miércoles, 8 de octubre de 2008

Ponerse al día

Ponerse al día is an idiomatic expression in Spanish which means "to update onself." And given that it has been some time since my last entry, I thought it was a good time to teach it to you. Anyway, read on to see what we've been doing for the last 3 weeks!

The primary students are probably sick and tired of listening to me drill them on the different responses to the greetings Buenos días, Buenas tardes, Buenas noches, and ¿Cómo estáis? but after 3 sessions, I think they have it down. On September 23rd, we learned another song (to the tune of "Where is Thumbkin?") to help students learn about these differences as well as to introduce them to the days of the week- lunes, martes, miércoles, jueves, viernes, sábado, and domingo. On the 30th, we added the song Diez deditos (to the tune of "One little, two little, three little Indians") which makes learning how to count in Spanish very easy. Nonetheless, "Waking Up Song" continues to still be their favorite, they ask to sing it in every class! Last week, I also introduced a new question ¿De qué color es? by walking around the room and asking them what color a student's shirt was. We ended that class by reading two nursery rhymes, Pito, pito, colorito and Cinco lobitos. Like songs, rhymes are an excellent way to remember language. On October 7th, I followed up with colors again but this time in reference to articles of clothing, which is new for them. They learned camisa [shirt], cinturón [belt], pantalones [pants], pantalones cortos [shorts], falda [skirt], vestido [dress], calcetines [socks], and zapatos [shoes], although it may take another class or two to really keep these words fresh in their minds.

Three weeks ago, I started asking los estudiantes de Sra. Gardner the question ¿Dónde está? and it has been absolutely great to see how these kids get it (¿Dónde está? means "Where is it?"). On 9/23 and 9/25, I used this question to follow up on the classroom objects that we learned earlier by asking ¿Dónde está el reloj? or ¿Dónde está la puerta? and everyone did very well. I even threw in a few words that they had not officially learned but could assume their meaning based on their similarity to English, such as teléfono and computadora. On 9/30 and 10/2, we learned 3 different ways to ask the standard "How are you?" (¿Cómo te va?, ¿Qué tal?, and ¿Cómo estás?) as well as 5 different ways to respond- Muy bien, gracias; Así, así; Cansado; Enfermo; and Mal. In the latter of these two classes, I raised the bar a little with questions related to their Spanish tarjetas de identificación, such as ¿De dónde eres tú? [Where are you from?] and ¿De qué nacionalidad eres tú? [What is your nationality?]. These questions were a little difficult for the youngest students but the older ones were there, as always, to help. And finally on 10/7, we spent the class discussing Me gusta and No me gusta. I started by reading a very easy story ¡No me gusta mi moño! about a dog that whines about everything she doesn't like and later learns to use them to her advantage. The students followed the story very well even though all the words were new (with the help of illustrations). We ended class by doing a worksheet exercise in which the students filled in the blanks for things that they liked and did not like using a number of new verbs such as bailar [to dance] and escribir [to read].

In the last 5 classes, the students in Upper Elementary have really progressed at spelling in Spanish. I will detail in another entry the words they have been learning to spell in each class but the highlights are two particularly difficult words which many spelled correctly- estadounidense and aula. To appreciate what this really means, you'd have to hear these words pronounced but I can assure you that they are not simple, especially for students their age and for ones that only get an hour per week to study Spanish. Since 9/23, we have been able to read two more chapters in our textbook as well as the Capítulo de Repaso, a section that reviews the first 5 chapters that we have read. Their reading skills and comprehension are progressing with each class and, as a teacher, it is especially rewarding to see them put the pieces together and make sense out of Spanish. Yesterday (10/7) has been one of the best classes yet for me. After we read in each class, I always ask questions based on the text but this time I strayed from the text and started asking questions about the students themselves. Although the answers were similar to what we read, they needed to think about them in the context of their own lives rather than simply repeating what was written in the book. And..... THEY DID GREAT! I was able to ask about their houses and families in a fair amount of detail and they were still able to follow along and respond correctly. We kept the conversations yesterday in Spanish for at least 50% of the class, a record!

jueves, 18 de septiembre de 2008


Last Tuesday, 9/16, we briefly reviewed typical greetings such as Buenos Días and how to respond when I say ¡Hola clase! ¿Cómo estáis? We practiced "Waking Up Song" again which everyone seems to really like. To see how well they are getting the words and not just the tune, I asked two students to come up and sing while the rest of the class carried out the actions. Considering that it had been two weeks and only the second time since we last practiced this song, they did very well. In the last few minutes, we reviewed some colores using the flag of the Spanish-speaking country of each class.

