International Festival of Attention – Grabbers – Puerto Rico

Hi and welcome back to Attention-ology for K – 5 Teachers!

Let’s play “Spin the Globe” again and meet a Spanish teacher who is game for using multimedia tools and tricks to catch and keep students’ attention.

Luis Cortes likes to surprise students.

Look at that face! Luis Cortes (shown in my blog pic here) has a smile that shines and eyes that sparkle, as if to say, “Come on, it’s time to play and learn!” You just know when you talk with Luis that his students love him.

According to this Puerto Rican native, the interactive experiences Luis shares with the kids he teaches are his main draw…along with his effective blend of fun and seriously functional approaches to his subject. Luis travels from classroom to classroom serving up Spanish language instruction to children in grades K – 5.

“I don’t follow set traditions,” explains Luis. “Depending on what I’m teaching I’ll choose to use a video, a song, maybe a game to change-up the introductions to my lessons,” he says. “I don’t follow a set routine.”

Luis is certain that children love to be tricked. He uses playtime tools like Simon Says, a quick game that translates across cultures worldwide, to help students learn Spanish. “For example,” explains Luis, “if I’m teaching young children about sizes in Spanish, I’ll use the words grande, (Spanish for big) and pequeño, (Spanish for small). I tell the students to stand up at the word grande and be big, then to sit down at the word pequeño and be small. “We go faster and faster as we play,” continues Luis, “repeating the words to reinforce Spanish language comprehension.”

“It’s important to note,” Luis details his teaching strategies, “that my students and I play a game first. Then I ask them why we’re playing. That’s when I spell out what I want and expect the kids to learn.” Luis uses variations of games he learned when he was a child in Ponce, his hometown in Puerto Rico.

Some of Luis’ lessons are music to students’ ears. Maracas make a rhythmic accompaniment to El coquí, a popular Spanish children’s song

Maracas help teach the rhythm of a language.

that Luis teaches when his students are learning about the rain forest. NOTE: Luis plans his Spanish lessons to coordinate with each grade level curriculum at any given time of the year.

The song is about a tiny melodious tree frog found only in Puerto Rico. To find the song, Google Puerto Rican children’s songs. Like Luis, I’ve taught this song to my young students, which is to say that other than Spanish teachers can use this entertaining and educational trick.

Luis uses Prometheus boards to show Spanish videos.

Imagine what Luis can do with a Prometheus Board, an interactive screen with computer, like you see in my blog pic here. Luis projects age-appropriate videos for his K – 5 classes, including some that he can access on YouTube, to help kids develop fluency in Spanish.
He finds pictures of popular cartoons and makes up slide shows that tell stories about them in Spanish. “Students relate to familiar characters,” Luis explains, “and the more I can get them to speak in Spanish, the more I can help them with their competency.”
Luis models conversations in Spanish and students follow suit. When kids repeat Luis’ creative character conversations – he calls them “acts” because he knows from experience that theatrical tricks are effective attention-grabbersLuis records the children. They speak into a microphone – an attention-ology trick itself – and listen back. Luis reports that kids’ confidence levels skyrocket when they hear themselves speaking Spanish at playback time.
Luis’ own skills as a teacher have skyrocketed because of the demands of teaching multiple grade levels. “When I’m working with fifth graders,” he differentiates, “I try to be more like a middle school teacher. My fifth graders start saying that they can read Spanish – cool!”
Learning a language isn’t all fun and games, asserts Luis. Sometimes he gets a bit frustrated. If he scales back on entertainment, kids lose a little focus. “When I was learning English in Puerto Rico,” Luis recalls, “it was serious business.”
His best teacher? Ms. Santiago, his Spanish teacher in sixth grade. Luis remembers not just the what but also the way she taught the class. “Ms. Santiago was very calm and organized; she had many resources and she was supportive in a personalized way.” Building strong relationships is key, Luis believes. He models that belief in his work with students and teachers.
Remember, you don’t need to be a magician to work magic in instructional settings!
Talk with you next week,
Barbara ♥ The Lovable Poet
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