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El laboratorio

Mi laboratorio: Pequeñito, apretadito, pero cómodo, agradable y con aroma de café. También lo llamo mi segundo hogar. Hoy entré faltando un cuarto para las 8:00 am y salí a las 6:00 pm.  Es un lugar bastante placentero, pero no siempre fue así.

Cuando lo recibí era oscuro y parecía parte de una película de terror. Este espacio nunca fue diseñado para ser un aula de clases, pues hacía parte del viejo Centro de Ciencias de la ciudad, y aquí se exhibían terrarios y animales disecados. Poco a poco, ese hueco lleno de telarañas y polvo se fue transformado en un aula de clases. Primero removieron los terrarios, y animales disecados. Luego limpiaron el polvo y las ventanas. Pintaron las paredes, pusieron una alfombra nueva, y agregaron dos hermosas pizarras blancas.

Con ayuda de mi colega, Jill Freeburg, que tiene muy buen gusto para la decoración, el hueco dejó de ser hueco, y empezó a ser un aula de clases.  Un lugar acogedor donde paso gran parte de mi tiempo.


La maleta (Suitcase) and Clothes Paper Craft

This is a super cute project that my students love! I use this activity to review clothing and travel vocabulary. La maleta is super simple to put together and your students will love it.

My students are asked to pack their suitcases for their dream vacation. After they put together and packing their maleta, they enjoy practicing their speaking skills as they proudly reveal their destination, tell what clothes they plan to take and why...and present their creation to the rest of the class.

The product includes a full color and a linear version for those who love to color. The items included are:

Suitcase template
Long sleeve shirt
Swimming suit and trunks
Baseball cap
Boots / Shoes for boys and girls
Underwear for boys and girls
Blue jeans

Check out these fourth graders talking about their vacation plans:


El silbón de Venezuela

Introducing the people and culture of Venezuela, El Silbón (The Whistler) is an intriguing novelette that first-year Spanish students can easily grasp. Written in the present tense, the book is based on a list of 650-plus nouns, verbs, adjectives, and common phrases covered in most beginning Spanish courses. As they read and discuss the book in class, students will strengthen their acquisition of the target language while being carried away to a world beyond their experience.

A hair-raising thriller, El Silbón centers on Henry, a boy from small-town Minnesota with a charming fascination with all things cowboy. Unable to realize his dream of becoming a cowboy, Henry is despondent until he meets Ricardo, a schoolmate from the Venezuelan llanos—a great grassy plain extending from Venezuela and Colombia. Invited to visit Ricardo’s home in the llanos, Henry encounters a strange world with different foods like plantain bananas; different animals like capibaras, the world’s largest rodent; and the llaneros, the tough, hardy cowboys of the Venezuelan plains. But Henry’s innocent encounter with the exotic ends one night when he sees El Silbón, a tall, gaunt creature and one of the most feared ghosts in Venezuelan folklore.


La familia de Federico Rico


Meet Federico and his kin, a seemingly ordinary immigrant family living in the U.S. As you chuckle at clever jokes intertwined throughout their stories, you will discover that the family is not so ordinary after all.  While Federico's mother chases a criminal with an extremely large head, his self-centered sister snaps selfies.  The pages will turn themselves while you journey with them through their highly illustrated cultural adventures.  If you think Federico's immediate family members are interesting, wait until you meet his grandmother!

A super easy reader! La familia de Federico Rico is a short novel with over 200 illustrations, many cultural notes, dictionary and footnotes to aid students with comprehension. It’s a book that first-year Spanish students can easily grasp. My students consider it to be one of the easiest readers in our class.  


La piñata de Renata


Comprehensible mini stories with unique characters and exciting twists that keep students engaged and wanting more. Repetition of vocabulary and structures provides optimum input to promote natural language acquisition. Hold on tight.You’re about to meet Renata—a remarkable unflappable girl with incredible hair. Join Renata each night on piñata-propelled journeys to distant Spanish-speaking realms. Meet bullfighters, wrestlers, legendary ghosts, unusual creatures, and more. With La piñata de Renata the ordinary becomes extraordinary. So find a good reading spot and join an EPIC adventure.




Valeria has fallen hard for Juan Carlos, a handsome boy from her high school. She is willing to do whatever it takes to win his heart. Unfortunately, her schemes often end up putting her into awkward and hilarious situations. How will she convince her strict parents to let her have a boyfriend? What will her jealous frenemy, Malina do next to sabotage her attempts to make Juan Carlos fall deeply and madly in love with her? 

Set in beautiful and historic Cartagena, Colombia and filled with cultural references throughout; ¡Papacito! has 130 unique words and numerous cognates. Written in the present tense and with dramatic illustrations on every page, ¡Papacito! is a compelling and comprehensible novel for Novice level readers and above.





Making meaningless words come to life


Some foreign language teachers typically like to make sure kids learn sets of vocabulary, for example, school supplies such as ruler, pencil....or fruits such as apple, pear, banana etc.  On the other hand, you have teachers like me who use CI (Comprehensible Input) and storytelling in our classes who don't teach vocabulary in the same way.  Why? Well, there are many reasons, but from my own experience in the classroom I can tell you that sets of vocabulary simply don't fit well with storytelling.  For instance, my students have acquired an impressive amount of high frequency structures, such as conjugated verbs and common expressions through CI and storytelling but were not so strong on simple vocabulary like silverware, parts of the house, furniture, and even vegetables etc.   

