What I Learn as a Spanish Teacher

I am a full-time Spanish teacher. As part of the LAL program, I teach the upper level Spanish at Pleasant View Elementary School and I also teach at Zionsville Middle School. I also teach pre-school, pre-k, kindergarten and first grade Spanish at Interactive Academy during the school day. And to wrap up my day I also teach after-school Spanish to 1st , 2nd , 5th  and 6th graders.

I have done this for the past 15 years. As you can imagine, I spend a lot of time writing about what my students are learning in class.

What I don’t often get to write about is what my students teach ME each and every day.

Your children teach me to be brave. They teach me that no obstacle in insurmountable, and that the biggest obstacle of all is your own attitude. Everything is possible if you believe in yourself. Everything is frightening when you don’t.

They teach me to stay curious. There is a whole world of possibility out there. There is a first time for everything. Every day is a new adventure. It is up to you to find it.

They teach me to smile. What is better than a kid’s smile? Whoever comes up with a way to bottle up a child’s joy and make it last forever will become a billionaire. The world would be a better place if we could each hold on to a little bit of the joy, of the awe and wonder of childhood. So, I try to smile, I try to cherish the little things, and keep my eyes open to the child-like wonder of the world.

I spend every day with the bravest, funniest, most insightful kind of people: kids. We have all heard that being around kids all day “keeps you young”… it also keeps me brave, keeps me curious, and keeps me laughing.

With them, every day is truly an adventure.

Señora Quetzali Rojas
LAL Spanish Teacher

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Learning Spanish and Different Cultures at an Early Age

Learning Spanish at an early age is very natural for children. Children can internalize the words and their meaning by singing a song, recognizing flash cards, reading, playing and more. With repetition they understand the meaning and finally see the differences between languages.

Incorporating grammar through games starts building their conversation skills as if it was their daily native language. The richest aspect in all of this is the ability to share with students how many countries speak Spanish, and their similarities and differences within their own country. This is all covered by our curriculum!

It is amazing when the kids at an early age are able to recognize the different countries by their culture such as family traditions, ways of dressing, foods, jobs, beliefs or religions, holidays, flags, and more.

At Stonegate Elementary we had the privilege of presenting Venezuela in a booth at the International Fair. My Spanish class interacted with the visitors, sang the song “Canto de las Americas”, and presented flags of 22 Spanish speaking countries. In addition, the students were engaged in learning about 17 different countries across different continents, all with their own unique cultures and traditions.

It is so rewarding to watch how a child can be interested in why people think alike or differently than them. Nevertheless, this can be an interesting experience for them as they develop a talent for linguistic skills.

I now leave you with a related quote by George Washington Carver — “Education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom”

Señora Hungria Essig
LAL Spanish Teacher

Easter Celebration in Spanish Speaking Countries

Semana Santa (Holy Week) has a great cultural importance in Spanish speaking countries. Semana Santa is observed with a range of celebrations, from the most solemnly religious, to a mix of pagan/Catholic, to commercial. Semana Santa celebrates the last days of Christ’s life, the Crucifixion and Resurrection, as well as the end of Lent.

Semana Santa begins on Domingo de Ramos (Palm Sunday) through Jueves Santo (Maundy Thursday) and Viernes Santo (Good Friday), culminating in Pascua or Domingo de Resurrección (Easter Sunday).

What Happens During Semana Santa? Each day has its rituals, like processions through the streets with participants on their knees or carrying large wooden crosses. There are masses and religious observations, prayer meetings, and thousands of devout Catholics doing homage. In many communities, the full Passion Play is enacted from the Last Supper, the Betrayal, the Judgment, the Procession of the 12 Stations of the Cross, the Crucifixion and, finally, the Resurrection. Participants are costumed and play their parts with reverence.

During this week, many schools and offices are closed. You can expect resort areas to be crowded as people take advantage of the holiday.

Some interesting Easter Traditions:

Spain – The celebration of Holy Week regarding popular piety relies almost exclusively on the processions of the brotherhoods or fraternities. These associations have their origins in the Middle Age. A common feature is the almost general usage of the nazareno or penitential robe for some of the participants in the processions. This garment consists of a tunic, a hood with conical tip (capirote) used to conceal the face of the wearer, and sometimes a cloak. The exact colors and forms of these robes depend on the particular procession. The other common feature is that every brotherhood carries magnificent “Pasos” or floats with sculptures that depict different scenes from the gospels related to the Passion of Christ or the Sorrows of Virgin Mary.

México – Some Mexican traditions for Maundy Thursday include visiting seven churches to recall the vigil the apostles kept in the garden while Jesus prayed before his arrest, and foot-washing ceremonies. On Good Friday, there are solemn religious processions in which statues of Christ and the Virgin Mary are carried through town. Often the participants of these processions dress in costumes to evoke the time of Jesus. Passion plays, dramatic recreations of the crucifixion of Christ, are presented in many communities. The largest takes place in Iztapalapa, south of Mexico City, where over a million people gather every year for the Via Crucis.

Venezuela – It’s traditional to burn an effigy of a local figure. This is known as ‘Burning of Judas’ where locals will parade the effigy through the streets before meeting together to burn it in a bonfire.

Argentina – It’s common for families to leave the city for the hillside to spend with family. After a big Easter meal, chocolate eggs are exchanged and some families with smaller children will have a chocolate egg hunt.

Almost in every Spanish speaking country, Easter Sunday is a day to enjoy with friends and family!

By Rosa Maria Chemor
LAL Spanish Teacher

The FUN Ways In Which We Learn

I believe that having fun while learning a foreign language is very important for keeping our young students motivated. That is why I try to balance the time we spend covering the curriculum, with some time when the children can relax and have fun.

