How to teach Spanish with Authentic Songs

How to teach Spanish with Authentic Songs

Inside: How to teach Spanish with authentic music, in the middle and high school classroom.

I didn’t know how to teach Spanish with authentic music, as a new teacher. Fresh from living in Peru and head over heels for the language and culture, I sat down with the textbook. Apparently, for the first half of Spanish I, we would learn classroom objects, articles, greetings, and regular verbs. Hmm. How did authentic songs with irregular verbs and  fit in?

I tried out some of my favorite music in class anyway, but it kind of bombed. We were listening to noise. Extremely catchy noise, but nothing comprehensible. I reverted to grammar songs and conjugation jingles. They were cute, but I was feeding my students the parts: hoping one day all the pieces would come together into the whole language I wanted them to acquire.

Then I finally got that I needed to start with whole, intact, understandable language. Real-life communication is the goal, and songs became more accessible because we were learning high-frequency verbs right away. I saw how comprehensible input and authentic resources could work together. My students could acquire authentic language and real-life skills like getting the gist of a text and picking familiar words out from unfamiliar word. My job was to introduce songs with the language we needed, and find a way to make it comprehensible.

So, here’s what I wish someone had told me as a newbie teacher:

1. Think through the goal.


How will the song connect to your current targets? Will it be a cultural connection? Are you looking to highlight a pattern (present progressive, ir + a, etc.)? Do you want to focus on certain phrases or vocabulary? Here are some huge lists of authentic Spanish songs I came up with for Spanish 1, Spanish 2, and Spanish 2.

2. Think about how much of the song can be comprehensible.


How much of the song can you use? I used to get stuck because I didn’t know how to use a song that used many words we didn’t know, or grammar we hadn’t learned. I really think that songs are the best way to hook students to content just above their proficiency level. You can, of course, explain the entire song or provide a translation.

– Some authentic songs can be 100% comprehensible, if you work through them a bit. Very simple songs-perhaps children’s songs- are a great way to see how language works as a whole.

– Some are best because they repeat key phrases. Your students might not understand everything, but esto no me gusta and te estaba buscando get repeated a bazillion times and they never forget those phrases. If you are using a grammar-based approach, this is a good way to help set patterns; if you are CI-based, it helps to cement target structures from a different context.

– For other songs, the verses aren’t the focus, but the chorus can be understand and remembered. Voy a reír, voy a bailar, vivir mi vida, lalala…  The chorus is what your students will walk away singing anyway, so in this situation zero in all of your activities on that part.

How to teach Spanish with authentic songs

3. Plan how you’ll make the song comprehensible.


How can you bridge the gap from what your students know, to the song? There’s a whole lot more out there than what I’ve done in class, but here are some ideas. This will of course depend on how much of the song you plan to use and teach.

-Pre-teach important vocabulary/phrases.

– Listen to the song and project the lyrics onto the board. Focus on the parts you want them to know, and summarize the parts in between so they get the gist of the lyrics. Circle the phrases you want to emphasize, asking personalized questions to the students. In La bicicleta, for example, Shakira says, puedo ser feliz… I pause there, and we discuss. Students might fill in the blank for themselves (puedo ser feliz… tomando café, sin tarea, etc.) I don’t pause and translate/discuss every line, as that would kill the enjoyment. We will listen to the songs many times, so there is plenty of time to study different parts.

– Create an embedded reading to scaffold the text of the song.

– Watch the music video if it’s appropriate (preview, preview preview…  I speak from experience!), and pause to discuss. Use language the students know to discuss what’s happening and to help them interpret the lyrics.

I think songs are one of the best uses of authentic resources. While most of the time I want class to be comprehensible, music is a good way to get students to take risks and try to derive meaning from something above their level.

4. Create some activities to work through the song.


– Try Draw, Write, Check: have your students divide a piece of paper into 4 or 6  parts. Give them a phrase to draw for each part. Then, play the song. Each time they hear the phrase they drew, make a tally mark and check numbers after the song.

– Do an old-fashoined cloze activity.

– Type up the lyrics on the left side of a paper, and have students summarize each section on the right.

– Ask several questions (Is the singer sad? What does he wish would happen?) Give the students markers to highlight and color code the lyrics that give evidence for the answers.

– Change the voice of the singer from third to first person, or vice-versa.

– Make up actions and sing along!

More ideas from other teachers on how to teach with authentic music:


¡La música! from Kristy Placido

What can I DO {-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti-da} with a song?

