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Alebrijes for Class Culture

Published by SraSpanglish on

My colleagues told me the vocabulary was too low-frequency, that I should not waste my time on regional words they had never even seen, like chapulín. But I had five goals that have only a little to do with learning particular vocabulary words:

  • Reinforce essential verbs soy and me gusta
  • Practice processing a text with unfamiliar vocabulary (as they’ll inevitably see on the STAMP)
  • Get to know my kids a little better
  • Create something pretty with Spanish on it for my hallway bulletin board
  • Provide an artistic outlet for…all of us, really

You see, my amiga Karla posted this awesome personality quiz to Facebook, and I instantly saw the potential for hooking my new set of kids (for once).

When she followed up with some handy Coco clips as we brainstormed together, it was a done deal.

However, my colleagues were not wrong about the low-frequency vocabulary, so I set out to do some very careful scaffolding.


Sr. Sexton had a really cool beaded jaguar alebrije that he got in Mexico. He let me borrow it and packed it in a special case he had laying around at the PD. Read: instant mystery. So I showed the videos Karla sent to give students hints as to what was in the box. And then I walked around and let them touch it.

NOTE: mystery boxes need to find their way into my lesson plans more often.

We brainstormed in English, mostly because I was just really desperate for some buy-in, about what the jaguar had in common with what they saw in the Coco videos. We kept going until I got “colorful,” “patterned,” and “animals” out of them.


I picked out 16 words that I thought might not be immediately obvious, most of which should be either cognates or something similar to words they have seen. The rest, they should be able to use process of elimination or clues from, you know, the original text–which I printed and set up on dollar store photo stands for each table.

I also made a little worksheet for the vocabulary with four columns:

  1. The vocabulary alphabetized
  2. A guess column
  3. A check column
  4. And a word bank of the words in English (actually in order of their appearance on the infograph)

This was actually a big break-through for engagement for my bigger classes. It gave me verifiable chunks that I could time to make sure students were staying on track (it was shortly after observing this lesson that my AP went out and found me a stamp so I could even put a mark on their papers to give them some quick, visual feedback too).

Here’s how the chunks went:

  1. 5 minutes to fill SOMETHING in from the word bank for every slot in the “Guess” column–individually.
  2. 3 minutes to compare with the people in their group (optimal stamping time).
  3. Approximately 10 minutes for me to pick someone to give their response for each word (attempting to pick someone who I had seen got it right or could guess had).

Personality quiz

In retrospect, I would have printed the vocabulary separate from the writing/coloring pages so students could make informed decisions about who they should be. So they just kind of had to pick one of the six doodles I made from the infograph (the ones I could figure out how to make colorable) for each table (or take one with room for them to draw their own).

What I SHOULD have done once they had the vocabulary reference is had them use some scraps of paper, maybe just fold a scrap paper (of which I have a ton since I have been trimming lots of lyric activities to fit their composition books) into 9 pieces and give themselves points as I went through each description (double points if it is REALLY true), then had them pick based on those points.


I think it was my beloved district coordinator, Mara Cobe, who told me that we’re just reinforcing the novice foundation until students are reading for intermediate. And by golly, my kids are GOING to know how to use soy and me gusta before they leave Spanish I!! So going back to basics, I made a little prompt on the side of each drawing and had students fill it in using words from the infograph.

I think really taking time with the personality quiz will help these be more effective, because kids seemed to feel they were restricted to the vocab on the back, completely ignoring perfectly useful cognates. Also, it was pretty essential to break down the time for EVERY part INDIVIDUALLY. Even though it look super simple to me, they tended to skip stuff. So I made an animated Google Slide to walk them through EXACTLY what I was looking for.


I have found that promising coloring time if we can finish the Spanishy stuff in a set time period is effective in all but one of my 6 classes. I have long since chilled about 90% TL usage, so having up to 10 or even 15 minutes for coloring and/or doodling regardless of lingusitic interaction is a solid investment in my classes.

Plus, I get a little insight into how my kiddos operate. And a beautiful display that makes me happy walking into my classroom:


Laura Sexton is a passion-driven, project-based language educator in Gastonia, North Carolina. She loves sharing Ideas for integrating Project-Based Learning in the world language classroom, including example projects, lessons, assessment tips, driving questions, and reflection.