Often teaching can feel like a game of chance.
When walking into my next lesson, I never know what I’m going to find.
If I’m very lucky, maybe a nice and calm group of thirty polite students who are ready to learn?
If I’m not, there will most definitely be some friendship drama, several smelly teenagers exhausted and unsettled after gym class, or just an atmosphere of boredom and demotivation.
I’ve got a trick, though. And it works every time.
I just walk in with the department’s iPads or some DVDs, or tell the class we’ll be using our phones during the lesson, or just ask them to go down to the computer lab once I’ve taken attendance.
It works wonders, really. Someone may be lying on the table, head down, already dreading your presence, and as soon as they see the iPads, or hear the word “phone” or “computer lab,” it just changes the mood completely.
They sit up and, if you’re lucky, they might even smile!
Multimedia can take your Spanish lessons to a whole new level, so I’m sharing ten engaging ideas with you today.
Top Reasons to Incorporate Multimedia into Your Spanish Lessons
The great thing about using multimedia activities is not just that it works wonders if you want to trick your students into thinking your lessons are fun (a legitimate and common concern most teachers have!), but you get a full package of benefits as well.
- Engagement is probably the main reason many teachers bring in technology, videos and other multimedia resources to the lessons. It attracts students, gets them in the mood for learning and gives them a tool they already feel comfortable with, which boosts their confidence levels.
- Multimedia activities also allow teachers to take Spanish outside the classroom, both literally and metaphorically. Some of these ideas can be carried out in the playground, all around the school or in different rooms, providing a change of setting that will contribute to their engagement and allow students to think outside the box. Other multimedia activities allow students to step out into the world without even leaving the classroom, by using online resources that get them in contact with the culture and particularities of Spanish-speaking countries.
- They also provide great opportunities for cross-curricular learning, by designing activities that can have a direct link between different subjects. Film, photography, media studies, technology, art or drama are some of the more obvious choices, but the sky is the limit when it comes to being innovative, and designing activities that can work in other subjects too.
- These activities increase cultural awareness by giving students a unique insight into Spanish life and history. Films, podcasts, blogs and social media allow pupils to see things through the eyes of a Spanish person, which widens their knowledge and understanding of other cultures, helping them to become well-rounded human beings.
- Multimedia activities are a fantastic context in which to use authentic materials. Plus, some multimedia tools, like FluentU, YouTube, blogs or Twitter, come with its own resources, which are constantly updated with new videos, posts, etc.
Okay, so let’s get down to business! What great ways are out there to use multimedia activities in your Spanish class? Take a look at the great activities suggested below, find your favorites and give them a try this academic year!
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10 Creative Ideas for Spanish Lessons Using the Latest Technology
Twitter offers so many options, it’s hard to actually list them all. Each teacher I have seen using Twitter for their lessons has his or her own little tricks, activities and games they like to do.
One of the most successful ideas is to get your students to create a Twitter account to use for their Spanish work, and follow websites or language courses that provide resources, vocabulary and interesting facts about Spanish-speaking countries.
My favorites in the world of Twitter are Spanish Language, Coffee Break Spanish, SpanishDict and obviously the FluentU Spanish account—which has great ideas to improve our students’ Spanish and help them become independent learners.
Depending on the level your students have, they might even be able to follow newspapers, magazines or websites, like El País, BuzzFeed Español or Muy Interesante, and Spanish celebrities like Ricky Martin or Shakira.
You can also use Twitter to engage with students outside of class, using it as a board for discussion under a specific hashtag (#WeAllHateIrregularVerbs would be a nice one!) or to answer their questions outside the classroom. You could also post quick quizzes, or even ask them to complete and submit their homework using Twitter; they will absolutely love it!
Sometimes when we talk about videos, the first thing that comes to mind is putting on a film and chilling out in class. Although it can be tempting at times, it’s probably not the best way to push our students forward.
Alternatively, there are great ready-made resources to squeeze all the Spanish out of some great films, including those available in TodoEle and this fantastic Christmas episode of “The Penguins of Madagascar” that my students loved last year.
Another option is to get your students to film themselves. For example, vlogs (video blogs) can be an original and engaging way to submit homework and practice speaking. For some students, filming their role plays instead of performing in front of the class helps with their confidence, which will give us a better understanding of their actual level.
Many teachers are already using blogs to give students a place in which to find resources, notes, homework and information for their lessons. Some are even using them as a resource for colleagues, with advice and examples of best practice and tips.
However, students can also use blogs to keep a portfolio of evidence of their work in Spanish lessons. I like giving my younger students termly cultural projects or homework research to deepen their understanding of Spanish-speaking countries, and blogs are a great place to keep them organized and available for everyone to use.
It also provides great scope for peer assessment! Just give each student someone else’s blog post to assess and comment on, and let them work collaboratively to improve each other’s work.
Have you had a chance to check out how FluentU can help you turn a dull class into a memorable lesson? FluentU provides an innovative way to use video in Spanish class, while keeping the content accessible for all students.
The wide range of video clips on FluentU make it the best place from which to get ice breakers and plenaries for your Spanish class. Or, you can easily even plan an entire lesson based on just one or a small selection of videos.
With the interactive subtitles, multimedia flashcards and personalized Learn Mode, students have the support they need to understand each video on their own. My younger students love the Disney movie trailers and songs, which are a very nice way to put an end to the session with a group activity.
