spanish teacher in classroom

How to Be a Good Spanish Teacher: 16 Tips for Bringing Out the Best in Your Students

We Spanish teachers know that enthusiasm for our work is important.

But is it enough?

Not even close!

Whether you call it a vocation, a calling or a passion, teaching Spanish requires a unique skill set that goes way beyond lesson planning.

Check out these 16 concrete steps you can take to be a good Spanish teacher every day.


1. Set a Good Example of Classroom Behavior

Students often take their cues from the adult in the room.

For example, if you regularly arrive to class late and flustered, the students will register that delayed starts to learning are acceptable and normal. If you’re there before the students arrive, with an objective for the day clearly written on the board, students will see that work begins as soon as they set foot in the classroom.

When a student acts out, your class will also watch how you react. I noticed that when I got visibly flustered before, students would get even more unruly, and other students would feel anxious as they’d felt I’d lost control of the classroom. But when I was able to manage the situation better by reframing the moment in a positive way, the students were able to relax back into their learning.

Model the behaviors you would like to see in your speech and actions.

2. Build and Maintain Rapport

spanish teacher building rapport with students

Rapport is particularly important in a Spanish classroom where students need to risk making mistakes in order to progress.

On the first day of class, learn all of your students’ names and use them all so that each student feels that you’ve noticed him or her. Get to know your students as individuals: be discreet in your greetings with students who might seem reticent and warm them up gradually, and match extroverted students in their exuberance with jolly high fives and big smiles.

3. Identify Your Students’ Learning Styles

A quick written survey at the beginning of a semester can give you all sorts of insights into how your students learn best: who loves a group project? Who likes to draw and incorporate a bit of creativity? Who prefers to sit at the front of the classroom to avoid distractions?

Try this online learning style quiz for a quick, efficient way to home in on your students’ abilities and preferences.

Finding who needs what at the beginning of a term can save a lot of frustration in the long run.

4. Talk Openly About Classroom Expectations

Students now often come to class feeling entitled to open and frequent communication with their teachers. You can use this to your advantage by discussing expectations.

Students will appreciate knowing in advance what you want and expect from them, and they’ll feel positive if given an opportunity to voice their preferences.

You can express your desire for punctual start times and positive attitudes, for example, and they can express their need to receive their marked assessments within a reasonable time frame.

Not every student request will be met, obviously, but just the chance to discuss is worth a lot in terms of classroom harmony.

5. Make Room for Student Input

getting input from students

Make friendly eye contact and pause the lesson to listen when students communicate with you about their struggles and frustrations.

Don’t worry if this process breaks your teaching momentum at first; it may take some practice, but you’ll soon learn to roll with the interruptions and perhaps even welcome them.

In fact, this can help your students practice natural Spanish speech day-to-day in your classroom. Don’t hesitate to open student questions up to the class as a whole for a collaborative Spanish discussion.

6. Offer Specific Positive Feedback

Give students sincere feedback that pinpoints concrete actions. Even something as seemingly small as a student nailing a difficult pronunciation can be worth noting. Since they know exactly what they did right, students are more likely to repeat the right behavior, and they get a confidence boost too. 

Throughout your semester or year, remind students of past successes and offer them achievable goals.

Showering the students with praise all the time can backfire, however, so save the big enthusiastic celebrations for challenging situations. Remember that specific positive comments mean so much more than general platitudes.

7. Keep Track of What’s Effective

Which is better: didactic approaches (grammar and vocabulary) or new methods? Some old school teaching methods may no longer be best practice. The didactic techniques focused on grammar and vocabulary early in language learning are controversial nowadays.

Project and task-based learning, mainly in the form of small group activities and other student-led practices, are gaining popularity.

Keep track of what does and doesn’t work for your classroom. Stay on top of new methods and, as long as you do your research and prepare ahead of time, don’t be scared to try some innovative or unconventional techniques.

8. Assign Small Group Work

Small group work that encourages conversation is a growing trend in Spanish classrooms, and for good reason.

Plan ahead and think through the assessment of the group work as well as group dynamics. Students can learn a lot from their peers if group members are selected thoughtfully, and many students enjoy the social interactions of small group work.

9. Have Fun with Your Students

kids playing games in a spanish class

Boring classes are the worst.

But how can you keep things interesting when, for example, you’re teaching the subjunctive?

