5). Show these flashcards to your students. Ask your students to cover their eyes and invite one student to open his/her eyes and “steal” one card. They can either guess who stole the card or they can tell which card is missing. Great way  to review “tienes” and “no tengo”

Most important, be yourself and enjoy teaching these little ones! They have so much energy and can bring so much joy to your everyday teaching.

Did I miss anything? Leave a comment with an extra tip for teaching foreign language to preschoolers.

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!

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

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!

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. 

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!

Fun Spanish Learning Games for Kids (Preschool & Early Elementary)

Fun Spanish Learning Games for Kids (Preschool & Early Elementary)

Inside: Spanish learning games for kids (preschool and elementary). 

 

I have a ton of Spanish learning games I’ve collected over the years. But I’ve been missing a list just for younger kids! 

Here are games that are easy to explain, not-too-competitive, and require more listening than speaking. These are best for preschool and early elementary, before drawing and writing skills are ready to go. 

Little learners have tiny attention spans. In my experience, they’re even shorter in a foreign language class. So keep it moving along, and end the game if the interest is waning.  Anytime you are working with young kids, I recommend lots of songs, puppets, and movements. If you are looking for preschool, you may want to see my Spanish preschool series

 

Spanish Learning Games for Kids

 

1. Musical Cards

 

This one is similar to musical chairs, and requires a set of cards with images of the target vocabulary. 

If you are studying numbers, for example, hand out number cards to all of the students. (It’s okay if several students have the same number.) Turn on music and allow them to move around. When the music stops, call out a number. Whoever has that number sits down, and play continues until one student (or one number) is left!

(I saw this game discussed in the Facebook Group Teaching Spanish to Children, run by Munde de Pepita. Definitely join if you haven’t already!)

 

2. Where is the button?

 

Again, prep a set of picture cards. (Credit to Susan O’Donnell Bondy for the idea!)

Have the students sit in a circle, and spread the cards out, face up, in the middle of the circle. Tell the students close their eyes, and hide a cut-out of a button (or whatever object you choose) under a card. The students take turns guessing which card it’s under. This sounds like an output-heavy activity (the students have to say the word), but you can provide a ton of input here: A ver, ¿está debajo del queso? ¡No, no está debajo del queso! ¿Dónde está? Or, if someone says el pollo, point to the zanahoria  and ask, ¿Éste? ¡Ay no, no es el pollo!

Susan shared that she has a chant that her students do. In Spanish, it could be something like Boton-cito, boton-cito, ¿dónde está?

 

3. Bingo

 

Bingo is fun for all ages, but doesn’t always work with younger crowds. If your students aren’t able to grasp the concept of 4-in-a-row, simply play to fill the boards, without a winner. They’ll still enjoy playing, and it’s a great listening activity. 

 

4. What’s missing?

 

I’ve played this one for a long time, but I love Julie’s take on this one from Mundo de Pepita. Read her post for a full explanation, but here is the basic explanation of how I play: have a set of objects or pictures in front of the students. Have them close their eyes (or turn away!), and remove one object. They open their eyes, and guess which object is gone. 

You can maximize the language opportunity here by chatting about their guesses. ¿La manzana? ¡Uy, la manzana está aquí! No es la manazana… ¿qué es, clase?

Spanish learning games

 

5. ¿Qué hay en la bolsa?

 

This is another fun guessing game, and best if it’s a real object or toy. I like to call up one student to put their hand in the bag, and feel they object. They can guess what it is, and if the answer isn’t correct another student gets to try guessing. 

For slightly older classes who know some basic like colors, big, small, you could also give them clues about what’s in the bag, and have them take some guesses after each clue. 

 

Like this? Pin it!

Spanish learning games for kids

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!

Cinco Monitos Song Lyrics and Free Printable

Cinco Monitos Song Lyrics and Free Printable

Inside: Lyrics and activities for the song Cinco monitos.

Cinco monitos– Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed– is a fun song for little (or bigger!) Spanish learners. Use it to teach numbers 1-5, and beginning phrases like la cama, no más, la cabeza, and se cayó. 

cinco monitos letras y titeres

 

If you are looking for songs in general, you might like my lists of Nursery Rhymes in Spanish, Spanish Lullabies, or general Songs in Spanish for kids. These Cinco monitos materials are also part of my lesson on numbers for Prek-2nd grade. 

 

Cinco monitos: Lyrics / Letras

 

You’ll find a variety of lyrics for this song. Our personal favorite is the version sung by Toobys, so these lyrics are from that version. (The printable lyrics are available in the download below.)

Cinco monitos saltando en la cama,
Uno cayó al piso y la cabeza se golpeó,
Mamá llamó al doctor y el doctor la consejó,
-¡Ya no más monos saltando en la cama!

Cuatro monitos saltando en la cama,
Uno cayó al piso y la cabeza se golpeó,
Mamá llamó al doctor y el doctor la consejó,
-¡Ya no más monos saltando en la cama!

Tres monitos saltando en la cama,
Uno cayó al piso y la cabeza se golpeó,
Mamá llamó al doctor y el doctor la consejó,
-¡Ya no más monos saltando en la cama!

Dos monitos saltando en la cama,
Uno cayó al piso y la cabeza se golpeó,
Mamá llamó al doctor y el doctor la consejó,
-¡Ya no más monos saltando en la cama!

Un monito saltando en la cama,
Uno cayó al piso y la cabeza se golpeó,
Mamá llamó al doctor y el doctor la consejó,
-¡Ya no más monos saltando en la cama!

 

Here’s the song on YouTube:

 

Cinco monitos: Activities / Actividades

 

This song can be a fun one to act out! Print the five little monkeys finger puppets, or glue the monkeys onto popsicle sticks, and cut out the bed image. 

 

 

cinco monitos actividades

Here are more videos of los Cinco monitos. You’ll see here just how many different ways there are to sing 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!

Back to School Spanish Activities: The Ultimate Round-Up of Plans and Ideas

Back to School Spanish Activities: The Ultimate Round-Up of Plans and Ideas

Inside: Back to school Spanish activities and plans.

 

I don’t know about you, but beginnings make me anxious. Or maybe it’s more like this: the anticipation of beginnings makes me anxious. Even on Sunday nights–in the middle of the school year– I get those butterflies. Once school starts, we jump in and it really is okay! (Especially now that I have a clearer idea of where we’re going and how students take in language.) That week-before is just tricky.

 

Teaching for ten years now, back-to-school has gotten better. I wish I’d had easy access to ideas from other teachers in those early days, so I’ve gathered these back-to-school Spanish lesson posts into one place. Whether you’re a newbie or a veteran, here you’ll have tons of great ideas at your fingertips!

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