Lesson Plans: Grades K-2

La Familia


The Lesson


La Fmilia: Homemade dolls

"The Family." 

Credit: Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

Even very young students know, and may occasionally use, words that are Spanish in origin—rodeo, tortilla, lasso, and macho, to name a few. And many are able to count from 1 to 10 in Spanish, due in large part to early exposure to the language provided by children's television programming. This sense of familiarity with Spanish, combined with the excellent language acquisition skills possessed by students in this age group, will help make this unit on Spanish culture an exciting but comfortable experience for your class. Students will learn about families in various Spanish cultures and gain a preliminary knowledge of the Spanish language, learning the Spanish names for various family members.

Guiding Questions

  • Where is Spain? Where else is Spanish spoken? Where is Latin America? Where are Central and South America? Where is the Caribbean?
  • How are families in various Spanish-speaking countries alike and different?
  • What Spanish words can we learn that look and sound almost the same as English words?

Learning Objectives

  • Identify at least one country where the Spanish language is spoken.
  • Describe similarities and differences between Spanish, Mexican, and Puerto Rican families.
  • Speak the Spanish words for several family members.

Preparation Instructions

  • Review each activity in the lesson. Select any materials from the web you'd like to use in class, and bookmark them. Download and print out these materials, if desired, and duplicate copies as necessary for student viewing.
  • These activities are designed to be developmentally appropriate to the social studies curricula for grades K2, which recommends that young children learn first about home, school and community—that is, their most immediate environment. However, you are the best judge of your students' skill level. You may decide that only one or two of the lessons fit in with your class curriculum. For this reason, each lesson has been written as a stand-alone activity.
  • Display a world map in the classroom for use in Activity 1. You can locate and print out world maps for distribution to students using the Map Machine available on the EDSITEment-reviewed website National Geographic Society Xpeditions.
  • As preparation for Activity 2, review the EDSITEment resource A Collector's Vision of Puerto Rico for background information on the traditions and customs of Puerto Rico. Specifically, the History section details Spanish colonial history, and The Great Puerto Rican Family discusses Puerto Rican cultural identity.
  • In Activity 3, remember to be sensitive to non-traditional family units. It is recommended as you begin the lesson that you ask the students to brainstorm different family relationships. Whenever possible, try to stick with the primary relations (mother, father, sister, brother), and avoid using terms outside the students' perspective, such as father-in-law, niece, grandchild, etc.
  • Activity 3 is best used by a teacher who has successfully completed two years of high school conversational Spanish or one year of college-level conversational Spanish. Familiarize yourself with the following vocabulary list, which includes Spanish words for most principal family members and their English translations. The pronunciations provided are intended to be used as a guide only. The Spanish language employs some phonetic sounds not used in English. If you are unfamiliar with the language, it is recommended that you consult a Spanish/English dictionary or review the pronunciation resources available at Spanish Pronunciation Tutorial on Learn Spanish: A Free Online Grammar Tutorial, a link from the EDSITEment resource Internet Public Library 2. Use cognates—words similar in form and meaning, italicized below—as a tool to help students recall new vocabulary.

    Family: La familia [fah-MEEL-yah]
    Parents: Los padres [PAH-drays]
    Mother: La madre [MAH-dray]
    Mom/Mommy: La mamá[mah-MAH]
    Father: El padre [PAH-dray]
    Dad/Daddy: El papá [pah-PAH]
    Sister: La hermana [err-MAHN-ah]
    Brother: El hermano [err-MAHN-oh]
    Grandparents: Los abuelos [ah-BWAY-lohs]
    Grandmother: La abuela [ah-BWAY-lah]
    Grandfather: El abuelo [ah-BWAY-loh]
    Aunt:La tía [TEE-ah]
    Uncle: El tío [TEE-oh]
    Cousin: El primo or la prima [PREE-mo or PREE-mah]
    Stepmother: La madrastra [mah-DRAH-strah]
    Stepfather: El padrastro [pah-DRAH-stroh]
    Stepsister: La hermanastra [err-mahn-AH-strah]
    Stepbrother: El hermanastro [err-mahn-AH-stroh]
  • You may wish to invite a person(s) with a Spanish-speaking background to your classroom to share their heritage with students and/or to assist with presenting Activity 3. Other teachers or students' parents or family members may be able to serve as a resource for this activity.

