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Thursday, December 8, 2016

Tió Nadal

I just made my own Tió Nadal to teach my students about this tradición catalana. On December 8th this Tió Nadal will make his way to our doorstep at home and wait to be welcomed inside. My own children love this tradition. They even had me make 2 miniature logs for their bedrooms this year! We started doing this tradition in our home 4 years ago even though no one in our family is from Cataluña, Aragón, or even Spain for that matter!

In Cataluña and Aragón, Spain, Tió Nadal is an old tradition that is still very popular in the houses of las familias catalanas. In catalán the word Tió means log, and the word Nadal means Christmas. On December 8th, this Christmas log appears on the doorstep. The family brings him inside and places him by the Christmas tree. In the olden days, he was placed in or near the fireplace. Tió Nadal wears a little red barretina trimmed in black around the edges, a traditional hat of these regions. He has a smiling face and usually has two front legs that prop him up. The family puts a blanket over his body to keep him warm, and the children "feed" him little bites of food each day.



They also give the log a good wack on the back with a stick whenever they walk by the log. This is supposed to help the log digest the food. This is done everyday until December 24th. On Christmas Eve, everyone sings Tió Nadal this song while wacking the log with a stick. At the end of the song, the blanket is lifted and the children find that Tió Nadal has given them turrón or nuts or little presents. This is how I explain it to my students and my own children. I don't spell it out for them that the log is supposedly pooping out the presents. Although last year, my youngest at 6 years old figure out that caga in catalán means caca. There were lots of potty jokes and giggling! Sometimes my high school students figure it out, and sometimes they don't!

At school, each student in my Spanish IV class presents a Christmas tradition or a celebration that takes place during the Christmas season from a different Spanish-speaking country. You can get the free instructions for the presentation with a rubric here. I use Tió Nadal as my example for the class. I make the Tió Nadal ahead of time and have it set up in the classroom before the students arrive. I hide turrón under the blanket. After the students come in, I explain the tradition and play the song for Tió Nadal while wacking the log with the yard stick. At the end of the song, I whisk away the blanket and reveal the turrón. Then we eat it! I am lucky to live close to a TJ Maxx that always sells turrón from Spain during this time of year. I always buy it there for this activity. If you can't find turrón, you can always make it, or just use Hershey kisses, which is what our Tió Nadal leaves for my children at our house.

To make your own Tió Nadal, you will need:
*a cleanly cut log or branch for miniature logs
*2 smaller branches for the legs, also cleanly cut
*red felt for the hat and the blanket
*black felt or black construction paper for the trim of the hat
*paint or googly eyes
*paint or markers for the mouth
*a wooden peg for the nose or a skewer for miniature logs
*hot glue gun


This weekend I asked my husband to bring me a log so that I could make the Tió Nadal. He has brought me a nice log from our yard for the past 4 years. This year, however, each log he brought me was in various states of falling apart.


When I headed to the holly tree with a bow saw, my husband assured me he would take care of it and bring me what I needed. I guess he didn't want me to cut the branch of the holly tree, nor did he want to break out the chainsaw, because an hour later he returned with a real birch log that he had bought at Michaels! I didn't even know they sold logs there! There was also a 5 foot long birch branch, also real, that we cut and used for the legs and the bodies of the miniature logs.

I used the glue gun to glue the eyes. The nose is a small piece cut from a bamboo stick that we use as a stake for our peonies in the spring. I used a red marker to color the end of the nose after I glued it. I drew the eyebrows and the mouth with a sharpie marker. Then my husband cut the branch on an angle, and I used the glue gun to attach the legs. I had to glue them a few times because the bark on birch wood flakes off easily. In the past I have used oak logs and the bark doesn't flake off. (On the miniature logs, I used 3 inch pieces of bamboo for the legs.) To make the barretina, I took a square piece of red felt and folded it until it looked like this.


I hot glued it in place and also glued on the black strip of contruction paper. I used construction paper because I didn't have any black felt. The black felt is a better choice because eventually the paper will fade. Then I set the hat on Tió Nadal and covered him with his blanket. He is super cute and looks like all of the other photos I have seen of Tió Nadal in Spain! Last year my Spanish III class saw Tió Nadal and decided that they had to make them too. They brought in their own logs and we made them in class. Many saved them and have told me they are setting them out again this year under their Christmas tree. Who wouldn't want one of these!


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Tuesday, September 6, 2016

7 Tips for the 1st week of school para la clase de español:
7 tips to keep to start your school year off right!
 
1. Teach in the target language.
Set the tone on the first day by speaking only in Spanish. Even in Spanish I! My lesson for the first day of Spanish I is ¿Cómo te llamas?/Me llamo... and I give students Spanish names or let them choose their names.
2. Make name tags. Yes, even in high school.It's the fastest way for me and my students to learn each others' names. Take a piece of paper and fold it into thirds. Students write their Spanish names on one of the sides. Set the name tags on the desk in a triangle with the name facing out. Have the students bring the name tags to class for the first week or two, until everyone knows each others' Spanish names.
3. Keep the class interactive. I like to use an ice breaker Busca a alguien que... for Spanish II and above. It helps students get to know each other better and gets them up and moving. It's great when you see that the students needs a change of pace (especially for longer 80 minute classes!)
4.Give students a "Coping Card." To play: in partners, Help your students communicate in Spanish by giving them a paper to use in class with the most common classroom phrases. I allow them to use it at all times (except testing.) Eventually, they won't need to look at the paper at all.
5. Explain why the class is taught mainly in Spanish. On the first day of school, as the students walk through the door,  I give them a paper written in English that welcomes them to class and explains why I am going to speak mostly in Spanish during the class. It helps them to know what to expect and not freak out once class starts in Spanish.
6. Use a variety of activities. Songs, commercials, communicative activities, games, Mix it up and give the students a variety to keep their interest and get them excited about coming to class.
7. End the week on a high note with a fun game! I make sure that I save 10 minutes at the end of the class on 
Friday for a game. I teach them the counting game of ¡Caramba! For Spanish classes that don't know the numbers yet, I play Cognate Challenge: a game where students must guess the English word (teléfono, telephone.) They hear the word in Spanish and must guess the English word. If the student is incorrect, they are out. They may join in again if they guess another word correctly that another students has answered incorrectly. I also play Ensalada rusa, a team word game.