My emphasis for estudiantes in Lower Elementary is vocabulary building. Because of their younger age, I've found that they learn more effectively when the exercises involve games, writing, and coloring. On Tuesday, we did two worksheets that reviewed colors and shapes. If you would like to help them, the color that is by far the hardest to pronounce is anaranjado [orange]. Written out phonetically in English would like something like "ah-nahr-ahn-hado."

Today, I finally distributed that long-awaited Tarjetas de identifacación. It has been a lot of fun to see how much something like this means to your children. Afterwards, we worked on identifying common classroom objects such as reloj, silla, ventana, and sacapuntas [clock, chair, window, and pencial sharpener]. I was somewhat surprised to find that they easily memorized one word that I would have considered more difficult- pupitre [desk]. Then I realized that everytime I said it, they all burst out laughing because it's pronounced "pooh-pee-tray." You have to love potty humor, especially when it crosses the language divide.

You will see below that your children now also have apellidos [last names]. These are authentic last names, most coming from people I've met in the past, that I wanted to add to make their tarjetas more official-looking.

As usual, we started class on Tuesday, 9/16, with a spelling quiz. The words for this class were apellido, bastante, ingeniero, importante, and familia. The rest of the class time was spent reviewing the conjugation of regular -AR verbs. We have two estudiantes this year that were not with us last year so as part of the review, the students split up in pairs to help each other. Most of my early memories of studying Spanish are how hard it was but these kids just seem to get it. While I do not know when most schools decide to teach conjugation to students, I don't think it was introduced to me until the 6th- or 7th-grade.

Today, our quiz included the words Mercedes, viven, se llama, profesora, and tiene. We then took turns reading sentences from Section 3, La familia de Enrique, of their textbook. I then read the section again and asked everyone a different question based on the text. I am not sure if I should be surprised or not but these estudiantes are getting it and as a teacher, it is exciting to watch it happen! Hasta luego!

jueves, 11 de septiembre de 2008


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
I am a photographer and my specialty is photographing people. To make this blog more interesting and informative, I will include pictures of your children. However, if any of you do not want pictures of your child posted on this blog, just let me know. As a parent of 3 children myself, I can certainly appreciate it if anyone is uncomfortable with photos of their kids on the internet. To help protect your children while being able to share what they are doing at the same time, however, the names that I use for them have nothing to do with their real names.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

After I gave each estudiante their foto, they pasted it on the tarjeta de identificación that they had received earlier. Even though they were just quick shots, I think everyone looks great! I asked the students to take their ID cards home and show them to you so be sure to ask them for it! I will post them some time next week so you can see the entire class and where they are from. After completing their ID cards, I continued what I started in the previous class by walking around the room and asking them to answer questions about themselves, such as ¿Cómo te llamas? and ¿Qué eres? to elicit response such as Me llamo Rosa and Soy chilena [My name is Rosa and I am chilean].