Lesson Activities

Activity 1. Where Do People Speak Spanish?

Display a large world map prominently in class. Begin this activity by asking students to name their town or city, their state, and their country. As students answer these questions, point out to students where these areas are located on the world map.

Ask students what language they speak. Have they heard of any other languages? Do they know people who speak other languages? Explain to students that in the U.S., people speak many different languages because they come to this country from other places around the world. You can point out that, while the most commonly-spoken language of the U.S. is English, it's fun to learn other languages so that we can communicate with the people who speak these languages when they come to the U.S. or when we visit other countries.

Now challenge students to name other countries they have heard of. Each time a new country is named, show students where that country is located on the world map. Ask students if they know what language is spoken in each country—if they are unsure, tell them.

Let students know that they will be learning about the Spanish language and the people who speak it. While Spanish is the official language of some 21 nations, young students will be unfamiliar with many of these. You can point out Spanish-speaking countries such as Spain, Mexico and Puerto Rico. You can explain Puerto Rico's status as a U.S. Commonwealth, and point out that Mexico shares the continent of North America with the U.S. and Canada. You can then indicate the Spanish-speaking countries in Central and South America and the Caribbean. Students may be surprised to find that large populations of Spanish-speaking people live so close to the U.S.—and that many are, in fact, U.S. citizens. You can point out that, in the countries of Central and South America, Spanish is the majority language of every nation except Belize and Brazil (please see Extending the Lesson for more activities relating to Central and South American countries). Teachers of second graders might introduce the vocabulary "Latino" and "Hispanic," used to designate people from Spanish-speaking cultural backgrounds, and "Chicano/a," used to designate Mexican-American people and culture.

Note: If some students speak a second language, encourage them to tell the class what language they speak and where their family originated. Perhaps they will even be willing to speak some simple phrases in class.

Activity 2. Spanish Families

In this activity, students will compare and contrast different aspects of the daily lives of families living in Spain, Mexico, and Puerto Rico. Let students know that Mexico and Puerto Rico have been chosen because of their close relationships—part of and bordering — the U.S., but that they can bring in other countries as well, especially if anyone has a background from Latin America or the Caribbean. The Web sites listed below, all links from EDSITEment-reviewed resources, provide student-friendly information on Spanish cultures. Using the suggested Web sites, discuss each topic listed below, beginning with Spain, then Mexico, and Puerto Rico. Challenge students to identify similarities and differences among the three nations.

Daily Life

Let students know they will compare a typical day in the lives of Spanish, Mexican, and Puerto Rican families. Read to students from the following Web sites, sharing any images, visuals, or video you come across with the class:

As you read the narratives and view the pictures and videos, help students pick out details that give some clues to what life is like in each of these three nations. Keep a list of students' answers (you may wish to develop a chart with separate columns for life in Spain, Mexico, and Puerto Rico). In Spain, how does Paz get to and from school? What does she study? With whom does she live? What does she do in her spare time? If you chose to use any of the chapters of Mi vida loca in class, ask students some general questions. What did he or she learn to do in Spain with Jorge and Merche? What are some essential words you learned in Spanish from the episodes? After listing some of the information students find about Spain, move on to Mexico. What is interesting about Mexico? Where did this video take you? Does life in Mexico look similar to life in the U.S

What about Puerto Rico? This is an excellent opportunity to introduce students to the unique relationship between the U.S. and Puerto Rico. Explain that Puerto Rico is not a state, but rather a Commonwealth of the U.S. This means that people who live in Puerto Rico are citizens of the U.S.—they use American money, must obey American laws, and can travel, live, and work (but not vote in federal elections) in the U.S. mainland without a passport or "green card." In many ways, life in Puerto Rico is similar to life in the U.S. Ask students to use their own daily experiences to answer questions about Puerto Rico—Where is Puerto Rico? What does the city of San Juan look like? How is life in Puerto Rico different from, or similar to, the city you live in? What is another name for the island of Puerto Rico? What do they do in their spare time? Add students' answers to the list.


Read aloud or have students read from the following resources on typical meals in Spain, Mexico, and Puerto Rico:

Ask students to name some of the details they heard about meals in each nation. For example, when are meals eaten? What foods are typically consumed during each meal? With whom do people in each nation share their meals? Add this information to the chart.


