Whether you have children learning how to read in English or Spanish, I have a power tool for you today! It is a form of shared writing called…a predictable chart. I know, the name itself doesn’t sound all that exciting, but rather boring and well, “predictable.” Hehe That is why we changed the name to Super Sentences (or Super Oraciónes en español).
However, to an early reader, predictable equals successful. Part of the reading process includes learning to recognize patterns in words and speech. When that pattern is predictable, or easy to recognize, the child can read confidently and independently. Just like the text of our Color Poems and Texture Book.
Using Shared Writing to Teach Spanish
When I was teaching Kindergarten, I discovered the book Predictable Charts by Dorothy Hall. I loved her four blocks literacy model, and used it in all of my Kindergarten classes. When we began homeschooling though, I completely forgot about using shared writing as we had found an amazing reading and spelling program in English we were loving.
Fast forward to Fall 2016 when I decided to switch our homeschool (Preschool and Kindergarten) classes to all Spanish. My children understood some Spanish vocabulary, but had a hard time making it into sentences. I knew this was my window of time to boost their Spanish, and needed a way to gently guide them in forming sentences. These Super Sentences are a result of the shared reading and writing process I used to get my children speaking Spanish!
We have been using predictable charts to teach color words, and all of my children (from the three year old to the nine year old) beg to read the chart and book that goes along with it. Having students on the autistic spectrum, they thrive on repetition and predictability. Our Super Sentences were the perfect thing. By the time we finished our week-long cycle everyone had the hang of it, so we kept the pattern the same for each color.
We used the pattern “Esta(Este) ________ es ________.” (Esta manzana es roja.)
If I could start over again, I would’ve used these patterns:
- In English, “The ______ is _______.” (The apple is red.)
- In Spanish, “El (La) ______ es _______.” (La manzana es roja.)
This year, we are using Super Sentences to supplement our Alfa Animales Spanish alphabet curriculum.
Our Spanish sentence pattern will be ” ______ es para _______.” (A es para araña.)
You could always make an English alphabet book using the pattern ” ______ is for _______.” (A is for apple.)
This simple little activity has engaged my children in a way I never imagined, in just 5-10 minutes a day. It looks like a lot of steps when I stopped to write everything out, but it is really not complicated. Here is our process:
- Introduce the color. We learn our Spanish color poem and English color song, and brainstorm animals, food, etc. that is the focus color.
- Start dictation. It is tempting just to rush through this and write everyone’s ideas down, but here is where the meat of the writing instruction is. You are modeling the writing process, from coming up with an idea to writing it down on paper. No pressure. hehe
Below is a sample dialogue, with the teacher’s words in italics, students words in bold. I usually go first, thinking out loud like this.
What do I want to write about and draw that is red? Strawberries are red. My friend has red hair. Oh, I know! We have a red wagon outside that is so fun to play with. I want to say ‘The wagon is red.’
What is the first word of my sentence? ‘The wagon is red.'” The!
Let’s write the. t-h-e Oh no! The is the first word of my sentence. What is wrong with it? It needs to be uppercase. That’s right. We ALWAYS start a sentence with an uppercase letter. I erase t and write T.
Let’s say the super sentence again. ‘The wagon is red.’ What comes next? Wagon!
Since wagon is a new word we have to put a space between them. Here comes the space man! (We have a clothespin that looks like an astronaut, and make a blasting off sound every time we use him.)
What’s the first sound in wagon? /w/ Very good! Let’s write that. W says /w/. Write a w.
Let’s clap wagon. Students clap the syllables and say wa-gon.
Great! Let’s write the first part. We have /w/, now let’s write /a/. Write an a. Read it with me. wa
What comes next? gon Let’s stretch it out. How many sounds do you hear? g-o-n Three!
Awesome! Let’s write them. Write gon. Let’s read our super sentence. Point to each word as the children read The wagon…IS!
Very good, ‘is’ comes next. Here comes a space man! (Blasting off sound)…
You get the idea. Go ahead and continue like this until the sentence is finished. We always make a big deal out of the period, because it signals when the sentence stops. We make a sound like a car screeching to a halt. Of course, the children can’t wait to get to the end. hehe
After the sentence, you are going to write the person who dictated the sentence in parenthesis. So the finished would look like this.
The wagon is red. (Jana)
As you can see, this is a process, but the children learn SO much! If you have a large class, try and do half of them on the first day. If you are doing this activity at home with just one child, do two sentences (one you make up, and one they make up.)
- Continue with dictation. Follow the process outlined yesterday to have the rest of the students dictate their sentences. If you are doing this activity at home, included other siblings in the process. If you are short on siblings, invite stuffed animals to participate!
Wednesday & Thursday
- Read with a pointer. Now that everyone has a sentence on the chart, you can read it altogether! Go down the chart and let each child come up and read their sentences, pointing to each word as they read it. To make it even more fun we made a special pointer, which is just a dowel with a star eraser at the end. Use could use a lightsaber, a ruler, the hand of a doll or action figure, anything fun to to point with. 🙂 The important part is that children are learning to track print, or touch each spoken word as they read it. When I include my preschoolers, I sometimes touch above the word while they point to help them as they are learning.
- Ask questions. Now that they have text they are familiar with, you can focus in on various aspects in more depth. For example,
- count the words in a sentence
- count the letters in a sentence
- find the longest and shortest word in a sentence
- in Spanish, find the word with the most or fewest syllables in a sentence
- in English, look for certain sight words
- Find and count capital letters
- Talk about punctuation
- Prep the book. Before you begin, you want to make a sentence strip for each child. I have a horizontal word document with a simple font set at 40 pt., that I type it in every week. It is important that the words stand out, so I like to print off these sentences on colored paper. Then I cut them into strips and have a piece of white paper ready for each student to begin the lesson. Note: If you are going to bind them into a book with our favorite binding machine, it is easier to punch the holes first.
- Make a book. Go down the chart one last time, having the children come up and point to their sentence. If this is the first time, you will want to model this with your own sentence before excusing children to do their own sentence.
- Get out your scissors, and cut your sentence into words. An easy way to do this is just cut every time you see a space man!
- Put your paper like a door (vertical), then build your sentence like a puzzle at the bottom of your paper. (I save their color sentences to go in their color binder, so I want them to be vertical. For super sentences we make into class books, I like them to be vertical as well. The benefit of horizontal is they have a little extra space to build their sentence, but I personally prefer vertical.)
- Raise your hand to be checked!! I can’t tell you how important this is. Really drill this part of the process in, or else you will be ripping off words left and right. hehe
- AFTER, you have checked their sentence, they can glue the words down.
- Now they get to illustrate their sentence.
Now…what to do with all those super sentences? Never fear! I’ve got you covered. hehe
I gathered their finished pages, and bound them together to make a book for our class library. These are among the first books my children reach for because they can “read” every page!
P.S. Have you heard? Our new Spanish alphabet curriculum is ready! Take your Spanish Super Sentences to the next level by teaching your children their letter sounds. Check out Alfa Animales NOW!