Assigning homework is essential to keep the ball rolling after class.
Many educators primarily rely on their textbooks for homework—but if you ask students for feedback on these tasks, they’ll let you know just how tired they get of the same old, same old, night after night.
They may dislike traditional textbook homework assignments because they feel mechanical or unrealistic.
And if they’re being really honest, they’ll tell you that they’d much rather be on their smartphones and tablets.
This leaves us Spanish educators with the ultimate challenge: Getting students excited about doing their Spanish homework.
After all, we know that classroom learning in itself isn’t enough to learn a language. Students need to keep putting it into practice on their own time. It sounds like a tall order, but there’s actually a simple way to approach this.
Why not put them to work with Spanish on platforms that they already spend a major chunk of their time on?
How to Approach Spanish Homework
When assigning homework we can go by six general tips:
- Aim for creativity and fun while also ensuring learning
- Challenge students, but not too much
- Make sure students are engaging actively with the material, not mindlessly copying or repeating things
- Continually vary up their assignments; adopt a creatively spontaneous and unpredictable attitude to keep students on their feet
- Give students homework options when possible so they feel a sense of agency in how they spend their time out of class
- Lastly and most importantly, make sure the assignments resonate and feel relevant to them
9 Social Spanish Homework Ideas Using Favorite Technology
Here I challenge you, fellow Spanish educator-pioneers, to embrace the strong pull of social media and mobile technology in our era by encouraging students to learn, study and complete assignments on apps, sites and platforms that they already spend a majority of their time on.
Keep in mind that there’s always a number of students, depending on their parental preferences and economic classes, who won’t have access to the following apps, sites and platforms, or even smartphones. Use your own “teacher’s discretion” to decide which are and aren’t appropriate for the unique blend of pupils in your classroom!
¡Ojo! Don’t lose sight of internet safety with these assignments. I’ll provide a few pointers along the way, but don’t forget it’s your job to ensure cyber-safety and minimize cyber-bullying.
1. Practice Pronunciation in a Snap on Snapchat
In 2013, Facebook offered to buy Snapchat for $3 billion. Snapchat’s 30 employees opted to reject the offer. While Snapchat was extensively popular, it was initially heavily criticized for not taking Facebook’s offer. Nonetheless, it continued to blossom into the powerhouse it is now.
Many tech pundits say that it’s the future of the world.
Have you ever seen a 6-year-old Snap? Children ages 5 to 9 are gradually becoming the most adroit Snapchat users. Snapping is so addictive that Snapchat users reportedly spend 20-30 minutes daily on the app, and many of our students are already on board.
So, here’s what I propose:
a. Instruct students to find five words in Spanish they particularly struggle to pronounce. Preferably these are words germane to the current topics, grammar lessons and tenses you’ve been reviewing with them recently.
b. Have them Snap their attempts to pronounce the words, explain what they did in an attempt to pronounce it and translate the word’s meaning to at least five classmates. Since Snaps get deleted automatically, there should be little embarrassment associated with this task.
Be aware that this assignment requires the “honor system” as students won’t be able to “save” their homework. The best you can do is have students keep logs in their notebooks of who they exchanges Snaps with.
However, I also encourage you to call on students randomly in class afterward to discuss the words they chose, their experiences, what they learned and if they’ve made any progress.
2. Create an Instagram-inspired Video “Post” Practicing the Preterite Tense
Instagram is undoubtedly another technology powerhouse basking in popularity among this generation’s youngest members. Lucky for Facebook, they were able to snatch it up a few years ago. It turned out to be one of their best investments yet.
Young people especially love scrolling through a primarily picture-based News Feed as opposed to the “word-vomit” that often clutters Facebook posts, and it has proved to be quite useful for educational purposes. Here’s what I propose:
a. Students briefly capture three moments of their day in several photos. For the Instagram users in the class, have them actually publish these on their profiles. Students could also opt to create fake Instagram posts with Fotor. Still other options are to print these photos out for a personal collage or create PowerPoint presentations with them.
b. Students add captions to their three moments in Instagram style, describing what they did in the preterite tense. Instagram gives you 140 characters for each photo caption, and hopefully they write to the limit!
c. They then create a 15-second video (standard Instagram length) summarizing their three-moment day all in the preterite tense.
d. Similar to the Snapchat activity above, don’t forget to have an in-class discussion about their experiences using Instagram for educational purposes the day the assignment is due. Perhaps more importantly, have them share what they learned or had to learn about the preterite tense in order to carry out this assignment.
Your teaching style will dictate your parameters for the assignment. For example, more advanced students can be challenged to only use irregular preterite verbs in their captions, i.e. from the dirty dozen, such as hacer (to do or make) or venir (to come).
When it comes to grading, what I’ve found useful is to not only review their work for correctness, but to make sure students are actually taking the assignment seriously and, most importantly, having fun with it!
For safety, remind students to only post what they’re comfortable with anyone seeing—or to make their posts “private” in the privacy settings so only the teacher and classmates can see them.
3. Practice Conditional Tense in Photo Captions on Instagram
Yes, there’s more we can do with Instagram!
Since many students spend their free time browsing their News Feeds on Instagram based on their social network, why not activate their Spanish brains during this scroll-fest? Here’s what I propose:
a. Each student comments on five News Feeds of friends and fellow students, describing what they would do if they were there with that friend.
b. Then, each student creates their very own “wish you were here!” Instagram post where they tell their friends what they’d do if they were together.
