I was once part of this love-hate relationship that marked me forever.
It was intense, and gave me so many good things.
I could have free time to enjoy, things were so easy…but then it all started to get kind of boring and one day our love affair came to an abrupt end.
That day, I said goodbye to the textbook forever.
I’m sure I’m not the only one with such an experience.
Textbooks can make life very easy for teachers, but they end up turning our classrooms into graveyards, lacking life, fun, authenticity and spirit.
Today, we’re going to have a look at an interesting alternative, my most recent crush—and a much rewarding one, I must say.
Why Adopt Authentic Spanish Materials?
Students and teachers alike, everyone’s bored with the good old textbook. It lacks soul, it lacks originality and, most importantly, it lacks authenticity.
Authentic materials are resources that haven’t been created for teaching, but that are taken from everyday situations in the target language: posters, videos, articles, maps…all of them are created with a different purpose in mind, but can be easily adapted and used in our lessons to give our Spanish classroom a real Spanish feel.
What makes them so great? Read on!
They introduce cultural elements to our lessons
Authentic resources come straight from Spain or Latin America, and they can be as varied as TV commercials or magazine articles. This gives our students a taste of what life in those countries really looks like.
They make content relevant and natural
There’s nothing worse than getting those grammar exercises out of the textbook, just to realize sentences don’t make sense and examples are dated and boring. Using authentic materials will ensure our examples have a context we can explore and offer a better understanding of the language.
They come in different formats
Another fantastic feature about these kind of resources is that they vary in format, from your classic newspaper article to cool videos straight from FluentU, songs and magazine articles that can be discussed by students!
They’re already leveled
Our first fear when we think about authentic resources is what time-suckers these materials can potentially be.
How can I make a newspaper article relevant and accessible for my primary students? Remember, posters, pictures or cartoons are also authentic materials! There’s a huge range of examples to choose from, so don’t panic. You’re guaranteed to find something that suits your students just fine! There are, after all, children in Spanish-speaking countries too.
10 Authentic Spanish Materials to Take Your Class to Spain!
If there’s something that makes authentic materials a real goldmine, it’s that they’re never-ending. Every day, somewhere in the Spanish-speaking world, someone is creating a new commercial, publishing a new poster or uploading a new video.
The only things we need to know to successfully tackle this massive amount of resources are what they look like and how best to use them. Here are some key ideas to do just that.
Commercials and clips
There’s a video or commercial on YouTube for any topic, whether it’s Health, Holidays or Food. Some of them already come with subtitles, other just have music and many have got some writing on them too, which turns out to be a very useful tool in our Spanish lessons.
When I’m introducing a new topic, I always try to find a relevant video to use as a hook and to initiate a discussion. This allows me to bring some cultural facts into my classroom and give my students a sneak peek of life in Spanish-speaking countries.
Last week, my twelve-year-old students were starting on the topic Food, and our whole lesson was to create a Cola Cao commercial, using a TV clip on YouTube as a model.
El Mundo, one of the most well-known newspapers in Spain, has a fantastic collection of infographics in a huge range of topics.
I absolutely love these resources, and although their website isn’t the most user-friendly, their laminas (infographics) are definitely worth looking at, especially if you teach intermediate to advanced learners. That said, I have also used them with my beginner classes, differentiating the information by highlighting and translating some of the words for them.
Although they have infographics on many topics, my favorite use for them is as cultural resources.
These laminas are created for Spanish pupils, so they’re already student-friendly. Last Christmas I gave my class a taster of the Spanish Lotería de Navidad (Spanish Christmas Lottery) and asked them to answer some questions finding the information in the document. Another one that I’m eager to use this summer is the one on El Camino de Santiago, yet another way to take my students on holidays without leaving the classroom!
It seems quite basic, but there are still so many teachers and textbooks using imaginary maps for teaching directions that it’s worth mentioning. Learning how to give directions is a key part of language learning, as is understanding them. Then, why not use real maps of real Spanish-speaking cities?
On one of my visits to Madrid, I noticed McDonalds had created some maps of the city to show where to find their restaurants. With little hope, I asked them if I could have 30 copies and, to my surprise, they said yes! I took them back to my class and my students loved them, not only because they show small pictures of the main monuments, but also because, you know, there’s McDonalds in Spain!
Maybe visiting Madrid isn’t the easiest way to get a map, but the key idea is to grab anything you think could be useful wherever you are in the Spanish-speaking world.
If that’s still not an option, there’s always the Internet. Lucky for you, I’ve found the McDonalds one online! Also, check out this other map of Madrid, which has already been turned into a written activity.
Similar to maps, tourist brochures are another fantastic way to utilize some of the seemingly worthless papers we all bring back from our holidays.