There is an old Chinese proverb that describes the beauty of learning languages through games:

“Tell me, and I’ll forget. Show me, and I may remember. Involve me, and I’ll understand”

Games provide an alternative route to learning a language while providing a pleasurable method to do so. Children love to play games because they offer a dynamic learning atmosphere and they don’t realize that they are practicing the target vocabulary because in their minds it is just a game. Do we need to review numbers 0 to 100? Let’s play Bingo! Do we have new vocabulary about farm animals? Let’s practice it with a farm animal domino. Are we learning body parts? “Simon says” works fantastic! Verb conjugation? Rolling dice challenges them as well.

My students also like listening and singing Spanish songs. I usually prepare worksheets where they need to fill out some missing words by listening to the song a couple of times; afterwards we talk about what the song is about and finally they learn the lyrics and sing the song. Another entertaining activity where the students practice vocabulary is having contests. Sometimes they play individually,  other times in pairs or in teams.

But what the students love most is preparing a play in Spanish. The children enjoy the rehearsals, reading their lines, improving their pronunciation and finally, performing the play in front of the parents and relatives.

Those are examples of the fun things we do at LAL Spanish class.

By: Loreto Romeu, LAL Teacher

Christmas Time is a Very Special Time in Mexico

Mexico is mostly a Catholic country, so Christmas starts on December 12th,  when Mexicans celebrate the first apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  Christmas celebrations in Mexico end on January 6th with the celebration of the Epiphany.

It is funny when I tell this to my students, since children in México receive presents on both Christmas and on January 6th; you can always hear the “no fair” voiced amongst them.

A unique celebration in Mexico during this time it’s called “Las Posadas”. Posada means “Inn” in English, and it’s when people recreate the time when Mary and Joseph were looking for a place to stay and spend the night. Mary and Joseph, characterized by the guests (usually neighbors, friends and family), sing verses outside asking the host family to let them in, and the host family answers from inside the house telling them “there’s no place for them”.  The nightly routine ends when the home owner recognizes who is asking posada and they let them in. After that hey proceed to pray, eat, and break a piñata.

 

Pinata 2

 

Las Posadas last 9 days with different families taking turns to host, and culminate on December 24th with a midnight mass called “Misa de Gallo”, which means in English “The rooster’s mass”, because it ends past midnight. Following the mass, people gather in the host’s house to place baby Jesus on his manger with prayers and songs, before enjoying delicious food and the company of friends. Then everybody goes to their homes to spend the 25th resting.

The piñata used in Las Posadas has a religious meaning that I personally find very special. It’s a Piñata with 7 cones, each one representing a capital sin named in the Catholic tradition. The Piñata represents the world and it’s covered with colorful and beautiful paper, which depicts the temptations always dressed as something beautiful to catch our eye. The person who’s trying to break it is blindfolded, which means that our faith is blind, and uses a stick to hit it, which represents our strength, self-control and the willingness to end the evil in the world. When the piñata is broken, many goodies fall from it, which represent the awards we receive for fighting evil and our willingness to do what is right.

On January 6th, children wait for the coming of the three wise men who visited Jesus. The night before, they put their shoes at the door to receive the presents brought for them. Family and friends then gather to cut and eat the “Rosca de Reyes”, which is bread shaped as a big bagel decorated with dry fruit and sugar.  Inside one may find little plastic kid figurines. The figurines represent the children who were hid when Herod ordered to kill them looking for baby Jesus. People who find a figurine in their piece of bread (usually three or four through the entire Rosca), make a team to hold a party on February 2nd to celebrate “La Candelaria” (the day of light), when Jesus was presented in the temple.

They order tamales (made of corn-based dough (or maize), and can be filled with beef, chicken, pork, chili, cheese, beans or vegetables; and champurrado (a drink made with flour, cinnamon and milk). Once again, this is celebrated in the company of loved ones, dear friends and neighbors.

Christmas time in Mexico it’s so awesome!

By: Laura Magdaleno-Herrera, LAL Teacher

El Dia de los Muertos

El Dia de los Muertos is a very important holiday in the Spanish culture, and falls very very close to a fun holiday for children in the United States.

On November 2nd, soon after the children in the United States have celebrated Halloween, the adults and children in some Spanish speaking countries, especially Mexico, celebrate this day. The day is filled with images of skeleton bones and the sweet taste of candy and cakes. Unlike Halloween, El Dia de los Muertos, which means “Day of the Dead”, is not meant for costumes and pranks. Instead it is a special occasion when families remember and honor their friends and relatives who have died.

By mid-October bakeries are hard at work creating special breads and buns in the form of animals and people. Candies are made in the shapes of skulls and are decorated with bright icing. The famous and delicious “Pan Mejicano de Muerto” (Bread of the Dead) is very popular across Mexico.

In South America people celebrate this Holiday going to the grave yard with flowers and candles. This is a special occasion to reunite families and friends.

By: Marlene Alvarenga Calderin, LAL Teacher

Mexican Independence Day

Did you know that Cinco de Mayo (May 5th) is NOT Mexico’s Independence Day? It is actually celebrated in the month of September, on the 16th. It is a Mexican holiday to celebrate the “cry of independence” which occurred on September 16, 1810 and started a revolt against the Spaniards.

Miguel Hidalgo is believed to have made the cry of independence (El Grito de Independencia) in the town of Dolores, in the north-central part of the Mexican state of Guanajuato. Hidalgo was one of the nation’s leaders during the War of Independence in Mexico. Mexicans celebrate their country’s Independence Day with fireworks, parties (fiestas), food, dance and music on September 16. Flags, flowers and decorations in the colors of the Mexican flag – red, white and green – are seen in public areas in cities and towns in Mexico. Whistles and horns are blown and confetti is thrown to celebrate this festive occasion. “Viva Mexico” or “Viva la independencia” are shouted amidst the crowds on this day