Thursday, January 4, 2018

How to Boost Your Spanish Level in 2018

Language is basically learning new words, and then learning how to put them together and use them. So learning new vocabulary makes up a large percent of the task of learning Spanish. When you're studying Spanish in a class setting, it makes sense to sit down and make flash cards of all the words your professor tells you to learn for the next test.  But what if you don't have a professor?  What if you're trying to learn on your own?  How do you know what words you need to learn? Besides immersion, or talking with Spanish-speaking friends, how can you improve your Spanish?  I think half of the answer to that question is STORIES!

Monday, January 1, 2018

How We Plan to Learn More Spanish in 2018

I used to call them New Year's resolutions.  Then I started calling them goals.  This year I'm going to call it a plan.  Goals get my brain going to lofty places.  Not saying that's a bad thing.  It's good to dream big. When it comes to our language learning for the year though, I need to have a plan.  I need to map out where I want us to go, and how we're going to get there.  What will the day-to-day look like around our house, learning Spanish in 2018?

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Whew!  It was really fun collecting this list of Spanish-themed Christmas books.  I hope it's helpful to have them all gathered here in one spot.  One of my favorite things to give as a gift is books--any time of the year.  You know what they say, "A book is a gift that can be opened again and again."  If you gift any of these books below it's a double-win: some books listed reinforce Spanish learning, and others introduce cultural themes to learn about and celebrate.  Do you have any books you would add to this list?

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The other day I ran across a wall calendar that had daily Spanish phrases and vocabulary.  It got me thinking, what other FUN stuff is out there for getting more Spanish in your life?!  I'm sharing below a few of my favorite things I found.  And although most of these would be fine for kids, I actually had MYSELF in mind for this list!!  Enjoy.  :)

  • Stuff for Around the House
  • Books
  • Games
  • Podcasts
  • Apps

I just love to get my hands on anything Spanish.  Like I dream of the day Target has it's pretty agendas that say "DOS MIL DIECISÉIS" instead of "TWO THOUSAND EIGHTEEN."  The more I see Spanish in my environment, the more inclined I am to speak it.  Here are some cute items from Etsy and Amazon to get you started.  (The Amazon links in this post are affiliate links, just FYI!)

These pillows are so cute!  Last I checked, the Navy one was on sale.  And wouldn't the teal one look so cute in a nursery!?

Okay, this mug is just too funny!

Anyone else need help reminding people in your house who is boss?  (My daughter will probably think this mug is for her.)

You could get lots of quick Spanish lessons in if you bought one of these calendars.  It's an easy way to get a daily lesson without much effort!  Even if you just learned one new phrases a day, that would be at least 1,000 new words learned in the New Year!

By the looks of the January page, it's more for beginners.  I'm excited to start using this with my kids.  If you can't see the image well here, the image on Amazon has a zoom-in feature if you're wanting to see what kinds of words and phrases you can learn with this calendar.

If you're looking for something a little more advanced, this daily calendar should do the trick!  You can see more example phrases on Amazon.

I used to own this Spanish idioms book and would thumb through the pages just for fun.  Some of the English idioms were new to me too!  Something a little different from your typical grammar book.

This magnet set has over 500 pieces.  I might even use this one on the filing cabinet in my room to right little love notes to my hubby in Spanish.  ;)

I can't believe I am just now hearing about this game.  From the reviews on Amazon it sounds really fun, and a great game for beginners of all ages: kids + adults alike.  It could even help you learn the vosotros form if you haven't yet.  It's a color-coded card game, kind of like Mad Libs in the sense that you could turn out with wacky sentences that are grammatically correct.  :-P

Here's a smaller version if you want to try one deck first to see if you like it.

If you're looking for more games for kiddos, check out my post specifically for kids (coming soon hopefully)!

If you're a big podcast listener, make sure you check out these two below!  The first I have listened to for over a year.  If you subscribe in iTunes, the episodes download right to your phone and the app reminds you to listen!

The second one is new to me, but it is GREAT!  Both are súper bueno for intermediate speakers.  Also, if you're a parent, imagine how great it would be for your kids to hear/see you listening to something in a foreign language.  They'll start picking up the language right along with you!

If you don't have an iPhone/iTunes, just download a podcast app like Stitcher or Overcast and find the podcast in there!

I'm not sure how often Duolingo plans to publish these podcasts (or if they'll be free?), but the first one is out, and it's free, and it's awesome!

Duolingo also has a language-learning app that everyone loves!  Apple even rated it the best app of the year when it came out.  This one is not just for kids!

