El desfile de los alebrijes: A Story in Spanish for Beginners (Video & Text)

3 alebrijes

     Many of our students have gotten to know the fantastically colorful and imaginative alebrijes of Mexican folk art through the film Coco. This video-story allows students to build upon that background knowledge and acquire new language while watching compelling film coverage from the Desfile de los alebrijes, an annual parade sponsored by the Museo de Arte Popular in which hundreds of alebrijes come to life throughout the streets of Mexico City.

     I play this video first with no volume and lead students in identifying what they see. After watching and discusisng the video, students design their own alebrijes by drawing and writing a detailed description. Finally, students share their unique alebrijes with their classmates in lively, small group discussions.

     You can click “CC” in the lower right corner of the video to turn on accurate Spanish subtitles. Also, here is a full transcript of the story if you would like to use it for reading activities: El desfile de los alebrijes Full Text Transcript (PDF)

     Enjoy the video! Any comments are welcome and appreciated. I’d love to know if you share this video with your students!

La Monumental Rosca de Reyes de Zacatecas: Story and Activities (preterite versus imperfect) (culture: holiday celebrations)

rosca title page imageMain Street is closed for the whole city to enjoy 2 kilometers of cakes! Yes, this really happened! I came upon this scene January 7th of last year in Zacatecas, Mexico, and have been wanting to share this fun celebration the day after Día de Reyes with my students ever since. The result: this read-along video story (narrated by a native speaker from Zacatecas) and accompanying handout for story-based activities. I hope you will find it useful to incorporate into a unit on holidays, for targeted practice for preterite versus imperfect, and/or as a reading comprehension activity.

The following activity sheet features 5 components:

  • Vocabulario – quick prep for understanding key words in the story

  • Comprehensión de lectura

  • Conversación y escritura– retelling the narration to solidify comprehension and practice narration in the past tense

  • Gramática – Preterite versus imperfect cloze activity

  • Conexiones y culturas – internet search for other celebrations and written description of other ways Día de Reyes is celebrated

Download the PDF here! Rosca story activity sheets (2 pages)

Here´s the video…

And here´s a PDF with just the text of the story: La Monumental Rosca de Reyes de Zacatecas Printable Story

Also, teachers, if you would like to download this story as a Powerpoint or a PDF for a printable book for your classroom, I have uploaded a bundle on Teachers Pay Teachers! Click here!

Any feedback is welcome in the comments!

Song activity: “Sembrando flores” de Los cojolites (imperfecto del subjuntivo) (cultura y música: el son jarocho)

HB_CO_Ilustracion_SF_02 In this activity, students practice using the imperfect subjunctive in indirect speech, including a writing prompt to add verses to the song.

Also, conversation prompts based on the video and music are a great jump start for cultural discussion of the son jarocho.

For more information about the son jarocho, NPR´s All Things Considered has a great 8 minute episode on the topic. Also, www.sonjarocho.com provides detailed readings in both English and Spanish about this musical genre from Veracruz, Mexico.handout image sembrando flores

Access the PDF activity sheet and answer key with the links below:

Sembrando flores. Hoja de Actividades (activity sheet)

Sembrando flores. Clave de respuestas (answer key)

¡Qué disfruten el video y el son!

“Calaverita” by La Santa Cecilia: Día de muertos themed song activity

calaverita-activity-imageThis song activity is great for a Día de muertos unit! Also, for my more advanced students in a Spanish Conversation and Composition course, I used this activity together with the story “El otro círculo” by Luis R. Santos (as featured in our textbook, Revista). We compared our analyses of both the story and the song to discuss different cultural perspectives about death presented through literature, art, music, etc.

Click here for  the free PDF activity sheet

Enjoy the video below!

As always, I would love to hear about it in the comments if you use this activity in your classroom!

Here are some links to my other Día de muertos themed activities:

Actividad con infografías: Los comparativos – Día de los muertos versus Halloween
Cortometraje: “Día de los muertos” con actividad de escritura para practicar el pretérito vs. imperfecto

Modales en la mesa a nivel internacional: Actividad cultural para practicar los mandatos informales

Modales EspañaLos mandatos informales, informal “tú” commands, can be a bit challenging at first because you must remember to conjugate the verb differently depending on whether the command is affirmative (Yes! Do it! ¡Sí! ¡Hazlo!) or negative (No! Don´t do it! ¡No! ¡No lo hagas!) This cultural presentation will take you on a journey of table manners around the world while practicing affirmative versus negative tú commands.


  • Practice conjugating affirmative and negative tú commands
  • Practice vocabulary about food & the table
  • Make cultural connections about table manners

First, conjugate the verbs in this handout: Modales curiosos: Mandatos Informales Handout

Next, check your answers and discuss the cultural customs in more detail in this Powerpoint presentation: Modales Internacionales Powerpoint

Share your reflections and what you´ve learned in the questions at the bottom of the handout. Do you think any of these tips for international table manners will come in handy someday?

Modales México

The images in the presentation were adapted for educational purposes from an infographic & article by Huffingtion Post España.

Also, thank you to the Teaching & Learning Spanish Blog Facebook Page for sharing the Huffington Post article.

If you would like to share these materials, please do so by providing a link to this blog post. Thank you!

Update: A typo in the handout has been corrected (10-8-2018)!

Spanish for Teachers: Encourage Communication with Parents

Span for teachersAfter years as a volunteer interpreter in parent-teacher conferences, I would like to share my personal top tips and phrases to effectively encourage communication between teachers and parents who speak another language, specifically Spanish. I have made this into a video (see below) so that teachers with limited or no Spanish proficiency can hear the pronunciation of the phrases.

