Below are some ideas for a carnival lesson that won’t necessitate the use of English. Keep in mind that the goals of my lesson ideas are to use the concept of carnival as a means to learn the Spanish language. Some of you might want to focus more on sophisticated cultural concepts, in which case you will need to use English. Both of these are valid learning goals, you just need to know what your objectives are when you plan your lesson. If you do decide to emphasize the culture and speak in English, I wouldn’t recommend a class solely in English. Remember, your students are in elementary school, so you can’t hold their attention if you talk at them for 40 minutes. My recommendation would be to save some time to do an activity in Spanish too.
If you choose to conduct your lesson exclusively in Spanish, then, as usual, avoid introducing any concepts that are too abstract. Instead, use visuals to introduce concrete ideas. For example, use maps to show places where Carnaval is important; it’s good for students to hear the names of these countries and cities in Spanish. You can check their comprehension by asking “¿Cómo se dice ‘Venezuela’ en inglés?”, but don’t say it for them. Some students may know about Mardi Gras in New Orleans and may be able to use it as a reference.
Show pictures that illustrate key ideas around Carnaval: la fiesta, el baile, la música, el desfile, el disfraz, el antifaz (remember to include the article!) This part should be brief – a maximum of 5 minutes, or you’ll lose them. This is also a rare instance in which it could be useful to show a YouTube video. It should be no longer than 1 or 2 minutes, just to give the kids a feel of what Carnaval is. Be sure to preview the video to make sure it is appropriate, and coordinate with the teacher to make sure you have the technology you need.
Perhaps you want to make this lesson centered around an art project in which students make their own antifaces. Click here for some ideas. Here are some useful vocabulary words: La purpurina (glitter), la cola (white glue) / el pegamento (glue), las plumas, el cartón (card board), la cartulina (poster board – you can used recycled file folders for this), las tijeras, el palito. This is also a great lesson to incorporate verbos & commands: cortar (corta, no cortes, corten, no corten [or “cortad and no cortéis”]); pegar; pintar; colorear; adivinar. Most classrooms will have crayons, markers, and stick glue. If you need fancier supplies, you’ll have to bring them in. Let me know if you need help.
Once they’re done (and this will take longer than you think!), you can play “un juego de adivinanzas.” For example, ¿Quién tiene un antifaz rojo y azul con un poco de amarillo? This will take some modeling until your students catch on to what you’re trying to accomplish. Let me encourage you to keep trying to get your message across without reverting to English to explain the rules. (If you don’t know the kids’ names, definitely learn at least a few so you can actually model this. Or, have them wear nametags.)
I’d love to hear your ideas for this lesson. Let us know what you have planned, or what you tried and what worked as well as what didn’t!