Elizabeth writes:
Hello Bryce,

I am so glad to be part of this community. 

I have a question for you and hopefully you have some ideas. In my school we are being asked as a department to support other departments like Science, Math and English. So I am wondering how, as language teachers, we can do this. What type of practice can we do? What can this look like?

Dear Elizabeth,

I have been asked to support other disciplines before as well. Different districts have different requirements as far as rigor and detail, but the following activities and materials are what have worked for me—and have fulfilled the requirements administrators were looking for. These ideas will get you started. Descriptions are in English here, in case you pass this along to non-Spanish speaking colleagues. In class, all of the instructions and activities would be in the target language.


Use math whenever possible. For example:

• Folding paper (exponents). When students are folding a piece of paper to make BINGO cards or to divide it up to draw and write a story or summary, I demonstrate and ask questions along the way.

OK, class, fold your paper like I do. If we fold it, or double it, one time, How many rectangles are there? 2. That’s right, 2. So I turn and write 2∧1 (I can’t write exponents on this program) on the board. OK, now fold your paper again. Don’t unfold it yet. How many rectangles are there? 4. That’s right. Easy, no? I write 2∧2 on the board. OK, fold it again. How many rectangles are there? Some will yell out 6, but the answer is 8. 2∧3 = 2 x 2 x 2 = 8. Now fold it again. How many rectangles will there be? 16 = 2∧4 = 2 x 2 x 2 x 2.

This is a short lesson, but it is interesting how many students, even in high school, do not understand exponents. The simple manipulable of a piece of paper being folded for a purpose helps them to get it.

• Counting Game (Multiplication tables). This game helps to reinforce multiplication and times tables. Seems simple, but even high school students and adults may be challenged by it. It also teaches cooperation. I call it ARROZ Y FRIJOLES, RICE & BEANS (A common dish in the Caribbean)

Teach “small c” culture (inclusiveness, social awareness and even personal space) along with useful content: Numbers 1-35.

2 circles of about 10 students each (3 circles in larger classes). Students face inward, looking at one another.

Count aloud to 35 in the target language.

Substitute these words for numbers. The substitutions change with each round:

  1. Arroz (Rice) multiplos de cinco (multiples of 5)  This is round 1.
  2. Frijoles (Beans) multiplos de siete (multiples of 7)  This is round 2.
  3. Frijoles Extras (Extra Beans) multiplos de siete (multiples of 7) y números con siete (numbers with 7).  Just say frijoles” for these extra numbers with 7 too: 17 & 27.  This is round 3.
  1. Arroz y Frijoles (Rice & Beans) Combinar las tres clases de números (all of the 3 types above – very tricky)  End with arroz y frijoles”, because 35 is a multiple of both 5 and 7)  This is round 4, the final round.

First circle to 35 wins.

Here’s the twist: Students that make an error move to another circle. That original circle has to start over at 1, in other words, there are consequences if a member of a circle makes a mistake. The consequence is to that circle. The student that makes the mistake goes to a new circle. The new circle accepts the error-maker and continues on counting—they do not have to start over. That way, a circle of superstars cannot just get rid of slower students. To win, the members of a circle need to help the ones that are not as quick with math or language.

The set up encourages students to help one another, but don’t spell it out right away. If you have classes that are slow socially or overly competitive, spell it out to them: “The team that helps each other the most will win.” This idea of cooperation helps with the learning environment in the classroom.

• Is the Expense of Prom Worth It? This activity will grab students’ attention in the springtime. There are usually strong opinions on all sides of the issue.

• Numbers Activities. These activities are not exactly math, just to learn the numbers in Spanish, but they may be helpful.

• Pi Day. Pi Day (March 14) has to do with geometry. I’ve attached an explanation of Pi Day. It was a huge hit in my Latin classes this spring. There are lots of Pi Day activities on line if your geometry teachers are not aware or do not celebrate it.


I use “Study Buddy” maps to pair up students randomly for short verbal pair work. It also teaches geography painlessly. I change the maps every two weeks.

Here is the map for South America. Here’s one for Central American, Mexico and the Caribbean. Here’s one for Spain.

There are also maps for the Francophone world on my website here (at the bottom of the page).


My book Conexiones: Making Connections with the Spanish-Speaking World has many short non-fiction articles in vocabulary-controlled Spanish. These are cross curricular and will fulfill the requirements of your school district. My students have found these interesting and this book has been a best seller for us. Here is a sample. There is also a Teacher’s Guide for this book that is not yet completed, but that I would give to your district for free if you were to order copies of this book.

LEGENDS (Can be contrasted with stories from other cultures to support Language Arts, Literature or History class)

My book La Leyenda de La Llorona teaches this authentic legend with embedded (scaffolded) reading. There is also a Teacher’s Resource for this book which explains how to teach the 7 ascending versions of the story over 2 weeks with engaging activities.

This list will get you started. I will be interested to see what else you come up with.

Keep in touch,