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Teaching Spanish: Body Parts

The most memorable way to learn a language is through immediate, active application of knowledge gained from lectures, tests or demonstrations. The Venezuelan folk song, "With One Peseta," provides the tune for the song in this lesson. Students will use the lyrics and motions of the song to learn various body parts. The lyrics can also be used when conjugating verbs, learning pronouns and possessives, and expanding Spanish vocabulary. The game, "Simon Dice," provides a second opportunity for students to use and expand their acquired vocabulary. Student learning is assessed by labeling a body part chart correctly.

Preparation

Sing or play the Venezuelan children’s folk song “With One Peseta.” Renowned music teacher Charity Bailey used the song often in her classroom. It is available through Smithsonian Folkways (Reference 1).

Provide students with a handout of the following vocabulary words and their translations, and the lyrics to the song, “Es Mi Cabeza.” Sing the song and perform the motions several times.

La/mi cabeza: the/my head
Puedo: I can; first person singular conjugation of poder: to be able
Pensar: to think
Con: with
Tiene: I have; first person singular conjugation of tener: to have
El pelo: hair
Los ojos: eyes
Las orejas: ears
Conecta/n: third person singular/plural conjugation of conectar: to connect
Siempre: always
La espalda: back
Los brazos: arms
Las manos: hands
Las piernas: legs
Los dados: fingers/toes
Camino: I walk; first person singular conjugation of caminar: to walk
Alla: over there

Lyrics:
Es mi cabeza, es mi cabeza {point to head}.
Con mi cabeza, puedo pensar {tap head, rest chin on other hand}.
La cabeza tiene mi pelo {point to hair, then pause for one breath} mis ojos {point to eyes} y mis orejas {point to ears}.
Pero siempre, es mi cabeza {point to head}.

Es mi espalda, es mi espalda {point to back}.
Con mi espalda, puedo traer {pretend to carry something, with shoulders back}.
Mi espalda conecta a mis brazos {point to arms}.
Mis brazos conectan a mis manos {point to hands}.
Pero siempre, es mi espalda {point to back}.

Tengo piernas, tengo piernas {point to legs}.
Con mis piernas camino alla {pretend to walk across the room}.
Mis piernas conecta a mis dados (point to toes}.
Pero siempre, tengo mis piernas {point to legs}.

Lyrics by Jane M. Smith, 2009

Simon Dice

Dice, pronounced “dee say,” means says. To play Simon Dice, students must also know the word toque (toh kay) which is the imperative conjugation of the word “touch.” Choose a student to be Simon. The student must say “Simon dice, toque,” and the body part fellow students are supposed to touch. When he does, students are to touch that body part. If the student says “toque,” without adding “Simon dice,” anyone who touches a body part sits down, correct or not. The last student standing becomes the new Simon. Play at the beginning or end of class, or any time students need to move around to refresh their attention.

Cross-cultural and Cross-disciplinary Extensions

Read the Dan Axtell article about renowned music teacher, Charity Bailey. Have students write their own songs in Spanish about body parts, using tunes from one of Charity Bailey’s albums or the song book, “Sing A Song with Charity Bailey-20 easy piano arrangements; chords for guitar and autoharp;” copyright 1955 Plymouth Music Co., NY co-written with Eunice Holsaert, and the list of body parts from your classroom textbook. There are also lists of body parts at Musical Spanish.com (Reference 3). Use verbs from your textbook or the lists in the Resources section of this article, as needed.

Assess Learning: Label It

Form groups of three, four or five students. Give each group a human or animal body outline. Have students use their textbook, diagrams in the classroom or diagrams found online to label each body part on their diagram. Use this assessment as a pretest or review tool for returning or advanced students of Spanish.

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