– Create a PPT with screenshots of the music video, a la MovieTalk like in this example from Kristy Placido

Música miércoles for using Spanish songs weekly from Mis Clases Locas


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how to teach Spanish with authentic songs

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Find Your Blob: A Fun Brain Break for Spanish Class

Find Your Blob: A Fun Brain Break for Spanish Class

Inside: A fun brain break in Spanish for the language classroom.

I’m working hard this year to make sure I break up our classes with some sort of movement. I came up with Find Your Blob for something that’s quick and ties into the lesson. The students are speaking the TL, but because it’s related to their opinions and preferences, they get into it. (It’s also LOW-PRESSURE. I don’t consider it a brain break if an activity creates anxiety for the participants!)

How to Do “Find Your Blob”

The idea is simple: Come up with a question related to the content you’re working on. ¿Qué te gusta hacer?, for example.

Then, list or brainstorm 4-6 answers (depends on your class size). Me gusta: correr, dormir, leer, viajar, etc. The students silently pick their answer. 

When I say so, everyone stands up and walks around asking the question. If the answers match, those students stick together. Then those two look for more people. Everyone with the same answer has to be in the same blob (or group of people), until the whole room is sorted into four blobs.

That’s it! I like to erase the two most popular answers, and replace them, so everyone has to mix it up again. Most everyone in Spanish 1 this morning, for example, chose cansado in response to ¿Cómo estás? So we erased that, and added in more creative options. Once they get the hang of it, you can add in things like ¡Yo también! or ¡A mí también! 

If the groups are interesting (perhaps one person is alone, or one group is huge), it can make for some fun conversation and helps you get to know your students. I ask what the groups represent, which could bring in ¿Qué les gusta hacer?, and then Nos gusta… I’ve really liked this because the language is organic and memorable. Sometimes we do two or three rounds of responses, and then sit down, ready to work again.

You can do this with anything– any tense, any topic. Some more ideas:

If you could be any _________, what would you be?
If you could have a superpower, what would it be?
What would you like to do this weekend?
What’s your favorite _______?
You’re going on vacation. Where are you going?
Which book would you like to live in?
If you had to wear one outfit the rest of your life, what would it be?

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Find You Blob, a Fun Speaking Activity for the World Language Classroom

But Why Do We Have to Learn Spanish?

But Why Do We Have to Learn Spanish?

Inside: Why learn Spanish? Why learn a second language at all?

As I prepare for the beginning of a new school year, I know this question will come up at some point. Though the tone of voice that goes with that sort of whyyy is not my favorite, it’s a valid question. Why are we here? Why are we learning Spanish? Why do we have to learn a foreign language at all?

It’s something I ask myself, here and there. I thought about it today, a long tired day. By the end my brain was mush, and I could just hear the mistakes coming out, talking with my little ones at home. Is this worth it, really? Is it worth the extra tiredness, me stumbling here as I talk to a three-year-old?

When I look at my fresh-faced Spanish I class, I know what I’d like to say. I want to tell them, “This is magic.” It is magic, and life-altering. But of course I cannot say that. Even if I did, you can’t say something is magic anymore than you can tell someone chocolate cake is delicious. They must of course find out for themselves.

I think I killed the magic my first few years of teaching. We enjoyed each other, had fun, and did our best as we waded through the building blocks of pieces of grammar and vocabulary. But I started with the parts: the difficult, unwieldy rules of language, with all their exceptions and requirements. By the time we got to the beauty of it– the real stories and songs and people–many of my students had checked out. Perhaps they passed the tests. But Spanish had not become a part of them, the way things we love do.

So what do we say, these first few weeks? Why are we here, after all? I used to show a little PowerPoint on the first day of class. It spoke of the benefits of learning a second language, in the most pragmatic ways. By learning Spanish you can get better jobs, I told them. You can make more money. Your brain gets stronger and most resistant to Alzheimer’s. You can travel!

Most of those are perfectly good perks to learning a language, especially the traveling part. But what I wish I could make them understand is what a second language does for your soul. When I say travel, I’m not just picturing a fun vacation. I am thinking of the sort of travel that changes you. Even every Disney movie knows that money and success aren’t what drive us. We are at school, sitting in Spanish class, because it makes us a different sort of person. I am speaking Spanish to my kids because I think it will help them be wiser and kinder. The hope is that we grow in wisdom and virtue, that we acquire more empathy, more compassion, more concern for the world. The hope is that we become employers concerned about more than the bottom line, neighbors befriending the family down the street, and people who see that ours is not the only way.

This year, I’m not presenting a defense of Spanish the first day of class. I am not sure that anyone remembers anything from the first day, anyway, except how it felt. I’m saving it for a bit later, when we’ve had the chance for a story or two and music. Then we can ask, Why are we here?, and perhaps have something to say.

