“Teacher, can we watch a video?”
Have your students ever said this?
Then give them what they want!
Mine used to suggest it all the time, especially when we were getting close to the Christmas period or just before the summer break.
They were antsy and looking for a way to make Spanish class more fun and interactive.
I listened. I gave in to their demands!
Now they don’t even wait until the end of term to ask — there’s always a good excuse to ask for video time in Spanish class.
Do you want to know the good news? After months of researching good ideas and creating some of my own, I’ve discovered that there’s no reason to say “no” to videos in my Spanish class anymore!
Read on, fellow teacher!
Proof That In-class Videos Are More than Just Fun
So here’s the idea: when your students ask for videos (and they will), give them videos!
Where’s the trick? Well, they might be asking for popular films or TV series and you might be hesitant to bring those into the classroom.
They’re only asking for those kinds of videos because they haven’t realized much fun it is to actually watch something featuring themselves! Get your students to turn their smartphones into cameras and then play the clips in your lessons! They’ll absolutely love this new way of tackling their classwork or independent study.
We’re all about learning with video content at FluentU. If you’re looking for classroom inspiration, check out our huge collection of real-world Spanish language videos. Before assigning video projects in class, have students watch a few short clips on FluentU that illustrate what their final products should look like. We’ve got everything from Disney movies to music videos and “Adventure Time” clips — so you’re guaranteed to find something relevant to your in-class activities!
Once they’re gotten a clear idea of what to do, making their own videos (and watching their own videos) will help their Spanish in many different ways. Still unsure? Have a look at these major reasons why videos work for language teaching:
- Videos develop their writing and speaking skills.
Of course, it’s not just about getting in front of a camera. It’s about putting together a script, rehearsing, memorizing lines and practicing pronunciation, all with the ability to go back and film a scene over again or add content if they think they can make their final product better.
- Videos encourage reflection and offer great tools for peer assessment.
The fantastic thing about videos is that they can be watched over and over again.
I used to make students perform little role plays in class. Now, I ask them to film themselves and we watch their work together. The first reflection process takes place before the submission date, as I know the majority of my students will watch what they’ve recorded and film specific scenes again after checking how they can improve their spoken Spanish for the video.
The second moment of reflection takes place in class, where we watch the content together and pause to discuss key questions, provide feedback to one another and focus on specific criteria or target concepts.
- Videos provide plenty of opportunities to link content and culture.
As every other language teacher, I love to make culture part of my lessons, but this isn’t always an easy task. However, videos are a great way to do it.
As you’ll see when you have a look at the list of video activity ideas, this resource enables students to practice their Spanish while they cook typical food, research about different countries or explore Spanish music.
- Videos promote student-led lessons and are a great support for their revision sessions.
Working in a mixed ability class has made me realize that a homemade movie can be a great tool to generate student interaction.
Get them to be the teachers both in and out of lessons!
A video gets students to explain things to each other. For the ones that understand certain topics featured in videos, video-related activities help with their confidence and deepens their thinking. Plus, they provide them with an opportunity to reflect on what they know and how to explain this knowledge to others.
For the ones that don’t understand the grammar point well, having a fellow student explaining the content usually means that they will feel more comfortable asking questions. In addition to this, pupils usually share a common way of expressing themselves. This will probably mean they understand each other better than they understand us!
- Videos engage students and break them out of the routine.
Students love to have the opportunity to do something different. They go crazy when they’re given the chance to take their phones out and actually use them during lessons.
We’re very lucky in this regard, as not every subject can introduce video as easily as we do in language classrooms. This probably means that we’re going to provide a different learning environment compared to what they’re used to. You’ll be amazed by the impact this has on your lessons.
Students will arrive to Spanish class excited for a change of pace and some fun learning time!
All of these are strong reasons. Now it’s time to turn them into strong ideas to make videos relevant to your Spanish language teaching. Lucky for you, we’ve come up with a list of the very best!
10 Lively Video Activities That’ll Get a Standing Ovation from Your Spanish Students
You can basically include video in anything you do, although some topics just seem to provide perfect opportunities for audiovisual content. Something we must have in mind at all times is the impact this tool is going to have on their learning, so we can ensure videos are about more than just the fun.
Generally, I ask students to create a script prior to filming. I only check this script if I have specific concerns after watching their work. For example, if a student cannot conjugate a single verb correctly, I would ask for the script to get a deeper understanding as to where the problem lies.
My biggest tip is to spend a lesson watching the videos and getting students to assess their peers’ work. To help them with the feedback process, you can provide students with a success criteria rubric or list of things to look out for.
If you haven’t got a whole lesson to dedicate to videos, you can play two or three short ones at the beginning of class as a starter activity. Students will eventually have a portfolio of recordings that can count towards their speaking grades. You’ll see that they’ll develop their speaking skills much more than they did without videos.
Have a look at the ideas below and get inspired! It’s not just about applying these activities directly, but about adapting them to what suits you and your classroom best.
Some of the ideas have been already used by many teachers, so make sure you check out the different links to YouTube to see how much fun they can be. Other ideas have resulted from a long-term brainstorming process between my students and myself, and all of them have proven very successful.
