Teaching your little ones to read and write can be hard. My son is not quite that age yet, but I did teach an English as a Second Language class to kids aged 5-8. Some of them could read and write in Spanish, some of them couldn’t. Teaching them the letters and how to sound out words in their second language, English, was quite a struggle! When you’re teaching your own children to learn to read and write, you do have the advantage of spending more time with them and knowing how your child learns best. Now, there are many theories and methods to teach kids how to read and write in English, but where would you start teaching them the same concepts in Spanish? Well, hopefully by the end of this blog you will have an idea of how to teach your child to read and write in Spanish!
Differences in English and Spanish
There is a lot of discussion on how to teach kids to read and write in English; many people favor phonetics-based learning, while others prefer sight words. When choosing your teaching method, it is important to take into consideration the type of language you want your child to read and write.
For example, English is generally not a phonetic language. There are words that can be sounded out, but the vast number of exceptions can be very frustrating for little learners when they are trying to sound out words. Take a look at the following words and how they are pronounced:
In the first group of words, the ‘ough’ has a different pronunciation in each word. Likewise, the vowel ‘a’ has a unique pronunciation in each of the three words above. Can you see how it could be hard to teach a lot of words phonetically in English? There are some rules that explain the different sounds, but they are too complex to teach to a budding reader.
On the other hand, Spanish is a very phonetic language. There are very few times when letters have more than one possible sound (the C and G, the Y, and diphthongs/triphthongs). For the most part, we can say that each letter has one sound, all the time. Once a new reader knows the sound each letter makes, it is extremely easy to sound out new words.
Know Your Learner
Like I previously mentioned, when you are choosing a method to teach your child how to read, it is important to take into consideration your child’s age and how they learn. If you are starting with a preschooler, keep in mind that they cannot handle rote memorization as well as an older student. You can look at the activities below and choose which one is best for your child’s age level. Additionally, the way your child learns is extremely important to keep in mind. Consider this quote from Cindy Gaddis:
“A right-brained reader learns to read by translating words into pictures. This is because of their highly visual nature. This high level of visualization ability is what helps a right-brained child learn to read and comprehend what they read. These readers will more likely learn to read “giraffe” before any of the Dolch words because it can be visualized…For young left-brained readers, who are part-to-whole leaners, it makes a lot of sense to discover that a c-a-t makes cat. They get excited. But quickly they convert that knowledge into sight word reading.”
There are a couple of key points here. The first is the difference between right and left-brained learners. As an adult, you probably have heard of this a lot and are able to identify what type of learner you are. For younger kids, though, it may take a bit of investigation to figure out which type of learner your child is. If you aren’t sure how your child learns best, try the two methods of teaching the words mentioned above. Give them a word that is easy to visualize and teach it using engaging pictures. Then, give them a word they can sound of and show them how the letters form the word. Whichever method your child responds to best is the way to go!
The next important thing to note is the idea of part-to-whole and whole-to-part learners. This is another way of talking about right/left-brained learners that might be easier to make sense of rather than trying to remember which side of the brain is more creative. Right-brained children are whole-to-part learners – in other words, they look at the big picture first to help decipher the small parts, or in this case the letters that make up a word. Left-brained children are part-to-whole learners who need to understand the parts to reach the whole picture. Oftentimes your child learns differently than you do, so it is helpful to understand them as much as possible to make the teaching process as smooth as possible.
Lastly, the author mentions Dolch words. You may have already heard of these, but they are the most frequent words that appear in written English. If you choose to use sight words as the way to teach your kids how to read, it would be a good idea to start with the Dolch words in English. For Spanish, we’ll look at some of the most common words a bit later on.
The Case for Sight Words
So far, we have looked at a couple of different ways of teaching kids how to read and write, each of which has its pros and cons. Always remember that each kid is unique, and what works for one may not work for another.
For kids learning to read and write in their second language, Spanish, I would highly recommend the use of phonetical sight words. Now, we already looked at how Spanish is a highly phonetical language, and it would make logical sense to teach kids to read it by sounding out the letters. However, when kids are learning to read in two separate languages, it is, in my opinion, a lot to ask of a young child to memorize the phonetics for two alphabets. While English and Spanish have comparable alphabets, some letters are pronounced very differently, which may cause students to get confused between the two languages as they’re learning to read and write.
What do I mean by phonetical sight words? Well, let’s first define what sight words are. They are words that are recognized by sight without the need to sound them out, letter-by-letter. Once you are an affluent reader, the majority of words you read are sight words, with just newer vocabulary needing to be sound out. Now, since Spanish is a phonetical language, I believe that it is important to recognize that and teach students to look for phonetical patterns in words.