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Back to School Plans: First Two Weeks of Spanish Class

Back to School Plans: First Two Weeks of Spanish Class

Inside: My back-to-school lesson plans for the first two weeks of Spanish class.

Every year, I forget just how exhausting those first few weeks are. My brain is spinning. I’m in overdrive, trying to make everyone feel welcome –but not smile until December, right? (just kidding)– be utterly consistent, totally organized, and always engaging.

Whew. The truth is, you just do your best. And that will exhaust you. But it does help if you can see what others are doing, and not reinvent the wheel. That’s why I’ve pulled together my Spanish class first two weeks of lesson plans, to give you a jumpstart.

After a year of intense research, I tossed our textbook and formulated a (developing) personal philosophy of teaching Spanish. I define our classroom as “proficiency-based and comprehensible input-driven.”

I so appreciate other teachers sharing their process (looking at you, Mis Clases Locas), so in this post I’m outlining my first two weeks.


Grading, Procedures, and the Syllabus


Changing my why of course changes the how, and so I am overhauling a lot.

I am trading in my old categories of tests, quizzes, classwork, etc. for these five categories: reading, writing, listening, speaking, and work habits. I took this directly from Martina Bex here. She also has a great explanation of her switch to standards based assessment and grading. My actual grading scheme comes from MagisterP, who has amazingly helpful rubrics and ideas. I am choosing the option of 90% proficiency and 10% DEA– that just feels realistic as I start out. For Spanish I, we are shooting to be at Novice-Mid by the end of the year.

It is worth clarifying here that being proficiency-based does not mean looking at the ACTFL standards and working backwards by practicing the the standards. Before, my quizzes tested how much the students had memorized and practiced. I looked at a standard (I can talk about my family members), and we would practice talking about family members. Now, I look at that standard and think about input. What stories will we tell? What music will we listen to? What will we read and what structures do we need? When I do assess, and ask a student about her mother, I am not listening to a memorized paragraph and marking errors. I am letting her use what she has internalized to tell me about her mother. This will let me see her actual proficiency, not how hard she studied the paragraph the night before.

“In an effective classroom students should not only know what they are doing, they should also know why and how.” – Harry Wong

This is syllabus I project onto the board the night the parents meet me for back-to-school night:

(The eyes and ears part is quoted from Musicuentos, and the Can-Do’s are modified from the ACTFL standards.) I give a different, black and white syllabus to the students that outlines our specific procedures and rules. Many of those are school-wide and we work through all of them over the first 2-3 weeks. I love this handout from Bryce Hedstrom for procedures. Also, this free syllabus template from Creative Language Class is awesome.

I use interactive notebooks. They record bell-ringers, can-do statements, notes, target structures, and more in their interactive notebooks.


Unit 1: Our Classroom & Nuevos Amigos


Essential Questions: Who is here? Why learn Spanish? How do I get what I need in class, in the target language?

Macro Targets:

  • I can greet and meet others.
  • I can get materials and information I need in the TL.
  • I can explain why we are here, what I can expect in class, and what is expected of me.

Assessment: Ehhh… don’t have this figured out yet. Something informal, maybe.

Language: Greetings, introductions, classroom objects, chico, chica, tener, ser, hay, numbers, decir, some TPR commands.


Here is an overview of the first two weeks, day by day:


Day 1: ¿Cómo te llamas?, me llamo, and se llama (Circling with Balls)

Day 2: Introduce proficiency levels. Review se llama, and introduce haychico, chica, and le gusta for brief personalized storytelling.

Day 3: Prep interactive notebooks. (Listen to Puedo ir al baño and Tengo tu love.)

Day 4: Tengo, tienes, and classroom objects. (Play card games with classroom objects images.)

Day 5: Review classroom objects with games. Ask a story using structures from Days 1-4.

Day 6: Read story from Day 5. Begin Martina Bex Unit 1: Dice, recording the 3 targets in notebooks and listening to Los pollitos dicen.

Day 7: Continue with storyasking in Dice Unit. Introduce numbers 1-10 and play games as brain breaks.

Day 8: Continue with Dice Unit, using embedded readings, and work with Los pollitos dicen.

Day 9: Do the Te presento a reading from the Dice Unit, and teach numbers 1-10. Play Mano Nerviosa.

Day 10: Do first FreeWrite assessment, and have discussion in English on class objectives. proficiency, and expectations.

(For week 2, I rely heavily on Martina Bex’s Dice unit . It is available for free! I own many of her units and love them.)


Spanish Class First Two Weeks of Lesson Plans


Día 1

Micro Targets:

  • I can describe what I need to do in class during a group activity in the TL.
  • I can say my name.