Just like the estudiantes in Lower Elementary, everyone completed their tarjetas by pasting on the pictures I had taken previously (see below). Make sure to look for Sonia Pueblito who is one of our star students! We then had a spelling quiz for the words y, ella, aprenden, colegio, and literatura. For the last 1o minutes, we played a verb conjugation game using the verbs saltar, limpiar, and viajar. I specifically picked all -ar verbs so that the pattern of conjugation would be easier for them but I'll gradually throw in -er and -ir verbs, as well as irregular verbs. If you have never studied another language, conjugation might seem unfamiliar to you but we do it in English all the time without even realizing it. This is something we will definitely spend a lot of time on this year as it is imperative to effectively communicate and understand Spanish.

martes, 9 de septiembre de 2008

Banderas y Más

Everyone colored the flag of their newly-assigned citizenship today but unlike the elementary students, primary students' nationality was done by class rather than individually. So Ms. Moseley's class is now full of Chileans while Ms. Rayle and Ms. Lewellyn teach Mexican and Argentinian students, respectively. Although coloring may not seem like an earth-shattering concept, it reinforces words (or introduces them, depending on whether or not they have had Spanish before) like rojo, azul, blanco, amarillo, and verde, which we talked about briefly and will expand upon in later classes. It also gave me the chance to photograph everyone individually because, yes, they will be receiving Tarjetas de Identificación just like the Elementary students. Because of their young age and time constraints, though, the process of creating them will be somewhat simplified.

It is so hard not to smile when I see these kids! They really love to learn and that makes my job a lot easier. Today I spoke to them more in Spanish than I normally do to see if I could keep their attention and assess how well they can solve the puzzle of understanding words that are unfamiliar to them. I asked each of them to take a sheet of paper and write down 3 incomplete sentences, as follows:

1. Soy ________. [I am ________.]
2. Tengo ___ años. [I have ____ years.]
3. Me gusta __________. [I like _____________.]

They then proceeded to slowly fills in the blanks as I would walk around the room and say Soy profesor Day, ¿quién eres tú? or Tengo diez años, ¿cúantos años tienes tú? It was not easy for them but they did figure it out. Once a few of them solved the riddle, so to speak, the rest of the students were able to figure it out pretty quickly. When students learn from each other in this way, it helps solidify what I am saying and it's pretty great to see it all in motion.

By the way, in case you have not learned this before, expressing age in Spanish is done by saying how many years you have not how many you are (i.e. "I have 24 years" not "I am 24 years old"). For the me gusta sentence, I asked the students to write what they like in English since they have not yet learned this type of vocabulary in Spanish. In the next class, though, we will go over what they wrote down and I will be teaching them how to use Spanish to express what they have written.

We took turns reading sentences from Section 2, Los estudios, of their textbook. While it is difficult to suddenly just start reading in Spanish when you have very little practice doing so, I believe it is a very effective way to quickly learn pronunciation and vocabulary. Right now, most of the class is in what I would call a struggling mode but they are trying hard and that's what counts. I'm confident that by the end of the year, they will be able to see a word they've never heard before and know how to say it with at least 80% accuracy.

After everyone had a chance to read, I read through the same section while they followed along and started asking simple either/or questions, like ¿Estudian mucho o estudian poco? [Do they study a lot or do they study a little?] This was a good way to give them confidence in Spanish because with a 50/50 chance of getting the right answer, most of them answered correctly even though they had never been instructed at how to do so. This is how someone really learns another language- when it is like solving a puzzle- rather than simply being told what something means.

Today's quiz words were: ciudad, hay, compañeros, interés, and como.

jueves, 4 de septiembre de 2008

Tarjetas de Identificación

Today, students were assigned citizenship to a Spanish-speaking country and given a temporary Tarjeta de Indentificación. While everyone was coloring the flag of his or her new country, I briefly met with each of the students individually and took pictures for their ID cards. At the end of class, a few of the students were able to practice saying what their nationality was by using the verb ser. For example: Soy español, Soy argentino, Soy mexicano, etc...

Today's spelling words were Estados Unidos, son, pequeña, cuarto, and último. The Spanish "u" sounds more like "ooh" than "you." And the "ñ"... that's an uncommon sound in English, although the best example I can think of is the beginning of the how you would pronounce "gnocchi." After our quiz, I read the first paragraph from Section 1, Enrique y María, which we studied last week, to give them more practice with listening. For the remainder of class, everyone was assigned citizenship to a Spanish-speaking country and given a temporary Tarjeta de Indentificación. While everyone was coloring the flag of his or her new country, I followed up with each of them individually on an assignment they were given last Tuesday: think of a word they would like to know in Spanish. While I feel very confident with my Spanish, this is always a good way for me to find out how well I am in touch with the pop culture of a 4th-grader. Needless to say, I was stumped more than I had expected to be and have had to consult a dictionary to learn how to say "lunch box" and "guinea pig" in Spanish. While meeting with them, I also took pictures so that their tarjeta will be even more personalized.