What games, sports, and recreational activities are popular in Spain, Mexico, and Puerto Rico? Use the following websites to help answer this question:

What sports do families in Spain, Mexico, and Puerto Rico like to play and/or watch? What other types of activities are popular? Add students' comments to the list.

(If time allows, create your own Mexican "animalitos" in class. Use the instructions at Try This! @ National Geographic.com.)


Tell students that they will now learn about some of the holidays celebrated in Spain, Mexico, and Puerto Rico. Read from the following Web sites, sharing any photos you come across with the class:

Now discuss what you've read, adding to the student list as you go along. What are some of the holidays recognized in each nation? Why do people celebrate these holidays?

When you think of holiday celebrations in the U.S., what comes to mind? Special foods? Parades? Fireworks? A day off from school? Now think about the Spanish, Mexican, and Puerto Rican celebrations you just heard about. What do their celebrations consist of? Do they have things in common with one another? Do they have things in common with celebrations in the U.S.?

Review the entire list of student comments. Ask students:

  • How are the lives of families in Spain, Mexico, and Puerto Rico similar to one another?
  • How are they different?
  • Do students notice some things about life in Spain, Mexico, and Puerto Rico that are like life in the U.S.?
  • What is different about life in Spain, Mexico, and Puerto Rico as compared to students' own lives?
  • Have any students visited one or more of these nations? If so, what other observations can they contribute about life there?
  • Which nation would students most like to visit? Why?

Culminate this lesson with an art project. Have students create a collage that illustrates the daily life, mealtimes, recreation, and/or holidays of one of the nations studied in this lesson. Students can cut out pictures from magazines or print out images from EDSITEment reviewed Web sites (for example, images of traditional foods and Hispanic art are available on the EDSITEment resources Latin American Network Information Center (LANIC) and Casa de Joanna: Language Learning Resources). Additional resources for use in the classroom to help students create their own creative work can be found in the EDSITEment-reviewed resources Juego y aprendo con mi libro de preescolar, segundo grado y tercer grado textbooks. Students can "trade" their finished collages with one another to guess which country is being depicted. What clues helped them uncover the correct country?

Activity 3. Let's Speak Spanish!

Let students know that they will now learn the Spanish words for names of family members, including mother, father, brother, sister, and so on. Begin the lesson by brainstorming in class the different family relationships of which students are aware. You may want to limit your list to the names of family members with whom students live. Write the English words on the blackboard with their Spanish translations next to them. (An extensive list is provided here, but you do not have to use all terms. Whenever possible, focus on cognates—words similar in form and meaning, italicized below—as a tool to help students recall new vocabulary.) Pronounce each Spanish word several times, allowing the class to repeat each time. A pronunciation key is provided in Preparation Instructions. Make sure that you point out to students the fact that articles in Spanish change depending on gender and number.

Family: la familia
Parents: los padres
Mother: la madre
Mom/Mommy: la mamá
Father: el padre
Dad/Daddy: el papá
Sister: la hermana
Brother: el hermano
Grandparents: los abuelos
Grandmother: la abuela
Grandfather: el abuelo
Aunt: la tía
Uncle: el tío
Cousin: el primo or la prima
Stepmother: la madrastra
Stepfather: el padrastro
Stepsister: la hermanastra
Stepbrother: el hermanastro

Once students have been introduced to the new words and their pronunciations, play a multi-modal learning game that will allow them to link the auditory input with a visual cue. Supply students with an array of magazines. Have students work in pairs to find and cut out pictures of people who seem to represent a specific family role. Make sure to include pictures of different types of family members and people from diverse ethnic backgrounds. Paste the pictures onto individual pieces of construction paper or cardboard, flash-card style. If students can write, they may print the appropriate family member name on the back of each card in both Spanish and English, using the words on the blackboard as a guide. (If students are not writing yet, the teacher can print the words on the cards for them.) Students who can read can pair off and practice with the flash cards on their own; the teacher could assist students who cannot read.

As an alternate or additional activity, create a family tree on the classroom bulletin board. Use pictures from magazines, as in the flash-card activity. Create the trunk and branches of your tree with a marker or construction paper. Then paste the pictures in their proper positions on the tree. Include the Spanish and English words for each family member represented beneath the appropriate picture. (If space permits, create two family trees—one in Spanish and one in English.) Use the family tree as a learning tool for recalling new vocabulary. Students can also create their own family trees, using drawings or actual photos of their own family members, mounted on poster board.

