Spanish Class Noticias – September

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¡Hola a todos! Spanish class is off to a great start. The focus of the last couple of weeks has been getting to know each other, informally assessing students’ current levels of Spanish proficiency, and establishing some classroom routines that will enable us to speak and use the language as much as possible during class.

Using our Sonrisas Spanish curriculum, we’ve been learning fun songs and chants to get used to hearing and producing Spanish by singing, speaking, and playing. Through these repetitive, multi-sensory, and engaging circle time and calendar activities designed to support memory and facilitate learning, students have the opportunity for authentic and meaningful communication – all in Spanish!

The children also get the chance to be immersed as much as possible in how Spanish sounds – this is important as young learners have the potential to acquire native-like pronunciation of foreign languages given adequate exposure during the early and middle childhood years. For this reason, we are spending the majority of our time together on speaking, listening, and communicating rather than literacy (reading and writing in Spanish), though we will add some of these other language domains as the year progresses at the older grades (mainly 5th and 6th).

Circle Time/Calendar Activities

Currently all grades have learned the ¡Hola a Todos! greeting song, which can be accessed via YouTube: Try singing it with your child and let him or her demonstrate the hand gestures and motions. The students are doing a fantastic job singing out and having fun; it really is amazing how quickly they are able to pick up this and the other songs we’ve been practicing.

Other greeting and ‘warm-up’ songs to sing with your child include:

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Calendar songs and activities offer students the opportunity to reinforce classroom routines and content (especially at the lower grades, who are also practicing daily calendar activities) and rapidly acquire the Spanish vocabulary and phrases needed to respond to questions about what day, month, and season it is. As the children become more conversant with these routines, we will add the date, the weather, and, for the older students, the letter of the day (Spanish alphabet) and the country of the day.

  • Days of the week: El tren de los días de la semana
  • Months: El juego de cumpleaños
  • Numbers: Uno, dos, tres, cha, cha, cha; Uno, dos, tres gatitos
  • Seasons: Las estaciones (see below)

En el invierno hace frío.

                        En la primavera crecen las flores.

                        En el verano hace calor.

                        Y en el otoño caen las hojas.

We have also been learning prayers in Spanish. Our K4, K5, and 1st grade have begun practicing the sign of the cross; grades 2-6 have begun reciting the Hail Mary. The children will also learn the Lord’s Prayer as the year goes on. Our goal is to have students saying these prayers before the congregation with confidence and reverence at the annual International Rosary celebration this May. I encourage you to practice these prayers at home. Soon, the school will begin praying in Spanish during morning/afternoon announcements a couple of times a week.

Please see below for the sign of the cross and the Hail Mary in Spanish.

La Señal De La Cruz – Sign of the Cross

En el nombre del Padre,

y del Hijo,

y del Espíritu Santo.


Ave María – Hail Mary

Dios te salve, María.
Llena eres de gracia:
El Señor es contigo.
Bendita tú eres entre todas las mujeres.
Y bendito es el fruto de tu vientre:
Santa María, Madre de Dios,
Ruega por nosotros pecadores,
ahora y en la hora de nuestra muerte.

 Story Time

We have been enjoying a number of books in Spanish, as we read at least one authentic Spanish text during each class. As I tell the students, understanding every word is neither the expectation nor the goal; rather, it’s an opportunity to hear Spanish that has been written in a variety of registers and voices from native speakers of the language. Also, we build and practice our vocabulary and practice answering questions and applying phrases we are learning during circle time. I’m delighted to announce that St. Peter’s has invested in the literature collection accompanying Sonrisas Spanish Level I, and part of Level II. A list of these books can be found here,  in case you are interested in adding some of these texts to your family’s library.

I recommend the books in this collection without reservation, as they are high-quality and age-appropriate texts that reflect and reinforce the topics and themes we are learning in class. You will likely recognize a number of these story books, as they are professionally translated Spanish versions of childhood classics such as Brown Bear, Brown Bear, Good Night Moon, the Froggy series, and Guess How Much I Love You. For the older grades, I have been supplementing with books from my own collection as well as the library. For instance, we have read Frida, a children’s biography about Frida Kahlo and Strega Nona (in Spanish) as the third grade has been working on a Tomie de Paola unit. We are building vocabulary lists based on the Spanish versions of these books, and have been identifying the many cognates (English and Spanish words that look/sound very similar and mean the same thing or something similar in both languages) we find in these texts as well as classroom discussions – some experts estimate that about 40% of English words have cognates in Spanish!!


Art Activities

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Art projects and/or dramatic activities and role play are a fixture in Spanish classes as well. Art activities provide an opportunity to reinforce and apply lesson themes. For instance, students in each grade created beautiful self-portraits (auto-retrato, something Frida Kahlo was famous for, which was one of the reasons her biography was selected) with “Me llamo” and the students’ names). Art activities also offer the chance for the teacher and students to discuss the process, procedures, and content of the work in Spanish in a meaningful way that is comprehensible to students. Grades 3-6 have been engaged in skits using themes and topics learned thus far, including ¿Cómo te llamas? (what is your name?), ¿Cómo estás? En la escuela (classroom commands), Colores (colors), etc. We are learning this new vocabulary and grammar in context, in the moment, with more of an emphasis on meaning than form, which is appropriate for young learners.


