Spanish Happenings at Stonegate Elementary

I have the privilege of teaching Spanish to first and second graders at Stonegate Elementary, and every year we can demonstrate how cool and fun it is to interact with this group of kids; full of life and eager to discover more and more.

Learning Spanish at an early age brings a lot of benefits to the students. Some examples include:

  1. Better brain development
  2. Improved multi-tasking skills
  3. Increased attention to detail
  4. Immersion into a new culture and learning about their people
  5. Development of confidence and creativity

I could mention many more, but the most important is to see how our very interactive curriculum allows the kids to learn through music, repetitions, reading, writing and more.

Last year at Stonegate we, as Learning Another Language (LAL), had the privilege to represent Venezuela in a booth at the International Fair. The students were so happy to share and interact with another culture, to sing in Spanish and play some typical games about the countries.

This year we are extending even more! We were invited to participate in the International Fair at the Zionsville Public library, sharing Venezuela’s culture and typical dances. It was a great experience and watching the kids faces and emotions was priceless. The confidence, friendship, compassion in helping each other was phenomenal and worthwhile.

Thank so much to the parents and all of you that believe in the program.

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”. – Nelson Mandela

Señora Hungria Essig
LAL Spanish Teacher
Stonegate Elementary School


El Dia de San Valentin

As we near the end of February, the month of love, I’d like to share how I learned about this association for February in my country, Mexico.

Many times, we relate the phrase “love is in the air” with the arrival of spring, but in this case, we are far away from it, or at least from the pleasant weather it brings.

When I thought about writing about the most celebrated holiday this month, I wondered how it was that Mexico adopted it. It is not a celebration that is included in all those (celebrations) that are part of our culture and represent our roots. To me, it sounds more like another of the many celebrations adopted from the neighboring country, the United States, so I dedicated myself to doing a little research.

Apparently, there was a Roman Catholic priest in the third century whose name was Valentine and whom the church canonized and behold is known as Saint Valentine.

This priest was engaged in clandestinely marrying the Roman soldiers, because the then Emperor Claudius II forbidden them. He needed these soldiers to remain single so that they could dedicate themselves completely and without distractions to the militia.

Valentine was captured and executed on February 14.

Valentine’s Day was officially celebrated by the Catholic Church, until 1969 when it was eliminated from the liturgical calendar. But because it was already deeply rooted, people continued to celebrate it.

In the mid-twentieth century, traders saw a huge opportunity to grow their profits with this date and began to make commemorative cards for the date; dedicated to love, affection and friendship. Today is a date where people spend huge amounts of money on flowers, chocolates, cards, dinners and even engagement rings to propose to their girlfriends!

My conclusion is that yes, in fact this date should have been brought by the colonizers, starting with celebrating only the lovers until it was extended in the celebration of friendship.

In Mexico, this celebration is called “el día de San Valentín” (Valentine’s Day), “el día de los enamorados” (The Lovers Day) and “el día del amor y la amistad” (Love and Friendship Day). We also dress in red, send cards, give flowers and chocolates and go out with our friends and/or boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife.

In my class at Union, we made cards for a friend or family member and then we had a small celebration to remember how important friends are!

Señora Herrera
Union Elementary
Grades 3rd and 4th

Dia de los Reyes Magos

The tradition in Spain is that Los Reyes Magos, known as The Three Wise Men or the Three Kings, in English, bring Spanish children their gifts on the Day of the Epiphany, January 6th. This commemorates the day when the Three Wise Men, following the star to Bethlehem, arrived bearing their treasured gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh for  Baby Jesus.

In December, all Spanish children write letters to the Kings, telling them the presents they want to receive. A few days after Christmas, children can give their letters personally to the special emissaries and real postmen, who make an appearance in the center of all the cities and villages. They ask the children if they have been good at school and with their families, because the ones who didn’t behave usually receive coal. But, in reality, it is a “sweet” punishment, because it is made of sugar.

Then, on the evening of January 5th, all families go on to the streets to welcome the Three Wise Men. Depending on the city, the arrival of the Kings is completely different. For example, in Madrid they arrive at the airport by plane; in Barcelona, they arrive at the harbor by boat; in Alarilla (Guadalajara) they are so adventurous that they arrive paragliding. After the arrival, the traditional “Cabalgata” (Cavalcade) starts, and the procession goes through the main streets of each city and village. Different floats carry the Kings and their royal pages, who throw sweets and candy to the children who follow them. It is a colorful and fun experience for everyone. Usually there is also a music band that plays Christmas songs.