How to Teach Phonetical Sight Words
Instead of teaching the alphabet all at once and expecting young children to memorize another set of sounds all at once, it is best to go letter by letter, starting with the easiest and most common letters in Spanish. I recommend using the following order to start out:
A L O S E N I T U M D P B
These first letters are easy to pronounce, have only one possible pronunciation, and are the most common letters in Spanish. Notice that the vowels are not lumped together or in alphabetical order. This is because the Spanish A, O, and E are called open vowels because your mouth is open when you say them. Vowels I and U are closed since your mouth is tighter when you pronounce them. Since open vowels are easier to pronounce, they should be taught first. Furthermore, there are consonants and vowels alternating so that the child can immediately form sight words with the letters they learn.
For example, with the first four letters, you can teach the following sight words:
A la lo sol los las ala alas ola olas sal sala sola solo oso osos
Look at how many words you can make with just four letters! You can even begin to make phrases like:
A la sala
The majority of the remaining letters to teach have more difficult pronunciations (like the R and J) or have two sounds (like the Y, C, and G). Be sure to teach the correct pronunciation using our blogs here.
Considering all of this, let’s go back to the idea of phonetical sight words. The first step is to teach individual letters and what sound they make, then use them to teach sight words. You can use the learned phonetics to help the student sound out the word, then continue with more common sight word activities.
Sight Word Activities
Alright. We’ve made a case for sight words, making sure to start with the phonetics of the individual letters. However, what’s the best way to teach sight words? Let’s look at some fun ways to help your young learner commit common Spanish words to memory. Again, remember to choose activities (or modify them) that fit your child’s learning style.
- Sand drawing
If you have a small, shallow sandbox, have your child copy the letters in the word by tracing them in the sand. They can sound out each letter as they write them, then say the word as a whole. This is a fun tactile activity for kids that learn better with hands-on activities.
- Craft recreation
There are several ways you can interpret this activity. The main idea is to do some sort of craft to form the letter of the word. You can have them form the letters with glue, tissue paper, raw noodles, popsicle sticks, etc. Whatever you have on-hand can work!
- Letter blocks
For this activity, you can use blocks, magnets, or even just paper cut-outs with letters written on them. Show your child the word and have them form it themselves while pronouncing each letter and then the whole word.
There are a lot of worksheets you can find online for this type of activity. If you are feeling ambitious, you can even make your own! Your little learner can trace the word and color a visual representation of the word. Some worksheets even have the object made out of the letters (a perro made out of the letters p-e-r-r-o). For ‘whole-to-part’ learners, this activity is great.
Check out our blog about using songs to teach preschoolers Spanish and find a song that has the Spanish sight word you are teaching your child. Play the song several times and sing along with your child. Every time the sight word is sung, hold up a card with the word written on it. This method will help them connect the word with the pronunciation.
- Practice Reading
This activity isn’t quite as hands-on, but it is a great tool to get your child reading. Take a card and write the Spanish sight word on it, and have the child sound out the word letter by letter, pointing to each one as they say them. As they get better, they will go faster and faster until the word is pronounced fluidly and stored in long-term memory!
- Scavenger Hunt
Once your learner has practiced with some sight words, write them on pieces of paper and hide them around the room. Say a word and have them search for that specific sight word. To take it a step further, you can have another piece of paper with all the sight words written down. When they find a sight word, they can match it to the same word on the paper and glue it there.
There are so many more activities you can do with sight words! I encourage you to get creative with these activities and explore some of the links. Before you get started, though, be sure to use Spanish words that are common, simple, and relatively short. Click here to find the most frequent Spanish words and here for some sample sheets of sight words for different grade levels. Remember, the idea of sight words doesn’t have to be just for preschoolers or new readers. Learning a new language and letter sounds is hard! Sight words can help kids of any age learn to read in Spanish much faster. If you need recommendations of sight words, feel free to ask your Spanish teacher in your next class! Happy reading!
One of the most enjoyable aspects of learning Spanish with preschoolers is learning colors! Kids love the hands-on experience of mixing, painting, or playing coloring games. While they are happily engaged in play, you will have the added bonus of knowing they are improving their Spanish skills. The color theme is a perfect one to use to add on other themes, such as shapes and me gusta (I like) grammar phrases. You can find out more about these additional themes below. Use this handy guide for teaching colors to preschoolers to enhance your child’s Spanish-learning journey and make playtime that much more colorful!
