Spanish lesson at PTYC

PTYC staff member Maria "Toni" Valdez reviews vocabulary words with students Tuesday afternoon at Liberty Elementary. The idea for weekly Spanish lesson "camps" came from the students' interest in learning the language.

OTTUMWA — A group of kids gathered around a table at PTYC Tuesday afternoon, eager for their next Spanish lesson to start. In fact, the weekly lessons were their idea.

“We have different camp choices in the afternoon the kids get to do,” said Becky Eaton, PTYC director. “It was something some of the kids expressed interest in.”

PTYC staff member Maria Valdez, who goes by Toni, said the idea for the camp actually came from the kids. “The kids asked me a lot of words and vocabulary” over the summer, she said, “so we decided to have a camp.”

Tuesday was the group’s second lesson. “What is the first word we learned last week?” Valdez asked.

“Respecto,” the kids answered.

They were correct. “We have to respect the time I have to teach you,” Valdez reminded them.

The hour lesson focused on counting and was reinforced with several activities relating to the book “¿Has visto a mi patito?” or “Have You Seen My Duckling?”

“If you know the basics, you can know the rest of the numbers,” Valdez told the students as they repeated counting from one to 20.

Once they finished with the story, the group moved on to a puzzle activity. Valdez told the students the word was “rompecabezas” — or “break your head” — “because you have to think, think, think.”

As the students prepared to put their puzzles together — matching the Spanish spelling of numbers one to eight to the number of ducks on the other piece — she began to time them. When the students finished, they were to yell, “¡Terminado!” to indicate they completed the activity.

Valdez also repeated key vocabulary words and phrases in Spanish and English throughout the lesson as the students repeated them.

If the students were particularly interested in a word, she would write it down for them on a small marker board she held up for them to see. The students took down notes to bring home and study.

“I wish we could do more, but we only have one hour,” Valdez said. “I’m proud of you guys. I know it’s a lot, but I’m proud. You can do it. You know how I know? Because I learned English. I grew up in Mexico and I learned English.”

After a small taste of some Mexican candy, it was time to clean up. The lesson was terminado for the week.

— Features Editor Tracy Goldizen can be reached via email at or followed on Twitter @CourierTracy.


Tracy Goldizen is the Courier's features and magazine editor, leading production of the award-winning "Ottumwa Life" and the Courier's other magazine offerings. She began work with the Courier on the copy desk.

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