I don’t know about you, but when I first started going to school 25 years ago, the only piece of electronic equipment in the classroom was my teacher’s humongous computer that she used as rarely as possible.
Oh, and a microwave.
Today when you walk into your typical classroom, you see at least one computer if not several, a TV, a projector, maybe a smart board and a cabinet full of iPads.
And of course all of the students are walking the halls carrying their own laptops and phones.
Times have changed, as they must.
As Spanish teachers, we need to find creative ways to utilize these new tools in order to better help our students—but at the same time we don’t want to make life more difficult for ourselves.
A teacher’s workload is already pretty heavy, so in this post I’d like to talk about ways to make your job easier, not harder.
Because there are so many good tools to choose from I had to narrow my selection down a bit. In order to make it into my list below, the tool had to be:
1. Easy to set up. These classroom tools might require you to download one app or sign up for an account, but otherwise you’re good to go.
2. Free (or mostly free). Because teachers don’t make a whole lot of money and we all know how difficult it is to get funding.
3. Interactive. To me this means that the students have to actually do something in order to fulfill the objective. The class that just sits and listens is a breeding ground for tired students who are prone to zoning out or falling asleep. Especially if you happen to have a class after lunch. Also, in order to truly learn Spanish students actually need to speak, listen to and interact with the language in a meaningful way.
Being a former Spanish teacher myself, I’ve chosen a few websites that will better help your students specifically with listening and translating. With a few tweaks, these could also be used for speaking exercises.
This post does assume that you have a TV in your classroom and that you’re able to display a browser (Chrome, Internet Explorer, Firefox) on it. If that’s not the case, an iPad, library or a computer lab is also an option.
Also, just as a caveat before we begin—because being responsible is good—you should probably consider sending home a permission slip if you plan on allowing students to use their own personal devices in your classroom. Some parents might have their students on a restricted data plan and some students may not even own a smartphone. You need to know about these things in advance in order to have a workaround.
Ready? Here we go!
5 Highly Interactive Ways to Use Technology in Your Spanish Classroom
I realize that phones are pretty much the bane of every modern teacher’s existence, but Kahoot! actually gives them a good reason to be in your classroom, I promise. Completely free, Kahoot! is an online game that you can set up very quickly and will work on any device that has an internet connection.
It’s a fun way to create and deliver Spanish exercises and quizzes to your students. You can set it up to show vocabulary words, pictures or what have you, and to give the students multiple answers in Spanish to choose from. Or you can do it in reverse and have the question be in Spanish then have the students select the correct translation.
If you have iPads in your classroom (lucky) this would be easy to get set up ahead of time—you can simply open it up on each screen and have everyone grab an iPad. It’s also a great game for students to play together, in case of limited technology. Collaboration is always good!
Here’s yet another stellar app to have on every classroom device. The downside is that it’s not designed for teachers and classrooms, but the bright side is that it’s exciting enough to get students psyched to play and learn. Use this for warm ups and cool downs, before and after lessons, or any other time when you need a fun way to fill up gaps in lesson plans.
This app employs the MOSA Method—an effective learning strategy dreamed up by seasoned language teachers—and offers both customizable flashcards and a complete Spanish learning program rife with cool features.
It’s designed to teach Spanish using several efficient methodologies, such as SRS (which calculates vocabulary review dates based on how difficult students found the words as they learned them), focusing on 20% of the most important vocabulary, as well as ingraining words into long-term memory.
The simple fact that it focuses on 3,000 most common words and phrases to be the most appealing thing—after all, the golden ratio really holds in many situations; you really only need about 20% of the language to get through 80% of daily situations. This is great for expanding your students’ vocabulary on a regular basis, and it’s probably addictive enough to keep them learning at home of their own volition.
As with most language learning apps, there are distinct sub-categories of words and phrases, so it’s very well organized. You can select from the themes that you’re exploring in class so that the material overlaps. Also, you’ll find that for all Spanish words and phrases, there are native speaker recordings, so students won’t go astray in pronunciation.
While there’s a paid version of Quizlet, you can easily get by just using the free version. Personally, I’ve used Quizlet in my classroom to review before tests and quizzes.
What it does is allow you to make your own flashcards, and then it gives you a short URL to share with your class. They write it down and go home and study on their own. Alternatively, you can assign students to make their own flashcards with Quizlet and then use the generated URL to share them with the class.
You can put anything you would like on the flashcards and there’s even an option to have the Spanish read out loud. This is nice if you want to work on vocabulary and pronunciation.
Other ideas for using Quizlet include:
1. Write an English sentence on one side and have students translate it into Spanish. They can check their own accuracy, as they will have the correct Spanish translation on the other side of the flashcard.
2. Allow students to listen to a Spanish sentence and have them translate it into English, then show them the correct answer on the other side.
3. Show pictures of animals, places and objects, and have students give the correct word in Spanish.
4. Show a Spanish meme (my students love those) and have them work together to translate what it means (as well as why it’s funny). This activity always sparks good discussion.
The trick with the some of the other technology options on this list is that they’re designed for students, not for teachers. While they’ll get your students to enjoy Spanish practice in class and at home, we all love having tools that make our teaching lives easier.
FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons. This platform can not only make your job easier, but it can serve as the basis for all of your lessons. Anything you want to teach, there’s a FluentU Spanish video and exercise for that topic
So if you really want to go all in on this technology trend—and even have your Spanish curriculum based entirely online—you should opt for FluentU. This new, modern tool for teachers provides a large number of high-quality Spanish videos with interactive captions and transcripts available as PDFs, along with quizzes, flashcards, customizable vocabulary lists, assignments tools, built-in grading and a lot more.
With FluentU, the teacher is completely in control of what their students are assigned—though of course, they’re welcome to explore the many videos and activities on their own, too. You’re given feedback on what each student is accomplishing and you can easily see where they might be having struggles with the content. Teachers can assign homework with a single click or tap. And forget marking up papers, leaving corrections and grading every last assignment. FluentU does all the heavy lifting for you!
Formerly known as Educanon, Playposit allows you to take any video off of YouTube and inject learning moments into it.
Instead of your students watching 45 minutes of a Spanish cartoon and not really doing anything with it, they now get to watch a few minutes, then the video is paused and they have to answer a question about what’s happening in the scene. Once everyone has answered, the video continues for another few moments before another question pops up.
You can insert a number of different types of questions such as free write, multiple choice, select all that apply and a few more. Some of these require you to purchase a premium account in order to use them, but you can still do a lot with the regular, free account.
There are multiple ways to do this. If you have a computer lab, you can set each student (or team of students) up on a computer and they can go through the video and questions themselves. There’s also an option to print off the questions that the students will need to answer, so you can display the video in front of the class on a TV screen. With this option, the teacher determines when to continue the video after the pause, which enables you to make sure each student has had enough time to answer the question.
Of course, these are just five options, and I’ve only given you a few ideas for how to use each of them. The possibilities are truly endless, as new tools are being created every day.
Always be open to using new things in your classroom.
Your students will thank you for it!
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to teach Spanish with real-world videos.