Bienvenidos: Greet students at the door and have some songs on Spanish playing in background. Students find their seat with their name on a post-it note. Follow instructions on board to choose a name from a list of Spanish names, cross it off when chosen, and make these name tags and drawings to prep Circling with Balls activity (my student must draw two activities).

Introductions: Circling With Balls from Ben Slavic. I use this to introduce ¿Cómo te llamas?, me llamo, and se llama. I start with myself to model.

Like he suggests, I have my classroom rules posted in class and point to them as needed. I figure the students are overwhelmed discussing rules in every class,Better just to pinpoint several main things: stay in the TL, give me your eyes and ears, and know that I care about you. Rather than lecturing, we jump in and communicate expectations as we go.

My twist on Circling with Balls is to project a bracket onto the board. I record their responses on the board with a quick sketch. I already have some common activities typed up with a picture, and simply place them on the board as we go. Someone likes to read, and leer goes up on the bracket as a picture of a book.

Icebreaker: I do this towards the end of class, as I like to end the first day on a high note as well.

I have everyone stand up and we do a bracket vote. By this time, the outer brackets are filled in with activities my students like. They all have little drawings next to them– everything is clear and comprehensible. I call out and point to two terms, and they vote by moving to either side of the room. This is completely input– they just listen and vote.

(Keep in mind that my class sizes are on the small side. You might spread this over two days. The Cognates Game II is a simpler version that could work as well, since the terms have pictures.)

Closing: If there’s time, we watch Señor Wooly’s Puedo ir al baño. 


Día 2

Micro Targets:

  • I can identify my proficiency level and where I want to be.
  • I can say other names in our class.

Para empezar: Greet students at the door. Have names from the day before in chairs to indicate seating. Instructions on board indicate that students should skim through ACTFL statements (on chairs) and determine where their skills lie.

Input: (Prep: using the name cards from day 1, type up short statements about several students in the class and project them onto the board, using cognates as well.) Write haychico, chica, and le gusta on the board and sketch/write the meanings. Then, describe one of the students.

Hay una chica. Es MUY atlética. Le gusta jugar al voleibol. (With picture clue.) ¿Cómo se llama?

Call on students, having them guess who it is. After several repetitions, call up an outgoing student and ask the class, and story-tell about them. ¿Cómo se llama? ¡Es MUY atractiva! Remember to be super complimentary. I start with this to reinforce expectations of procedures and TL use, and get in some more se llama  reps. It is short, though- the focus for today is understanding proficiency levels.

Icebreaker II/Brain Break: This is to prep our discussion of proficiency. We play a short game of Celebrities OR use the Proficiency & tacos activity. The icebreaker from the day before has given me a good idea of what this group can handle.

Discussion: Discuss what proficiency in Spanish means. Review ACTFL standards briefly, and pass out rubrics to show how students will be evaluated, and where we’re going.

Día 3

Micro Targets:

  • I can show how we will use interactive notebooks to track input and progress in proficiency.

Assignment: Assemble interactive notebooks and number the pages.

(Prep and attach):

Listen to Puedo ir al baño and Tengo tu love while working.

Here’s an overview of how I organize our notebooks:


Día 4

Micro Targets:

  • I can get materials in the TL.
  • I can express what materials I have and don’t have.

Para empezar: Copy classroom objects terms into INB Beginning of the Year booklet page.

Input: Write tienes and tengo on the board. Listen to Tengo tu love, zeroing in on tengo. (There a reference– a negative one– to a table dance in the song. I avoid that part, but for some of you it may mean not using this song.)


Game/Interpersonal activity: Work on classroom objects. I teach these right away, because I want to be able to give instructions in the TL. My students tend to know a lot of the words already (profesor, estudiante, la mesa, el libro). Depending on time and what they already know, we do several of these options:

  • Do Yo tengo, ¿quién tiene? (freebie) with Classroom Objects
  • Review se llama with pictures or actual objects
  • Hand out picture card or actual objects and ask ¿Tienes ____? They answer Sí, tengo. or No, no tengo.
  • Play Slap–it with picture cards or Flyswatter with pictures on the board.
  • Play Go Fish, using tienes/tengo . If my student already know a bit of Spanish, I use this one. Otherwise, I spread out these activities over the next few days.

Día 5

Micro Targets:

  • I can express what I have and don’t have.
  • I can match a short description with familiar words to a drawing.

Input: Listen to Tengo tu love and complete the accompanying worksheet.
Read the Classroom objects worksheet and sketch what you understand.

Do first storyasking about an unprepared student who comes to class woefully unprepared.