Extending The Lesson

  • Delve into the history of Spanish exploration. Explain that after Christopher Columbus, sailing for Spain, "discovered" America on behalf of Europe, other explorers from many different European nations came to explore and settle the New World. Spain was well represented among the early explorers, including the likes of Coronado, Cortes, Pizarro, and Ponce de Leon. These explorers and, later, settlers, brought their language, foods, customs, and way of life from Spain to the United States, Mexico, and the countries in the Caribbean Sea, Central America, and South America. Use your world map to point out these areas. Let students know that the Hispanic culture is a strong presence in North and South America to this day. The following EDSITEment-reviewed websites provide additional information on this topic:
    • The Conquistadors offers extensive information about the Spanish explorers who came to different parts of Latin America.
    • The City/La Ciudad focuses on the experiences of Latin American immigrants living in the U.S.
  • Repeat Activity 2 using countries in the Caribbean Sea, Central America, and South America for comparison. For a list of these countries and related resources, visit Countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, on the EDSITEment-reviewed website Latin American Network Information Center (LANIC). Further information may be obtained at IPL Culture Quest World Tour: South and Central America, available on the EDSITEment resource Internet Public Library 2.
  • Repeat the flash-card activity in Activity 3 using pictures and names of objects students might find in their own homes. The following vocabulary list includes Spanish words for several common household items and their English translations. The pronunciations provided are intended to be used as a guide only. The Spanish language employs some phonetic sounds not used in English. If you are unfamiliar with the language, it is recommended that you consult a Spanish/English dictionary or review the pronunciation resources available at Spanish Pronunciation Tutorial on Learn Spanish: A Free Online Grammar Tutorial, a link from the EDSITEment resource Internet Public Library 2. Use cognates—words similar in form and meaning, italicized below—as a tool to help students recall new vocabulary.

    house: En la casa [KAH-sah]
    window: La ventana [ven-TAH-nah]
    door: La puerta [PWARE-tah]

    En la sala (In the living room)
    sofa/couch: El sofá [so-FAH]
    television: La televisión [tay-lay-vee-see-ON]

    En la cocina (In the kitchen)
    kitchen sink: El fregadero [frey-gah-DARE-oh]
    oven: El horno [OR-noh]

    En el comedor (In the dining room)
    table: La mesa [MAY-sah]
    chair: La silla [SEE-yah]

    En el dormitorio (In the bedroom)
    bed: La cama [KAH-mah]
    dresser: La cómoda [KOH-moh-dah]

    En el baño (In the bathroom)
    bathtub: La bañera [bahn-YARE-ah]
    bathroom sink: El lavabo [lah-VAH-boh]
  • For more advanced classes, teach students some simple phrases to form sentences. (Note: A student-friendly worksheet is provided for this activity; Download the PDF. Here are a few to get you started:

    Mi nombre es ______. (My name is ______.)

    You can also use illustrated signs to use in the classroom with basic phrases for students to communicate in Spanish in the classroom. You can find them at Passwords Perfectos: An Illustrated Collection of Passwords for the Spanish Classroom, from the EDSITEment-reviewed site Mis Cositas. (Note: This is the formal way of introducing oneself in Spanish. Another, more colloquial expression commonly used for stating one's name is "Yo me llamo ______," which literally means "I call myself ______." You may choose to teach students either expression, but the formal version has been presented here for its simplicity and similarity to English sentence structure.)

    Tengo ______ años. (I am ______ years old.)
    one: unosix: seis
    two: dosseven: siete
    three: treseight: ocho
    four: cuatronine: nueve
    five: cincoten: diez

    Play a fill-in-the-blanks game using the incomplete phrases below. Challenge students to come up with as many different possible endings to each sentence. Use a Spanish/English dictionary to translate their English suggestions into Spanish words. Keep in mind that some Spanish articles are gender-specific — masculine (e.g., "the boy" is "el niño") and feminine (e.g., "the girl" is "la niña"). Note: It is recommended that only teachers with a good working knowledge of the Spanish language pursue this activity.

