Topic Thread

Subject: Elementary CI Curriculum

1.  Elementary CI Curriculum

Posted 03-20-2017 09:14
Hello, We are expanding our language program to the elementary school in a FLES format (as a "special" twice a week). I am looking for guidance/recommendation/direction on creating CI/TPRS friendly curriculum. Any help is appreciated!

Amy Hubertus

Best Answer
2.  RE: Elementary CI Curriculum

Posted 03-21-2017 08:50
Hi, Amy, 

I am at an IB school and in my 13th year here teaching Spanish to K-5th.  I started teaching in the specials rotation seeing my classes once a week for 50 minutes, but the school kept growing and growing until for the last several years I've been on a 7 day rotation.  Admin finally gave us another personal unit and now there are 2 of us here and we are on a 4 day rotation.  Much better!  The kids are so capable.

Because we are an IB school, one of my jobs is to connect in some relevant way to at least 2 of the units of inquiry for each grade level.  I and the other PYP Spanish teachers in the district have worked really hard to develop a curriculum that does a myriad of things:

First, we looked at all the resources we had, along with the units of inquiry for each grade level and designated a "Spanish-speaking area of the world" for each one.  Here is what we decided on:

K - gets an overview of how many Spanish-speaking countries there are, where Spanish originated, how it spread and where all the Spanish speaking countries are located.  

1st - South America

2nd - Spain

3rd - Mexico

4th - Central America

5th - the Spanish-speaking islands of the Caribbean (Cuba, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic)

We then chose at least 2 unis of inquiry for each grade level that we thought we could authentically connect to.  For example, 2nd grade has a unit with the central idea "Living things share natural resources."  We decided to focus on the Iberian lynx and why they are endangered.  To prepare them for this, we used backward design, looking at what we wanted the students to be able to do and what language they needed in order to do it.  We use a lot of cognates as a basis for our scaffolding, so we started with all the big gatos we could think of - pantera, leon, tigre, leopardo, lince, puma, guepardo.  We taught the students describing words - El gato tiene rayas/manchas.  Es grande/pequeno.  We taught them how to use words like vive and come and hay/no hay.  We built in a ton of songs and activities for practicing these, including TPRS stories.  In the end, we showed a segment of the Jeff Corwin video when he is in Spain and goes to the Jerez zoo to show us the baby lynx.  He talks about it in English, but the segment is very short and then we talk about it in Spanish.  The students wrap up with a CLOZE activity and finally a lynx foldable to take home that has the paragraph in Spanish that we have been prepping for and working on.  This is just a part of the 2nd grade year.  They also memorize a poem after prepping for it with a lot more language learning.  At the end of the year, they will do a unit with the central idea "Discoveries change the way we live."  We have an awesome lesson about how the making of tortillas has changed over the year - from grinding the corn by hand, to using a hand press, to buying the masa already ground and cooking it in a stove, or buying already cooked tortillas that just need to be reheated.  We have some authentic video clips of people doing each one and talking about it.  Although this is actually a unit for Mexico, it is the end of the year and 2nd grade will be studying Mexico next year as 3rd graders.  It is such a perfect fit, that we decided to keep it and get the students excited about next year.  

We try to have a 'can-do' statement for every class so that we stay focused in what we are trying to do.  It might be "I can name the family members in Spanish."  or "I can use Spanish to invite someone to play with me." or "I can use Spanish ask and tell where someone is from."

In the end, we wanted to be able to talk about culture using the language (Spanish) rather than having a "break" from Spanish to teach a lesson in English about whatever connection we were trying  to make with their homeroom units.

So...I know this is a lot to take in and a lot not said, but I thought I'd give you an idea of how we designed our curriculum.  We use a ppt to guide pretty much every lesson.  These are saved to use next year.  Of course we are constantly tweaking and adding/taking away.  We come up with new ideas to take the place of those that didn't work as well as we thought they would.  And we still have a couple of lessons that are done primarily in English, but we are gradually changing those over.  We just implemented this new way of doing things last year, so we are still working on it but loving it so much!  The kids are happy and we review every classtime so that they are constantly being reminded of the can-do's they've already mastered.

If you have specific questions, don't hesitate to ask.  I love sharing and learning and collaborating with other Spanish teachers.


Kim Teal
Spanish Teacher
Spicewood Elementary
Round Rock ISD
Austin, TX

3.  RE: Elementary CI Curriculum

Posted 03-22-2017 14:07
Thank you so much Kimberly! I love the way you guided your curriculum development and I have generated a list of questions for myself from your post to follow up on.


Amy Hubertus

4.  RE: Elementary CI Curriculum

Posted 03-21-2017 14:55
Are you familiar with Carol Gaab's Cuéntame materials?  They are excellent, especially for programs transitioning to T/CI.  They allow teachers to practice the strategies while having a roadmap.  Some teachers use such CI-aligned curricula as training wheels, creating emergent stories, scenes, Movie Talk etc. after they feel confident; other teachers continue to use Cuéntame again and again.  I used Cuéntame in 3rd-4th, and could imagine usig some of the stories as early as the latter half of 2nd grade (oral, maybe not reading!)

Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

5.  RE: Elementary CI Curriculum

Posted 03-22-2017 14:10
Hi Alicia, Thank you for your input. Yes, I use Carol Gaab in the middle school but am not familiar with the elementary school set. It is good to have a recommendation. The teacher who will be in the elementary will probably be very new to TCI. 