If you have the Audible app, you should definitely grab this audiobook!  It was the first audiobook I ever purchased from Audible.  :)  

Do tell what your favorite Spanish-boosting idea is!!  Do you have any favorite games or books?

Thursday, November 16, 2017

I recently wrote about how our Spanish learning went dormant for a while.  Now that we're back at it, I'm leaning on the wisdom of Charlotte Mason--the founding mother of teaching--to help with lesson planning.  Her methods make teaching feel natural and (almost) effortless.  

Since reading all six of her volumes could take years, it's nice that Ambleside Online has collected all of her writings about foreign language in one place.  I highly recommend it for ANY PARENT wanting to help their child learn a foreign language--even if you are not a home school family.  Just insert the word SPANISH (or whatever language you're learning) where you see the word FRENCH below.  

Here are some of her main points and how we're trying to make them happen.

"Children should learn French orally, by hearing and repeating French phrases."

The three main ways we're doing this are:

You'll want to do two things with poetry: 1) find one to recite over and over, and 2) find a collection of poems to just read aloud from a few times a week. is the BEST place to go for easy, accessible poetry.  She has curated a plethora of poetry themes and printables.  (Just click on "POEMS" in the menu.)

Finding ones to go along with the season makes it more fun too!  Find one or two that you like and work on reciting them/memorizing them.  Less is more!  The longer you can spend with one poem, the more it sinks into the brain and becomes meaningful language.  We've been practicing the same two fall poems for at least four weeks now.

If you want a good Spanish poetry book, check out Arrorró, mi niño.  It's our favorite right now.  It has some poems and finger plays, each written out in Spanish and English.  Our local library has a copy, and I'm sure yours does too.  If reading poetry in a language you don't already know intimidates you, music is another great option.  See below for music suggestions. 

I found the website from the lovely Delectable Education Podcast.  We chose the "Three Little Pigs Story," and listen to it in French and Spanish.  It's great to use stories where the story line is already familiar to the kids and that has repetition.

Books are another great resource!  I would suggest different ones depending on the ages of your kids.  Funny board books like this one, or this one would probably work great for kids birth to 5 years.  Elementary kids will probably enjoy

Action Sentences
Here the methods of Francois Gouin come into play.  Charlotte Mason refers to his book, The Art of Teaching and Studying Foreign Languages, in her writings.  You can actually download his book free from Google books, but if you don't want to take on the project of reading an entire book, you can lean on this concise explanation I found at World Language Classrooms.   Basically he uses logical series of actions to teach meaningful language, claiming verbs are the key to linking thought and action.  I'm hoping to be able to expound on this in another post soon.

"They should learn a few new French words every day, maybe 2-6 words."

This is probably the easiest way to begin learning a language.  Babies start by learning isolated words.  We point and say "ball," "dada," "momma," "clap," and so on.

A great way to start is simply with vocabulary or flash cards.  If your kids are already reading, you'll want to make sure to find ones with a picture on one side without any text.  This will keep them from trying to pronounce the new language with English phonetics.  Here is a good Spanish/English set that has the words on the back.  Of course this takes a little time for the parent learning how to pronounce the words.  We are learning French this year (which I don't speak), so I know how hard that can be!

How to Use Them
I would suggest finding a place in your house where your family spends a lot of time, and hanging up 2 cards each day after you go over them a few times.  This gives your brain a visual trigger to practice them all throughout your week.  2 new words a day for 5 days a week for 36 weeks of school adds up to 360 new words in a year!

"But it's very important that he acquires the correct accent right from the beginning."

Don't freak out.  Charlotte Mason even points out it's not feasible for each family to hire a private tutor that is a native speaker of the language.  She suggests that multiple families get together to hire a tutor together.  But there are other ideas that might work just as well . . . especially in the younger years.  Here's a quick list:

1) Spanish story hour at your local library
2) Getting together with a friend from school that speaks the language
3) Spanish-speaking kid vloggers
4) Music - especially folksongs
5) Your kids' favorite movie dubbed in Spanish
6) Mundo Lanugo - the bonus here is it introduces Spanish-speaking culture too
7) Habla Jorge - awesome YouTube videos for kids

"By age twelve, children . . . should have some ability to speak and understand French, and they should be able to read an easy French book." 

I end with this one to encourage you.  If your kids are young, you have many years to work on reaching the goal of speaking and understanding a second language.  If your kids are twelve (or older) and just starting a second language, no worries.  By that age they've already learned how to learn, and applying these same methods above will have them making progress in no time!

