Picture this: you have 25+ beginner Spanish students in front of you.
All eyes are on you as the first class is about to start. You haven’t even said the first word yet.
You panic and pray for this to be a nightmare.
But this isn’t a nightmare. You have indeed been assigned a group of beginners, and the very idea terrifies you.
Fear no more!
I’m here to help you survive. Not only survive—thrive!
I will personally guide you so that the firstfew lessons are smooth as silk. In fact, you may just start looking forward to creating your first beginner Spanish lesson plan.
How to Teach Beginner Spanish Students
Whether it’s your first time teaching beginners or your first time teaching at all, this new situation will make you feel like a beginner on your first day.
Even if you have years and years of teaching experience behind you, if you’re like me, you most likely feel what I call the FDOCNBS, aka the First-Day-of-Class Nervous Breakdown Syndrome: You wake up sweaty and stressed, try to convince yourself that you’re actually ill… but you can’t miss the first day. So you drink a gallon of chamomile tea and pray for the best.
I feel your pain. We’ve all been there. But it can be avoided!
How? Here are some tips for your first day teaching beginners:
- Pretend to be calm. Even if it isn’t for real, it will keep your students calm, too.
- Be yourself. Think about what makes you unique. Don’t try to be too approachable or too nice… at least not yet. Be funny but not a clown, and try to understand it’s their first day as well, so don’t expect too much.
- Do not (ever!) force them to talk in Spanish. It’s not the moment yet! We know the earlier you engage them in conversation, the faster they’ll learn. But you need to remember that they’re in front of a group of people they most likely don’t know. They probably don’t want to be the center of attention just yet.
- Don’t start throwing in grammar terms like there’s no tomorrow. If you start your Spanish course by teaching them the difference between a noun and an adjective instead of teaching them some basics like introductions or the alphabet, they will hate every second of your class. Have some mercy!
- Keep it simple at all costs. Don’t blow your one chance at making a great first impression by posing difficult explanations and giving a million instructions. Get to the point quickly. If you’re going to start by teaching them the Spanish alphabet, just say so and start ABC-ing.
- Practice makes perfect (and that includes you). Remember they’re just starting to learn a new language. Just as you aren’t the perfect teacher yet, they may need to fail a dozen times before they get it right.
Okay, you’ve read the advice. Now it’s time to actually prepare lesson plans!
This post will give you five invaluable class ideas you can use until both you and your students feel comfortable enough to continue on your own.
Ready, Set, Spanish! 5 Awesome Spanish Lesson Ideas for Beginners
Looking for a one-size-fits-all resource for these beginner Spanish lesson plans? FluentU could be just the right fit.
Show these videos as the main part of your lesson or even just to review the topics at the end of class. (A fun video can be a nice reward for a well-behaved class!) Videos also come with annotated subtitles, interactive flashcards and quizzes that evolve as your students learn. That means FluentU is also a great resource for assigning homework.
Use FluentU however you see fit, and your students will have a blast engaging with these beginner lessons!
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1. The Alphabet
To teach the students the Spanish alphabet and the correct pronunciation of each letter, both by itself and in a word
Give your students a worksheet with the alphabet printed on it. Ideally, it will have some sample words for each letter.
Start by reading each letter out loud and asking the class to repeat after you as a group. At this moment, you should go over the entire alphabet without giving any explanation about difficult sounds such as c, g or ll.
Once you’ve introduced the whole alphabet, start by explaining each of the complicated letters and sounds in Spanish. Give them plenty of sample words and make them repeat each word as a group.
After they know all the letters and are able to pronounce them correctly, ask them individually to read one word from the word list you’ve prepared. You can choose a random student and a random word each time or follow the order they’re sitting in and the alphabetical order of the words on the list.
There are plenty of resources you can choose from for teaching the alphabet:
- Download this great PowerPoint presentation from Tes.com, which you can also use for introducing the sample words.
- 123 Teach Me has an alphabet lesson with videos, flashcards and quizzes you can use during class to spice things up.
- Spanish4Teachers.org has gathered a lot of alphabet resources in the form of lesson plans, presentations, worksheets, videos and more.
- As for YouTube, there are two videos I always use with my students: One is Sugar Astronaut by Spanish Made Easy and the other one is the Spanish alphabet by Butterfly Spanish.
- The FluentU Spanish blog and Spanish Educator blog have plenty of material for a little inspiration. My favorite posts are the one that explains how to learn each letter of the alphabet, the one that includes three lesson plans and three follow-up activities and the one that includes 15 alphabet songs, games and activities.
To teach the Spanish numbers up to 100 and their correct pronunciation
Start by presenting the numbers to your students. You can use your course textbooks or an outside resource.
Read numbers one to 10 out loud and ask them to repeat after you for each one as a group. Proceed to read numbers 11 to 20 in the same fashion.
When you reach 20, pick a two or three students and ask them to recite a couple random numbers in Spanish. Do this for around five minutes until the whole group feels comfortable with the first 20 numbers.