(It can be hard for me to tell an engaging story with so little vocabulary at this point. It helps A LOT to have some funny props– a giant pencil and paper, for example, a little halo to put on the prepared student, a fake bathroom set up etc. I choose several outgoing students to act out the story we come up with as a class, and may tell the actors a bit of the background so they know what to do.)

I follow this outline, loosely, after writing dice (says) on the board:

Hay dos chicos. Un chico se llama Miguel. No es muy preparado. Es creativo. Un chico se llama David. Es MUY preparado. No es creativo. Miguel y David tienen la clase de español. Miguel y David están en las sillas.

La profesora dice: – ¿Cómo te llamas?
Miguel dice: – Me llamo Miguel.
La profesora dice: – Hola, Miguel.

David dice: – Me llamo David.
La profesora dice: – Hola, David.

(Teacher writes their names on board.)

La profesora dice: – ¿Tienen un lápiz?
Miguel dice: – No, no tengo un lápiz. Tengo un ________ (funny cognate…. teléfono, computadora).
La profesora dice: – ¡Ay, no!
David dice: – Sí, tengo un lapiz.
La profesora dice: – ¡Muy bien, David!

(Teacher gives Miguel a sad face and David a happy face on the board.)

La profesora dice: – ¿Tienen un papel?
Miguel dice: – No, no tengo un papel. Tengo un ________ (funny cognate…. foto, tablet).
La profesora dice: – ¡Ay, no!

David dice: – Sí, tengo un papel.
La profesora dice: – ¡Muy bien, David!

(Teacher gives Miguel a sad face and David a happy face on the board.)

Miguel dice: – Profe, ¿puedo ir al baño?
La profesora dice: – Sí.

(Miguel runs to the “bathroom” and grabs some toilet paper.

Miguel dice: ¡Profe! ¡Tengo papel!
La profesora dice: – ¡Jajajaja! ¡Muy bien, David!

(Teacher gives Miguel 10 smiley faces because he is creative.)

Día 6

Micro Targets:

  • I can sing phrases from a short authentic song in Spanish.

Input: Give students the typed story from Friday, with some questions in English. Go over their answers briefly.

Para empezar: Use Martina Bex’s Dice unit slideshow p. 5 or 6. This is the first time using the interactive notebook for the bell-ringer, and I go over the procedure.  I just have a paper with nine blank boxes, and they use block a day.

Input: Introduce Los pollitos dicen, using elements from Days 1 and 2 in Dice unit.


Brain break: Review classroom objects. Have the students stand up and touch the objects you say (la mesa, el lápiz, etc), play Slap-it.

Storyasking: Students copy down éste/ésta es, un muchacho/a, and dice into the notebooks using flip-flaps like the ones below.

Closing: Show slide 5, 6, or 7 from the Dice plans. This might make for a good exit ticket.

Día 7

Micro Targets

  • I can ask someone else what their name is.

Para empezar:  Dice unit, slide 8 or 9.

Input & storyasking: Do storyasking from Dice unit p. 19. We don’t copy the structures as we know them from week one.

Brain break: Review classroom objects with gamest, or choose a song to listen to.

Closing: Review dice with p. 20 from the Dice unit.

Día 8

Micro Targets:

  • I can match a description of a scene with a picture.
  • I can sing the chorus to a traditional song.

Input: Me llamo embedded readings from the Dice unit

Interpretive Listening: Listen to Los pollitos, using this free Los pollitos dicen activity sheet. This song has many high-frequency structures, and we’ll come back to it throughout the year.

Brain Break: Review classroom objects with games, or choose a song to listen to.

Día 9

Micro Targets:

  • I can learn other’s names.
  • I can count 1-10.

Para empezar:  Dice unit, slide 11.

Input: Te presento a readings from the Dice unit.

Game: I like to teach numbers early on because most of my students can usually rote count and don’t need lots of input on this. We quickly write down the number words in the beginning of the year booklet and play Mano Nerviosa to practice the individual numbers. (Days, months, weather, etc. get added naturally, as we talk about the date or birthdays during La persona especial interviews later.) We just come back to this booklet again and again until it’s full.


Brain break: Classroom objects games.

Día 10

Micro Targets:

  • I can explain why I am learning Spanish.
  • I can explain how to rise in proficiency and what I need to do in class.

Assessment: Do first freewrite for 5-10 minutes. Have the students tell a story without any supporting materials. I emphasize that this one is a FORMATIVE assessment– it will give us a starting place to see where everyone is, and something to compare to as the school progresses.

