Eileen M. Zeitz

Professor of Spanish, U. of Minnesota Duluth


Project  Topics  Objectives  Lesson Plans  Materials 
(Last Updated: Oct 17, 2007)

Introduction (Summer 2007)

This past year the lessons designed for K-2, with revisions, were again taught in Rockridge/Lester Park School (ISD 709), twice a week for 20 minutes per lesson, this time by Joyce Duran. Students in higher grades who so opted were taught after school, once a week, for 40 minutes per lesson; third graders formed one group, and fourth and fifth graders, who had had no previous Spanish, formed another group.

As was the case in January 2006, I assessed selected students in grades 1-2 after only 2-3 months of lessons. In both cases, students clearly showed good listening comprehension skills. With the exception of counting by tens, students also showed good recall of vocabulary.

This summer I have designed lessons for fifth grade. This marks the final stage of this project. I have accumulated materials and visuals to support the lessons in all the grades. Additional lessons will be needed to supplement this base if Spanish is to be taught within the school day as a regularly-scheduled course.

I wish to thank the many people across the country who have written and asked permission to use this curriculum. Requests have come from Chicago, Dallas, Little Rock, Austin, Washington D.C., as well as smaller towns in Iowa, Ohio, Tennessee, Washington, Virginia, California, New York and Guam. I hope that the promise has lived up to its expectations.

Introduction (Summer 2006)

This past year the lessons designed in Summer 2005 for K-2 were taught in Rockridge/Lester Park School (ISD 709), twice a week for 20 minutes per lesson. The teacher hired to teach was Jane Rupel, who brought the lessons alive. I am indebted to her and also to the teachers who allowed us to teach Spanish in their classrooms, jumping in, learning along with their students, and reinforcing Spanish the remainder of the week. (1) (2)

Some observations about the 2005-06 teaching project. After having tested the lessons, the recommendation is that the kindergarten lessons be redesigned to be made a bit simpler, and to include a bit more recycling of material. Not all of the lessons for Grade 2 were taught, due to time constraints. We assessed a random sample of students in K-2, and while the numbers are too small to be statistically significant, we found that indeed student learning was ocurring. As might be expected, the older students showed greater comprehension and ability to speak. Students did particularly well with colors, and almost as well with numbers. They did less well with being able to say their name, which is something that should be stressed in future offerings. All students showed a marked ability to comprehend Spanish spoken by their teacher; this coming year I will likely do the assessment myself to see if they show similar results with a different "teacher."

This coming year (2006-07), K-2 will again be taught during the school day. Grade 3 will be taught after school, once a week, for 45 minutes a time. Students from grades 4-5 will also be offered Spanish after school, once a week, for 45 minutes a time. Since none of these students (4th and 5th graders) will have had Spanish, they will all be offered the lessons being designed for Grade Four. (Next summer we will prepare a set of lessons for 5th graders themselves.) Due to the longer time slots, the lessons written for Grades 3 and 4 are longer than in the past. Please remember that they have not been tested to see if they are too long or too short for the alloted time frame.

I wish to thank Julie Petersen, a student in our program, who wrote a set of lessons for Grades 3 and 4 under a UROP project sponsored by the University of Minnesota Duluth. Her lessons served as a starting point for the Grade 3 lessons posted here. I also thank Ellen Aschim and Maria Reynolds, two other students, for their draft of a unit on Planets for Grade 3. In addition, I thank former students Kate Hust and Peter Greenwood for allowing me to use their photos from Peru, Venezuela, and elsewhere in the Spanish-speaking world.

Many of the supporting materials that I have gathered to deliver these new lessons, but which are not on the web, are photos from the Spanish-speaking world. For example, in the Topic on Houses (Grade 4), the stairs in my photo display tilework, typical of construction in many parts of Spain and Hispanic America. That information would be part of the teacher chatter. In addition, this explains why many or most of the lessons call for bringing a globe to class, to show where the item or person is from.

I hope that these lessons prove useful to others. I do ask that you continue to seek permission before using our program. (3)


Note (1): The teachers from Rockridge/Lester Park School included: Susan Mikel, Jeanne McKenzie, Mary Davidson, Sue Baker, Sherrry Williams, Cheryl Abramson, Mary Aldrich, Kathy Peterson, and Billie Anderson. I would also like to thank the now-retired principal, Tom Threinen, for his support of this project; Jen Pearson, the parent who pushed for the inclusion of Spanish; and Cherie Pettersen and and Rex Hein, of the Duluth School District, who supported the writing of this project and the details of hiring.

