Is your Spanish classroom feeling a little stuffy?
Changing up your classroom doesn’t have to be time-consuming or expensive.
All you need is to harness the power of imagination!
5 Spanish Classroom Ideas to Give Students a Breath of Fresh Air
1. Create a “Langspo” Board
You might have heard of Fitspo, a slang term for fitness inspiration. Fitspo and other motivational content is all the rage today. With access to so many images and quotations online through social media sharing, people pick out things that inspire them and help them focus on their goals.
The term “fitspo” has been trending as more and more people are categorizing pictures, videos and profiles as things that inspire them. This image collage from Blogilates.com shows an example of fitspo-related things that can inspire someone to be fit and active: Fitspo Board
Students, more than anyone else, are familiar with this trend. You can incorporate this idea into your classroom. Spice up your typical classroom display board by turning it into a langspo board—a board that showcases inspiration for learning another language. Cover the board with pictures and quotations that inspire students to learn another language and explore other cultures. Some examples of what to use include:
- Pictures of Spanish-speaking countries
- Quotations that inspire language learning. Here are some of my favorites:
“With languages, you are at home anywhere.”
―Edmund de Waal
“To have another language is to possess a second soul.”
“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart.”
Better yet, have your students discuss how to translate these quotes into Spanish. Have the correct translation waiting in the wings for once the class discussion is finished, and explain why this translation is popularly embraced. How does the translation capture the essence of the quote?
Pin the students’ diverse Spanish interpretations of the quotes onto the board as well, to show how the quote resonated with everyone.
2. Rearrange Seating for a New Approach to Cooperative Learning
Having a classroom set up with the desks in the usual rows can be boring and mundane for students (and teachers!). Experimenting with different desk arrangements can completely change the room and the learning experience. Change and flexibility allow for optimal student engagement.
Just the simple layout of the desks in your classroom can completely change how you teach. Here’s how to set up desks in a few different arrangement options for different types of lessons.
- Put the desks into small groups. Grouping three or four desks together can open doors to cooperative learning lessons. Foreign language learning requires interaction and communication, and small groups give students familiarity and the ability to work together easily. I’ve found that this worked great in my classroom and the desks were easily spaced apart for testing purposes and individual work. This arrangement is great for project-based learning and it’s an excellent tool for differentiation as students can be grouped based on ability. Lessons can also be differentiated for each group. This makes it so much easier for you as a teacher to truly adapt a lesson for the needs of each student, and all it takes is moving the desks.
- Don’t be afraid to try a classroom circle or semicircle. While this setup isn’t necessarily practical for everyday instruction, I have found that arranging the desks so that everyone can see each other scares students at first, and then begins to create a feeling of acceptance and “we’re in this crazy foreign language learning thing together.” Try using this alternative setup once a week or a few times a month during conversation-based lessons to encourage full class participation and engagement.
- Pair the desks face-to-face. Similar to small groups, pairing desks allows students to work together without having to rearrange the entire room before every lesson or yell across the rows of desks. Desks can easily be separated when cooperative learning isn’t ideal. I found the most success with this setup when I switched student pairs on a weekly basis.
3. Cover a Wall with Real-world Spanish Examples
Have students find examples of Spanish from their daily lives. Designate an area in the classroom to display the things they bring in.
The first time I tried this in my classroom, like anything else, I wasn’t sure how it would go over. My students were excited to go home and see what they could find. They brought in all kinds of things—food labels, advertisements, beauty product packaging, pictures of signs, etc.
It was a simple activity that really seemed to open their eyes. Many of the students told me that they never paid attention to all the places Spanish was used because they couldn’t read or understand it, but because they were learning, they started to notice. This activity is a great way to start off the year, especially with entry-level students, to show how prevalent Spanish is and reinforce the importance of learning another language.
4. Set Up a Supply Table
Even older students love activities that let them incorporate something other than a textbook.
In Spanish class, there are endless opportunities to do hands-on work. The students in my classes were generally very receptive to different projects that allowed them to be more creative. However, I found that often it created unnecessary chaos and mess in the classroom. Students had to wait to use different supplies while other groups used them, and nothing ever made it back into the right storage place.
This led me to a solution that worked much better—making supply baskets for groups of a few students with markers, colored pencils, highlighters, glue, scissors, etc. Every year I purchase supplies anyway, so I wasn’t spending more money than usual. Or maybe your school gives an allowance for classroom supplies. Either way, this is a great way to organize things and be better prepared for hands-on, creative activities and projects that won’t cost you an arm and a leg but will make a world of difference in the flow of your classroom and save everyone time and frustration.
Most dollar stores have small baskets or bins that make great containers for the supplies. Each group of students is responsible for a basket and accountable for what’s inside. My students would come into the room and one from each group would grab a supply basket, helping us avoid all the chaos of rushing to get supplies when we started a lesson. This makes it so that students have easy, quick access to tools that will make learning more fun and incorporate different learning styles.
5. Make a Hand Collage
Every year, teachers are always looking for ways to display educational, fun, relevant content around the classroom that goes beyond the typical Spanish vocabulary posters. I found that displaying something that the students make themselves and that represents their own personal feelings was a great success that brought character to the classroom walls.
Try making a collage of hand prints. Have students trace their hands. On each finger, they can write or draw a personal reason for learning another language or something they hope to get from the class. Arrange the hands in a circle to be displayed in the classroom.
You can even designate certain colors and arrange them in a rainbow, or make a simple stem and leaves from green construction paper and arrange the hands in a flower. This activity facilitates discussion about why we learn other languages and serves as a beautiful reminder that brightens up the classroom.
These are just a few ideas that I have found to be simple, affordable and efficient yet extremely beneficial changes to the classroom that improve the learning environment. Try them in your classroom and see what works for you and your students.
And One More Thing…
If you already love the idea of teaching with entertaining activities, another fantastic option is FluentU.
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.
Use FluentU on the website with your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU App for iPad and iPhone from the iTunes store.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to teach Spanish with real-world videos.