Discussion: I wait until the end of my intro unit talk about why we’re learning Spanish at all. I used to do this the first day. Then I realized that in the craziness of that first day it would all probably go in one ear and out another. As we close out our mini-unit, we reflect on these first two weeks and digest it all: the how, and then the why. I used to highlight the pragmatic reasons for Spanish: better jobs, higher salaries, improving brain function, etc.. Those are benefits, for sure, but they don’t get to the heart of the matter. I want to make sure to pause and think about how learning a second language makes us better people and touches our souls. We talk about empathy, compassion, friendship, thinking globally, valuing diversity, and caring for others.

Brain Break: Mano nerviosa.

And that’s my tentative plan for starting off the year! Ideally, at this point, our procedures are established and the students can greet and get what they need in Spanish. After Labor Day, we jump into the next unit.


Unit 2: My Immediate World and Who I Am (5-6 weeks)


Essential Questions: What am I like? What do I like to do? What about the others in the room?

Macro Targets:

  • I can describe myself and what I like to do.
  • I can describe other students in the class and what they like to do.
  • I can explain what fun things I might do today.

Assessment: Quizzes from La persona especial interviews. Perhaps a project.

Language: Sports, hobbies, voy a, vas a, va a, adjectives, estoy, estás, está, le gusta, me gusta, te gusta, article adjectives, ir + infinitive, plural vs. singular

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Spanish Class First Two Weeks of Lesson Plans



Bellringer Choice Boards for Spanish Class

Bellringer Choice Boards for Spanish Class

Inside: Bell-ringers for Spanish class, with a free download for Para empezar choice boards.

Bell-ringers are my nemesis. Many things could be termed as such– taking attendance, keeping track of late/missing work, maybe– but my para empezar history just might take the cake.

I have lots of different preps, and coming up with something specialized to each class has been overwhelming. I’ve come up with more than one bellringer in the 5 seconds before class started, too.


Lol. Anyhow–

— as a new teacher, I usually made them grammar-based. While I think there’s a time for focusing on accuracy, the first few minutes of class are precious. Students typically retain information best from the beginning and end of class. And what helps students acquire language the most is comprehensible input, and so CI, exercises, probably belong in those precious minutes.

I was beginning with grammar exercises as my Para empezar— conjugate this verb, translate this sentence, correct the mistakes, etc. The students who “got” grammar easily flew through it. The middle students may have improved their accuracy. The students who struggled with Spanish grammar struggled with it. They walked into class and were immediately frustrated by their novice errors, which set the tone for the rest of class.

The message to all my students? The *most* important thing is to not make mistakes. Because when they walked in, I was immediately asking for them to work on their accuracy.

Since then, I’ve moved to a proficiency-based model. I am focused on my students growing and growing in what they can communicate, not in finding their mistakes. One of my goals this year, then, is to completely restructure my lessons. I want to immediately begin with input, and front-load the lesson with rich, compelling content– like a good song or story, or a novel we’re reading.

(Update: since writing this post, I wrote an extensive blog on Easy Bellringers for Spanish Classes with a ton of ideas.)

Para empezar Choice Boards

To combat the stress of lots of preps and my own disorganization, I came up with these editable Choice Boards. Essentially, I can simply copy and paste any song, text, or story onto the board. The students choose a option with which to respond. Everything is very short, as the point is really that they’re taking the content in. I have the prompts and blank squares ready in their notebooks so that I can check at the end of the week. (Or, let’s be honest… whenever I’m able to get to them!)

spanish _interactive_notebook_bell-ringer_choice_board spanish _interactive_notebook_para_empezar



When we start off the year, for example, I plan to do Persona especial interviews. The next day, the para empezar could be one of those typed interviews. It could be the chorus to a song we’ve listened to that week, or a short story we wrote the day before.

Hopefully, as they begin class this year, the message is different. Hopefully they walk in and see all they know: that the compelling content itself hooks them, and the confidence carries over into the rest of class.

If I want to, I can choose a specific square and have all the student respond with the same prompt, so we can immediately go over the responses. Grab your editable version today, if you think this might help your bellringer routine for class!


Para empezar choice boards

After attending Camp Musicuentos I’m considering moving my bellringer– administrivia, as Sara-Elizabeth Cottrell calls it– 15 or 20 minutes into class, to maximize the beginning. We’ll see. I think these can work either way!

I’d love to know what you think. Let me know if you have any suggestions to make it better!

40+ Authentic Songs to Learn Spanish, for Beginner Classes

40+ Authentic Songs to Learn Spanish, for Beginner Classes

Inside: Authentic & appropriate songs to learn Spanish, for beginner classes.