Thursday, August 11, 2016


7 Juegos para la clase de español
  7 must have games to keep up your sleeve and ready to play! La

Games are an exciting way to review and to have fun in the classroom! 


  1. ¡Caramba!: Numbers and Counting Game. To play: All students stand up and form a big circle. One person starts counting “uno.” The person on their left says “dos,” the next person says “tres,” and so on. However, players may NOT say “siete,” multiples of siete (7, 14, 21,28, etc.,) or numbers with a siete in it (17, 27, 37, etc.) Instead of saying these numbers the person must say “¡Caramba!” and the order then reverses! If you say the wrong number or do not say ¡Caramba! when you are supposed to, you are out, and the rest of the players continue. I love to play this if I have 5 minutes left of class or if the class needs a change of pace. ALL levels love this game!
  2. Cucharitas: Vocabulary game. To play: In groups of 5-10 place desks together to form big table. Each player starts with 4 cards. They are looking for 4 of a kind (the Spanish word, the picture, the English word, the Spanish word used in a sentence.) For a group of 10, place 9 spoons spread out in the center of the table. (If you don’t have spoons, use pencils.) There is always one spoon less than there are people.  The dealer picks a card from the deck and passes one card to his left. The player to his left may keep the card or pass it to the player on the left. If they choose to keep the card they must pass a card in their hand to the left. Everyone must always have only 4 cards in their hands. Everyone passes the cards all at once. When a player finds 4 of a kind, they stealthy take a spoon and place it on their lap. They still continue to pass cards. When the other players notice that a spoon is missing, they must also take a spoon. The player without a  spoon is out! The remaining players play again, until there is only one player left. A variation: the person who was “out” can get a point and continue to play. The player with the least amount of points wins. My students beg to play this game! Warning: the room does get  very loud with all of the laughter!
  3. La solterona: Old Maid Vocabulary Game. To play: Sit in a circle in groups of 3-7,  and deal out all of the cards. Players look for a match (the picture and the Spanish word, or the English word and the Spanish word.) When players find a match, they place it face up on the table. Each player takes turns randomly picking from the person to their left. When a match is found, place it face up on the table. When a player is out of cards, he/she watches and the remaining players continue to play until there is only one card left: la solterona! The player who is stuck with this card loses.
  4. Concentración: Vocabulary game. To play: Place cards in rows face down ( I number the back to give students more practice saying numbers.) Each student selects 2 cards by saying the numbers. They are looking for a match of the Spanish word and the picture, or the Spanish word and the English word.) It’s best played in groups of 3-10. 
  5. Ensalada rusa: Relay Game. To play: Teams of 4-6 people sit in a row. The first person on each team has the paper with rows of various categories. (I use nombre, capital, país, nacionalidad, color, parte del cuerpo, una cosa en la clase, un verbo, comida o bebida, una palabra de vocabulario.) The teacher selects a letter and writes it on the board. Each player must write one word in Spanish that begins with that letter in the box next to the category, and then pass the paper to the next person on their team. They may not tell each other what to write, and they may only pass one time without writing anything. When the team cannot write anymore, the teacher counts how many answers are correct without any errors, and gives back the paper to the team. The team can then work together to correct their mistakes. The team with the most correct words wins!
  6. Las tripas del gato: Vocabulary game. To play: In partners, players take turns drawing  lines connecting the Spanish word with the picture or English word. The lines must not cross or go through words or pictures. A player wins when the other player cannot draw a line without crossing lines or going through pictures or words. This is actually a game in many Latin American countries with pre-schoolers learning the alphabet. We have changed this to a vocabulary game, and our high school students love it!. Even students who tend to be disengaged at times, request this game! To prepare: select about 20 vocabulary words and randomly place the written words on a piece of paper. Then randomly place either the picture or the written word in English on the paper. Make extra copies because our students always want to play more than once!
  7. Voy al mercado: Vocabulary game. To play: Put the chairs or desks in a circle (with the seats open to the circle.) Each student sits in a chair with a picture of the Spanish word. The teacher starts in the middle and says “Voy al mercado y voy a comprar...” Then the teacher walks around the circle and continues naming the various items the students have. When the the teacher names an item, the student with that item follows the teacher walking in a circle. When the teacher exclaims, “¡Y es todo!” everyone (including the teacher) must find a new seat. The person left without a seat is now in the middle and the teacher is out. Remove a seat every time someone gets out. The game continues until one student remains.
s tripas del gato: (after playing you will understand the  name of the game.)

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Using Spanish Commercials in the Classroom

Using culturally authentic materials in the classroom not only increases  student interest, but allows the student to learn many things at once. We love to use commercials in our classrooms. We choose commercials that are funny, and/or tell a story, and/or show a cultural element. Students can learn and practice a variety of skills such as: listening comprehension, grammar points, vocabulary, and speaking skills. The activities can be short warm-ups or may take the whole class period. They can be used as an effective introduction to a unit or as a closure to a unit. I use this commercial for examples using ser and estar. Watch this cute video with William Levy and his M&M girlfriend.   



Click here for free classroom activities to go with this video.