Back to School Spanish Activities: The Ultimate Round-Up of Plans and Ideas

Back to School Spanish Activities: The Ultimate Round-Up of Plans and Ideas

Inside: Back to school Spanish activities and plans.

I don’t know about you, but beginnings make me anxious. Or maybe it’s more like this: the anticipation of beginnings makes me anxious. Even on Sunday nights–in the middle of the school year– I get those butterflies. Once school starts, we jump in and it really is okay! (Especially now that I have a clearer idea of where we’re going and how students take in language.) That week-before is just tricky.

Teaching for ten years now, back-to-school has gotten better. I wish I’d had easy access to ideas from other teachers in those early days, so I’ve gathered these back-to-school Spanish lesson posts into one place. Whether you’re a newbie or a veteran, here you’ll have tons of great ideas at your fingertips! (more…)

Authentic Spanish Songs for Teaching Preterite and Imperfect

Authentic Spanish Songs for Teaching Preterite and Imperfect

Inside: Spanish songs for teaching Spanish 2 classes, with an emphasis on the preterite and the imperfect.

40 Authentic Songs for Spanish I has consistently been one of my top hits. I figure it’s time for Spanish 2 to get some love! Here are 30 authentic Spanish songs with preterite and imperfect verbs throughout the lyrics.

Of course, the content of Spanish 2 varies. In my classes, I look for lots of input in the past tense as we’re looking to communicate about past events. Our music, stories, and novels are preterite and imperfect-heavy, and I use many of the songs from this list. Click here if you are wondering how to teach Spanish through authentic songs.

Let me know if I missed any of your favorites, or should be aware of lyrics or parts of videos I may have missed! Always, always, preview of course. ­čÖé (more…)

What Everybody Should Know About Comprehensible Input

What Everybody Should Know About Comprehensible Input

Inside: What is comprehensible input? How do students acquire language?

In Part 1, we talked about proficiency: where we are going in the language classroom. Here in Part 2, I’ll talk about acquisition: how students take language in. If our goal is students who “rise in proficiency” (World Language Classroom), how do they grow? What do they need? What is the best way to get language “in”?

When people find out I teach Spanish, 95% of the time I get a comment like this: Oh man, I took 3 years of Spanish. It’s usually followed by a joke using the few words they remember: Mi casa es su casa. Hah!

Seriously– I get this all the time. From those very informal observations, it seems that we’ve been doing for decades now just isn’t working. When I discovered proficiency-based language teaching, I saw where I wanted to go: I wanted students who could communicate in Spanish, not just perform isolated exercises. And I needed to find a better way to teach them.

(more…)

What Everyone Needs to Know About Language Proficiency

What Everyone Needs to Know About Language Proficiency

Inside: What is language proficiency? What does it mean for my Spanish classroom?

Last year I wrote a post explaining why I was throwing out my Spanish textbook. Of course, throwing it out was the easy part. But what to do next?

I’m writing this series because I remember so clearly what’s it’s like, to be on the edge of that cliff– poised to jump into textbook-free land, with a mind-boggling array of choices below. I just wanted someone to hold my hand, help me sort it all out, and put me touch with the experts. And that’s exactly what I’d like to do here.

So, here’s my after-story to going textbook-free. I found I had three major tasks in developing a plan for the year: figure out our objectives, research how students acquire language, and then choose methods and develop content. Here in Part 1, I’ll share how I formed a big picture and zeroed in on targets for each class. (more…)

An Easy-Peasy Activity to Learn Spanish with Songs

An Easy-Peasy Activity to Learn Spanish with Songs

Inside: A fun & easy activity to learn Spanish with songs in class, only using a piece of paper.

One of my favorite things about teaching textbook-free is that authentic songs in Spanish are central to class now. If you’re not sure how to start, read how to teach Spanish with authentic songs, and then browse my suggestions for songs in Spanish, for all ages.

I can be a scatter-brained teacher, and my go-to activities are always the simple ones. I call this listening activity Draw, Listen, Check. It works for authentic songs and only requires a piece of paper– perfect for last-minute fillers and reinforcement. Here’s how it goes!

 

Draw, Listen, Check: An Activity to Learn Spanish with Songs

 

Choose a song your class is already familiar with. Pull out 4-6 structures you want to emphasize, and write them on the board, or dictate them. The students should divide a paper into 4-6 sections, and quickly illustrate one structure into each square.

This is what one student drew when we did Vivir mi vida by Marc Antony. The target structures were:

  • la lluvia
  • re├şr
  • bailar
  • vivir mi vida
  • para qu├ę llorar
  • para qu├ę sufrir

Draw, listen, check image

Erase the target structures from the board, and play the song without showing the lyrics. The students should put a check mark in the boxes each time they hear the corresponding phrase. That’s all!

This is not an assessment, but just a quick way to highlight the target structures, get some input, and practice listening skills. My students like it because it’s low-pressure and they usually see it as a personal competition to get the closest score.

Some variations on Draw, Listen, Check:

  • Pair up the students. Cut up one paper by section, and spread out the papers on a surface between the students. Listen to the song again, and students try to slap the phrase they hear, first. I literally have no way to keep track of points– this one is probably best for small, responsible classes.

 

  • Before listening to the song, use the phrases to play Charades or Pictionary.

