Teaching, lesson planning, grading, paperwork.
I think I can, I think I can…
Teaching, lesson planning, grading, paperwork.
I think I can, I think I can…
Does this sound like you? A never ending story of the Spanish teacher that kept on chugging along?
Even when you try to put together a “to do” list, you somehow never seem to cross everything off.
A recent survey found that for every hour of teaching, we spend another hour planning and grading. One of the big time-suckers for teachers is finding, preparing and organizing resources.
The good news? We’re here to make that part easier!
Let’s hop aboard the Spanish Express and turn you into the little Spanish teacher that could—putting you on the right track to the teaching resources you can’t live without.
Saving Time While Planning Spanish Lessons
Getting the right resources can make such a difference to a lesson.
“But it takes so… much… time!” Yes, I know.
Getting your resources ready is one of those aspects of teaching no one can do for you. To cut down on the amount of time it takes, be sure to keep the following ideas in mind:
- Perfection is the biggest enemy of a teacher. When I think back to my first year of teaching, I wonder how I managed to survive it. Oh, all the time I had spent moving that image to the left and then back to the right because it made the PowerPoint look more symmetrical! Some years of expertise have given me the most valuable piece of advice: If it’s not going to make an impact on your students’ learning, don’t do it.
- Always think ahead. Ever had to plan a lesson and thought, “Oh, I saw this very cool PowerPoint last month, let’s see if I can find it again”? It used to happen to me all the time until I decided to save anything I liked in my computer. Have the curriculum in mind at all times and if you come across something you fancy, save it for later. (Evernote is perfect for this, by the way). Remember that if you have an organized bank of resources it will save you a lot of time in the future!
- Sharing is caring. Have you ever been looking for resources and came across something one of your colleagues might find useful? Send them a quick e-mail with the link! It will take thirty seconds, and next time they see something you could use, they’ll be the ones e-mailing you!
Once we have in mind these “time management” techniques, let’s ask ourselves, “What should I be looking for?”
What Do the Best Spanish Teaching Resources Look Like?
We all want our students to love our subject. We would love to be learning songs and watching telenovelas all the time, and be able to prepare a game for each topic plus later overhear our students saying how much fun they’d had. The temptation to put all this pressure on the resources we use is big, but it’s not necessarily the best approach.
Our job as teachers is to teach, not to entertain. That’s why, when getting our resources ready, we should be asking ourselves: “Is this activity helping them or is it distracting them from the learning?”
Here are some key questions to consider to help you find the best Spanish teaching resources.
What do I want my students to learn?
Make sure you have a very clear picture of what you want your students to achieve. This doesn’t need to be just one thing. If the topic of the lesson is “Past holidays,” I could focus on “names of countries,” “conjugating in the past tense” and “developing reading skills.”
What are the best activities and resources for those specific goals?
If I want my students to learn the names of various countries, I would probably prepare something based on cognates. It’s probably not going to be as fun as a crossword, but it will develop their reading skills and ensure they are able to work out new vocabulary.
Are my students able to access the learning?
Differentiation is time consuming. In some places, differentiation is just another box that needs ticking, but even if this is the case, don’t underestimate the power of leveled resources. Sometimes it’s just a matter of providing some students with extra support (a list of vocabulary, a verb table…) or giving your high-ability students some sort of challenge. You can spend hours preparing your resources, but if they are not matched to your students’ abilities you will have lost a lot of valuable time!
The Spanish Teaching Resources You Can’t Live Without
Yes, having all these ideas in mind will prove really helpful, but what will really save you time is having a list of sites that you know and trust, a set of places where you can easily find what you’re looking for without having to guess how to actually download resources from them.
In my time teaching, I have found lots of places I really like, all of which are bookmarked on my browser and ready to use, depending on what I’m looking for.
The following is a list with my favorite sites and, most importantly, some ideas on how to use them and what makes them so cool. Enjoy!
Culture and Literature
- Fun Learning Spanish: I love to use this website in my Spanish Culture Club. Articles are in both English and Spanish, which proves very useful when preparing differentiated reading activities. It covers many aspects of Spanish culture and has a handy calendar with all the different fiestas for each month!
- El Cuentacuentos: Here you will find short stories in Spanish that every kid knows and loves, from Cinderella to Peter Pan and—coming soon—even Shrek! Since they are not too long and are well organized in paragraphs, my favorite activity with these stories is to have students work on each paragraph in groups, breaking it down, translating key bits… and then put the paragraphs in order together as a class.