When the Cabalgata is over, the children go to sleep very excited, waiting for the next morning to see what presents the three Kings left for them. Before going to bed, the kids usually place some water and bread on their windowsills for the Kings’ camels.

On January 6th families eat the “Roscón de Reyes” for dessert, which is a round cake that has candied fruit. Inside it has two surprises, a good one and one not so good. The good one is a figurine, usually one of the three Wise Men, and the lucky one who gets it, receives a King’s crown that comes with the cake. The negative surprise has the shape of a bean, and the one who gets it in his slice of cake, has to pay for the “Roscón” next year.

Without any doubt, this was my favorite day of the year when I was a kid. And still now, if I travel to Spain during the holidays, I love watching the children’s enthusiasm on this magical day.

Sra. Loreto Romeu
LAL Spanish Teacher

Christmas in Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico is a island located in the east side of the Caribbean Sea that features a culture full of joyful celebrations and beautiful traditions.  Puerto Rico is recognized with one of the longest end of year holidays in the world!  The multiple holidays and celebrations start  with Thanksgiving and end in  January 14th with the “Octavitas”.   For the majority of Puerto Ricans,  it is the most anticipated season of the year and transcends individual religious beliefs.   Sometimes, it is very common to listen to Holiday music or participate in festivities a few days before or after the official dates of celebration.

During this time of the year families and friends come together to share their favorite dishes and recipes, visit each other’s  homes, dine together and enjoy music.  Public places and homes are commonly decorated with the traditional Christmas trees, lights and cultural decorations.  Some of the festivities are: “Noche Buena” (Christmas Eve), “Navidad” (Christmas Day), “Despedida de Año” (New Year’s Eve), ” Año Nuevo” (New Year day), “Fiesta de Reyes”  (Three King’s Day) and ” Octavitas” (eight days of celebration after the Three King’s Day).  One of the greatest traditions during this time of  are the traditional “Parrandas”…no holidays are complete without “Parrandas”!

Noche Buena  (Christmas Eve)

The night of December 24th, family and friends celebrate Christmas Eve.  Commonly,  family and closes friends get together at the home of someone who serves at host.  Guests prepare typical dishes such as: roast pork, rice with pigeon peas, salads, desserts and drinks.  Desserts are prepared, mostly using coconut as a base flavor, for example: “Tembleque”, “Arroz con Dulce”, “Majarete” and the traditional “Coquito”, among others.  People share gifts and children and wait the arrival of baby Jesus who brings gifts as a surprise. It is also common to have a gift exchanges between the visitors.

Navidad (Christmas Day)

On Christmas day, children look for their gifts under the tree.  Sometimes it is a day spent assembling gifts (if it is necessarily), playing outside, going to a park, or visiting family.

 Despedida de Año (New Year’s eve)

On the night of December 31th, people get together and wait with great enthusiasm for the arrival of the New Year.  In this celebration there is no lack of music, whistles, confetti and  lots of fireworks.  Families and friends gather together to eat the typical dishes mentioned above, sing, dance and celebrate.  When midnight arrives, friends and family greet each other, share good wishes for the new year and the demonstrations of affection, such as hugs and kisses.  Some people perform different rituals, confident that the new year will be accompanied by good times and good luck.

Año Nuevo (New Year day)

It is New Year’s Day! and the celebration continues.  Some people remain in their homes waiting for family and friends to visit. Other people visit family and friends.  Many people wear new clothes as a symbol of the new beginning full of hope.  It is a day of New Year’s resolutions, promises or personal commitments for the next 365 days.  Of course diet and exercise are among the main promises, after weeks of eating!

 Los Tres Reyes Magos (Three King’s Day )

On the eve of January 6th, the kids await for the surprise arrival of the Three Wise Men.  The three wise men secretly arrive during the night and leave presents under the bed. So kids needs to be prepared!  During the day of January 5th,  they go out to collect  grass in cardboard shoe boxes. They put the grass and water under their beds for the Wise Men camels. The tradition says that during that night, Melchor, Gaspar and Baltazar arrive in the children’s rooms and  leave them the toys while the camels eat the grass and drink the water.


Accompanied by the traditional “Cuatro Puertorriqueño”(string instrument close in shape to the violin), the guitar, güiro (percussion), maracas and tambourines, among other instrument; provide the musical background to singers of varied experience.  When the music and the singers join together, they form a Parranda. They stem from traditional “Christmas Carols”, “Aguinaldos” and “Popular Music”. It could be said that there is a party in the heart of every Puerto Rican.