Amy Hubertus

6.  RE: Elementary CI Curriculum

Posted 03-25-2017 08:17
Edited by Gisela Cordero-Cinko 03-26-2017 08:37
I just read your post and I taught at the elementary level (K-5) for many years. Creating a curriculum for these levels was challenging when I started teaching especially since schools didn't have one for world language at those levels at the time. So we followed what the teachers did for English and that seemed to help us since we were merely serving as a support for what they were already doing not only for language but also in Math, Science and other subjects (we called that teaching across the curriculum). I know I probably will be criticized for my suggestion by many teachers who will be reading this post, but I will be giving you a suggestion for short stories we used when I taught those levels to give you an idea of what we did and give those creative teachers an opportunity to use their talent. We used translated stories (I am so sorry but we did) as well as original stories written for native speakers to balance it out. Let me explain....

Two of my students favorite stories were La oruga muy hambrienta and La oruga sandunguera (one of my favorite stories and now out of print unfortunately from my beautiful island of Puerto Rico). The first one was an easy one, since it was a story the kids already knew and it included some science (since we learned the stages of the butterfly) and social studies (because we included a map of North America to show the travels of a Monarch Butterfly) among other things. As they learned the story in the target language, the art teacher helped the kids create the cocoons which they placed in the Spanish bulletin board and in a few weeks (as we continued in the Spanish class) they created beautiful butterflies in their art class to decorate the tree on my bulletin board (the art teacher and our department collaborated a lot). After we finished this story, we used the second story I mentioned. This book told the story of a caterpillar who loved playing el cuatro (an instrument from Puerto Rico) and all the bugs in El Yunque loved listening to his music. This one was a good way to teach them about different instruments from Puerto Rico and allow them to create their own in art class, which we then used to create our music in the classroom pretending to be the "bugs" in the rain forest plus we learned a little bit about the animals who live in that forest (el coquí visited our room and told us his story, a leyenda). 

The stories do not need to be "TPRS" only, teachers can create their own. Yes, this involve creativity and it will be time consuming but it can be done. Back when I started in the state of NJ we used something called "la caja mágica" to pull items/props to teach the vocabulary prior to reading the story and used TPR to teach the action verbs. Kids would point, walk and find these items in the classroom as we gave them the commands (which we taught using TPR at the start of the year). The collaboration among world language teachers here at that level at that time was absolutely phenomenal and I looked forward to brainstorming how to tackle each of our thematic units/books we used. I still have my shoe boxes and magic boxes in the attic which I treasure. 

I do not know if this helped you in any way. I guess I am trying to say that your curriculum should not be limited to what is available or labeled as "TPRS". Searching for a good authentic story that is appropriate for each level and one that allows teachers to be creative when creating their unit will be challenging but rewarding. Have a good weekend....


Gisela Cordero-Cinko

7.  RE: Elementary CI Curriculum

Posted 03-26-2017 08:35
At our school we have used Hola Niños and Cuéntame in elementary school for several years.  We have novels as well.  I really recommend the Brandon Brown series.  

Diane Volzer
Spanish Teacher
Christian Heritage School
1600 MLK, Jr. Blvd. 
Dalton, GA 30721

8.  RE: Elementary CI Curriculum

Posted 03-27-2017 10:12
Thank you Diane! I asked Carol for a sample of the elementary resources she publishes and I do have a couple Brandon Brown books. It is good to hear lots of recommendations for her products.


Amy Hubertus

9.  RE: Elementary CI Curriculum

Posted 03-26-2017 09:36
I have taught elementary for +20 years, and in our district we have a well thought curriculum for grades 1-5. We see them 3 times a week, though, which is the minimal considered for a FLES program. The key is to use only the target language and to give plenty of comprehensible input. Our curriculum spirals from first grade, and our units cover Back to school, Myself and others, My house and family, Food, Geography and Animals, with increasing level of difficulty and some variation in the themes. Each unit includes visuals, videos, cultural connections, games, songs, hands on activities, realia and stories (traditional or teacher created). TPR is included whenever possible. For example, when we read a story about seasons, children act it out while we read (for example, jumping waves, throwing snowballs, etc). We also play charades a lot, and I use signs for essential verbs. See video below:
For a prezi with more detail, check out this link:
Elementary World Language in CHCCS
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Elementary World Language in CHCCS
A look at a FLES program
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Visit also my store at Teachers pay Teachers, where I have uploaded all my units. It can give you a more detailed idea of what our units look like. 

Aprender es divertido
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Aprender es divertido -- 2,500,000+ free and priced teaching resources created by teachers for instant download including lesson plans, interactive
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¡Buena suerte!


Ana Bernad-Calhoun

10.  RE: Elementary CI Curriculum

Posted 03-27-2017 11:44
Thank you so much Ana! I loved the videos!!! Very inspiring.  Amy

Amy Hubertus

11.  RE: Elementary CI Curriculum

Posted 03-27-2017 10:24
Thank you so much Gisela! I love the cross-curricular ideas and I am really interested in working with teachers to make Spanish part of the culture of the school. Yes, the beauty of stories and reading is that they are so flexible!! 


Amy Hubertus