Read numbers 21 to 30. Explain that numbers 21 to 29 are written in one single word, but this will change after 30. Proceed to read numbers 31 to 40, then have them practice the first 40 numbers as you did before.
Now read numbers 50, 60, 70, 80, 90 and 100. Tell your students that the rules that apply for numbers 31 to 39 also apply here, and ask for volunteers to tell you random numbers.
During the last 10-15 minutes of class, use any of the activities recommended in the Resources section.
- I always use Spanish4Teachers.org to get inspiration and materials for my number classes.
- My favorite way of ending the class is by playing some of the fun number games recommended by FluentU.
3. Greetings and Farewells
To teach students how to pronounce and use Spanish greetings and farewells correctly
Note: You can either divide this lesson into two class periods (one for greetings and one for farewells) or do both topics together.
Start by writing all the expressions on the blackboard classified by the time of the day they’re used in Spanish. If there’s a word or expression that can be used in more than one context, include it in each category.
Read each greeting and farewell out loud and ask your students to repeat them after you. After reading each expression, take a couple of minutes to repeat it a couple of times and explain when it’s used, in which context and when it should be avoided. Pay special attention not only to the times of the day but also to the dichotomy of formal context/informal context.
After all the expressions have been covered, ask your students to work in pairs and put the new vocabulary into practice by creating short, simple dialogues. They’re allowed to use any other words or expressions/questions they know from other lessons. Ask them to write down the dialogues.
End your class with a couple of activities like the ones proposed below so that your students can interact and practice the new vocabulary.
- Print out FluentU’s greetings post for your class. Students tend to work much better when they can read what they’r hearing.
- Spanish4teachers.org has a great list of greeting/farewell handouts and worksheets you can use as class activities.
- If students have access to computers or laptops, they can practice with memory games or the Woodward Spanish situation game.
4. Days of the Week and Months of the Year
To teach students the days and months, as well as the questions related to this new vocabulary, such as ¿Qué día es hoy? (What day is today?) or ¿En qué mes estamos? (What month is it?)
Note: This lesson can either be divided into two separate sessions or two halves of one class period.
Start by handing out some printables containing the days of the week. Read all of them, bearing in mind the Spanish order (from Monday to Sunday).
Then carefully pronounce each day and ask your students to repeat after you. Use this moment to tell your students some interesting facts about the Spanish days of the week, such as the fact that except for sábado and domingo, they all end in -es and are invariable in the plural.
You can also teach them what an esdrújula word is and use the days miércoles and sábado as examples. Students tend to love weird words and remember them quite easily.
To practice the days of the week, you can use any of the worksheets and games included in the Resources section.
After finishing with the days of the week, go on with the months of the year. Use the same class structure (printable, reading, repetition, interesting facts, exercises/games).
Some fun facts you can teach them: how all the months of the year are masculine in Spanish; the fact that they’re never written with a capital letter; that septiembre, octubre, noviembre and diciembre derive from the ordinal numbers séptimo (seventh), octavo (eighth), noveno (ninth) and décimo (tenth), because they used to occupy these positions in the calendar.
- You can find a lot of resources for the days of the week in RockAlingua. My students have fun with the competitions.
- You can also get plenty of material (from songs to presentations and worksheets) from the SpeakingLatino website. My youngest students love the crossword puzzles!
- The best resources for the months of the year are the PowerPoint presentations on Tes.com and 123 Teach Me’s interactive lesson, which includes pronunciation, grammar and vocabulary exercises.
5. Definite and Indefinite Articles
To introduce definite and indefinite articles to students for the first time
Note: While this is a beginner’s topic, make sure you don’t do this lesson the first day of class. I normally introduce articles around the fifth lesson so that my students have had time to get used to the sound of Spanish first.
The best approach to teaching definite and indefinite articles is to divide them into two completely separate lessons.
Start with the definite articles, reading them out loud and telling your students that each Spanish word is either masculine or feminine, both in singular or plural form. As a result, Spanish has four definite articles instead of one.
This is the perfect moment to introduce the topic of Spanish gender to your students.
After you’ve introduced the grammar, engage your students in a guessing game. Write one word for each student on the blackboard and invite them to guess the words’ gender and correct article.
During the next lesson, use the exact same approach to teach them indefinite articles. You probably won’t need to explain gender in depth once again, so use that extra time to do some practice exercises like the ones you’ll find in the Resources section below.
- By far, the best website to practice definite and indefinite articles (or anything Spanish, for that matter) is Aprender español.
- You can also find plenty of information regarding Spanish gender and the Spanish articles in our Spanish blog.
Teaching beginners is actually not very different than teaching intermediate or advanced students.
In fact, there’s one main reason I prefer teaching beginners: they tend to be very eager to learn.
If you’ve been assigned to teach a beginner’s group and don’t know how to start teaching them, use these five lesson ideas and put them into practice as soon as you can. They don’t require a lot of preparation on your part, and your student will enjoy them!
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