Fun time, singing and moving!

We were learning to sing lots of songs!  “Down By the Bay” is a song with silly rhymes allowing children to learn and remember the words. Furthermore, they were making their own versions, such as Did you ever see (friend’s name) playing the bell, down by the bay?” Children loved to move and sing-along to action songs like “Shoo Fly Don’t Bother Me”, “Che Che Koolay”. We then slowed ourselves down with “This Pretty Planet”.

Aprendemos Juntos

Students have been working hard in Spanish, applying what they know through a variety of methods. You may hear the lovely sound of your child singing one of their favorite tunes from our class, as all of them enjoy music in Spanish. In some cases we use music for brain breaks and in others, a song may be the core piece of our lesson. 

Primary students have been singing “Caminando por la selva” from Super Simple Español. They are learning about animals and have been using their prior knowledge to play charades and discuss what animals eat and where they live. 

Lower Elementary students have been creating their own games to practice colors and shapes in Spanish. They are practicing collaboration and developing leadership skills by working together to try each other’s games and cheering each other on in the process. 

Upper Elementary has taken on the task of learning as much about food in Spanish as possible before our upcoming field trip in March. They want to be ready to order their lunch in Spanish, and you can tell by the engagement and effort exerted during Spanish! This week, students began to generate books on Book Creator, expressing their likes and dislikes of certain foods and beverages. 

Middle School has been cultivating their comprehension skills as we read about important figures in Black History. We are specifically focusing on afrolatinx singers, politicians, actors, athletes, and authors who are a mixture of African and Latinx heritage. Additionally, 8th years are working on an amazing project which will be showcased shortly after the middle school play.

Elementary Gymnastics!

The Kindergarten, Lower Elementary, and Upper Elementary students participated in a gymnastics unit in which they experienced transfer of body weight through floor skills. Students experienced the following apparatus: gymnastic mats for an obstacle course, a balance beam, and vaulted springboard.  They also did pyramid building and single balances. Pyramid building is when a group of gymnasts make a human pyramid by standing or kneeling on top of one another with only one person on the top level. A human pyramid is a formation of three or more people in which two or more support a tier of higher people. For practical reasons, lighter people are often positioned higher while stronger/heavier people are located closer to the base.

Students in LE and UE practiced jumping off a vaulted springboard. Vaulting in gymnastics requires coordination of combining running, jumping, and squatting. Students practiced jumping and landing with two feet onto the mats. The jumps practiced were: straight, straddle, and tuck. Students learned that strength, flexibility, and balance they gained from gymnastics will transfer easily to every other sport they may want to pursue. The skills learned will help them achieve success in other areas.

“Catch the Beat”

Lower Elementary students enjoyed working with a catchy song, “Catch the Beat.” They learned the song using words like “lala, tutu, boomboom, etc.” accompanied by body percussion, such as clapping, stomping, and tapping. 

1st year students learned through moving the designated motions with different words like lala, tutu… Once they are familiar with the song using their body percussion only, then they are ready to transfer to actual musical instruments. 2nd year students are demonstrating this in the photos above.

Expanding Perspectives with Tactile Pictionary

Last week, Danielle Ulacco and I attended an extraordinary workshop at the University of Colorado at Boulder in which we received official training on their “Build a Better Book” Program. During this incredibly eye-opening experience, we were trained on the various ways to engage youth in the design and fabrication of inclusive media, including picture books, games, and tactile graphics. We used both low and high tech tools and materials to explore ways of designing, fabricating, testing and refining multi-modal books, games and graphics that incorporate tactile and audio features. The overall goal of this workshop was to share what we learned with our students so they can begin to design for learners with visual impairments as well as other physical and learning disabilities.

As soon as we returned to school on Monday, we dove right into these concepts and shared what we learned from this workshop with our middle school STEAM students. We began with an activity called Tactile Pictionary. As stated on the Build a Better Book program’s website, “This activity is an engaging way to introduce the Build a Better Book project. By playing a tactile version of the game Pictionary while blindfolded, students experience what it would be like to interpret a drawing in a different way, using their sense of touch instead of sight. Using their experience with the activity, participants generate a list of key features of effective tactile diagrams that they will then be able to use later in the project.”

