Coming back to school after the winter break can be rough. Create a lesson or two around New Year’s traditions, and you can kick off the new semester with fun activities centered on Latino culture.
As explored in my New Year’s in Spanish post, there are a ton of good-luck rituals in the Hispanic world. From wearing the right underwear to stuffing down 12 grapes a midnight, there’s a little bit of everything! And there’s plenty of interesting traditions to capture your students’ attention.
Or consider a real-world task like making resolutions and/or wishes. There are plenty of #authres to make these sorts of activities even more meaningful.
Below, I’ve gathered all kinds of resources, so there should be something for everyone. Enjoy!
Spanish New Year’s Activities
Make New Year’s resolutions! Perhaps begin with a funny story about someone who has high hopes for the new year and sets intense goals, and then what actually happens Jan 1. OR go the inspirational route about someone who truly does turn over a new leaf (the Grinch, maybe). Then at the end of the story, students come up with their own resolutions.
Prepare a list of famous characters/people/celebrities. Then, write up one or more resolutions for each person. Show the list of people to the class, and read the resolutions out loud, while the students try to guess whose it is.
Make 12 wishes for the New Year, and write each one in a grape. (Following the tradition of eating 12 grapes at midnight, and making a wish for each one eaten.) This is an output-heavy activity, so it might be best to brainstorm and give options for the students to choose from, or use for a more advanced class and then discuss.
For younger students, prepare “grapes” with a wish for the New Year written down. After talking about each wish, have the students pick just one wish for the next year. Then vote for favorites and do a graph to see what the most popular wish is!
Research superstitions to bring good luck on New Year’s, and compare them between countries/cultures.
Have students choose one word for the New Year, as explained here.
Inside: My top recommendations for Spanish shows on Netflix.
I speak Spanish all day with my kids and as a teacher, but I need good input too! And lucky for me, there are more and more great shows to watch. Here are a bunch of suggestions (most of which I’ve personally watched).
As a semi-introvert, my ideal evening just might be curled at home with a good show. Not surprisingly, a good series is one of my favorite ways to learn more Spanish.
Below, I’ve included a brief commentary where I could, However, if you’re wondering about ratings, please be sure to click on the title and get a better idea of the content. Remember that Netflix regularly adds and pulls shows– just let me know if you catch something I should update!
This is a GREAT show. The drama of the main two character wasn’t actually my favorite: what makes the show are the endearing supporting characters. I love the aesthetics, clever dialogue, and lively personalities throughout. Set in Spain.
Often compared to Downton Abbey, El tiempo entre costuras is a mini-series based off a novel. Set during the Spanish Civil War, it follows a seamstress unlucky-in-love, who gets caught up between spies in Franco’s Spain. It has gorgeous scenery and costuming. This is one of my very favorites, and I’ve used it in class along with a study of the Spanish Civil War. Set in Spain and Morocco.
This was one of those shows I initially wrote off, then totally got into. The first episode is fairly explicit but gets a tamer as the series goes on. It’s quite the study in family disfunction, and turned out to be more complex, funny, and memorable than I expected. Both my husband and I have enjoyed it (I watched El tiempo entre costuras alone, haha). Set in Mexico.
Here’s your really well-done telenovela that even my action-loving husband couldn’t stop watching. Full of intrigue and mystery, it’s got plenty of the novela qualities– but with a solid story and characters to back it up. Like Velvet, the supporting characters are the best part of the story. (If you’re not finding it on Netflix, search Grande Hotel.) Set in Spain.
This was a hard show to watch, but one we both really liked. It’s an extensive series based on the life and rise of Pablo Escobar to power. A lot of the events shown were new to me, and filled in some gaps in the complicated relationship between the Colombian public and Escobar (even though it’s not a historical documentary). It was interesting to watch together, as my husband remembers much of the story from his childhood the nearby Peruvian jungle. Set in Colombia.
I just started this one and it looks really good. Difficult themes– life during the conflict between the FARC and the national military, re-integration after life as a guerilla, child soldiers– but still good. It manages to deal with those heavy themes while maintaining hope and everyday moments. Unlike many of the other series in this list, it gives a in-depth look into everyday life for working-class families in Latin America. Set in Colombia.
Starring the iconic Kate del Castillo as the first lady of Mexico, Ingobernable begins as her world is turned upside down and she finds herself running for her life. Accused of assassinating her husband, she must find her way outside her life of wealth and power, to prove her innocence. Set in Mexico.
From the creators of Gran Hotel and Velvet, this show is packed with favorite actors from both shows, as well as El barco and El internado. It follows 4 women who work for a cable company in the 20’s.I was a bit put off by the jarring modern music combined with a really gorgeous set, but enough of my friends like it that I think I’ll give it another chance. Set in Spain.
Confession: I haven’t watched this one! That’s pretty much Spanish-teacher sacrilege, I know. However– I have a lot of friends who LOVE it and swear by it. Set in a boarding school, it’s a mystery series. Set in Spain.
This one is set to come to Netflix on January 28, 2018. It’s a Dr. Who-type show and supposed to be really good! It’s a time-travel theme about two students who join forces under the direction of the Time Ministry of Spain, to go back in time and correct mistakes. This should be great to show in class– lots of history and art, set in Spain.
