Have you used up all of your fun classroom activities already this year?
Could your high school Spanish classes use a burst of energy?
Looking for something new to spice things up and keep students interested?
Well, look no further because you’re in the right place!
Keeping teenagers engaged and motivated is a challenge that even experienced teachers struggle with.
Sometimes you need to ramp up the excitement by providing a creative Spanish language activity that reinforces learning goals. So what do the best activities entail?
What Makes a Good Activity for High School Spanish?
When implemented correctly, Spanish activities can be both enjoyable and stimulating for your high school class. Here’s what makes a great activity for high school Spanish:
- Students should be engaged and active. A learner that is getting hands-on experience is far more likely to remember new content than one who is passively listening. Activities should also be student-centred rather than teacher-centered.
- The activity is meaningful and relevant. Students should be able to understand how the particular activity relates both to their current Spanish course and also to potential real-life uses.
- Students should feel good once the activity is complete. They should also be able to understand how the activity has helped their Spanish to improve.
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Considerations When Planning High School Spanish Activities
There are a number of issues to consider when deciding if an activity is right for your classroom:
Be mindful both of your school’s resources and your students’ resources. In particular, check whether your students have internet access at home before assigning homework that requires them to be online.
All new teachers are guilty of sometimes planning lessons so elaborate that the students can’t understand what they are supposed to be doing! Keep activities as simple as possible until you are confident both in your students and in your ability to explain new tasks.
The unfortunate reality of teaching high school students is that sometimes behavior will be an issue. As a teacher, it’s your responsibility to know what kind of activities might “set your class off.” If you can’t trust your students to leave their seats without getting into trouble, then don’t make them leave their seats as part of an activity.
So keeping these key points in mind, let’s take a look at some activities that can shake up your usual routine in Spanish class!
5 Groovy Activities to Jive Up Your High School Spanish Class
1. Describe People to Police as a Crime Scene Witness
This activity is great for getting students talking to one another and practicing their descriptions of people. You’ll need at least one picture of a person for every student, and a few spares if you want things to be more challenging.
Explain to your students that they are going to help solve a crime. Split the students into pairs. In each pair, one student will be a policeman and one student will be a witness. Call the witnesses to the front of the classroom, and have the police officers turn their back.
Give each witness a picture of a person to look at. Tell them that the person they are looking at is a criminal. Once they’ve had some time to memorize the picture, they can go back to their seats. Then you can put all of the pictures up on the board, as well as a couple of red herrings (those extra pictures) if you want to make it more difficult!
Now the police officers must ask their witness questions in order to discover who their criminal is. If your class can handle the extra element, it’s fun to give the police officers a notepad and have them make a sketch based on the witnesses descriptions.
Once the police officer has a complete description of the criminal, they can come to the front and try to point out the correct suspect. Don’t forget to compare the sketches to the real pictures to see who the best artist is!
2. Create Spanish Stories with Storybird
Creating a story in your target language is an excellent way to see if your class is able to write in Spanish just as well as they can speak, listen and read.
Storybird is a free website that allows students to create their own beautiful stories, practice their writing skills and get creative! You’ll need to create a sample story before the lesson to demonstrate what your students are going to do.
Once you’ve read the sample story as a class, show the students how to make a page of their own. They’ll have to choose an existing illustration, then come up with the accompanying text by themselves.
It might also be a good idea to review the tenses you will need, as well as pre-teaching some vocabulary that your students might want to use.
Bonus tip: A more interesting and engaging way to teach said vocabulary is through FluentU, an online language immersion platform. FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
The authentic, real-world context makes the new words much easier to remember, and you’ll find students will truly learn better. While you can definitely build a lesson around FluentU, it provides students with valuable at-home practice, with fresh new videos being added every week! Check the bottom of this post for a more in-depth introduction to FluentU.
3. Move Around the Room While Playing “Find Someone Who…”
“Encontrar a alguien que” activities are great for speaking practice, but they are also brilliant for class bonding and getting restless students out of their seats for a minute.
Create a list of sentences that are appropriate for your class and put the heading “Find someone who” at the top of the page. Give each student a copy.
Example sentences might be:
Encontrar a alguien que vio la televisión anoche.
Encontrar a alguien que fue a bailar el fin de semana.
Encontrar a alguien que no le gusta la pizza.
