10 Fun Ways to Use Technology in the Spanish Classroom
As Spanish teachers, we need to find creative ways to utilize technology in order to better help our students—but at the same time, we don’t want to make life more difficult for ourselves.
Being a former Spanish teacher myself, I’ve found different ways to incorporate technology in the classroom to deliver listening, translating and speaking exercises.
Just as a caveat before we begin, you should probably consider sending home a permission slip if you plan on allowing school-aged students to use their 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!
- 1. Give Quizzes Through Kahoot!
- 2. Warm Up or Cool Down with MosaLingua
- 3. Review for Tests with Quizlet
- 4. Use Video Exercises on WeVideo
- 5. Assign Homework Through FluentU
- 6. Call a Native Speaker Through Skype
- 7. Use Tablets and Cell Phones in Spanish
- 8. Browse the Web with Google.es
- 9. Teach Spanish Through Social Media
- 10. Explore Online Dating in Spanish
1. Give Quizzes Through Kahoot!
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!
2. Warm Up or Cool Down with MosaLingua
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 MOSALearning® 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 the 3,000 most common words and phrases is 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 at 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.
3. Review for Tests with Quizlet
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- Show pictures of animals, places and objects, and have students give the correct word in Spanish.
- 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.
4. Use Video Exercises on WeVideo
WeVideo 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.
5. Assign Homework Through FluentU
Learning with authentic videos is one of the most effective ways of language immersion within a modern classroom. With a program like FluentU, your students can watch the same music videos, movies and TV shows that native Spanish speakers watch at home for entertainment.
The platform lets you filter content based on topic, format and learning level. Once you find the right videos, you can assign them as homework. As your students are watching the clips, they can click on any word on the expert-vetted subtitles to see in-context definitions, other videos that feature the word and other helpful learning aids. There’s also the option of adding the word to their personalized flashcard deck.
Along with expert-vetted subtitles, the videos also come with quizzes where students click, type or speak their answers, testing their comprehension of key terms and expressions. As the teacher, you can monitor their progress on flashcard practice, videos watched and quizzes taken.
FluentU is accessible via browser and mobile apps (iOS and Android).
6. Call a Native Speaker Through Skype
If you know someone in a Spanish-speaking country, get in touch and ask them if they would be willing to speak to your students during one of your lessons. If they agree, thank them profusely and arrange a date and time to hold the conversation. Be sure to ask him or her what kinds of questions are okay for your students to ask, and how long he or she is willing to speak with the group.
Next, to prepare, ask your students to write down a list of questions to ask your friend or family member during the upcoming video chat sessions. These can be questions about his or her home country, questions about Spanish in general, or any other curiosities your students may have.
To make the video call, use a free program like Skype. Make sure everything’s installed and working correctly well before you make the call.
After the session, be sure your students thank the speaker profusely. You can even add a short homework assignment to this activity in which your students write thank-you notes in Spanish that you can send to the guest.
7. Use Tablets and Cell Phones in Spanish
If your school happens to be one of those that has tablets for the students, have them change the operating language to Spanish for one lesson. During that time, go through some new vocabulary with your students, as it’s encountered naturally by using the tablet. Afterward, students should compile a list of the new words they learned from the exercise.
If your students don’t have tablets at school, you could easily turn this into a unique homework assignment instead. Have students turn their tablet or cell phone language to Spanish for a certain amount of time, whether it be one hour, one day or one week.
Make sure it’s an activity all students can participate in before introducing it to the class, or have alternatives in place for students without these devices.
8. Browse the Web with Google.es
Most of your students use search engines on a daily basis for research and personal entertainment.
One lesson sure to please any Spanish students is one revolving around internet searches via a Spanish-language search engine, like Google.es. For this lesson, you can either plan a class trip to the school computer lab (if your school has such a facility) or project a computer screen in your classroom. The latter is preferable, as it gives the students a tactile learning experience.
During your computer lab session, ask students to search for things with the Spanish engine and write the words they learn in the process. For example, the Google button “I’m feeling lucky” on the homepage of the search engine translates to “voy a tener suerte.” This is a fun and interactive way for students to see another way that they can apply Spanish to their daily lives.
9. Teach Spanish Through Social Media
Facebook. Instagram. Pinterest. Tumblr. Twitter. Chances are, your students have an account with at least one of the aforementioned applications. For homework, ask your students to change one or all of their social media accounts into Spanish for a specific amount of time. Interacting with the language in this fashion will be so great for their Spanish skills, but afterward, students could also write a list of words they’ve learned from this activity.
Another idea for a social-media-related activity is to simply look at these sites in Spanish with your students during class. If you have access to a computer that you can connect to a television and show to the entire class, dedicate a block of time to browsing various social media websites in Spanish. You don’t need to use your own Facebook or other accounts. Simply look over the home pages in Spanish.
You can also go through the steps to make a social media profile in Spanish without actually finishing the process. That way, you won’t have to provide a real phone number and e-mail account, but students can still see the vocabulary related to making the account.
10. Explore Online Dating in Spanish
If you’re teaching adult learners, another way to incorporate technology in the Spanish classroom is by trying out online dating sites. For a lesson involving online dating sites, begin the class by browsing through the pages of Spanish-language dating sites. Next, create a mock profile with your students. Making it as ridiculous as possible almost guarantees your students will enjoy the activity and actively contribute their ideas.
I recommend making this activity with the class as a whole rather than in groups.
As is the case with social media profiles, you don’t need to actually create the account for it to be a positive learning experience. That way, you don’t need to provide a valid e-mail address or phone number.
From this activity, students should gain dating vocabulary and colloquial terms to talk about their likes and dislikes. While textbooks may provide basic terms for students to describe themselves, they often lack the in-depth terms which many dating sites tend to use. For example, they can learn the terms to describe their relationship status.
Give these ideas a whirl, and see just how much fun you can have with your students by integrating technology into your Spanish classroom!
Your students will thank you for it!