Video for entertainment and communication is booming, and companies like Netflix and Amazon are reaping the benefits.
Now more than ever, there’s a lot of buzz around learning and teaching languages with videos.
So you may well be wondering, is it a good idea to integrate videos into your Spanish lessons?
Well, the first thing worth pointing out is that nobody is totally isolated from the millions of videos that surround us in the modern world. Commercials play on electronic billboards, televisions are switched on in homes, stores and restaurants, and the internet is chock full of video content.
Since video has now become a strong presence, it’s likely to be a very familiar, relatable and palatable format for many students, young and old alike.
Beyond that, videos just have that “it” factor. Videos are designed to catch and hold our attention by appealing to our eyes and ears. They draw on pop culture, trends, humor and anything we experience in our daily lives.
Clearly, videos can add fun and flavor to the classroom, which boosts engagement and memory as well. Many videos are made by native Spanish speakers and can transport your students to a Spanish-speaking country. Still other videos are produced by Spanish students, teachers and native speakers in an effort to help others learn the language.
These educational videos are counted among our top secret teacher gear at FluentU. In fact, in-classroom videos can be so much fun that students forget they’re in a classroom and learning at the time of watching!
After all, video-viewing is associated with relaxation—what do you do to relax on a Saturday night?—which can help learning by facilitating sustained attention.
How to Teach Spanish with Videos
As Spanish educators, it would be a disservice to our students to not vary and experiment with new teaching tools and resources to offer them opportunities to learn through diverse media.
One effective way of achieving this is weaving videos into the classroom experience. While there’s ample video content out there (many educational YouTube Spanish channels, for example), our challenge is to find the right videos for our students.
New research suggests that with the widespread advent of mobile technology, primarily devices such as iPhones and iPads, students’ attention spans are gradually waning. This presents us educators with yet another unique challenge: Choosing video content that’s likely to maintain your students’ attention from start to finish.
This is why we’ve painstakingly tracked down the shortest (1 to 6 minutes), most creative and engaging videos possible below. You can use these videos and their YouTube channels of origin as a great jumping off point when adding video to your lessons.
As a caveat, to ensure students relate to educational videos and find them useful, I’ve found it helpful to seek their input after experimenting with videos, for future reference.
Seek student feedback after viewing each video with the following questions:
- What did you enjoy about the video?
- What was difficult or easy about it?
- What was useful about it?
- What wasn’t helpful about it?
- What questions do you have after watching?
You can also observe their reactions to different kinds of videos, or ask them further questions about their interests during class. For instance, what kind of videos are students most interested in? Movie trailers? Documentary clips? Instructional videos by natives or by second-language learners? Commercials?
Use all of this information to keep your class interested and on track.
Now, let’s see that selection of Spanish videos for your lessons!
9 Educational Spanish Videos to Share with Your Students
1. “Los pronombes españoles” by Señor Ranke
Why it’s great
Let’s start with one that reviews something basic: pronouns.
Señor Ranke uses a common catchy song that many of us learned from elementary school music instructors—namely “Do Re Mi” from “The Sound of Music”—to teach the pronouns creatively, engagingly and concisely.
Once students learn the song, they’ll learn the pronouns for good and be able to sing out all the basic Spanish pronoun rules in less than 2 minutes! This enables them to use the song’s rhythm when struggling to recall pronouns in order to remember ones they may forget.
A fun activity after viewing this video is to come prepared with pictures of people from a magazine or a Google Images search that represent each of the pronouns in the video, such as a person pointing to a group of people (ustedes), one person pointing to another (tú) or a person pointing to himself (yo). Then you can have the class guess which pronoun each image is illustrating!
2. “Saludos en español” by Tío Spanish
Why it’s great
This Spanish-flavored video gets straight to the point—running only 2.5 minutes long—yet it’s thorough, encompassing a broad gamut of greeting skills in no time! It also incorporates fingers as puppets wearing goofy, paper-made outfits and rhythmic background music.
The video’s playful approach and humorous voice encourage learning and assuage students’ anxiety around getting their feet wet practicing their conversational Spanish and greeting native speakers.
The lack of subtitles during certain explanations can incentivize students to pay better attention during the video. Depending on students’ skill levels, you can pause the video a few times to ensure comprehension.
You can prepare students beforehand to pay extra attention due to lack of subtitles periodically, and write down any words or phrases they don’t recognize. As a class, you can review any phrases students didn’t grasp after viewing and highlighting grammar themes, such as depende de (depends on), as it literally translates awkwardly to “depends of.”
Students can also practice the greetings, phrases, words or cultural norms aloud in pairs, for homework or huddled in groups of 2-4 to create their own video of themselves briefly greeting Spanish-speakers using skills from video. Have them record their own videos on their smartphones and then post them to YouTube to showcase their new skills.
3. “ConjugationsBack” by Sr Mara
Why it’s great
This is one of the few succinct videos out there that actually makes conjugation fun. Performed by Spanish students, it highlights key patterns to the beat of a popular song, “Sexy Back” by Justin Timberlake. It also rhymes beautifully, and it’s quite clear that it was created by enthusiastic students who are getting a kick out of Spanish assignments. Your own students might enjoy seeing their peers having fun and dancing around while learning and teaching—and hopefully they’ll be encouraged to do the same!
This is a great way to introduce conjugation in the present tense to the class. After the video, you can go through the patterns such as nosotros (we) conjugations ending in amos, and you can encourage students to conjugate different regular AR verbs with similar conjugations in the present tense, such as visitar (to visit) or amar (to love) instead of sacar (to take out), the verb used in the original video.
