How to Spanish flashcard with 5 year old?
July 30, 2019 1:00 PM   Subscribe

My exclusively English-speaking 5 year old daughter will be starting in a Spanish bilingual kindergarten in September. The school gave us a list of verbs that it would be helpful for her to know before school starts. I've made them into flashcards with pictures but am now unsure of how to proceed.

Daughter is pretty game about stuff like this, but we've also historically been low-key and hands off around school stuff so she has no previous experience with flashcards or memorization. She does not yet know how to read.

She generally has a great memory and she loves to color, so I've created flashcards with the verbs and then a big black and white picture to go with it. I figure we would do *something* with them and then once she knew the word she would get to color that flashcard in. It's the *something* where I feel stuck. Do I say the word and have her repeat it back to me? Is there something more thoughtful or interesting we can be doing with them?

Her teachers gave us a link where I can hear the words pronounced correctly. I can play it for her but it's pretty darn dry. It does give me confidence that I am not mispronouncing the words myself.

There are roughly 20 verbs for her to learn. Assume that I do in fact want her to learn the words before school starts even though I know she will likely master them overtime regardless. What should I be doing with the flashcards that will be helpful, playful, and not kill the joy of Spanish before school begins? Is there an approach besides the flashcards I should be considering?
posted by jeszac to Education (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I think the flash cards are a great idea. I would look at learning the 20 words being just like learning new words in English. Start using the verbs yourself in sentences “Do you want ‘to sit’?” The ‘to sit’ being in Spanish. The more you bring the words into everyday use, the more comfortable and unstressed about it she will be.
posted by MountainDaisy at 1:10 PM on July 30, 2019 [3 favorites]

I'm not sure flash cards are a good fit for someone who can't read (and thus can't translate a written word) for the purpose covering actions which are difficult to display on a card in an unambiguous way. You might make cards of objects/people who interact in a logical way using that verb. E.g. a person, plus a book, implies reading.

You are the kiddo's best teacher for this, at least until she gets exposed to a pro at school, so you should, both within and outside of a lesson context, use the Spanish word whenever you're doing the action in question. And furthermore, use the word in a simple but complete sentence, preferably with cognates so she gets the idea of what you're doing. "I speak to grandma" is a useful sentence that's simple, is 100% made of concepts your daughter understands, and can teach the word for "speak."

Your concentration on verbs should not mean avoiding nouns or any way-- your daughter will get the distinction -- grammar lives deep within us, as far as we know. Nouns are also an easy avenue to introducing flash cards in the near future.

If you don't know anyone who speaks spanish whom you'd trust to hang with your daughter over a meal or a play session, tap your friends group to see who does.
posted by Sunburnt at 1:12 PM on July 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Make it a game. First, you two, together, say the verb and try to act it out, in the funniest way possible (or the most serious way possible, or like a robot, or whatever). When she starts to remember them, you can take turns saying the verb and having the other person act it out. You can also recruit a third person and turn it into a kind of charades, where one of you has to guess what the action is.

I agree with Sunburnt's advice that it would be good to add predicates to the verb (like: going [to bed], eating [a banana]). See if you can get someone who knows Spanish to help you with that (or ask here).

posted by trig at 1:28 PM on July 30, 2019

Also, what form are the verbs in? Infinitives? Commands? First person? That might change things a little.
posted by trig at 1:33 PM on July 30, 2019

Response by poster: Hmmm. The verbs are in the form of infinitives but with a bit of sleuthing I could probably work around that?
posted by jeszac at 1:36 PM on July 30, 2019

No, infinitives work fine at this point!
posted by trig at 1:38 PM on July 30, 2019

Best answer: Infinitives are important to learn because they often don't resemble their conjugated forms (especially later, when you get into irregular verbs.) They'll figure out the conjugations in class, so I wouldn't bother trying to learn present tense or imperative.

With infinitives, you can start with flash cards that have a drawing of the action-- maybe even use emojis, if your kiddo gets to play with the phone. Dancing Lady, and then with them, you say, BAILAR! Act it out, make a hand motion-- just sound exciting. A picture of a football or chess piece, JUGAR! You can throw a ball or do some other type of gaming motion.

The great thing about verbs is that they are active. You can act out any verb. If you're having fun (Saltar! Saltar! Saltar! and you jump! jump! jump! around the room) they'll have fun and associate the words with the actions.

You can also set it to familiar music (this is a video that can give you an idea ) -- if you know how to sing Baby Shark, you also know how to sing verbs in Spanish (once you learn the pronunciation.) Ca-mi-NAR, doot doot do doo, ca-mi-NAR, doot doot do doo, time to WALK, toot doot do doo, time to WALK... etc etc.. You can set verbs to Twinkle Twinkle, Row Row Row Your Boat-- hey, those are all verb-songs we use to teach kids English verbs!

Flash points are great for drilling, but for language acquisition, nothing beats getting up and engaging the whole body. Using music as well helps activate more than one bit of the brain, which makes remembering that language easier, later on. (I haven't taken a French class since 1991, but by god, I can still sing The Elephant Balanced on the Spiderweb.)
posted by headspace at 2:22 PM on July 30, 2019 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Depending on where you stand on screens, there are loads of apps out there for flashcards, including some where you can use photos, (even adding in your own if you want), so if she's motivated by the lure of screentime, that might be another way of having her practice a little. Maybe you could have her colour a picture, photograph it, and upload that to the flashcard, so she gets to practice with her own pictures? The app that springs to mind is Tinycards by Duolingo, which has a pretty cute, kid-friendly, game-like design, and (I think) is one where you can design your own decks and add your own pics. I guess if the 'answer' in English is text-only you'd need to be there to tell her if she'd got it right, but I think it probably also gives you audio.
posted by penguin pie at 3:05 PM on July 30, 2019

Best answer: Movement is good. As a volunteer we practiced sight words by jumping on them as we read them.

You could line them up and as she translated them she could jump to the next word?
posted by beccaj at 3:20 PM on July 30, 2019 [2 favorites]

Place flash cards on the floor. Have your daughter do a silly dance to music. When you turn the music off she must go to the nearest flash card and act out the move.
posted by oceano at 7:57 PM on July 30, 2019

Best answer: Also, you might want to look online for educational spanish videos. Our kids learned a bunch of verbs from Basho and Friends (
posted by lab.beetle at 8:16 PM on July 30, 2019

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