Music is one of the most powerful tools to teach a foreign language to young learners! It instantly fills the room with smiles, gets kids on their feet, and inspires them to become a part of whatever they are listening to. Teaching your child Spanish through music will boost their memory of new vocabulary, improve their pre-reading skills through rhyming, and promote the development of essential communication skills. While there are many teaching methods to choose from, this guide will show you how to use theme-based learning with music. This combination promotes higher-level learning that produces longer-lasting results.
Theme-based learning, also called thematic instruction, is “the practice of integrating curriculum areas around a topic.” Engaging in integrated activities promotes thinking, feeling, and movement, which activates and develops your child’s multiple intelligences. These activities center around the main theme and combine playful songs to spark the emotional responses that dramatically increase memory. With this method, your child will learn faster and retain more! ¡Aprendamos con música!
Lesson Structure Example
As you look at the themes below, you may wonder how to structure your lessons. If you don’t already have a plan set out that you prefer, you can try this one:
- Warm-up: Sing (use TPR)
- Teach vocab with flashcards
- Sing the same song
- Play game
- Read a topic-related book
- Hands-on Activity
- Wind-down: Sing the same song
Theme: Body Parts (partes del cuerpo)
Download Spanish Body Parts Theme Flashcards
Body Part Tag – take your little one outside and have them tag objects with their body parts. This is a fun game and can combine colors and numbers. Direct your child to tag the tree with la rodilla, tag something red with el brazo, or tag 4 yellow things with el pie. The options are endless here and make for lots of fun and giggling.
Plate Face Paint – show your child how to paint a face on a paper plate, direct them to “paint los ojos” or entirely in Spanish “pinta los ojos” and continue with the rest of the parts of the face. You can glue down strands of yarn as the cabello. Hang their hard work somewhere visible and ask frequently, “Where are los ojos? Where is la nariz?” (or “¿Dónde están los ojos? ¿Dónde está la nariz?”) and have them point to it while they say the word. Extend this activity by painting a body cut-out to connect to the face (or trace your child’s body if you want to go really big).
Theme: Feelings (sentimientos)
Note: Some vocabulary words are synonyms to accompany all the song examples given. Choose which songs you want to use and simply omit the unnecessary vocabulary.
Download Spanish Feelings Theme Flashcards
Simón dice (Simon Says) – Modify the original Simon Says game with feeling phrases! If you already connected specific movements to words (aka TPR) while introducing new vocabulary, this will be even more fun. You can use all Spanish by saying, “Simón dice, estoy feliz” and your child repeats, “¡estoy feliz!” with a big smile on their face and clapping (TPR). An excited reaction from you each time they get it right can go a long way here! Remember the trick of the game is when an instruction is given without “Simón dice/Simon Says” the child shouldn’t move.
Book of Feelings – use construction paper to create a book of collages. Dedicate each page to one of the feelings and look with your child for relevant pictures in old magazines to cut out and glue down. You can extend this lesson to use conjugated verbs by pointing at pictures and saying, “Él está triste” (He is sad) or asking “¿Él está feliz o triste?” (Is he happy or sad?) When you finish making all the pages, stack them together and staple down the left side three times to form a book.
Theme: Vowels (las vocales)
Download Spanish Vowels Theme Flashcards
Move Around the Room – get 5 pieces of paper, use a marker to write one vowel on each paper, and place them around a room. Using your vowel flashcards (download above), instruct your child to run to the correct vowel in the room when they hear the sound in the word you say. Celebrate with high-fives when they get it right and make a funny sound when they get it wrong so they know to try again. You can add more words without teaching meaning since the focus here is on the sound.
Big Letters Art Project – as you teach each vowel sound, you can focus on it through art. Take a regular or larger size piece of construction paper and draw a big vowel, bubble letter style (with plenty of space inside it). Give your child finger paints for them to outline the vowel with your supervision. Inside the letter, paint, draw, or glue things whose names use that particular vowel. For example, with the letter A, you can paint the body and legs of a spider (araña) and glue down googly eyes. For love (amor), use glue to make the form of a heart, pour some glitter on it to dry and shake off the extra. Add more objects like a tree (árbol) by finger painting the trunk, then use a cotton ball dipped in green paint to make the leafy tops. The more creative, the better! Practicing the sounds and repeating the words with the sounds is the goal of this activity.
Move to the Music
We hope you will find some songs you’ll love to share with your child while you teach them essential Spanish themes. With plenty of singing, dancing, and creative activities, your little learner is guaranteed to love learning Spanish with you. To boost their curiosity and give them a chance to practice what they’ve learned, sign up for a free online class with a native Spanish speaker! They can show off their new vocabulary while they learn to converse in Spanish. They’ll be speaking by the first class, guaranteed!Read More
The early elementary years, with such a heavy focus on reading and writing, act as the foundation of your child’s literacy process. During this fertile time of learning, parents can take advantage of the explosion of growth and add another language to the mix! Spanish joins the ranks of the most important languages of the 21st century and is considered to be the easiest language for English speakers to learn. Why not add Spanish to your child’s language abilities? By teaching your child to read and write in English and Spanish, you give the gift of biliteracy. Biliteracy, or the ability to read and write in two languages, will enhance your child’s cognitive function, increase their multi-cultural awareness, and even give them a head start toward success as an adult. Who wouldn’t want that for their child? It may seem intimidating at first to imagine teaching your child to read in Spanish, but with an armful of entertaining Spanish children’s books and the will to use language teaching strategies, you can absolutely do this!
