House & Family Vocab

It’s a new year, and so far things are going great! We’re currently in our second week back from Christmas Break, but it sort of feels like we’ve been back forever. On the other hand, we have missed 4 days out of the last 8 due to snow, freezing rain, and extreme cold, so it also felt like we had an extra long break.

In the few days we have been in session, Spanish 1 has started a family/house unit, and it’s going very well so far!

The first day back I got the kids excited to be alive by introducing the basic family vocab in (what I considered) a very exciting manner. I borrowed  Megan from Creative Language Class’s idea to tell a story and use students as props. As a rule, every time I teach a lesson I tell myself afterwards “Oh, I should have done — differently” or “Next year, I’ll change —“, and this one was no exception. But overall, I was very pleased with the results. Before I teach this lesson again, I want to beef up my collection of props and maybe flesh out the story a little more. (Here’s the story I used. Feel free to use it as is or adapt it to your classroom!)

The kids got a huge kick out of me saying how lonely and sad the original boy was, but that was nothing compared to their amusement when their classmates got married, had children, and when one of them even became the family dog. It’s different from how I’ve introduced vocab in the past, but I would definitely say it worked.

A few things I learned teaching this lesson:
1) If I write the family words on the board as I come across each new one, the kids are more likely to write it down (and therefore remember it).
2) You really can’t oversell this stuff. I did have the paper with me as I read, but the times when I went off-script and added more description were the times when I had the most engagement. The more “How cute!”s and “How sad!”s and “Look how pretty she is!”s that I did, the more into it they were. I suppose I could write all that into the story, but I don’t know how authentic it would feel if I looked at the notes and then came out with one of those exclamations.
3) Writing the story in paragraph form is fine, but I’m thinking it would have been much easier to keep track of my place (and therefore improve the flow of the story) if it were more of an outline.

After the story, I gave the kids a blank family tree and we filled it out together. I drew mine on the white board as we went along, but I made sure to keep all the people and numbers in the same places. I need to add a place for the dog though! After that, I used the bottom as a jumping-off point to discuss (and review) the relationships between different people.

The next day (that we actually had school), I again stole an idea from the Creative Language Class and more or less followed Megan’s lesson from beginning to end. Again, they were engaged and they got a kick out of trying to remember all the names from some of these families. And I was impressed by how much they actually remembered from the previous lesson, especially since there was a little break between the two.

In this unit, I’m also targeting the house. They were doing pretty well with family vocab, so I was ready to introduce some house words. I found a picture of a two-story house online and stuck it into a Google Slides presentation. I wrote a story to go along with it, and as I came to each part of the house, I wrote the word on the picture (using my wonderful SMARTBoard). Next time I teach this lesson, I want to increase the interest of the story. Instead of just having someone describe his house to us, I think I’m going to write a story about someone looking for their homework and visiting all the various parts of the house. And, oh, I just had a good idea! I could even throw some family in there and have the person ask mom, dad, sister, etc. where the homework is! (On a side note, random ideas like that are why I blog!)

After that, I had an activity. I found it via Pinterest in French and translated the options at the descriptions at the bottom to Spanish and had the kids give it a try. There were a few more words here – luz, entrada – but they all did very, very well. I was pleased. After we went over that, I had them flip the papers over and draw and label their own houses for practice. When they had basically finished that, I put the picture of the house back up and played the flyswatter game (I say the room in Spanish, they race to touch it first) combined with Around the World.

Yesterday, I used an idea that I stole from Sharon Birch called Toca (I only have this one as a Word document, sorry). The kids pair up and I give each pair a paper. I say a word, and the first to touch it gets a point. After a few rounds, I start mixing things up, sometimes going back and forth between bedroom & window four or five times, or saying grandpa six times in a row. After 10-20 words have been called, I tell the kids to A) change partners and B) change papers and we play again. They stayed pretty engaged for several rounds, and I got the chance to hit hard some of the words I thought they were struggling with (window, for example, which is actually from the school unit. kitchen & dining room were also troublesome for a few students).

After Toca, I had the kids get out iPads and head to They were to draw and label a house (or use the drawing that they had made previously), but now they had to add furniture, and use the “muebles” section of the website to label what they put in their house. I’m sure I stole this idea from somewhere as well, but I can’t remember where (I’m thinking Creative Language Class again, but I may be wrong). They didn’t finish that part yesterday, so we continued today. After they had some work time, we listed the furniture they had put in each room. Since I didn’t have a pre-planned list of what I wanted them to know, going by rooms was an easy way for me to make sure we didn’t miss anything major like bed or sofa. Overall, I was very pleased with the activity. Some of the kids got pretty detailed, and I had one girl get frustrated that she couldn’t find toilet or sink on the website. And I’m hoping that, since they pretty much discovered these words on their own, they’ll remember them.

So we’ve done a lot of new vocab in the last few days. I’m starting to worry that I’m throwing too much at them at once vocab-wise. Maybe I’ll change it next year, but for now it seems to be working. I guess we’ll see as we move further into this unit.

So there you have it! A few activities that worked for me for family & house. What have you found that works well for you when introducing this vocab to novices?


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