While we are keeping this guide super simple for young learners, it’s useful for you to know some basics about colors. Firstly, you may remember that Spanish uses a grammatical gender for all nouns. Secondly, we know that when colors are acting as adjectives, they describe a noun. This means that the gender of the color will change depending on the gender of the noun. For example, el carro (the car) is masculine and so el carro morado (the purple car) uses a masculine form of the color purple. La hoja (pronounced OH-ha) is a feminine noun and so la hoja morada (the purple leaf) uses a feminine form of the color purple. Basically, every color word that ends in -o can also end in -a, depending on what it is describing. Keep this rule in mind as you teach your child, but don’t feel like you have to give an explicit lesson on it. By consistently using the colors correctly as you expand your lessons with more and more nouns, your child will likely pick up on this pattern automatically.
Now, on to our list of colors!
Colors are everywhere and there is no limit to the possible activities you can use to teach them. We have some favorite activities listed below and hope that you feel inspired to add to them with your own great ideas. What are some ways you can play with colors in Spanish?
- Flashcards – check out our exclusive Homeschool Spanish Academy Color Flashcards (download below) and read about flashcard games here.
- Color sorting – using different mediums, such as fruit loops, nature, or toy food, have your little one sort the objects by color. Repeat the Spanish color word each time a new object is placed correctly.
- Color science and mixing – Do a double lesson on mixing primary colors and naming them in Spanish. This is especially fun using finger paints. It’s okay to use a little ‘Spanglish’ here when your child begins to shout “rojo and azul make morado!”
- Coloring book – instruct your child how to color a picture with the Spanish colors you say. As they begin to color, they repeat the word. Expand your child’s vocabulary with our exclusive Homeschool Spanish Academy Greetings Coloring Pages.
- Color scavenger hunt – whether inside or outside, designate an area where you and your little one will explore all the colors, naming them as you go. You could also make color cards (or use our flashcards) to encourage your child to focus on one specific color at a time.
- Playdough – while learning new vocabulary to go with colors, playdough comes in handy. For example, use our shape guide below to teach colorful shapes and have your child make them out of playdough! Or, make playdough together and practice the new color words while cooking it.
- Color hop with chalk – take to the sidewalk or a patio of your house and draw big squares (or any shape, if working with shapes) of different colors. Instruct your child to jump on a specific color and say the name out loud. They get to tell you where to jump, too!
- Libro de colores (Book of Colors) – Use a packet of craft paper and look together for the colors you will be learning. Cut out the papers the same size and make a booklet. With a marker, write the appropriate Spanish color name on each page. If your child is learning to write, have them write the word underneath your example. Then, find together little one-colored objects to glue onto each color page! You can also make this booklet out of regular white paper and use colored cut-outs from craft paper to glue into the book. You can incorporate pages for many themes, including shapes and even some grammar. Label each page accordingly.
As you teach colors to your eager little learner, dive deeper to include shapes! This way you can begin to explore the gender changes that colors make when describing a noun. Remember that Spanish adjectives (in this case, colors) always come after the noun. Some examples are:
El círculo azul – the blue circle
La estrella amarilla – the yellow star
El rectángulo marrón – the brown rectangle
Here is a list of shapes you can start with:
Me Gusta (I like)
In addition to learning colors, you may want to teach your child how to express their preferences. Here is a quick list of variations of me gusta that you can use in your lessons.
¡Me gusta! – I like it!
Me gusta el color verde. – I like the color green.
Me gusta amarillo. – I like yellow.
¿Cuál es tu color favorito? – What is your favorite color?
¿Qué color te gusta más? – What color do you like the most?
Colorful Spanish Lessons
We hope you enjoy this guide to teaching colors in exciting and educative ways. Add to the fun with our colorful video lesson here! If you would like your child to practice their new color skills with a native Spanish teacher from Guatemala, sign up for an online class! The first class is free and your child is guaranteed to speak Spanish after the first lesson.Read More
Teaching Greetings to Preschoolers
Teaching Spanish to very young learners can seem like a challenge at first. Where do you start? How do you engage your child or student? Luckily, there are plenty of activities, games, and songs that we can use to help our little ones achieve Spanish fluency. By starting with a simple theme like greetings, you can introduce new words and pronunciations while you play and have fun! With our quick guide to Teaching Greetings to Preschoolers, you will be teaching and speaking Spanish with your little one in no time. ¡Aprendamos a saludar!
(For a more detailed lesson on Spanish greetings, check this out.)