Our list of Spanish books is directed toward children in grades 1-3 who have some Spanish phonological awareness and have been exposed to the Spanish alphabet. Here is a list of 10 engaging and fun books to jump-start the journey to biliteracy!
10 Spanish Books for Grades 1-3
- Abuela – Arthur Dorros
This is a sweet and heartfelt story about how a young girl named Rosalba experiences her favorite times with her grandmother. Together in a dream-like fantasy, they fly over New York City, visiting places that remind her of her grandma’s arrival to the United States. The English version with Spanish phrases showcases isolated Spanish words and is great for picking up new vocabulary around love and family. The Spanish Only version is perfect for readers who understand a bit more than basic Spanish.
- Hairs/Pelitos – Sandra Cisneros
Although this book is more than 20 years old, its excellent core message remains more relevant than ever. A story about the importance of diversity, each page explores the different colors and textures in hairstyles worn by members of families from various backgrounds. It is a story about family, celebrating the differences found within and praising the blessings that it brings. The author alternates between English and Spanish, using both languages expertly to create fun imagery. This book will teach your child how to use analogies in Spanish, such as, “hair like a broom,” “hair like fur,” and “hair like candy.”
- Los vestidos de mamá – Monica Carretero
An imaginative love story between a girl and her mother shows through her mother’s colorful dresses the fantastical adventures they inspire in the girl’s mind. She visits an underwater home of mermaids, the crescent moon in a starry night sky, and a blossoming meadow on a hill, among other magical places. It’s a wonderful book to learn plenty of useful present tense verbs. It even comes with activities at the end, including making paper dolls and a few pages of white dresses that can be colored to suit your child’s imagination.
- Dragones y tacos – Adam Rubin
Two seemingly unrelated things combine to make this book silly and loads of fun: dragons and tacos. Did you know that tacos are a dragon’s favorite food? You and your child will surely love learning all about it. Learn food vocabulary (especially types of tacos and salsas!) and how to discuss what dragon’s like. Your child will be mesmerized by the watercolors and colored pencil illustrations that capture the imagination.
- El caballero que no tenía caballo – JS Pinillos
Your child will love this funny little story about a knight who wishes to rescue a princess, but he doesn’t have a horse! Naturally, he decides he needs a horse in order to save the princess from the scary dragon. So, he goes to the market to look for the best horse he can find. To his dismay, each horse he approaches rejects him for a silly reason. The repetitive language between the knight and the horses makes it very easy for the young reader to join in and start using these Spanish phrases. Enjoy the funny pictures and amusing, non-traditional “prince to the rescue” story.
- Oso quiere volar – Susana Isern
With a life lesson that encourages readers to follow their dreams, no matter how impossible they may seem, this book is perfect for inspiring young minds. It shows how a neighborhood of forest animals makes a big fuss out of the bear’s dream to fly. Each has an opinion about how his dream certainly cannot come true. Will bear prove them wrong? This story won the Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards, which celebrates books that honor the joys and challenges of childhood. The Spanish Only version is more suited for children who know basic Spanish.
- La sombrerería mágica – Sonja Wimmer
One day, a mysterious hat shop appears in the middle of a small town. The inhabitants are mystified and curious about the hats. One by one, they try on a hat only to find something very strange and intriguing happen! A story about self-esteem, authenticity, and being true to oneself, this book is a must-have for every young person growing into their uniqueness. While enhancing your child’s Spanish vocabulary, you can also teach them to treasure all the ways they are special and one-of-a-kind.
- La gallina cocorina – Mar Pavon
What’s worse than a bad rumor? Being the target of it, of course! Follow Clucky (“Cocorina”), the loving yet forgetful mother-hen, and her baby chicks as they explore their unconditional love for one another in the face of hurtful gossip. The story shares a very powerful lesson on how talking negatively about others is painful and unnecessary. It’s a lesson that every young child must learn, and doing so with Clucky and her chicks will be sure to stick in their memory.
- Margarito – Carmen Gil
This story is full of emotion and descriptive words that are great for Spanish readers. Margarito is a beloved donkey who comes to live on a farm at a young age and grows old there. Over time, he loses strength, agility, and even his hearing. While he may have lost many characteristics, he gains the wisdom to help all the other animals on the farm learn to get along with one another. The lesson of this well-illustrated book reminds us that we must love and respect our elders, knowing that they hold valuable knowledge that they can teach the younger generations.
- Ayobami y el nombre de los animales – Pilar Lopez Avila
This story will give your little one direct insight into the importance of literacy. Meet Ayobami, a young African girl who dreams of going to school. When the war ends, she can finally fulfill her dream. However, to get to the schoolhouse, she must take the dangerous path through the jungle. With only paper and a worn pencil, Ayobami sets out to achieve her dream to learn to read and write. This is a story about the importance of education and the challenges that many children face in going to school.
The Blessing of Biliteracy
Although there are multiple proven paths to a child’s biliteracy, it is certain that reading Spanish books at home is one of them. By setting aside a time each night where you and your child take part in reading these lovely, lesson-filled stories that enliven the mind and delight the senses, you will make learning fun. Your child’s journey to bilingualism and biliteracy starts at home and can be expanded into taking an online class where they can practice with a native Spanish speaker. Be sure to gather a diverse set of resources found on this blog to help foster a love for reading Spanish books and to make it as fun and enjoyable as possible. ¡Que lo disfruten!Read More