Teaching Spanish can be one of the most rewarding experiences.
But sometimes, the constant pressure to make a foreign language accessible for your students can be overwhelming.
Here are 5 of my top tips for teaching Spanish.
How to Teach Spanish: 5 Ideas That Make Spanish Accessible for Your Students
1. Incorporate Co-curricular Lessons
Integrating curricula to broaden students’ views and experiences is one of the most exciting and impactful ways to engage students and really solidify their learning of foreign language. This integration of your Spanish curriculum with another subject area shows that Spanish goes beyond the classroom and is relevant in other subject areas, and vice versa. As a teacher, co-curricular lessons also allow you to incorporate activities that cater to multiple learning styles in the same lesson.
To try co-curricular lessons in your classroom, start by talking to your colleagues to see who would be open to the idea of an integrated lesson. Think about the topics you could address and concepts that would incorporate both subject areas. What are your students currently learning in their other core classes? Figuring out what subject you want to work with will help guide your decisions about what specific topics to cover.
Take Spanish and art, for example. Teaching Spanish involves exposing your students to culture. What better way to do that than through art? Art is such a big part of the culture of a country and something that we discuss frequently in the Spanish classroom. Integrating lessons with these two subject areas allows for broader view of both Spanish and art and the ways they intersect in the real world.
I had the most success with co-curricular teaching when I collaborated with an art teacher as part of our study of the Day of the Dead. We conducted a week-long integrated lesson, combining Spanish and art classes and dividing material across days and concepts addressed by both subject areas. Content was taught in Spanish and English, addressing language, culture and art together. Activities included making masks, designing celebration banners and researching customs.
It is important to tailor the shared experience to what works for your classroom, number of students, content and availability. But, this is something anyone can do! National Geographic Education has a Día de los Muertos site that displays beautiful photographs that showcase the celebration: Día de los Muertos – National Geographic. Mexic-Arte Museum has a detailed activity guide that has great ideas for projects and information about resources and materials: Day of the Dead Educational Activity Guide
2. Take the Fear Out of Conversation with Fun Oral Interviews
Students often express anxiety about speaking Spanish and conversing with the teacher and with other students. This is a big and crucial hurdle that we have to help our students jump over as they learn to speak another language. Surprising students with unexpected conversation can make them shut down and cause them to shy away from speaking. But, it is vital that they speak the language. So how can we take the fear out of conversation?
When conversation time is expected and prepared for, students are less likely to turn into a big ball of nerves. Choosing specific topics and guided questions from current class objectives can help direct the conversation. Have students work together to become familiar with the topic and prepare for short interviews, first with each other and then with you.
Passing out performance assessment rubrics can help guide students to achieve various levels of conversational mastery and help them to see what they can change to improve. The rubrics can be a general template that is easy to use and understand and used for every conversation day. Try using a rubric that evaluates student conversations based on a set of questions and level of achievement that ranges from “excellent to almost” instead of a traditional scale. Click here to view (and download, if you like) the rubric I typically use in class!
They just need to focus on improving their own skills each time they speak. On conversation days, make the classroom environment lighthearted and fun, and be sure all feedback is constructive.Using a similar rubric will ensure that you focus on positive feedback to give each student based on how they perform at their own personal conversational level. Rather than comparing them to a standard, compare them to themselves.
Focusing on encouragement from classmates and the teacher, rather than picking out errors, helps to keep students from shying away from the conversational aspect of learning a foreign language.
3. Teach Culture, Vocabulary, Writing and Speaking with Food
Who doesn’t love food?
Sometimes the best way to learn is through different sensory experiences. Kids love food. We can talk all day about different countries and their customs, but it doesn’t compare to actually tasting what it would be like to be there. A great way to broaden your students cultural experience, while incorporating vocabulary, writing, and speaking, and without even leaving the classroom is to pick one or two days each month to designate for culture or country-specific content and activities. Have monthly sign-ups for students to bring foods or ingredients so there is plenty of time before the designated day. Focus the lesson around what is relevant to your students’ levels and your class. Here are a few ideas:
- Lower-level classes: food-inspired vocabulary lesson
- Upper-Level classes: recipe writing and cooking demonstrations (in Spanish!)
These lessons turn your classroom into another country for a special designated day every month, or as often as you see fit. Engaging other senses helps students to retain content and enjoy themselves while they learn.
4. Play Games!
I’m not just talking about your typical classroom games. Project-based learning allows students to work together and to put what they are learning to use outside of the textbook. Here is an idea for a project-based activity that will engage your students and pique their creativity:
- Have students design their own board games.
- Instructions must be in Spanish and need to be understandable so that classmates can successfully set up and play the games.
- After the lesson and in-class work time to make the games, designate time for student groups to trade games and play different board games together, working entirely in Spanish to set up and play the games created by their classmates.
- Students can rate the games and ease of understanding of instructions, etc.
This project is relatively simple in terms of materials required, and the payout is outstanding. Students are writing, conversing and interacting, all while playing games they designed themselves.
5. Pull New Ideas from Online Resources
One of the best (and perhaps easiest!) ways to find ideas to make Spanish more accessible and improve and expand your teaching ability is to pull ideas from credible online sources. Here are a few of my favorites:
All three of these sites have great resources for Spanish teachers F1544from lesson plans to cultural activities, and everything in between. FluentU also has a great post on learning websites that gives more detail on some of the best online resources out there.
There are some tips for making the most out of every class you teach and incorporating different ways of teaching to make Spanish more accessible for your students.
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