Greetings are an essential part of language learning. They are necessary for participating in a community and interacting politely with one another. For many of us, greetings were some of our very first words in our native language. Likewise, they are the first thing we learn in a foreign language. Here is a list of the most common and useful Spanish greetings for preschoolers.
It’s great to have a list of new words and phrases, but what to do with them? That’s where the activities come in! By using vocabulary lists in a meaningful and fun way, your child will be much more motivated to learn and retain new information.
Flashcards make an excellent visual tool for teaching new vocabulary. They help your young learner associate the pictures with the words and to understand better the meaning. They can also imitate the movements or ideas present in the pictures. Our colorful Greetings for Preschoolers Flashcards include all of the greetings in this guide. In order to print them as flashcards, click Print and go to Settings. Under Pages Per Sheet, choose 4 and for Scale, choose “Default”. When you print, it will give you four flashcards to each printed sheet that you can cut out and use right away. (Print -> Settings -> Pages Per Sheet: 4 -> Scale: Default) What can you do with flashcards?
- Sequencing: After exploring the meaning of the new words and phrases, you and your child can lay out all the cards on a table or the floor in the sequence that they might occur. Which comes first? Good morning or good night? Hello or good-bye? Allow your child to create sequences on their own to ensure they understand
- GoFish with rods and magnets: This activity requires small magnets and a rod or stick, but it is well worth it! Put a magnet on each flashcard and lay it down on the floor. Make a fishing rod out of a stick and string, tying a magnet to the end of the string. Have your child search for the words and phrases you say while they try to fish them out. This is guaranteed tons of fun!
- Total Physical Response (TPR): Create a specific movement for each of the 12 flashcards and use this every single time you practice it with your child. They will begin to associate the movement with the sounds of the words and the meaning will become even more clear to them through practice and repetition. Read more about TPR and other strategies for teaching Spanish to your child.
Combine motor skills with memory and give your child our exclusive Greetings for Preschoolers Coloring Pages. Each page uses the same vocabulary found in the flashcards that you can use for practicing and studying! Repeat each word and phrase while your little one has fun coloring. You can also focus on a few words a week, have your child color the pages, and then hang them in a place they will see frequently.
Model imaginary play for your child by getting out your Spanish puppet or other toys. Set them up in a conversation and show how they interact using the new words and phrases. Here is an example conversation the puppets could have using the list of greetings:
Puppet 1: Hola, ¿cómo te llamas?
Puppet 2: Hola, me llamo Pedro.
Puppet 1: Mucho gusto, Pedro. Me llamo María.
Puppet 2: ¡Mucho gusto, Maria!
The conversation should start out simple and easy, then you can build in new phrases later. After you show your child how the puppets talk, get them involved! One puppet can talk to your child or you can hand over one of the puppets for your child to use.
Reading books in Spanish is an effective and exciting way to teach your child new words and to reinforce vocabulary that is being learned. Check out our list of Spanish books designed for preschool learners. For books specifically about greetings, try out one of these:
- Hello Night / Hola Noche by Amy Costales
- Buenas Noches, Luna by Margaret Wise Brown
- How Are You? / ¿Cómo estás? By Angela Dominguez
Singing is not only fun, but an extremely powerful tool to help your child memorize new words and phrases. There are plenty of fun and educational songs for kids to choose from in Spanish. While we’re focusing solely on greetings in the guide, you might enjoy these:
Greetings Are Great
We hope that with access to this great guide, you and your child will have lots of fun while practicing Spanish. If you are interested in learning with a native Spanish teacher for free, sign up for an online class with Homeschool Spanish Academy!Read More
“Yo hablo español!” are three precious words we want our child to say, and what’s more – to mean. Given the amount of language tools and resources for Spanish that never seem to end, the road to Spanish fluency can seem long and paved with obstacles. Fear not! One of the most powerful tools you have is also one of the most fun: reading! Learning a second language through reading offers a number of benefits, including an increase in cognition, memory, and listening skills. There are two types of children’s books to enjoy while sharing a love for Spanish: bilingual books and Spanish-only books.
Bilingual books create a bridge between the two languages (in this case, English and Spanish) and help you understand the story you’re reading. Spanish-only books will help you internalize the new language since it lacks the presence of English as an aid to understanding. Both types of books are essential in your quest to teach Spanish to your little one. If you are a true beginner of Spanish yourself, then pick up some (or all) of the bilingual books listed below to lead your child in learning along with you. If you feel confident about basic Spanish skills and pronunciation, then graduate to Spanish-only children’s books to read at home. Either way, you will be providing your child with the chance to discover new stories in a new language. ¡Vamos a leer!