Again, Instagram caps each comment to 140 words. A possible issue with this assignment may be that students feel awkward doing homework on their friends’ Instagram pages. If this is the case, they can take a screenshot of their comment and then automatically delete it, or they can draw up a mock version of the Instagram post by hand.
Again, use your discretion based on your class’s skill level regarding whether or not to only require students use irregular verbs in the conditional tense, such as poner (to put) or salir (to go out). You might even want to pass out a list of handy words for the conditional.
4. Join a Spanish-speaking Group or Page on Facebook and Become Active
What are students most interested in? Whatever it is, there will likely be a Facebook group dedicated to it. Now students just have to find it in Spanish! Once they do, here’s what I propose:
a. Students start by tuning in to what most members are posting and peruse the comments.
b. They can then begin to comment on them in Spanish. I recommend a one-sentence minimum.
c. Lastly, they author at least two public posts. They can post a video, an article or just a comment, but it has to contain their opinion, be written in present tense, preferably be meaningful to them and, of course, be written in legible Spanish!
d. A few randomly selected students can show their groups and posts to the class.
Don’t forget the most important part: Have a class dialogue about their experiences and what they learned!
Also remind them to clarify who they want their audience to be in the post’s privacy settings.
5. Follow 10 Spanish-speaking Artists on Twitter and Opine in the Subjunctive
Twitter can also be used educationally! There’s a myriad of active accounts updated daily that cover anything and everything. Students love music, so why not focus on artists? Here’s what I propose:
a. Students follow 10 Twitter accounts of Spanish-speaking artists.
b. They peruse their posts and take note of similarities and differences in the posting style of the artists.
c. They lastly formulate their own Tweet in the subjunctive based on the questions How do the artists’ Tweets compare and contrast? How do they reflect their music or art?
d. In case students ask, you can provide them with some common ways to use the subjunctive, such as:
Me gusta que el artista comente acerca… (I like that the comments on…)
Me alegra que el artista hable de… (It’s makes me happy that the artist talks about…)
As with any good homework assignment, allow a dialogue about their experiences and what they learned afterward.
6. YouTube a Prominent Spanish-speaking Person and Practice Future Tense
YouTube is the ultimate video powerhouse. People between the ages 13-24 watch approximately 11.3 hours of online video weekly. It becomes super-addictive as the interface quickly learns viewers’ preferences and continues to recommend more and more videos it knows each student will also be interested in based on algorithms, clicking patterns and history.
Here’s what I propose:
a. Students find clips describing the person’s life and work, like segments from interviews and talk shows.
b. They then form immediate conclusions about what that person’s life will be like in the future.
c. Lastly, they describe their hypothetical future in-class, using at least five verbs conjugated in the future tense.
Again, use your discretion based on your class’s skill level regarding whether or not to only require students use irregular future tense verbs, such as tener (to have) or caber (to fit).
7. Teach the Class Your Expertise on Your Favorite Wikipedia Topic with Informal Commands
Where do you go when you want quick basic information about a topic? Yup, even though it can use some improvements, it’s getting better and better, and is rapidly becoming the ultimate warehouse of information.
Here’s what I propose:
a. Students search their favorite topics on Wikipedia.
b. They use it as an outline to create a basic “how to” guide related to the topic.
c. Their guide must create at least five commands in chronological “how to” order, such as despiértate temprano para caminar por ahí (wake up early to hike around there).
Direct your student to use either regular or irregular future tense verbs, such as venir (to come)—which becomes the irregular ven (come)—or decir (to say or tell) which becomes to di (say, tell).
8. Have Students Present Their Favorite FluentU Video
FluentU is slowly rising to behemoth status as a language learning program and classroom management platform.
It’s unparalleled in context-based video learning. Students love to interact with its smart and highly customizable platform. Here’s what I propose:
b. Add on your students to it and encourage them to experiment on it each night for 30 minutes to an hour.
c. A week later, to ensure they’ve had enough practice with it, have students choose their favorite video, or the one from which they feel they learned the most.
d. Have them reflect on why they enjoyed that video so much. For example, is it the annotations? Explanations? Pictures?
e. Lastly, have students clarify what they learned and how it’s relevant to the current in-class topics, grammar nuances, vocab or tenses.
9. Find Your Favorite Spanish-learning Worksheets on Pinterest
Yes, everyone is on Pinterest these days and it, like the rest of the social media giants, has many educational uses. Here’s what I propose:
a. Each student finds five Spanish-learning worksheets they found useful.
b. Students then print these worksheets and fill them out to practice.
c. Lastly, students share what they learned and explain the worksheet’s relevance to class topics.
d. Swap! Have students print out a second copy of one chosen worksheet and pass their sheets around the group. Each students should end up with one new worksheet, and they’ll then need to fill that out.
I hope these assignments are useful in encouraging your students to learn more outside of class, and most importantly, to enjoy what they’ve learned.
Technology is changing the word faster than we as educators can take note of. It’s vital we catch up and hop on the tech-boat, unless we want to end up stuck on the pier!
Jason Linder, MA, is a doctoral student and intensely passionate Spanish tutor and blog writer. In his free time, he enjoys telenovelas, traveling around Latin America, meditation, yoga, exercise, reading and writing. Learn more about his free Spanish learning resources and tutoring.
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