Note (2): Teachers asked that the vocabulary from K-2 be recorded and posted, so that they and parents (and children) could access the recordings and practice outside of the twice-a-week lessons. Here is that list and recording.

Note (3): See also, for others' programs: http://www.anacleta.com/curriculumdocuments.html .

Introduction (August 2005)

This summer I am joined by Colleen Coffey-Schorr, of Denfeld High School, Duluth Public Schools (ISD 709). Colleen has developed the kindergarten lessons. I have revisited the first grade lessons and revised them--either slightly or in their totality--taking into account new materials at hand and changes in the standard curriculum. Colleen has aded two topics to the set I designed for Grade 2. Everything for these three grade levels is now posted (August 19, 2005), except for the Standards and Benchmarks for the three grades, which should be up by September.

This work is being done in preparation for a local school (Rockridge/Lester Park) adding Spanish to its curriculum during the day, as an enhancement. The format will be the same as originally conceived: 20 minute lessons twice a week; 12 weeks (24 lessons) in the Fall, 12 weeks (another 24 lessons) in the Spring. Given that many of the newer lessons have not been pre-taught, they may take more or less time than the plan in these pages. We have incorporated technology to some extent, although the limited time available makes this often impractical. The Countries unit has been revamped, to be taught in Spanish and to be more age-appropriate.

Where appropriate, I have left the names of the original students who helped develop lessons, in recognition of their work. Currently another student, Julie Petersen, is working on additional lessons for Grades 3 and 4. These are being posted as time permits, in draft form only. Note that she wrote generic lessons not dependent upon specific materials.

Finally, many internet sites devoted to the teaching of Spanish at the elementary level now exist that did not when this project first started. There also are many sources of materials, from books to lesson plans. I encourage anyone thinking of adding Spanish as an enhancement--or better yet, as an integral part of the curriculum--to search the web.

As in 2000, I acknowledge support for continuing this project, from the following: Rex Hein, Cherie Pettersen, and Tom Threinen, ISD 709. I also thank Bruce Reeves, of UMD, for his support in the use of technology.

Introduction (July 2000)

This project began when parents at local elementary schools in Duluth, Minnesota, began requesting that college-level students from the University of Minnesota - Duluth teach primarily fifth- and sixth-grade students some foreign language, in before- or after-school settings. As then chair of the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures, and as the primary faculty member in charge of the teaching degree, I --Professor Zeitz-- helped to coordinate the placement of such students. Soon teachers were asking if we could provide instruction during the day.

In the summer of 1999 I sketched out the topics for K-2, as well as the linguistic, cultural, and integrated curriculum goals for each grade level. Then, during the academic year 1999-2000, three students --Alicia Coveau, Heather Dray, and Becky Bradley-- applied for (and received) Undergraduate Research Opportunity Project grants from the University of Minnesota - Duluth to fully develop lesson plans for as many topics as time permitted, for kindergarden, first grade and second grade, respectively. They also taught many of their lessons to students at Chester Park, as schedules permitted, and we all purchased materials to complement these units. A fourth student--Natalie Werner--began to develop lesson plans for third grade while also teaching first grade at Rockridge.


Before describing this Elementary Spanish Curriculum Project which has developed, let me explain what it is NOT. First, it is NOT a FLES or Immersion Program in Spanish. For those, the schools must commit resources and a restructured school day and school program, with trained, licensed staff. In no way does this project, through its existence, imply that we think it superior to a FLES or Immersion Program.

Second, it is NOT designed to have as its primary objective fluency in the target language on the part of the elementary students. The limited amount of time available for this project in the schools simply is insufficient for such a goal.

The objectives, then, of this project ARE as follows. We want to give children an opportunity to understand and use elements of the Spanish language. We expect students to be able to express themselves verbally, and at times in writing, in a limited fashion on a variety of topics, in Spanish. We also want to familiarize students with the diversity of Spanish speakers and to make our students more receptive to and interested in other cultures and peoples. We also intend to reinforce the topics that students learn in their other subjects during the school year.