This post has so much information.  Take just one piece at a time to digest and apply.  Any little part you implement will help you get one step closer to your language-learning goals.  Remember to always have fun and keep it simple!

What part of teaching your kids a foreign language seems the hardest?  What kinds of ways are you learning a foreign language in your house?  What is your favorite resource for teaching foreign language to kids?

This post contains affiliate links.

Monday, November 6, 2017

It wasn’t until Spanish became a part of our routine again, that I understood why it had left in the first place.  It’s been so long since then, that I don’t exactly remember making a decision to “stop doing Spanish.”  I can’t even remember if it faded from our life slowly, or stopped abruptly.  However it happened, for nearly a year we “quit Spanish.”

Some days I hardly realized it was missing.  Other days I missed it.  Some days I felt guilty my kids weren’t learning it (although not enough to try to cram it back into our schedule).  Other days I wondered if I simply didn’t love Spanish anymore.

Last year was my oldest child’s First Grade year.  It was a year full of adjustments and learning and maturing.  A few months into the school year we got to the point where there just wasn't enough time for Spanish.  Here we are a few months into his Second Grade year and my second-oldest’s Kindergarten year, and we’re doing Spanish again.  So what happened?

I didn’t happen upon more time in my schedule.  If anything, things are busier now having two school-aged children.  It wasn’t until recently that it hit me.  Actually, an allegory of nature helped straighten things out in my mind.  My Spanish life went dormant.

Dormancy most generally happens when an organism has calculated that a season of adverse conditions is around the corner.  (Sometimes organisms can enter a phase of dormancy after the adverse conditions have hit--which is more likely my story haha.)  The organism uses dormancy as a survival mechanism--as a way of preserving life. But it looks like death, doesn't it?

When fall rolls around (here where we live) the leaves change colors with a flourish, giving such a thrill--but not without a tinge of regret, that winter will soon arrive.  (Or maybe it’s just me that slightly cringes at the thought of cold, dark months ahead.)  And then all the trees look dead.

But They're Not Dead!  
Which is the point I’m trying to make.  If you’re a tree, and you live where there is winter, you just know: you have to prepare for it.  You withdraw all those nutrients from the leaves, cutting off all the unnecessary baggage, and close up shop until spring.  And you know what else?  Dormancy is also used for keeping house, as a time for repairing cells and getting things back in order for the next year.

I don’t know why, but it helped me so much to realize that’s what I had been going through.  A season of dormancy.  I didn’t lose my Spanish, and neither did my kids.  I just needed to reserve my Spanish energies until conditions were more suited for growth.  

If I had tried to force things and tried to keep my leaves green or get myself to grow during a time of winter, my Spanish may have died.  These days I think most of us would call that burnout.  It feels so good to find this parallel in nature, to reassure myself it was the right thing to do.

Pay Attention to Nature
I want to encourage you all that it’s okay if you’re not always “ON.”  Pay attention to the rhythms in your own life.  Look for cues from “nature” to know when it’s time to be busy and productive, and when it’s time to rest and preserve life.  

A Charlotte Mason Schedule
If you’ve been around here a while, you know that we use Charlotte Mason’s methods to guide our homeschool.  She encouraged schools to have 12-week terms with a month break between each one.  I think she even advised taking a day off for spending time in nature, at the teacher’s discretion, when it seemed children’s minds were wandering too much or not in a mindset to focus on lessons.  She also taught short and varied lessons.  We’re trying to follow these guidelines to keep our Spanish lives healthy and flourishing.  :)

Blooming Again
Our Spanish schedule this year consists of three ten-minute lessons on MWF.  In addition we’re learning to recite two Spanish poems this term, and learning one Spanish song.  We’ll take the month of December off and I’ll use that time to ready a new plan for the next 12 weeks.   

How are you structuring your Spanish lessons?  What keeps your Spanish life healthy?  Have you ever had to take a break from Spanish?  Did you feel guilty about it?  What things have you learned on your Spanish-learning journey?  Please share so we can all learn from each other!  

Sunday, October 16, 2016

O de oso {Learning the Spanish Alphabet}

Whenever fall rolls around, I always get in the mood to plan alphabet learning activities for my kiddos.  One year Cheerios (or maybe General Mills?) did this thing where the surprise toy in their boxes of cereal where actually books.  And better yet, they were bilingual books!  We love books around here, and I especially love any Spanish books I can get my hands on.