As a new teacher, I so badly wanted my students to feel the magic of Spanish. I loved my Latin music, and thought they’d love some songs to learn Spanish, too. The problem was that I didn’t know HOW to bridge authentic resources to my Spanish newbies.

After lots of research, I wrote a post on what I wish I’d known about teaching with authentic music as a new teacher. Martina Bex, Kristy Placido, and Mis Clases Locas have helped tremendously with how to use songs. I also wished I’d had a good list of authentic songs for Spanish class to work with. So I made one! The following songs are a jackpot of culture, fun, and authentic language.

(You can also check into my Authentic Songs for Spanish 1 Activity Pack if you would like printable lyrics and editable activities for 24 of the songs here.)


Authentic Songs to Learn Spanish, for Beginners


After throwing out my textbook, I started seriously looking for good content. For some songs, only the chorus will comprehensible, and that’s all I focus on.  Some have to do more with culture than language. I have arranged these by my tentative Spanish I units, and tried to do a mix of currently popular and enduring classics. If I missed anything essential, let me know in the comments! (And don’t miss Authentic Songs for Spanish 2 and Authentic Songs for Advanced Spanish Classes!!) I have tried to find appropriate songs for high school, or at least indicate if there’s anything you should be aware of. Sometimes I miss things, and standards for appropriate vary between schools. Let me know if you think anything should be noted or changed!


Unit I: Nuestra clase & nuevos amigos 


Who is here? Why learn Spanish? How do I get what I need in class, in the TL? Language: Start super siete verbs (tener, ser, hay), decir, greetings, classroom objects, some numbers and colors. Input/activities: Martina Bex Units, storytelling.

Tengo tu love (sie7e): tengo, soy, tiene, un, una, adjective agreement  

Los pollitos dicen (traditional children’s): dicen, tienen hambre, les da, duermen, se despiertan (Los pollitos dicen Free Activity Sheet)  

Corre (Jesse y Joy): the structures are fairly complicated, so this technically belongs later in the year. But I teach Martina Bex’s “Corre” unit early on and put it here just in case!

Sofia (Alvaro Soler) –  classroom phrases (mira, sé, ¿por qué?) and fun phrases to use throughout the year (no te creo, ya no, dime).



Unit II: Mi mundo immediato y ¿quién soy?


Who am I? What do I like and like to to do?

Language: Continue súper siete (gustar, estar, querer, ir), add hobbies, sports, and adjectives.

Input/activities: “La persona especial” interviews from Bryce Hedstrom and more Somos units from Martina Bex, storytelling.  

Soy yo (Bomba Estéreo) – soy yo, así, no te preocupes  

Internacionales (Bomba Estéreo): soy, somos, nationalities, baila, vamos a bailar,  

Corazón sin cara (Prince Royce): vive, eres, adjectives, no me importa, vive, no tiene, nunca. (We start filling in our adjectives booklets with this song.)



Voy a vivir (Marc Antony): voy a + infinitives (Vivir Mi Vida Free Activity Sheet .)  

Me voy (Julieta Venegas): me voy, no quiero, voy a, decir  (some preterit- the chorus is most useful)  

Hoy es domingo (Diego Torres): hoy, es domingo, mañana, día, para, pastimes  

Me gustas tú (Manu Chao): time, me gustas tú, me gusta + noun/adjectives, ¿qué voy a hacer?  

Mambo (Realidades- not strictly authentic, I think): ¿qué te gusta hacer?, te gusta, me gusta, infinitives, también, tampoco  

Me gustas tú (Luis Fonsi): me gustas, me gusta, hago, me haces, tu, tú,




Unit III: Mi hogar (la familia) y mi escuela


Who is my family? What is a day/year at school like? 

Language: family members, school vocabulary, weather, days, months, time. Sweet sixteen verbs.

Input: More Martina Bex units, fables. Day of the Dead mini-unit (honoring the family).  

De colores (traditional- Joan Baez): primavera, me gustan a mí  

Mamá (Siggno): familia, mamá, siempre, te amo, scenes of life in Mexico- refers to poemita Sana, sana, colita de rana  

Hermanos (Casi Creativo): hermano, perdonar, enseñarme a compartir (WTF, abbreviated, appears at 1:17)  

A Papá (Casi Creativo– cerveza at minute :52 but otherwise a great song): papá, gracias por…, eres, te lo digo  

Te quiero ver  (Natalia Lafourcade): domingo, mañana, tarde, anochecer, te quiero ver, tú no puedes, lots of tú/yo verbs right next  each otherm horas, segundos  

Mi paraíso es (Divicio):  mamá, papá, amigo, niña, mujer, hija– not my favorite style but kids who like boy bands will love it. Would make a good MovieTalk for talking about the family and home as well.  