1. Start a Video Blog
Are you the kind of teacher that sets a written assignment on a regularly basis?
I was, and it gave me so much marking and grading to work on at home. I used to hate myself for creating this laborious situation.
I could see the value of it, but if you have many students it can be exhausting. One day, my pupils suggested video assignments as an alternative. For example, if the topic was “food” they’d create a video covering this topic just as they would with their written work, but with creative freedom to do this in the most original way possible.
One of my students recorded himself while having dinner with his family, and everyone found it hilarious!
2. Fashion Show
This is a fantastic way of practicing for the topic of “clothes.” There are many examples on YouTube to show you exactly how to do it.
Encourage your students to get crazy with designs, opt for different fashion styles and have a lot of fun with the whole project! Back when I was studying French, we didn’t have easy access to recording devices, but I remember that our teacher got us to work in groups and perform a fashion show in class. It was memorable and got all of us really excited to complete the project!
Many famous singers have their songs translated to Spanish, which provides a great opportunity for our students to come up with new versions of the video clips!
Last year, everyone went all crazy about “Frozen.” My class came up with great ideas for the movie’s musical numbers, which we enjoyed watching with some popcorn during our lesson. Another great success some time ago was Carly Rae Jepsen with her song “Call me Maybe.” If none of that works, we’ll always have Shakira to look to for inspiration!
4. Tour guide
Over the summer period last year, I got my students to produce a video about their real or ideal holidays.
They could choose to recommend a country and produce a presentation with pictures, or to actually film themselves on holiday and act as tour guides. This was planned as a review assignment, covering everything we’d learned during the year. I didn’t want them to forget everything over vacation!
Their videos included every possible topic that we’d covered in the previous year, including free time, food, clothes and even weather.
Grammar explanation: we’ve already talked about what a great tool video is for getting students to reflect and deepen their thinking regarding grammar. Videos can either be made for entertainment and include all the key grammar and vocabulary, or they can be made in a more directly educational format where the students record themselves giving grammar lessons.
They can either film themselves explaining a certain point, or use interactive whiteboard apps which record the notes they write on their tablets (like Show Me) while recording their voice on top. Even better, ask your students to go crazy and create something cool like a rap about verb conjugations!
5. The Weather
Nothing is easier to adapt to video than a weather report! I mean, weather report are already on the television all the time. Students are familiar with the style and format of such a report.
Students can choose to do this in front of a map or they can get out there and actually film themselves in different weather conditions. My favorite suggestion is to introduce some grammar by asking them to talk about the weather in different tenses.
This is another great idea that’s been tried by many teachers in the past in many different ways. One option is to provide your students with a Spanish recipe and ask them to film themselves while they prepare the dish, just as if they were one of those famous cooks on TV!
Alternatively, you can ask them to choose a recipe by themselves. Either way, have them bring their final products (the delicious, homemade dishes) to class so you can all enjoy eating them while watching the videos. This is a great way to spice up the topic of food.
7. Mr. President
I came up with this idea when my older students were learning about environment-related language and the use of the verb deber. I asked them to pretend that they were candidates in the next presidential election and to prepare scripts explaining the problems in their city. They also had to talk about what sort of things should be done to solve them.
They then had to give a speech and convince the rest of the class to vote for them as the future President. They recorded each other, we watched all the videos and then they voted for the best one. It was great fun and it turned a potentially dull topic into something much more exciting!
8. Film Soap Operas or Short Films
Some weeks ago we talked about how to introduce your students to Spanish immersion. We explained how to include some drama in your lessons by getting students to produce their own plays in Spanish.
Instead of just asking them to work on the script and perform, encourage them to film themselves. The result will be much better, as they’ll have more time to correct mistakes and reflect on pronunciation. And, as always, all the class will have a lot of fun watching the finished videos!
A fantastic option at the end of the year is to provide your students with a project whereby they’ll review everything that’s been studied already. They can come up with a commercial, a song or a funny sketch that’s inspired by the topics. The key to this idea is comedy and giving your students creative freedom. It’ll be a great way to finish the term!
10. Appeal to Shy Students
Now you might be thinking, “what about my shy students? The ones who’ll hate being in the spotlight?”
The majority of students love to get their phones out, film themselves and take it very seriously, but some can find this very challenging and disruptive to their studies. Especially if you teach teenagers, some of them are extremely shy.
The idea of having the whole class watch their videos just makes them want to escape Spanish class forever.
For those students, Voki could be a great option! Voki allows you to create an avatar that does all the talking for you. You can personalize it, enter the script and let Voki show off all your Spanish!
Another option is Xtranomal, which enables you to come up with your own animated short films and record your own voices for each character!
By taking the focus off of the students a bit, you’ll ensure that even your shyest students practice their speaking in a creative and innovative way.
There are no excuses! The next time your students ask for a video, you’ll be delighted to offer a great big “YES!”
Oh, and One More Thing…
If you already love the idea of teaching with videos, you’ve got to check out FluentU. FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, cartoons, documentaries and more—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons for you and your students.
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 when you’re looking for material for in-class activities or homework. Plus, all the videos are sorted by skill level and topic, 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, an audio pronunciation, image 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 asks questions and 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.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to teach Spanish with real-world videos.