If you’re looking for an exciting student project, have students break into project groups and come up with their very own conjugation song for a particular grammar rule. This can even get competitive!
4. “Cry Me a Verb” by Sr Mara
Why it’s great
Similar to video #3, this video helps students get through the difficulties of conjugating Spanish verbs. It continues where #3 left off and proves to be a stellar review of irregular, present tense, stem-changing verbs, as well as “go” verbs in the yo (I) form.
This one is based on a popular Justin Timberlake tune, “Cry Me a River.” It has a sarcastic feel to it that can pique students’ interests by empathizing with the difficulty of learning Spanish in the classroom.
At the 2:55 minute mark, there’s a great comedy bit about the oddness of ser (to be) and ir (to go) conjugations that students will surely laugh at!
Similar to video #3, this is a great way to introduce present tense AR verbs, this time stem-changers, to the class! After the video, you can review the patterns and encourage students to work on their own to conjugate stem-changing AR verbs with similar conjugations in the present tense—o to ue stem-changers such as volar (to fly) or probar (to try)—instead of jugar (to play), which is the verb used for the original video.
5. “Reflex Your Verby” by Sr Mara
Why it’s great
This video has the potential to quell students’ confusions related to reflexive verb use, as it’s virtually nonexistent in English. It’s also funny, engaging, original and concise. And yes, it’s based on a third Justin Timberlake song, “Rock Your Body,” that students will definitely love!
Again I recommend practicing with new reflexive verbs that weren’t covered in the video such as toparse (to bump into someone) and then ponerse la ropa (put one’s clothes on). Discuss what happens in Spanish when you perform the action on someone else by highlighting two similar verbs like bañar and bañarse (bathing something/someone else or bathing yourself).
6. “Cómo usar saludos y despedidas en español” by Spanish Learning Lab
Why it’s great
This video is short yet arguably the most comprehensive greeting video out there, as it corrects common errors new learners frequently make (i.e. saying buenas días instead of buenos días). It reviews informal vs. formal greetings and provides useful, variations such as ¿Qué tal? or ¿Cómo te va? so students don’t only greet with ¿Cómo estás? (the generic “how are you?”).
It provides context about the use of estar (to be) and covers possible greeting responses in depth as well as the variations which often perplex students, such as the difference between Es un gusto (it’s a pleasure to meet you) and Mucho gusto (it’s very nice to meet you), or hasta pronto (see you later) and nos vemos pronto (see you soon).
The music, awesome graphics, unique attention-grabbing fonts and basic dialogues demystified make it not only good, but downright spectacular!
For students with less Spanish experience, you can pause the clip during each slide to translate certain sections; for advanced students you can play through it without pausing. It can be helpful to highlight and have dialogue about how the video’s Spanish greetings would be different in English, or role-play variations on basic greetings with the class.
7. “Cognates vs. False Cognates” by iUniversity Prep
Why it’s great
Have you heard that 30-40% of words in Spanish have the same origins as words in English, based on their root-language, Latin? Learning cognates is highly useful, and this is the most concise cognate video yet. This is an important topic too, because what student hasn’t fallen for false cognates?
The background music is soothing, which helps because relaxed students are more likely to take more in.
I recommend bringing a list of new cognates and false cognates that weren’t covered in the video so you can review them with the class afterwards. Later on, you can quiz your class on everything covered to guarantee students learn to distinguish between true and false cognates with reasonable accuracy.
8. “NEEM 1/ NEEM Básico – Unidad 1 Hola, ¿qué tal? – subtitulado” by SGEL ELE Español para extranjeros
Why it’s great
This video covers a lot of ground in 2.5 minutes! Our Spanish host, Eva, introduces herself, her parents and her friends, covering the range of rudimentary things you’d share with people you recently met. Aside from the music, Eva’s Spanish is clearly articulated, subtitled and she takes us through her life in Ponferrada, Spain.
This video is distinct from the rest in that it focuses more on native interactions and cultural nuances than it does on Spanish language instruction.
One option is an in-class discussion about what stood out for students regarding how Eva engaged with her immediate social life. How does she speak or behave differently with different people? How do they speak differently with her? What might influence these interactions?
This is video can serve as a great example for what students can do for homework. In a 2-minute video, they can play Eva’s role and introduce themselves in the context of their immediate social life in Spanish, and they can even add their own Spanish subtitles.
9. “Spanish Pronunciation Guide” by The Spanish Dude
Why it’s great
This video is super funny, lightens the mood in any class and mitigates anxiety of speaking “wrong” by welcoming mistakes.
It’s humbling because The Spanish Dude is overtly not a native speaker, and models comfort and confidence despite knowing he once spoke and often still speaks awkward Americanized Spanish. He even says “pronunicate” in English instead of the correct word “pronounce” throughout the video.
He’s clearly not afraid of erring and has been successful accordingly with Spanish as a result! This can be encouraging for students as they attempt to pronounce new words and struggle with tongue-twisters and frustration.
As the video hints, students should feel highly encouraged to practice out of class, whether it’s in a Spanish-speaking restaurant, supermarket or at a bus stop. They can also choose one of Jordan’s tips to practice in-class in groups. Have them write reports or scripts of their experiences in the real world (real or imagined) or have them stage videos or plays.
I hope you and your students enjoy not only watching these videos, but weaving them into Spanish lessons.
If you’re feeling really inspired, you should upload your class’s creations for the rest of the Spanish-learning world to enjoy online.
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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