Stay tuned, I will be publishing all of the tarjetas here in just a few days!

martes, 2 de septiembre de 2008

¡El Primer Día!

Today was the first day of Spanish for the 2008-09 school year at Lord of Life Montessori on Saint Simons Island. And it is great to be back! Here is a summary of what we did today.

Today we learned "Waking Up Song," a simple canción from Puerto Rico that recounts the all-to-familiar struggle parents go through to wake up their kids. Don't worry, though, I didn't give them the complete translation (it ends with "Just leave us alone. Can't you hear us snore?"). I did bring my guitar, of course, and everyone had a great time. If you'd like to follow up with them one of these mornings, just flip on the light and say in a loud voice "¡Levántensen soldados!" (lay-vahn-ten-sen sol-dah-dos). Translation: "Up and at 'em soldiers!"

Everyone received their new Spanish name and we quickly reviewed ¿Cómo te llamas? (What is your name?) with several of the students in class. I also asked for a few volunteers to temporarily be citizens of other countries while I asked the rest of the students questions as to their nationalities. For example, I would say in Spanish, "María is from the United States and Enrique is from Argentina. Which one is Argentinian?" There's nothing like watching the wheels of thought turn inside the heads of a group of kids. After a somewhat tentative start, everyone caught on and did very well.

After new names were given out in Spanish, we had our first quiz! Similar to last year, I will be testing these students in each class for their ability to sound out Spanish words and spell them. We do five words per class but the point is not necessarily to get them all right but to simply listen to the sounds that Spanish words make and to try and identify the letters that make them. Today's words were apellido, alumnos, y, estudian, and mucho. Believe it or not, the trickiest word in this list is y (pronounced like the English alphabet letter "e"), which means "and." The double "ll" in apellido is also a challenge because it makes a sound similar to the English "y." After our quiz, we dove right into our textbook. That's right. Upper elementary students will read in each class from "Easy Spanish Reader," the first section of which follows the story of two High School students (one American and one Spanish). Today's text was only two paragraphs and a handful of completely new words but it is preparing them to learn to not only read in Spanish but to follow a story that lasts more than just a few pages.

miércoles, 9 de julio de 2008


¡Bienvenidos al Español Montessori! Welcome to Montessori Spanish! This year, I will be keeping you up to date with Spanish class through this blog. For the 2008-09 school year, Spanish classes begin on September 2nd as follows:

Diane Rayle : Tuesdays, 10:00am - 10:15am
Kathy Llewellyn : Tuesdays, 10:20am - 10:35am
Melonie Moseley : Tuesdays, 10:40am - 10:55am

Cheri Gardener : Tuesdays and Thursdays, 1:00pm - 1:30pm

Judy Llewellyn : Tuesdays and Thursdays, 12:30pm - 1:00pm

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

When I was a year old, my family made its first of many trips to Baja California, Mexico. Before long, I was in love with the country and its people who spoke a language I didn't understand but who were nonetheless very friendly. After several years of studying Spanish in middle school, high school, and college, I was fortunate enough to serve a two-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Madrid, Spain, where I learned to love another culture and to master my Spanish.

Some years later, I moved to New York City where my family and I were asked to serve among the Spanish-speaking congregants of our church, most of whom were from the Dominican Republic. And now, in Saint Simons Island, I am blessed again to keep using my Spanish by teaching your children this language which is as much a part of me as English.

I plan to update this blog after classes on each Tuesday and Thursday, so please feel free to check back often. If you have any concerns or any questions, I can be reached at xmatthewday@gmail.com or feel free to leave comments on this blog.

Thank you all for your support and your wonderful children!

Matthew Day