Bilingual Books in English and Spanish
A great way to stimulate your child’s interest in Spanish is to read bilingual books to them. Cuddle up somewhere comfortable and peruse the book together. First, read the story (or a few pages, depending on your child’s capacity for attention) in English and talk about what’s happening. Then, read it again in Spanish in a playful way. This is a fool-proof way to get your child curious about the language. You can point out people or objects in the pictures when you say a vocabulary word, compare the words with those in English, and talk about the differences in sounds. The goal here is to make it fun and exciting so that each time you pick up the book, your child will be eager to hear it in Spanish. Here is our list of popular bilingual books that you and your child are sure to love!
English-Spanish Bilingual Books
For ages 3-6 years, this book of new words is big, bright, and easy to read. Each page has a central theme around which colorful pictures are displayed with labels in Spanish and English. Learn the names of colors, food, toys, farm animals, objects in the home, and many others. This is a fun way to explore Spanish vocabulary and to encourage your child to remember new words.
A perfect learning combination of art, culture, math skills, and Spanish vocabulary, this little book is a must-have! It is designed to engage babies and toddlers alike with its pretty pictures and big numbers. Follow baby Frida as you count all of the things in her world, such as clouds, leaves, toes, and dresses.
A book about mice mixing colors can only be great fun! The three mice in the story find three jars of paint in blue, red, and yellow. The story comes alive with lovely illustrations that will teach your child how to mix colors and what to call them in Spanish. This would be especially memorable if it was read along with a painting activity!
This is an endearing board book about the love of family and all the kisses that come with it. It has cute pictures to share with your child while teaching them some basic Spanish words like besos, gato, perro, and a few more. While it’s not a book for learning a ton of vocabulary at once, it captivates your little one’s attention gives you a reason to shower them with kisses while learning Spanish.
A charming story in the form of poetry, this book is about María and the llama who follows her to school. Based on the poem “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” the new poem carries the same rhythm in both English and Spanish. It takes place in Peru and embodies all the elements of Peruvian culture with illustrations of the village where Maria lives, the typical dress of the villagers, and more. It is sure to be a quick favorite!
By reading stories to your child entirely in Spanish, you can immerse them in the language momentarily. Take advantage of it by trying to use Spanish only during the time that you are actively engaged with the book. Early literacy skills are inspired at a young age by hearing oral language. The more often you can read these stories in Spanish to your little one, the more likely they are to imitate what you say or to associate new words with the pictures. Check out our blog on strategies for teaching your child Spanish to get a better understanding of why this is. Here is a list of some excellent Spanish-only books to be treasured and enjoyed!
A book of sounds is perfect for children ages 1 to 3. Learn what sounds the animals in the book make and practice Spanish onomatopoeia at the same time! This is a Spanish rhyming board book with cute illustrations and a farm animal charm to it. It’s easy for reading, repeating new words and sounds, and enjoying the practice of Spanish.
This book is an excellent tool to teach basic emotions in Spanish and to discuss the colors that may be associated with them. The monster has accidentally mixed up all the colors and feelings so as you read to your child, you can help put them back where they belong. It’s a fun and educative book.
A diverse little group of animals is curious to know what the moon tastes like. Working as a group, they pile on top of each other to reach as high as possible. The book shows what can happen when friends share dreams and cooperate with one another. Along with the important life lesson it offers, it’s a great book to learn animal vocabulary!
This is a unique and enjoyable book that never ends! Read through the board book, learning characteristics of a strange animal. When you think you’ve finished, you are directed to flip it over and read it from back to front! It’s definitely a fun way to teach descriptive words and phrases in Spanish.
The author of this children’s book was a primary school teacher who knew what inspired and engaged students the most. This is a large, beautifully-illustrated alphabet book that uses a different animal for each letter. As it is one long, rhythmic poem, it is a fun way to teach children new words while enjoying the pleasant rhymes.
Richness of Reading
By exploring and sharing these books that are rich in language, your child is sure to develop important skills each time you sit down to read. Overall, the best thing a parent can do is to encourage reading habits early with their little one – especially when learning a second language! If you would like to practice your Spanish with a native speaker before you begin reading books to your child, try our free online Spanish lesson. Or, consider signing up your child for Spanish classes online to boost their fluency, as it’s a guarantee they’ll be speaking Spanish after the first class. With this list of books to choose from, we are positive that you will enjoy your Spanish-learning journey with your child!Read More