Keep it light, laugh at students’ jokes and acknowledge their attempts to be playful when appropriate. Kids naturally enjoy play, even when it’s verbal, and real camaraderie in class can make learning memorable and fun.

You can also branch out from textbooks and use interesting pop culture content as learning material. For example, FluentU curates Spanish videos for language learners, with clips from Spanish movies, cartoons, songs and more. Teaching tools are already built-in, allowing you to track students’ progress as they complete exercises. 

10. Always Be Ready to Teach

A bit of a no-brainer, but it has to be mentioned. Only teach what you know is correct and avoid winging it.

If you’re trying out a new lesson plan that you’ve never taught before, bring two or three additional plans with you in case your Plan A takes less time than you think. This saves you from feeling anxious (which usually shows) and prevents loss of valuable teaching time.

Pay attention to the learning games and activities that your students love and memorize their instructions so you can have them at the ready. Hold yourself to a rigorous standard of preparation before class meetings so that ultimate teacher readiness feels normal and automatic.

11. Create a Supportive Environment

Classrooms can be exciting, but they can also be scary. When I was a student, I absolutely dreaded some classes. Each classroom presented different social dynamics, and like most kids, I wasn’t always sure how to act.

Combine this with the natural fear of making mistakes while speaking in Spanish, and no wonder students sometimes get distracted and anxious.

Look for signs of underlying anxiety, such as excessive giggling, a rude tone, attention-seeking behavior or extreme shyness. Remember that past experiences can influence present experiences. If a student felt foolish or self-conscious in a previous Spanish class, that can bode poorly for future classes until that student regains a bit of confidence.

Therefore, you’ll want to create a friendly, collaborative environment to help students feel safer with expressing themselves in Spanish.

12. Check in on the Classroom Mood

spanish students in class

Schools are complicated social environments, and often word travels fast. If the mood of a class seems different than what you normally experience, ask what’s going on.

Perhaps a friend is hurt or in trouble, or some significant drama has played out in the cafeteria or playground. They may not tell you all the details, but just the fact that you noticed a change and spoke up sends a message that you’re paying attention and that you care.

13. Don’t Take Changes in Behavior Personally

Great teachers are often sensitive beings. At the same time, students of all ages can be unbelievably insensitive to their teachers!

Don’t forget that acting out and other negative behaviors don’t necessarily have anything to do with you. It might be worth trying to find out if the stress stems from your class or something else entirely.

After all, students come to class with a lot going on. If your student has had a rough time before your class, he or she will bring that sense of frustration to your classroom. 

Make a practice of keeping an unemotional eye out for changes in individual student behaviors while holding it all at a healthy distance.

14. Focus on the Big Picture

Students need to make mistakes to learn.

Correcting every single error in pronunciation and spelling can be disheartening to learners. Shy students may withdraw even further if they’ve taken a chance by speaking up only to be corrected publicly in a disapproving way.

Apprehensive students especially need to be given extra space to make mistakes, so reward their participation and save the criticism for brief and infrequent private conversations.

Set clear and achievable learning objectives for every activity, and let some errors slide if they don’t impact the main objective.

15. Let Students Take the Lead Occasionally

Teaching can be exhilarating, but it can also be exhausting. Implement practices that ensure that the kids are doing the so-called heavy lifting while learning.

Is it time to sing in Spanish? Have your most extroverted student lead the singing. He or she will benefit from the pronunciation practice. Is it time to read out loud? Ask volunteers to do the reading. They’ll gain confidence hearing themselves speak in Spanish.

Never expend energy of your own that students can expend for you while learning and participating.

16. Make Time for Self-Reflection

Reflecting on what you bring to the classroom can be a very useful exercise. To stay motivated in your work and constantly improving, it’s important to regularly ask yourself:

  • What are my strengths and limitations in the classroom?
  • What limitations are most important to address right now?
  • What’s my temperament in the classroom?

Don’t forget to take stock of what you have to offer. (It’s probably more than you think.) Create a list of all the positive qualities you bring to your students just by showing up to do your job. This exercise can do wonders for your self-confidence, which is an important element of being the best teacher you can be.


That winds down the practical checklist I have to offer, but this list is by no means complete.

Seasoned Spanish teachers everywhere have many a useful tip to offer, so perhaps you can select the most applicable tips for your classroom and build on them. As the proverb goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day.

So, give yourself a pat on the back for working to improve and press on to become the best Spanish teacher you can be!

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