 

  • Some songs repeat certain phrases a LOT. If you have a song like that, crumple up a piece of paper after doing Draw, Write, Check. Stand in a circle and play the song. Give the paper to one student, to start. Every time the phrase is sung, the student can pass the paper to the next person. If you pause the song, the student holding the paper is out. (See? Like Hot Potato!)

 

Continue as long as you like until you have a winner or several winners.This would be a really fun brain break!!

Have more ideas for learning Spanish through songs? Leave a comment!

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A Beginner’s Guide to Learning Spanish Online for Free

A Beginner’s Guide to Learning Spanish Online for Free

Inside: Teach yourself Spanish, with these free online Spanish resources.

This is the list I wish I’d had as a new teacher, or as a Spanish learner myself! Here I’ve collected my favorite online Spanish resources, and all are free (though some may have paid upgrade options). These are great for supplementing in the classroom or practicing at home.

If you are looking for a younger crowd, I’ve got a great list of sites to learn Spanish online with kids, an Spanish Netflix shows and cartoons, for kids.

 

Teach Yourself Spanish: Online Interactive Lessons

 

1. DuoLingo is unparalleled as far as free lessons go. You can use it online, although it’s most convenient as an app. Take a placement test and move through lessons at your own pace. You can practice speaking, listening, and reading, and even have “chat” with native speakers. It’s great for teachers, who can get weekly progress reports of their students.

DuoLingo can be a little frustrating because it can be picky about small errors, but it seems to be improving. There is also a new stories feature, that seems to be more in line with comprehensible input!

2. Fluencia Similar to DuoLingo, this site/app takes you through bite-sized lessons that include listening, speaking, and reading.

3. FSI I haven’t personally used this site, but it came strongly recommend here. Put out Foreign Service Institute to train foreign workers and officials, it includes an online textbook and audio lessons.

4. Coffee Break Spanish Some of the features are paid, but you can access free podcasts.

5. Busuu The free version is a bit limited, but gives self-paced interactive lessons and connects you to native speakers as well.

 

Learn Spanish Online with Videos

 

1. Mi Vida Loca This series is one the best online Spanish resources! Created for absolute beginners, you get an immersive adventure set in Spain, with lessons along the way. There’s a tad more English than I’d like, but it’s still great. I created a series of games and links to accompany each episode, as well as a free packet to accompany the first 5 episodes.

MI VIDA LOCA Games and Activities

2. Extra Extra en espa├▒ol exposes learners to Spanish, in the context of a sitcom-like setting (similiar to the show Friends), through 13 episodes. The show is really funny, and though most teachers don’t have any problem showing it, the romance scenes are super exaggerated (awkward? weird?) Parents/teachers might want to preview. Here’s the first episode:

 

3. Destinos So Destinos is a bit dated. If you can get past that, it’s a great resource! 52 episodes follow a lawyer around the world as she tries to solve a mystery. They’re a great way to get immersed in Spanish in the context of a telenova, with culture thrown in too. See episode 1 here:

 

4. Video Ele is a series of videos that introduce different themes and strutures, with some culture thrown in. My students find them a teensy boring out of context, but for a motivated learner or to show a specific topic in class, they’re great! Here’s an example:

 

5. 5 Minute Spanish A grammar-based approach, these videos are short, concise clips on iTunes that take you through the traditional Spanish 1 progression. Also includes a free downloadable textbook.

6. ┬┐Eres t├║, Mar├şa? A mystery series set in Madrid, for Spanish learners who have been studying for a few months already.

Teach Yourself Spanish with Authentic Listening

1. Spanish Proficiency Exercises All are video recordings of native speakers from different countries, and are organized by proficiency tasks and levels (score!).

2. Spanish Listening This is another gold mine of native speakers, with videos divided by topic and level. There are also activities to go with each recording.

3. Radio Ambulante Produced by NPR, this podcast contains Latin American stories and is best suited for intermediate to advanced learners.

4. Lyrics Training An online fill-in-the-blank activity for listening to music in Spanish.

5. Ver-Taal Authentic commericals, trailers, newscasts, and more in Spanish, with comprehension activities as well.

6. Learn Spanish Podcasts Very cool site for learning Spanish through comprehensible podcasts (not for absolute beginners), with transcripts included.

 

Online Spanish Resources: Reading Practice

 

1. BBC Mundo World news in Spanish.

2. People en espa├▒ol

3. ESPN in Spanish

4. Newsela This is a great resource for news articles. The best thing is that you can choose grade levels to simplify the reading if desired.

 

Spanish Grammar Resources

 

1. Study Spanish This website has most Spanish grammar topics broken down into lessons. The explanations are clear with examples, and there are a variety of ways to practie.

2. Spanish Language & Culture Lots of grammar activities and in-context practice, with some listening and song activities thrown in.

3. 121 Spanish Is a well-organized site, with video as well as grammar activities.

4. Se├▒or Jordan A Spanish teacher, Se├▒or Jordan has a series of YouTube videos explaining various Spanish structures, with some songs as well. Since I don’t do much grammar in class, this is a great online Spanish resource that my students can do at home. He also now teaches using comprehensible input, and is beginning to create storytelling videos that teach grammar as a pop-up. Here’s an example:

 

What sites did I miss? Let me know in the comments below!

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The Best Free Online Spanish Resources

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