Tips for working with an interpreter

  • Briefly consult with interpreter before meeting with parentsEstablish how you can work together to communicate most effectively.
  • If working with an interpreter, look at the parent you are speaking to (not at the interpreter).
    • Create rapport with the parent. Communication is not only through words. Your eye contact, body language, and intonation can go a long way in communicating with the parent. 
  • Pause frequently. Speak in sentences, not paragraphs. You must give the interpreter time to interpret! It can be hard to remember to pause once the conversation gets going, so you may want to ask the interpreter beforehand if she would like to use a subtle cue to remind you to pause. For example, the interpreter could lightly tap her finger on the table to signal a pause is needed.
  • Avoid jargon. Express the big idea, not terms and unnecessary details. 
    • Educational systems and jargon vary across cultures. This does not mean to dull down what you are trying to say, but rather to express the meaningful information without using esoteric jargon. Not only is jargon difficult to interpret, but it also may not be meaningful to the parents due to cultural and institutional differences in education systems. If you wish to list skills students need to work on, try showing examples.
  • Use visuals, such as samples of student work and visual representations of performance, such as graphs. Interacting with samples of student work can show areas of student success and areas that need progress, even without the help of an interpreter. Also, you may represent grades and performance on standardized tests with graphs or icons.

How to Invite Questions and Dialogue

  • Make clear that questions and comments are welcome. For many speakers of other languages (All cultures are diverse. This is a general concept, but each person has their own perspective.), it may be culturally inappropriate to ask teachers questions. Teachers are seen as authority figures and experts, so asking a question may be seen as a criticism or question of their expertise.

     Phrases to invite questions in Spanish

  • ¿Usted tiene alguna pregunta? Do you have any questions?
    • ¿Ustedes tienen alguna pregunta? Do you (all) have any questions? (speaking to more than one person)
    • ¿alguna pregunta? any questions?
  • Si usted tiene alguna pregunta, por favor no dude en contactarme.  If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.
    • Say this to further invite questions, or provide it in writing along with your contact information.

Ask questions that promote dialogue

In my experience, when teachers ask appropriate (not too personal) questions about the child´s experience in school, parents can really open up and meaningful conversation takes place. Therefore, I have found this to be the most effective strategy for promoting dialogue.

  • ¿A Juan (child´s name) le gusta la escuela?  Does Juan (child´s name) like school?
  • ¿Qué dice Juan (child´s name) de sus clases? What does Juan (child´s name) say about his classes?
  • ¿Juan (child´s name) lee en casa? Does Juan (child´s name) read at home?
    • When asked this question, numerous parents have shared that although they wish to read with their child at home, they cannot because they do not speak English. Therefore, this question can be a great opportunity to dispel the misconception that one must abandon the first language in order to succeed in the target language. Research dispels this notion, rather demonstrating that reading in the first language is beneficial to learning and success in reading in the target language. You may also take this time to direct parents to where they can find children´s books in their first language. Here are some links to websites with children´s books in Spanish: Zona 33 Preescolar and Garabato. Please share other recommended resources in the comments of this post.
  • ¿Juan (child´s name) necesita ayuda con algo?  Does Juan (child´s name) need help with anything?
    • This question has often prompted a discussion of issues outside of the classroom that teachers should be aware of, including bullying on the bus, death in the family, deportation of family members, and other experiences that are impacting the student´s life and school experience.

Thank you for reading these tips based on my personal experience as a teacher and interpreter.

What has been your experience with this topic? Please leave any questions or your own advice in the comments, as well as any useful resources.

Thank you for sharing.

Here is a video based on this post. You may use it to hear and practice the pronunciation of the Spanish questions and phrases suggested above.

Maravillas naturales de España

maravillas_naturales de España

Perhaps use these breathtaking natural landmarks as part of a travel unit? Have students mark them on the map and/or use authentic online travel resources to create a travel plan (plane, train, rental car, bus, hotel, restaurant reservations according to an itinerary calendar, other stops on the route). Just some ideas!

Share in the comments if these images inspired any teaching ideas for you!

Actividad con infografías: Los comparativos – Día de los muertos versus Halloween

Revise los siguientes infografías.

Escriba 6-8 frases comparativas que comparan y contrastan las dos tradiciones del Día de los muertos y Halloween (Día de las brujas).

Review the following infographics.
Write 6-8 comparative sentences that compare and contrast two traditions of Día de los muertos and Halloween.
comparativos infographic
día de muertos Halloween pinterest

Día de los muertos vs. Halloween estadísticasClick here for fun examples (memes) of comparisons!

La Semana Santa en Guatemala: Un cuento para practicar el pretérito y el imperfecto

semana santa guatemala cover image

In keeping with my TPRS challenge for the semester, here is the short story I made for ch. 8 of the textbook Unidos. (Click here for ch. 7’s story!) This (very) short story is for practicing preterit vs. imperfect as well as vocabulary based on Semana Santa in Guatemala.

Here are links to the materials I made based on the story:

semana santa guatemala hoja

Hoja de actividades: “La Semana Santa” (PDF)

Clave de respuestas: “La Semana Santa” (PDF)

Powerpoint: “La Semana Santa en Guatemala

Here’s a video of me reading the story. I make these to give my students (and a small number of youtube subscribers!) the option to read along with me at home.

Also, it is important to note that this story does not provide in-depth details of Semana Santa en Guatemala. My students already watched videos about it, so this story and activity sheet serve to reinforce and practice key concepts. Here are some other video resources about Semana Santa in Guatemala.