Encontrar a alguien que nunca ha subido a una montaña rusa.
Encontrar a alguien que viste de color de amarillo.
Students must stand up, walk around and ask each other questions. When they have found someone who meets the criteria for a question, they can put the name of that person down next to the relevant sentence.
When they have a name for each question on the list, they can shout “finished!” and let you verify their list. If you’re satisfied, they are declared the winner. You could also set this up in a grid as an interactive variation of the classic BINGO.
Remember to tweak the tenses, subject matter and vocabulary according to your class needs.
4. Use Authentic Spanish Menus in a Fun “Take My Order” Game
This activity brings authentic Spanish menus into the classroom to help students improve their vocabulary, comprehension and speaking.
Hand out copies of an authentic Spanish menu to all of your students. Review the food words that they already know, and then help them with the more difficult dishes. As you go through and explain the menu as a class, put up a picture on the board of each meal that you want to practice. This is also a good moment to pre-teach some useful restaurant phrases.
Tell the class that you are going to do a role play. Divide the class into groups of three to five students. In each group, one person will play the role of the server, while the others will be customers.
The customers are allowed to read the menu and place their orders, but the server must try to remember all of the orders without checking a menu. Once servers have taken the orders, they can come and try and take the correct food pictures from the front of the class. The servers score points for each correct order, and then the students swap roles.
To make it even more challenging, and to get in some additional numbers practice, you can have the server give the bill and have the customers pay in play money.
This activity works really well with an authentic local restaurant menu, but if you can’t find one, there are hundred of Spanish menus on the Platos del Día site. Use Flickr’s creative commons or another image sharing site to source the food pictures for the game.
5. Lead a Successful Field Trip to a Local Spanish-speaking Restaurant
Field trips are an excellent way to give your students real world speaking practice, and they don’t have to break the bank. Something as simple as a trip to a local Mexican restaurant can really motivate learners to improve.
Here are some pointers to make it a success:
- Introduce the trip as part of a lesson. Remember the last activity I mentioned with the menus? It’ll be even more successful if students know that they will soon be visiting that restaurant in an upcoming field trip.
- Have the students use their Spanish during the outing. Learners must read the menu and give their orders in Spanish. Not only that, but you should have some conversation topics prepared to discuss with the meal.
- Continue the learning once the trip is over. As a teacher, you should maximize the potential learning outcomes of the field trip by reflecting on it afterwards. An excellent way to do this is to do a creative writing assignment, like writing a restaurant review for GooglePlus or Trip Advisor.
There are potential risks involved in taking students out of the school grounds that should be properly assessed and planned for according to your school rules. Remember to discuss behavior expectations beforehand, and be sure to obtain parental permission as well as filling out the appropriate medical permissions forms. Also consider taking additional chaperones to help you keep tabs on all the learners and make sure that no one gets left behind.
Exciting activities can be a fantastic way to make your high school classes run more smoothly and more effectively. So try one of these lively activities with your high school class today!
If you already love the idea of teaching with entertaining activities, another fantastic option is FluentU.
As noted earlier in this post, FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, cartoons, documentaries and more—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons for you and your students.
We’ve got a tremendous collection of authentic Spanish videos that people in the Spanish-speaking world actually watch on the regular. There are tons of great choices here when you’re looking for material for in-class activities or homework. Plus, all the videos are sorted by skill level and are carefully annotated for students.
Each video has interactive subtitles. If a student comes across a word they’re unfamiliar with, they can hover their cursor over the subtitled word. That word’s definition, pronunciation and in-context usage examples will all pop up on-screen instantly. This is what your students will get after they click “watch” on a video. Clicking “learn” opens up a whole new learning experience for them.
In learn mode, all the vocabulary and grammar from the video is taught and reinforced through varied repetition (practicing the same concepts in different forms and contexts). They’ll play with flashcards, games, word matches and exercises like “fill in the blank.”
The best part is that FluentU keeps track of the vocabulary that they’re learning, and it recommends examples and videos based on what they’ve already learned. Every student has a truly personalized experience, even if they’re learning the same video.
Santiago Montero is the founder and director of a language school in Washington DC. He has also worked tirelessly to integrate the fields of education and mass media in Europe and Latin America for the last fifteen years. You can read about Santiago, his methods, and his school at Spanish Tutor DC.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to teach Spanish with real-world videos.