This Elementary Spanish Curriculum Project, then, has designed a series of lessons --for K-3-- around specific topics, some of which are repeated and expanded upon in successive grade levels. Within each topic, we have delineated those linguistic features (specific syntactic structures, expressions and vocabulary) and cultural components relevant to the Spanish-speaking world that we wish to cover at the given grade level. Further, we have incorporated where possible topics covered in other subjects in the Duluth Public Schools. For example, first-grade students are taught in our curriculum to count; higher-grade students expand the use of numbers to include addition, subtraction, etc. Second grade covers dinosaurs in Science, so our lessons on animals at that level include dinosaurs and their food and habitat.

The lessons employ a variety of modalities (aural comprehension and speech production in all grade levels, and limited writing and reading beginning in 1st grade), techniques which meet the needs of varied learning styles (kinesthetics, songs and art, games, etc.) and current methodologies (i.e., the Natural Approach and Total Physical Response) which call first for extensive comprehensible input on the part of the teacher, and then for student responses, which range from movement, pointing, name production, and yes/no as indications of comprehension, to--later on--actual actions and full sentence answers which show comprehension and the ability to communicate in the target language. Lessons are designed to be delivered in 15 or 20 minute sessions. (We have arranged with the local schools for twice-weekly visits by our students.) We have planned for each topic roughly 4-7 lessons, but there is continual reinforcement through recycling of material in later topics, and further lessons could be developed for any unit.

Finally, let us offer some general observations. First, with respect to language. Except for the specific cultural units, the plans call for almost no English. Rather, teachers use gestures and whatever else is needed to convey meaning in the target language. We believe this is essential, to maximize the children's exposure to the target language. Although the college students involved in this project may have been disbelievers at the start, they have come to acknowledge that these lessons will work with only minimal English.

Second, with respect to the national and state standards in foreign language. Through their design, these lessons begin to serve those standards, although clearly they can only be fully met through more extensive study and programming.

Third, when we began this project, we did not know about the elementary Spanish curriculum posted on the web <<http://homestead.com/misterspanishteacher>> [NOTE: This site no longer is available. August, 2005]. That is another valuable project, which approaches the teaching of Spanish from yet another organizational structure. We believe that our model is equally viable, and we hope to introduce more formal evaluation of the lessons in the next two years. We also assert that our model is reproducible in other schools. Proof of that can be seen in the positive experience in two all-day kindergarden classes at Rockridge Elementary School during 1999-2000, where another college student (Carrie Sandstrom) used the same topics and linguistic goals as our Spanish students to teach those children German. In future years we hope to also develop lessons for fourth and fifth grades.

Last of all, at the time of writing this we have begun the process of typing the project for posting on the web. When they are ready, they will be available under Professor Zeitz's web page: http://www.d.umn.edu/~ezeitz/, or through the various sites named in the boxes at the start and end of this document.


We need to acknowledge the contributions of various individuals in the development of this Elementary Spanish Curriculum Project to the point where it currently is. In order to assure ourselves that these lessons were adequate for the age group for which they were intended, we asked the following teachers in the Duluth Public Schools to read through the plans: Sue Anderson, Deann Barta, Susan Mikel, and Pat Quinones. The following teachers were gracious in allowing UMD's college students to teach these and previous lessons, and in offering their expertise and feedback: Aimee Anderson, Susan Anderson, Deann Barta, Rosemary Davern, Michele Dunleavy, Billie Hunter, Jeanne Jauss, Ann Lips, Joann Margo, Gail Marsman, Susan Mikel, Heidi Mlynarczyk, Pat Quinones, Julia Sampson, Deborah Sauer, Nancy Smith, and Barbie Westerberg. Karen Keenan, Chester Park Lab School Coordinator, and Principals Deb Rickard, Shari Rud, and Tom Threinen granted us permission to initiate and continue this project. Finally, the following UMD students also taught the elementary students at one time or another: Carissa Cayer, Michelle Fonseca, Marie Hutton, Laurie Kovacovic, Nicole Nelson, Kari Scheid. To Kari we owe a special debt of gratitude: she initiated the lessons, at the fifth- and sixth-grade levels, and her professionalism and skill created the good will needed to effect this project.

We gratefully acknowledge also the University of Minnesota - Duluth, for its support through the UROP grants.

Finally, I --Eileen Zeitz-- commend and thank the students involved in the writing and testing of these lessons: Heather Dray, Becky Bradley, and Alicia Coveau. Without their contributions and efforts, this project would never have succeeded.

Authors: Eileen M. Zeitz, Professor of Spanish, U. of Minnesota - Duluth

Date: July 17, 2000

Project  Topics  Objectives  Lesson Plans  Materials