¿Con quién se queda el perro? (Jesse y Joy): tú te vas, yo me voy, se queda, antes, no hay más remedio  

Vienes y te vas (William Luna): vienes, te vas, no soy feliz–poetic license there–, me olvides. It’s an older video, but I’m partial to Peru and love his music.  

La bicicleta (Shakira y Carlos Vives):  te quiero, voy a hacer, no quiero ser, por ti, puedo ser, le gusta, llévame, óyeme




Unit IV: La comida y las celebraciones


How do we share food and meals?  

What do food and celebrations tell us about Hispanic culture and life?

Language: food, ordering at a restaurant, holidays, reinforce super seven, sweet sixteen, and other high-frequency verbs. Input/activities: Canela, La quinceañera, Martina Bex.

Come vegetables (Casi creativo): somos, vitaminas, plato, deben ser, miel, vegetables, zanahoria, espinaca, tomate, brócoli, fruta, sabores.  

Come frutas (Casi Creativos – “carajo” at 0:18): la nevera, mañana, por la tarde, por la noche  

8 vasos al día (Casi Creativo), antes de comer, al día, vasos,  

Las mañanitas (Alejandro Fernández): birthdays, despierta, levántate, venimos  

Tiempo de vals (Chayanne): la quinceañera


Mi niña bonita (Chino y Nacho): often sung at quinceañeras for father/daughter dance, aquí hay, tanto, para, sin, me siento,  

Chocolate (Jesse and Joy): sabe a chocolate, bombón, nuestro,




Unit V: Mi ciudad y la geografía


What is my hometown like? What are similarities and differences between my city and cities in Spanish-speaking countries?

Language: places, geography, Spanish-speaking countries, present progressive Input/activities: Martina Bex geography units, storytelling, maybe Agentes Secretos

Fronteras (Gaby Moreno): Full of comprehensible language, present tense, and yo verbs, immigration, Guatemala. This is PERFECT for the novel Esperanza, though I use that unit in Spanish 2.  

La gozadera (Marc Antony and Gente de Zona): Hispanic countries, somos tu y yo, might be a good exposure to the preterit.  

Latinoamérica (Calle 13): Many repetitions of “tú no puedes comprar… al sol, al viento, el calor, etc”, with images of Latin America in the background, repitions of tengo.  

El perdón (cover by Siggno- skip the intro): las calles, present progressive. Such a great version to play alongside the original! Beware the “como un loco tomando” line.  

El perdón (Enrique Iglesias y Nicky Jam): las calles, present progressive. Beware the “como un loco tomando” line.



Unit IV: El amor y  los piratas


Is love or money more important? What makes a good/honorable partner?

Language: high-frequency verbs, direct and indirect objects, clothing Input/activities: Piratas del Caribe y el mapa secreto

Robarte un beso (Carlos Vives & Sebastian Yatra)  

La camisa negra (Juanes): ya no me quieres, la camisa, me duele. Contains the word “maldita.” I don’t really love this song, but lots of teachers like to include it.  

Darte un beso (Prince Royce): direct/indirect objects, darte, para, no sé que hacer  

Te mando flores (Fonseca): object pronouns, abrazar, besos, brazos  

Cuando te veo (ChocQuibTown): cuando te veo, son,me hace feliz, me llena, __ como__, puedo  

Cielito lindo (Mariachi band): classic folk song and love song  

Caraluna (Bacilos): yo sé, tal vez, nunca, mientras, cada, progressives, object pronouns  

Volvi a nacer (Carlos Vives): puedo, quiero casarme contigo, que voy a hacer, quedarme, dejar  

El amor (Tito “El Bambino): progressive, tienes que



Unit VI: Viajar y el medio ambiente


Language: travel, the environment, reflexives Input/activities: Robo en la noche by Kristy Placido, study of Costa Rica

La tierra del olvido (Carlos Vives): te quiero, mas que, tienes, río, mar, lluvia, la luna  

Pura vida (Don Omar): mainly because it  says pura vida over and over again  

Madre tierra (Chayanne): abre tus ojo, mira arriba, environmental theme  

Tabaco y chanel (Bacilos): reflexives (no se va, no se olvida), hay que, object pronouns, las estrellas. This is probably my favorite song of all time… so I had to squeeze it in somewhere!  

If you would like to search by country:

A giant database of music, with grammar, vocabulary, and themes listed:

Bryce Hedstrom’s list:

I’d love to hear your favorite songs to learn Spanish! Let me know if I missed any gems!

Authentic Songs for Spanish Class 1

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