I’ve always recognized the importance of these lists of words and I knew that if I could find a way to introduce as many as possible into my stories my kids would acquire them fairly quickly.  So... I came up with an idea.  Instead of teaching sets of vocabulary, or simply introducing a lifeless pencil into a story, I used these words as characters for my stories. So far this strategy has worked like magic for me.  For example: “Yes, the pencil kicks the ball and the ball breaks the window. The little hairy nose is not happy and screams: “You broke my window”. I use lots of images,  draw on the board (like crazy), use props and I recently decided to create many paper fingunnamed-1 2.44.29 AMer puppets for grades 1st – 5th (but I've also used them all the way up to 8th grade).  This has been so easy and wonderful that I plan to continue making more. Yes, make lifeless words come to life.  "Profe. hay una oreja bailando en mi pupitre".  Give animals and "things" human abilities. Students absolutely love this and I’m in love with it too.


Spanish Storytelling

When you are a foreign language teacher, there is nothing better than watching your students produce meaningful language. After months of comprehensible input in the target language (which for me is Spanish), students began asking me if I would ever allow them to write their own stories. When students start wanting to produce language you know that you’re on the right path.

personajes PANTALLAZOI was on my first year of teaching and I started focusing mainly on high frequency structures instead of vocabulary lists and grammar. After winter break my students were writing very creative stories and as the year progressed these stories became more and more complex.  It didn't take long before students didn’t want to write about the girl and the cat anymore and they were constantly asking me for more complex characters such as “the hairy monster”…”the alien” or “the flying man”.   I realized that I needed a list of classic characters with some kind of visual to ignite creativity. It was then when I sat down with my notebook and pencil and started designing my next poster. I finally got it done with the help of many creative minds and Wow! Let me tell you, it has been an absolute success!

Seriously, if you want to encourage writing in the target language and ignite creativity tho poster belongs in your classro
om. These characters open students' mind to magic and possibility but most importantly, they will have fun and improve their Spanish skills.

French and English versions are also available.


El desfile del yipao

Colombia is full of culture but nothing really compares to the Yipao parade! This “fiesta” is celebrated in the coffee region and it’s a way for the Colombian coffee farmers to pay tribute to their “Iron mule”. After WWII the U.S. had a surplus of Willys Jeeps and started selling them to developing nations. This vehicle was  perfect for the narrow pack-animal dirt roads. Farmers would drive uphill into the mountains, cross rivers half submerged, and then head down the mountain fully loaded with coffee, plantains, yuca, oranges to sell in town.

The term “Yip” is simply how Colombians spell in Spanish the sound of the English word “Jeep” and a “yipao” means a Jeepload, the term used to refer to whatever could be carried in a “yip” and still allowing someone to drive it. Farmers there have a pretty good idea of how much can be carried in a “yip” and a Jeepload or “Yipao” eventually became a unit of measure.

Later the roads were paved and widen and bigger trucks replaced the Willys Jeep but today it remains as a folkloric figure of the coffee region and many of them can be seen in the annual Yipao parades.



Yipao carrying green plantains


The event now has several categories usually separated according to the products carried in the vehicles:

  • Agricultural products
  • Coffee
  • Furniture
  • People
  • Institutional advertisement
  • Piques

“Piques” usually refers to daring tricks preformed by the drivers of these yips. Some of these tricks include going up and down steps, spinning the yip in two wheels and watching the driver get out of the driver’s seat while the yip continues to spin faster and faster with no driver. While the yip spins the driver climbs on the roof and dances or hangs from the front bumper with his head inches away from the pavement and yes, the yip continues to spin in two wheels while the nervous crowd shouts, cries and laughs.

The Yipao Parade is one of the most popular fiestas in Colombia but very little is known about it outside the country.

I decided to create a colorful Yipao Parade in my Spanish classroom and let me tell you: It was a huge success! This has been one of the best cultural activities that I’ve created. My students absolutely loved it and had sooooo much fun working and learning about this crazy but amazing Colombian fiesta! This is a great activity to get away from the typical and often stereotypical cultural activities.  You can purchase a paper model of the Yipao on this site.



The little people watching the parade are actually miniature pictures of the students who built the jeeps and the maquette of a Colombian town.  I took pictures of each one of them and they printed these photos, cut themselves out and placed their picture somewhere in the town.  If you look carefully some are looking out the windows, others are pointing at something, riding on top of a jeep, dancing and doing many other things.



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¡Aquí hablamos español!

So I'm finally done with my last project this summer and now I'm ready to focus on school once again.

By now you should know that I am fascinated by maps.  I love maps!   I’ve been wanting to have this map for a long time! Yes, I could've purchased one but I couldn’t find one that was completely in Spanish. Believe me, I tried! Many of the “mapas” I found had some names written in English and one even spelled my home country wrong.  It's Colombia not Columbia!  Look, I am usually not very picky but for some reason having English in a Spanish map bothered me a little. I just can’t have a map in Spanish with spellings such as “Galapago Islands” or “Belarus” and many others.  I had to fix it, and in order to do that, I had to create my own. I managed to recycle many items from my previous map  and that saved me some time but the hours I spent on this project are too many to count.


The !Aquí hablamos español! map is very detailed and although it shows every country in the world, it highlights all the areas of the world where the majority of the population speaks Spanish.  It also has a table with all the flags and capitals of each Spanish speaking country.   I'm printing one for my school tomorrow! I will soon have some available for anyone that's interested.