Newsfeeds are a fantastic tool to get authentic resources for advanced students and to enable differentiation for our higher ability pupils, who could really benefit from working independently with more challenging resources. By downloading a Spanish newsfeed on iPads or smartphones, the students have access to articles and news items from Spanish-speaking countries which they can then use both in class and at home.
My favorite app is News Republic, which allows students to choose a language and the topics they want to read about. News Republic is a great tool for extension activities for students who have finished early, or are finding a certain task too easy.
If you’re lucky enough to have tablets available in class, students can open the app and work around a certain news article, trying to get the gist of the story, annotating new words or even completing some activities.
An idea that I want to try out this year is creating a bank of extension activities printed out in cards, such as “Identify at least ten verbs,” “Find five masculine adjectives,” “Write a summary of the news article” or even “Write a letter to the editor with your views on the matter.”
The cards can be color-coded by level of difficulty, and would allow higher-ability students to independently pick a task, open News Republic, choose an article and dive in.
6. PowerPoint Presentation
I’m sure many of us have used PowerPoint presentations in class and have asked our students to produce their own for different cultural projects. I’m even going to guess some of you out there dread them, especially if you get the students speak out in class and give their presentations in front of the other students. After the third student comes out to go through slide after slide of text in Spanish, engagement levels go down, down, down.
What I bring today is a great resource to spice up PowerPoint presentations in your Spanish class. This great “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” template can be used by teachers to review before a test or to do some assessment of the learning after the lesson, but it can also be used by students to test each other.
By preparing their own quizzes, students will learn from researching the correct answers, and will get into the whole competitive spirit that keeps them going so well.
And, if you do plan to have students give a PowerPoint presentation on a Spanish celebrity or a Spanish-speaking country at some point, ask them to include a quiz at the end and bring in sweets for the winners. That will keep the class engaged no matter how many nervous teenagers you have hesitatingly talking about Messi in front of the class!
7. Spanish TV, Radio and Podcasts
Another one of my favorite resources to get my students engaged at the beginning of a lesson is to just put on the news at RTVE or play the radio for a few minutes, and ask them to get the gist of what’s being said or to write down a few words.
The benefits of doing this at the beginning of a lessons are huge. Including a listening activity at the start switches their brains on right from minute one, gives them a challenge to motivate them, makes them think on their feet and, most importantly, it doesn’t get any more real than randomly listening to the radio or the TV in Spanish, just as you would if you walked into a shop in Spain or you switched on the TV in a hotel.
Also, podcasts are great resources to keep our students learning Spanish during school breaks. There are many podcasts out there with lessons to improve Spanish language and find out more about the culture. Coffee Break Spanish has been providing fantastic 15-minute lessons since 2008, so there’s plenty for your students to learn during their vacations!
Skype is a fantastic way to chat and have video calls with people from all around the world. If you already have an exchange program set up with you school, organizing regular Skype sessions is a fast way to communicate and keep your students excited about this new friendship.
If you haven’t found any Spanish speakers yet, check out the Language Exchange board in the Skype Community Forum and the Education page, where you can post your own message looking for other schools or individuals to have a language exchange with.
And if you find just talking can lead to awkward silences, you can always arrange cooperative projects, like watching a film and sharing opinions about it, predicting the scores of an upcoming soccer match between the US and Mexico or just translating Spanish and English songs together. It will make the whole experience much more entertaining!
If you don’t have access to Skype in school, don’t worry. Skype isn’t the only place out there for language exchange; Google Hangouts or Babelvillage are alternative ways to meet Spanish speakers.
9. Google Earth
I discovered Google Earth was a great resource for my lessons when one of my students asked me where I was from, and I decided to show them the actual house in which I grew up, in Madrid. They loved it! They had so many questions: Why are there so many apartments? Are there no houses in Madrid? Is it big? What was my favorite place? etc.
I decided to turn it into a nice plenary to my lessons, allowing my students to suggest different Spanish-speaking places they wanted to see and discover. We have walked down the streets of Mexico, explored the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona and even seen Machu Picchu from up high!
In some sessions, I got them to translate signs and names of roads and business. In others, I asked them to research beforehand the top ten places they’d like to see in a certain city. I haven’t found a better way to make my students fall in love with Spanish-speaking countries!
My other new idea for this year is to get my students to follow a Spanish-speaking celebrity of their choice on Instagram. They’ll create a weekly summary of what the celeb has been up to, including translations of their publications and any other relevant information they can provide.
Over the past few weeks I’ve been really excited to see the things Shakira and Iker Casillas have been posting, which I think will be great to keep my students engaged!
Students can also use Instagram to create accounts and interact with Spanish bloggers, to keep up with their vocabulary or to do short writing exercises in the target language with their very own Spanish photo blog. You can even give bonus points or prizes for those that engage in conversations with other users in Spanish.
Just as with Twitter, it’s up to each teacher to explore, find and share great new ways of using Instagram in their Spanish lessons. If you want some ideas to get started, check out Desafio Instagram Ele’s account and see what these teachers are doing on the hottest social media platform of the moment.
Are you ready to up your game this year? Try out these great ideas to incorporate multimedia activities, or come up with your own to revolutionize your Spanish class!
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