Maybe it could be information on different monuments, basic details about the hotel you stayed in or even some of those menus from the classic seaside restaurant offering the best paella. Whether you just want them to have a look at the pictures and discuss, or to pick out information about entrance fees and opening times, brochures are always great resources to use with your students.
If you went on holiday and ditched everything on your first day back, then have a look at different Internet pages that can work just as well. You might want your students to find the best hotel in the Spanish Tripadvisor or to look up opening times for La Alhambra. Some of those websites even offer brochures and audio guides to download!
The great thing about posters is they usually come with both text and pictures, and you can always find some with strong, powerful words that send very clear messages.
I once observed a really good lesson on the topic of smoking which was introduced with posters in Spanish from different anti-smoking campaigns. Students were working in groups, each of them with a poster, and their challenge was to pick out the main idea and explain it to other groups. Some were easy and straightforward (for lower ability groups), others required a deeper understanding of the language and use of cognates (for higher ability students). It was simple, but just a search on Google Images was enough to track down good material and get the students engaged.
Now, don’t panic.
I know the majority of our students won’t have the ability to read an article from National Geographic just yet. However, there are many different resources we can take from magazines, and a wide range of publications for different ages and levels.
Sometimes something as simple as some fun tests from your typical teen magazine will be a winning idea. If you know your students well, it’s easy to get them engaged with their favorite music bands or celebrities. Others will go crazy with some fact files about football players.
Also, don’t forget about publications like Tecla magazine or the Mary Glasgow magazine, which we mentioned in our Spanish resources post. They’re created for language learners and come with activities that have already been planned with Spanish students in mind!
Short stories or poems
Other authentic materials we mentioned in the teaching resources post were short stories or poems. Again, there’s a huge range for you to use, either as a translation activity or just some basic reading comprehension.
Gloria Fuertes was a fantastic poet who dedicated a big part of her life to creating poems for children, some of which can be found online.
Last year I decided to plan an activity around her works with my primary students, as a closure to the topic of Personal Descriptions. She has a range of poems that describe different people (“Doña Pitu Piturra,” “Mi cara,” “Cómo dibujar un niño”…).
Depending on their levels, I gave my students one or another, and provided them with some vocabulary support. Instead of a translation, which would have been boring for nine and ten-year-old pupils, I asked them to draw the different people mentioned, including all the elements they could understand. Much more fun and creative!
Music clips, film trailers and other videos
We’ve talked about the benefits of using video in our lessons before, and there’s no doubt this is one of the best tools to provide your students with a language immersion, both in class and at home.
FluentU is the best place out there to help you with this.
The best thing is that you’ll never run out of ideas, as FluentU has new videos added every week!
Your student will have tons of support while watching these videos and learning actively from them, because FluentU provides interactive subtitles, multimedia flashcards, vocabulary lists, helpful images, audio pronunciations, usage examples for new vocabulary and more.
My primary kids just love the collection of Disney videos, and they’ve been asking to see one at the end of every lesson. Last week, we listened to “Hakuna Matata” in Spanish and they just can’t stop singing it! They went home and kept practicing. Now, they’re total experts!
Weather reports and web sites
I’m sure you think I’m totally in love with weather reports. Truth is, I am!
They provide so many opportunities to practice grammar and vocabulary, I just can’t get enough of them.
The best thing is that it changes every day, so you’ll never do the same thing twice. You can watch the videos and ask your students to pick out the weather on different places, or get them to write their own weather descriptions.
My new genius idea is to start all my lessons with a quick look at Accuweather and check out the weather in a new Spanish-speaking place each day. My students come in, copy the date and title and write down a brief description in Spanish of what they can see on the web.
For example, “Hoy en Barcelona hace calor y hace sol, con temperaturas de veinticinco grados” (today in Barcelona it’s hot and sunny, with temperatures of twenty five degrees).
Work and Education is a topic that can normally be very dull and I always dreaded teaching it. There are loads of new words and sometimes you have to cover it with students that don’t have any interest in their futures yet, so any ideas to spice it up a bit are always welcome.
Last year, I thought I could make it more interesting by showing students what job opportunities they could have combining their English and Spanish, while getting them to revise the vocabulary at home. For homework, I gave them different profiles of people I made up and asked them to go on Infojobs, a Spanish job hunting website, and find them the perfect position.
Another option, if your students aren’t advanced enough to look at job offers in Spanish on their own, is to get a few job listings from a newspaper or website, print them and highlight some keywords for them to look up in the dictionary. You could also translate some of the vocabulary for them and create a simple vocabulary list. Who knows, maybe one of your students will land their dream job in Spain!
So, come on. Don’t make authentic materials just a box that needs a check mark. Try them out and put your disengaged and bored students back on the right track!
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to teach Spanish with real-world videos.