- Cervantes Virtual: Cervantes Virtual is an interesting online library with many books and articles available in PDF. It has a great section of poems and stories for kids, and some of the masterpieces of Spanish literature for adults!
- Ciudad Seva: Ciudad Seva is another online library which I find really useful when looking for resources for adults or secondary students. It’s the place I go to if I need to find poems, but it also has an interesting collection of plays and short stories.
- Tecla Magazines: I cannot tell you how much I love the Tecla magazines. It’s got it all! It’s leveled and has a range of activities on reading comprehension, vocabulary, grammar and writing practice. Best of all, it comes with an audio track so you can also practice listening skills!
- The Spanish Forum: The real strength of this website is its grammar worksheets. These are really well organized, attractive and include a clear explanation at the beginning.
- Conjugation: The great aspect about this website is that it’s extremely easy to use and it will save you so much time if you’re putting together verb tables. Just choose your verb and what tenses you’d like the table to have. You can even choose the layout and whether or not you want subjects! Then just take it to a Word document and customize it or print it off!
Getting students to do their independent learning is sometimes challenging, so here are some websites that can make life a bit easier for you and your students.
- Linguascope: This site has activities on many topics, organized by different abilities. It’s really useful for vocabulary learning, and includes games and audios to practice pronunciation. You can ask students to print and complete the test or a worksheet and bring it in to class.
- Activiscope: This site is similar to Linguascope, but with an important difference: You can create your own games and activities by uploading the vocabulary you would like your students to review.
- FluentU: FluentU is unlike any other language learning site out there. It takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons. While you could easily build an in-class lesson around FluentU, the online Spanish immersion platform provides students with engaging at-home practice, with fresh new videos being added every week!
But that’s not all—there’s so much more to dig into here.
FluentU has 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.
Lesson Plans, Activities and Worksheets
- Spanish 4 teachers: This website has so many interesting resources it is probably worth spending some time discovering all it has to offer. The best thing about it is that it is really well organized, with everything linked together. For example, if you choose to browse PowerPoints on Spanish adjectives, it will also take you to lesson plans, worksheets and handout that you could use in that same lesson.
- Tes.co.uk: Here is the best website for teachers in the UK, with loads of resources linked to the most common textbooks and exam boards. If you’re not in the UK, this is still an amazing tool for you to use. My favorite feature about this place is that it works like a social network, so if I find someone whose resources I really like, I can just add them to “My Friends” and keep an eye on their new resources!
- Light Bulb Languages: I’m sure many of you knew Sunderland MFL and have been trying to find it with no success. Don’t worry, Light Bulb Languages is their new website, with all of their same amazing resources! It’s a fantastic site that has been smartly organized. It has a lovely compilation of starter and plenary’s activities, with dominoes, puzzles and multiple choice activities on many topics. They are simple and fun, but perfect for practicing vocabulary.
- Todo Ele: Todo Ele is another one of those websites that offers a bit of everything. Its biggest strength is its materials on songs and films, which include a level indicator plus ready-to-use lesson plans and materials.
- BBC Languages: The best aspect about BBC Languages is the primary section, with great games that can be used on interactive whiteboards. My students used to love the “Magic Cards” games. Also, check out the online drama “Mi vida loca,” which is aimed for beginners with an interest in learning travel-related vocabulary—fantastic if you have access to an ICT room.
- Primary Resources: I love it when websites organize resources by topics, it’s really quick and handy! Primary Resources is simple to use and provides great PowerPoint presentations and activities for a wide range of topics. It also includes the name of the teachers that shared the documents. This saves me so much time, because once I know and trust someone, I just have to check out other resources they have created!
- The Jack Hunt School website: Take a look at the resources on the story “Dear Zoo.” Primary kids love story telling, and this is one is great for six to eight-year-olds with lots of interesting activities to go with it. I tried this last year and my students even wrote and illustrated their own version of the story!
So many resources and so many tips, you may want to try them all!
But don’t get carried away.
Sometimes we are so obsessed with coming up with original resources that we forget the most useful are the ones students enjoy, know and understand.
Sure, from time to time it’s great to spice things up, but do we need to do this every single day?
So hop aboard and use these resources as a base, and then build up a solid bank of ideas you can adapt to different topics or lessons. This will save time in lesson planning, plus you’ll also save time during the lesson, as you won’t have to explain as many new activities.
Soon you’ll be chugging “I know I can, I know I can!” as the little Spanish teacher that could! All aboard!
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to teach Spanish with real-world videos.