Thank You Messages to the Elderly (Presentational Communication)

I started using Carrie Toth’s HUELLAS in Spanish 3 & 4 this year, and I feel fortunate to have such a fantastic resource with such an inexpensive price tag.

One of my favorite units is Huellas 2.7: Los años dorados. Cherishing our elderly, valuing their contributions, and understanding their role in unique cultures is an invaluable topic.

While searching for more media with native-speaker voices for class discussions, I stumbled across this cute video. We were inspired to do something just as meaningful for someone wise and influential in our lives.

To conclude the unit, each student wrote and recorded appreciation messages to older people in their lives. Of course, the definition of ‘elderly’ was all over the board, but I wasn’t worried about that too much. The purpose was to remind kind people in our lives that they matter, will leave a legacy, and that their actions are noticed. (We tried not to mention the ‘elderly’ qualification in the message!)

Below you can find a free PDF of the guidelines I created if you want to do something similar.

Above, you can click PLAY to see some snippets.


  • The recordings don’t have to be fancy. They can use Flipgrid, their phones, or their Chromebooks.
  • Allow students to record at home or in a private location. They can’t do their best when everyone is watching. We used a storage room next to my class; see below.
  • When left alone for creative output, most students will use translation apps. Many teachers seem to be okay with this on Twitter lately, but I’m not on board. So, I make students write on a paper in class with me. If they want a word, they can ask me so we can discuss it, and I can do the teacher things that help them learn along the way. After all, I’m still getting paid while they’re writing. When they’re finished, I pretend-read it in 20 seconds to validate that they used their own words, then I tell them to type it in GoogleDocs. It’s easier for me to leave comments on their online rough drafts, they’re legible for rehearsing, they can add a picture in the same document, and I can print the scripts in 1 million-point font for recording.
  • I don’t make students memorize their scripts. It’s terrifying to be in front of a camera, and there’s no way to verify there isn’t a hidden script. It’s not less meaningful to the recipient if they’re reading their own words. However, I tell them to practice a million times so that the recipient can see their facial expressions. Even if they use the script, the sentences should roll off their tongues.
  • Some students liked their final product but were too embarrassed to take the last step and send it. Offer to collect recipient email addresses and send the unlisted links for your students, so they don’t have to send them directly.
  • Although the students and families in the video above volunteered to be in this montage, it’s a good idea to let students know that they won’t have to share these in front of others unless they want to. The only people who will view them are the guardians if they request, the recipients, and their teacher. Some students, especially my native speakers, shared intimate feelings and stories that I did not anticipate.
  • Allow them to introduce and depart in English if they want. Some like to explain or justify what’s happening, and others don’t feel they can adequately express themselves in the new language. I said, “As long as what’s on your script is said at some point, I don’t care what else you say.”
  • Finally, all students with families who didn’t speak Spanish had to provide English subtitles. Make them translate back to English for you! This is not your job. I didn’t anticipate how much brain power this would cost them, LOL. They can add them to the videos as I did, or if that’s too complicated, paste the English scripts in the video notes or provide a paper copy to the recipient. If the native speakers don’t want subtitles, please don’t make them add them to their videos. Many of these student videos were viewed in Spanish-speaking communities; making them do this extra work if they don’t want it is silly.

Thanks for visiting, and please share if you do something similar!

Sarah Breckley.


Tell me something!

Subscribe via Email

Follow via Wordpress

Follow Spanish Class Diaries on

Breckley on Twitter