The “Parrandas”, also known as:  “Asaltos” or “Trullas” are a beautiful tradition that consist of a surprising arrival at a family’s or friend’s house late at night (normally between midnight to early hours in the morning). The group secretly arrives and start singing outside the house until the owners wake up and let them in.  A brief visit that lasts no more than 1 hour or so.  The group then moves on to the next house.  Sometimes those who receive the visit join the group and continue visiting and surprising other families until dawn. The group gets bigger and bigger!   Appetizers, drinks and sometimes a soup is shared.

Sra. Migdalia Negrón Martínez
LAL Spanish Teacher

Dia de los Muertos

This special Holiday is celebrated on November 2nd in México and in some countries in South América.
How did the Holiday start?
Like the memory of a loved one that never fades, Dia de los Muertos also survives. It may change and evolve but it never vanishes!!!! The Spaniards learned about it when they arrived in México in the 16th Century. They viewed the ritual which was started by the Aztecs some 3,000 years ago as sacrilegious.
Why Ofrendas and Altares?
Altars are usually decorated with flowers, candles, pan de muerto (bread made specifically for this day), ceramic skulls, and most importantly pictures of the loved ones. Food placed on the altars consists of the loved ones favorite dishes and treats. Drinks should be placed on the altars to quench the thirst of the dead after their long journey back home.
Why Marigold Flowers?
It is believed that the spirits of the dead visit the living during the celebration. Marigolds guide them to their altars using their vibrant colors and scents.
Sra. Marlene Calderin
LAL Spanish Teacher
Union Elementary


How can it already be October?!?!


Time flies when you are having fun!  The time leading up to Fall Break at Stonegate Elementary Spanish class has been wonderful!

We started by making “Spanish summer connections”. We talked about how the kids used Spanish during the summer. They had a lot of great stories about visiting restaurants and ordering their food in Spanish, or going on vacation to places where they actually spoke Spanish!

We also took time to review concepts like greetings (saludos), colors (colores), numbers (números), classroom objects (cosas del salón de clases), favorite things (cosas favoritas), days of the week (dias de la semana), months’ names and how to write a date (meses del año y la fecha de hoy).

It is great for the kids to start with things they remember, this way they feel confident, and start talking right away!

We start every day by singing a couple of songs (this class loves to sing and dance!!). You can ask them to sing one of the songs at home! We do a lot of fun activities to learn and to practice vocabulary. We read stories from the book, write in our journals, solve word search pages and crosswords and play “memory”, “go fish” and “find it”.

The kids love to quiz each other with flashcards! The winners receive our own Spanish class “pesos”. The pesos are then cashed during the class’ “auction party”.

The themes for the next couple of weeks are: “Party”, “Family”, and “Independence day celebrations”. For “Party” we are “planning” a birthday party, we talked about what you need for a party and who could be invited, and how to design a party invitation in Spanish. For “Family” we will make Family trees and talk about our families.

As you can see, we are very busy, and I am grateful for the opportunity to explore and learn Spanish with my class!!

Señora Chemor
LAL Spanish Teacher
Stonegate Elementary

On our way!!!

Hello!  My name is Quetzali Rojas and I am the LAL Spanish teacher at Zionsville Middle School and Pleasant View Elementary. I also teach Spanish full-time at Interactive Academy.

Congratulations everyone!  We’ve survived the first month of school!

We’re past the new backpack drama, confusing locker combos, nervous tummy aches, and the most challenging activity of all: trying to wake up grumpy little kids! It seems everything is “under control”… and we’ve redirected our energy and concern to ANOTHER great hurdle: extracurricular activities.

How do we provide a healthy balance of fun and education – while making sure our kiddos are enjoying themselves?

As a mother who has taught both before and after school classes for over a decade, I have one simple word of advice that makes all the difference: provide your child with a nice snack they can enjoy before after-school activities. Something simple to eat, healthy, and most importantly: that your child LOVES.  This will re-boot your kiddo with a big smile and a boost of energy for the next round!

I know this sounds simple – but believe me, it makes a HUGE difference in their ability to concentrate and stay awake and alert after a long day at school!

We have this “under control” parents! Let’s do it!

Señora Quetzali Rojas
LAL Spanish Teacher

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

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