To begin the game, we arranged the students in groups of two or three. One or two people in each group were the artist(s) and the other was blindfolded and tasked with guessing what the object was. The artist(s) received the name of an object to depict in a tactile picture, using Wikki Sticks on the board. Once the tactile picture was completed, the blindfolded student tried to guess what the object was, using only their sense of touch. After completing a few rounds of this game, students came to many realizations about what it means to design for and communicate information tactically for someone with a visual impairment. We heard comments like, “we need to emphasize the important parts only,” and “it doesn’t have to look like the object, it should feel like it.”

Overall, we were blown away by the level of compassion and interest our students expressed for this initiative in just one class period, and we were humbled to see our students becoming makers who design for equity through this simple activity. We are so excited to see how the Build a Better Book project unfolds in our classroom and beyond!

3 Ways to Support Language Learners

As we move into a new calendar year, students are acquiring the language at an impressive rate. Students, primary through middle school, are able to answer yes/no and either/or questions, in addition to some open ended questions. Their comprehension has developed through storytelling, songs, movietalks, and by reading independently. If you are not a Spanish speaker, you may wonder, “How do I support my child in a language I do not know myself?” Here are some things you can do outside of school: 

  1. Expose your child to music in Spanish. The younger children LOVE the Super Simple Español songs. They have many Spanish versions of popular songs they already know in English, so they are excited to hear familiar tunes. Also, singing in Spanish helps them to retain the vocabulary. 
  2. Share bilingual books with them. Your local library or bookstore is bound to have lots of titles available in Spanish. Sometimes, I send home copies of stories we have read in class. If your child is older, looking for proficiency based readers designed for novice and intermediate language learners will best suit them. If you’re nervous about pronunciation, try audio books!
  3. Podcasts can be a great resource to provide more input. You can download a podcast to play during your commute to school or as background noise while your child is playing. Hearing the language without seeing something can help to solidify their comprehension skills and challenge them to make those connections in a new way. 

Remember to take it slow! Focus on input. Can you recall when your child was an infant, simply absorbing the world by observing and listening? Children are acquiring language from birth, yet they may not be ready to produce much output for a year or two after being exposed. Allow your child to use the language without feeling pressure. Avoid questions like, “How do you say ______ in Spanish?” There may be vocabulary they do not know yet, and asking a question they are unable to answer may deter them from wanting to share what they know. 

Primary Obstacle Course Fun!

This month, the Primary students are enjoying an obstacle course comprised of gymnastics mats, hoops, an agility ladder, and a balance beam. They are practicing many skills. They are climbing up and down from mats, jumping off the mats, jump through a hoop, performing a forward roll on an inclined mat, walking on a balance beam, and running the moving train around the gym. We cool down with fitness exercises and stretches at the end of each class. Throughout our gymnastics unit, the children are enhancing their social skills, developing strength and coordination, and gaining self-esteem and confidence.

During each class, the children practice learning skills. We practice observing, waiting our turn and following directions. Improving all of these skill areas is helpful for those children still learning how their bodies move. Our lessons help them become more comfortable and happy with themselves as they continue to grow.

Art Club Animal Drawings


Our first Lower Elementary Art Club session of the New Year was a big success! We began by looking at images of various animals from invertebrates to mammals, birds to reptiles, and everything in between. After a brief demonstration on how to begin an animal drawing by breaking down the body into simple shapes to act as guidelines, students then chose one animal to focus on for their drawing.

With images as their reference, students worked diligently on their animal drawings, sketching lightly in pencil first and then completing their drawing with darker outlines. Next, students worked on the fur, skin, feathers, or scales of their animal using colored pencils. Once complete, students cut out their animal by following along the outline so that next session they can focus on creating an environment for their animals to live in. These cut-out animal drawings will be glued onto their painted habitat, creating a finished art piece with a complete ecological story behind it!