During the fall time that year the lovely book "Bear Says Thanks," by Karma Wilson, happened to be the book we found in our Cheerios box.  If you haven't read the book, be sure to borrow it from your library this fall.  It's a great one!  You can use it to learn about animals, what animals eat, friendship, hibernation, thankfulness, and the list goes on!  The book lends itself so well to learning activities I couldn't help but make some Spanish ones to do with my kids.

I printed off real-life pictures of all the animals mentioned in the story and wrote each of their names on an index card.  We used these as we retold the story.  We matched each animal with the food they brought to bear's feast.

Then we zeroed in on learning the word for bear in Spanish: oso (OH-soh).

I dug out an old bear stamp from the rubber stamp collection I had from my high school days.  I drew an "O" on a paper and had my oldest stamp bears around it.  He was working on learning how to form his letters at that time.

Next, I also drew a block letter "O" because I thought that might be prettier to see the bears without a line through them.

We hung the "O" on our fridge and practiced spelling the word "oso" with our magnetic letters.

Finally we did what I call a "chalk talk" activity where I draw a picture piece by piece and the kids follow my instructions without knowing what we are drawing.  This is a great way to incorporate practicing Spanish shapes as well.

When we finished drawing our bears we wrote the word bear underneath.  Easy peasy learning fun, and all thanks to Cheerios!!

We still get this book and the pictures out each year and read the story together.  What other things can you think of that would be fun to learn about the letter "O" in Spanish?  I'd love to hear your ideas!  Be sure to check out all the alphabet fun going on this month over at All Done Monkey.

31 Days of ABC - October 2016 |

After taking a break last year due to the arrival of Baby #3, we are back with one of my favorite series, the 31 Days of ABC! You can look forward to 31 more days of activities, crafts, books, apps, and more, all dedicated to teaching young children the alphabet. I am so happy to be working with an amazing group of kid bloggers, who will be sharing their amazing ideas with us in the coming days. And this year for the first year we are also adding a giveaway, so be sure to scroll to the end and enter for a chance to win! So join us as we jump, skip, hop, and read our way through the alphabet this October! Don't forget to follow our 31 Days of ABCs Pinterest board for even more great ABC ideas!

31 Days of ABC

Teaching the ABCs - October 1

All Done Monkey: Creating a Preschool Letter of the Week Curriculum

A - October 2

Frogs and Snails and Puppy Dog Tails: Apple Scented Glitter Glue and Apple Craft

B - October 3

Witty Hoots: How to Make Fabulous Button Bookmarks

C - October 4

Preschool Powol Packets: Construction Truck Preschool Action Rhyme

D - October 5

ArtsyCraftsyMom: Printable Dinosaur Alphabet Sequencing Puzzle

E - October 6

Preschool Powol Packets: Elephant Art Project and Thailand Lesson

F - October 7

Spanglish Monkey: Spanish-English ABC Flashcards

G - October 8

Royal Baloo: Simple Ghost Painting Project

H - October 9

Peakle Pie: Hide and Seek

I - October 10

Look! We're Learning!: Insect Activities for Kids

J - October 11

All Done Monkey: Olmec Jaguar Craft

K - October 12

Preschool Powol Packets: I Am a Kite Action Rhyme for Preschool

L - October 13

Raising a Trilingual Child: Letter Learning with a Multilingual Twist

M - October 14

Creative World of Varya

N - October 15

Peakle Pie

O - October 16

For the Love of Spanish

P - October 17

Little Hiccups

Q - October 18

All Done Monkey

R - October 19

Sugar, Spice & Glitter

S - October 20

Crafty Mama in ME

T - October 21

Discovering the World Through My Son's Eyes

U - October 22

Witty Hoots

V - October 23

Creative World of Varya

W - October 24

Creative World of Varya

X - October 25

All Done Monkey

Y - October 26

Our Daily Craft

Z - October 27

Discovering the World Through My Son's Eyes

123's - October 28

Hispanic Mama

Prewriting - October 29

Sugar Aunts

Books, Songs, & Apps - October 30

The Jenny Evolution

Alphabet Clip Cards - October 31

The Kindergarten Connection
Find more great resources in 31 Days of ABCs 2013 and 2014!


Don't forget to enter for a chance to win this great prize package, open internationally! Kidloland 3 month subscription to the Kidloland app, which includes 575+ interactive nursery rhymes, songs, stories, and educational activities to help children learn ABCs, animals, fruits, vegetables, shapes and more!

  Alphabet Experts Mega Bundle: 31 Days of ABC Giveaway

  The Alphabet Experts Mega Bundle from Kindergarten Connections contains 500+ of alphabet printables, including tons of activities for each letter of the alphabet! ($58.50 value) a Rafflecopter giveaway