    Aquí está ______. (Here is ______.)
    Tengo ______. (I have ______.)
    Puedo ______. (I can ______.)
    Aprecio ______. (I like ______.)

  • American writer Munro Leaf created quite a scandal in 1936 when he published The Story of Ferdinand. Widely held as the first "subversive" American picture book, this story was published at a time of major upheaval in Europe, and many misinterpreted the story as, at best, a pro-pacifist manifesto, and at worst, a promoter of one of the popular "isms" of the time, specifically, fascism and communism. It was banned in war-torn Spain, burned in Nazi Germany, and labeled both fascist and communist in the U.S. This infamous reputation may surprise you when you read the story, still a favorite with children. Students will learn about a classic Spanish activity—bull fighting—and pick up a few more Spanish words (matador, banderilleros) in this simple tale of a gentle bull named Ferdinand. (Note to the teacher: To learn more about reactions to The Story of Ferdinand and for the complete text, consult The 20th Century Children's Book Treasury, Janet Schulman, Ed. [New York: Knopf, 1998].)
  • Several books for students aged 4–8 are available in bilingual English/Spanish versions. If possible, obtain one or more of these books for reading aloud. If you are comfortable enough with speaking the language, read each story in Spanish as well as English, then discuss the stories with the class.
    • Cruz Martinez, Alejandro, David Schecter, Harriet Rohmer and Rosalma Zubizarreta. The Woman Who Outshone the Sun: The Legend of Lucía Zenteno/La mujer que brillaba aun más que el sol: La leyenda de Lucía Zenteno. Illustrated by Fernando Olivera. Children's Book Press, 1994.
    • Ehlert, Lois. Un Lazo a la Luna: Una Leyenda Peruana/Moon Rope: A Peruvian Folktale (abridged edition). Translated by Amy Prince. Harcourt Brace, 1992.
    • Hofer, Grace and Rachel Day. Oigan Niños, Listen Children: A Book of Nursery Rhymes, Poems, Songs and Riddles in Spanish and in English. Illustrated by Stephen Moncus. Eakin Press, 1993.
    • Lopez De Mariscal, Blanca, et. al. Los Pajaros de la Cosecha/The Harvest Birds. Children's Book Press, 2001.
  • Introduce students to additional everyday vocabulary and simple phrases in Spanish through the Sancocho Didáctico, from the EDSITEment-reviewed resource Mis Cositas, and find also lyrics to Songs for Spanish Teachers and Learners via a link from the EDSITEment-reviewed resource Mis Cositas.
  • If sufficient access to technology is available, allow students to visit the EDSITEment-reviewed websites Niños y Niñas, Tiempo Libre: MUNDO ANIMAL DE LA CASA and Niños y Niñas, Tiempo Libre: MUNDO ANIMAL DE LA GRANJA. This sites offer a list of domestic and farm animals and their habits, and they are both entirely written in Spanish. Students can be provided segments from the site to learn about a specific farm or domestic animal. The students can then describe to another classmate their chosen animal, depending on what they learned, and then ask their partners or classmates to guess what the animal is.
  • Conduct a Spanish cooking class. If you're really ambitious, you could make paella, one of Spain's most famous dishes. A recipe for paella is available via a link from the EDSITEment-reviewed website Internet Public Library 2. Looking for something a little easier? Try your hand at the gazpacho or Spanish rice recipes available at IPL Culture Quest World Tour: Recipes of Spain, available on the EDSITEment-reviewed Internet Public Library 2. Simpler still are Mexican foods, which are readily available in pre-packaged form at your grocery store—tacos, enchiladas, quesadillas and fajitas are a few of the options. And don't forget the tortilla chips and salsa. If possible, invite students' parents and/or other classes in your school to join your fiesta! (Hint: Pick up a piñata at a party goods store so students can participate in an authentic Hispanic activity!)
Selected EDSITEment Websites

The Basics

Time Required

6-10 class periods

Subject Areas
  • History and Social Studies > People > Hispanic
  • History and Social Studies > Place > The Americas
  • History and Social Studies > Place > The Caribbean
  • History and Social Studies > Themes > Culture
  • Foreign Language > Modern > Spanish
  • Cultural analysis
  • Discussion
  • Gathering, classifying and interpreting written, oral and visual information
  • Map Skills
  • Vocabulary


Activity Worksheets