Exploring the Spanish Curriculum for the Diocese of Charleston

As a newcomer Spanish teacher this year, I’ve been familiarizing myself with the Spanish Curriculum for the Diocese of Charleston, which can be found here: There are five standards based on the national standards identified by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL), the South Carolina State Standards and the Diocese of Phoenix. The standards are: Communication, Culture, Connections with Content, Community, and Comparisons. As the year progresses, I will provide specific information about the alignment of Spanish class activities to these standards.

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Stay tuned for more information as we prepare to celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month starting mid-month!

Thank you, gracias, for the opportunity to teach your children. It’s a joy!

¡Bienvenidos a la clase de Español!

¡Bienvenidos a la clase de Español! – Welcome to Spanish class!

My name is Señora Carr (Therese Carr), and I’m delighted to have the opportunity to teach the Spanish language and Hispanic culture to the children at St. Peter’s.

Meet Señora Carr

I am new to the St. Peter’s faculty this year, but have been part of the school family since 2012, when my daughter enrolled in K5; now, three of my children are attending our school – ¡Qué bien! I’ve been working in the education field for over 15 years, starting as an English as a second language and writing teacher at the college level. Over the last decade I’ve been working in educational research and policy, but my first love has always been foreign languages and literature. I was a Spanish major in college and studied abroad in Madrid and Barcelona, hiking the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route in Spain during two summers. After completing my M.A. in English with a concentration in teaching English as a second language (ESL) and creative writing, I lived and worked in Madrid, Spain for two years, teaching English and ESL at Saint Louis University’s Madrid Campus.  I’m thrilled to be back in the classroom teaching Spanish and look forward to getting to know the children and families of St. Peter’s as a faculty member.

Below I’ve shared some information about the curriculum and materials we’ll be using this year in Spanish. Additionally, I’ve included a summary of research-based best practices in teaching foreign languages to young learners. These recommendations will serve as guidelines for our Spanish classes this year. Stay tuned for more details about our class topics and activities – coming soon!

What materials will we use in Spanish class?

We will be using the Sonrisas Spanish curriculum for preschool and elementary Spanish. This standards-based program emphasizes communication and immersion in the classroom. The Sonrisas materials also incorporate age-appropriate authentic Spanish songs, chants, literature/stories and interactive, hands-on art activities to support language learning. I look forward to using this curriculum in the classroom, as it is fun and engaging. For more information, please see the Sonrisas website:

What does research say about foreign language teaching and learning for young learners?

Now’s the time!

  • The elementary years are the optimal time to begin learning a foreign language because young learners can acquire (and keep) native-like pronunciation.

Multiple, frequent foreign language classes are best.

  • Foreign language proficiency is directly related to the number of instructional hours students receive.
  • Experts recommend that a minimum of 90 minutes of foreign language instruction per week, with classes meeting a at least 3 times per week for 30-40 minutes

Teachers and students should strive to speak the target language about 90-100% of the time.

  • By using lots of multi-modal supports, such as gestures, animations, video clips, demonstrations, and interactive apps and computer programs, we can do it!

What are other best practices in teaching foreign languages to young children?

  • Interactive activities organized around themes relevant to students are most effective (not rote learning and memorization of vocabulary and grammar).
  • Integrating multiple, varied authentic, culturally rich, and age-appropriate materials—and high quality technology-delivered resources—makes language learning engaging and fun.
  • Studying the culture of the foreign language is an important aspect of language learning.
  • Making connections in the target language to subject-matter students are currently learning in language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies classes is especially powerful as both academic content and language learning are strengthened.

(Source: American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Language (ACTFL):




May/June 2014

It is good to be back with the students this month, however, due to slow healing I will not have any classes with K-4 and K-5 for the remainder of this school year.  I look forward to working again with them in the next school year.

1st grade:  We are working on adding new vocabulary words about items in our lives such as foods, places and animals and will enjoy hands-on activities that give the students an opportunity to use these words in some brief conversation.

2nd and 3rd grades:  These students have been putting together small booklets that introduce them to new everyday vocabulary.  These booklets give them an opportunity to learn new words, read and pronounce the Spanish words correctly and work on fluency in reading.

4th grade:  Classroom directions and expressions have been the focus and after quizzing on these, we are intent on using them as much as possible in class instruction.  We will also be adding more simple vocabulary and focusing on pronouns and some simple grammar for sentence construction.

5th grade:  May instruction will focus mainly on grammar, such as pronouns, possessive adjectives and correct sentence structure using the vocabulary we know and what is in our texts.

6th grade:  Verbs are on the horizon, and we will have a brief introduction to conjugating ar, er, and ir verbs.  They should be ready for middle school Spanish with the background we have worked on this year.  The text they have is great to use over the summer to if they wish to gather even more information.