It’s a reasonable criticism that too many shows/movies paint Latin America as full of drugs, violence, etc. And this show was hard to watch for the violence, same as Pablo Escobar. I did think it was well-done though, and we both got into it (it was a really interesting background to Kate del Castillo’s documentary “The Day I Met Chapo”). Set in Mexico.
15. Sobreviviendo a Escobar
Just to continue right along with narco-theme series, Sobreviviendo Pablo Escobar was a fascinating follow-up to Pablo Escobar (and Narcos). Set in Colombia.
Another Spanish mystery, El barco follows a group of young people on a boat during a global cataclysm, who believe themselves to be the only people left on earth. We got really into this one initially, though my interest waned a bit with the extreme drama every episode, hah. If you liked El internado and Gran hotel, you’ll probably like this one! Set in Spain (sort’ve… they’re in the ocean most of the time).
Inside: A round-up of classroom ideas for Spanish Christmas activities.
The week before winter holidays can be a bit crazy right? You might be at the end of your rope and out of ideas, but no worries! I’ve scoured the internet for the best Christmas and winter-themed ideas, and gathered them here for you.
Obviously, the guidelines on Christmas-themed plans will vary from school-to-school. Some of you at religious schools can celebrate it; others will need to present more neutral lessons. Because it’s entrenched in largely-Catholic Hispanic culture, you might present it as culture.
With all that in mind, I’ve tried to gather a variety so there’s something for everyone. If it’s not already obvious, I’ve also tried to note whether certain resources are religious or not.
Introduce Hispanic traditions like Las posadas, Los tres reyes, or traditional foods.
Retell the original Christmas story. Use a picture book, draw as you go (a la Story Listening), or use a video from below as your visual
There are lots of infographics, songs, and video clips you can throw in during the winter holidays. These are fun to to prompt discussion and give the students a chance to see what they can understand from an authentic resource.
Inside: A round-up of classroom ideas for Thanksgiving in Spanish.
Are you wondering how to handle the week of Thanksgiving in Spanish class? If half of the students are gone anyway, should we hand out a bunch of worksheets and call it a week? I’m not one to judge: I know it’s what an exhausting time of year it is.
Thanks to embracing comprehensible input, I no longer view holidays as isolated themes– time to teach some random vocabulary that won’t come up again until the next year. Nope! As long as we make in comprehensible, any theme can work for any student. That said, I do think it’s okay to accept that a few days of the year won’t be as content-packed as the others. If you’re going to do something like a craft, holidays are a good time to do them.
But let’s not re-invent the wheel. I’ve gathered some awesome resources to make the most of the week, with a little bit of everything, for everyone.
Here are some ideas for a typical Thanksgiving week:
Monday: Story, MovieTalk, and/or discussion. Pick one of the videos and infographics below, and plan your classes around it– even if you have different levels! Just adjust your own language to each group.
Tuesday: Craft day or hands-on day, if you’re planning to do one. From Monday, you probably used terms like turkey, so you can bring them around again today. Pick songs to play in the background; talk about one if it’s helpful. With younger classes, a mini-book might work well.
Ask or tell a funny Thanksgiving story: a turkey who tries to avoid ending up one the dinner table, a family member who tries to enact a vegan Thanksgiving, or mishaps on the way to spend the holiday at the cousins’ house.
Choose a song and just focus on a few keywords (like gracias!). Do a really easy listening activity like Draw, Listen, Check.
Lots of teachers do the traditional turkey or leaf crafts. This of course is easy to adapt to the Spanish classroom: students write things they’re thankful for, in Spanish, on the leaves or feathers.
If you can, take it up a notch to make it more input-based: generate some options and talk about them. Brainstorm things that students are thankful for, boil them down to common themes among the students, and categorize in “necessities” and “luxuries.” Make it Comprehensible has a great explanation for how to set up and guide this sort of discussion so the students are getting lots of input.
Retell the original Thanksgiving story. Use a picture book, draw as you go (a la Story Listening), or use a video from below as your visual.
There are lots of infographics, songs, and video clips you can throw in during Thanksgiving week. These are fun to to prompt discussion and give the students a chance to see what they can understand from an authentic resource.
Visit my Thanksgiving in Spanish page on Pinterest to find lots more Thanksgiving in Spanish realia!
I have a whole post just on Thanksgiving songs for kids, if you’re teaching a younger crowd. This first song is nice because it uses the “Doy gracias por…” refrain that is part of many of the mini-books and crafts teachers like to do.
Día de acción de Gracias
If you’re looking for older kids, I love Mercedes Sosa and Gracias a la vida is a classic. Gracias has good repetitions of “gracias por…”, and Fonseca’s positive song Gratitud fits in perfectly if you’re doing a grateful-for theme. Or try this great Latino Thanksgiving playlist.
Gracias a la vida by Mercedes Sosa
Gracias – Silvestre Dangond & Juancho de La Espriella
Doy Gracias Mini-Pack (If you would like to purchase ready-to-go materials, I recommend this one from Mundo de Pepit! $3)
Spanish Turkey Glyphs (If you want to save time and purchase an activity, I recommend these glyphs from Sol.Azucar, available for a variety of proficiency levels. Students get to relax and color, plus lots of comprehensible input! $3)
Free Activity Sheet to go with a reading of the Celebra día de acción de gracias con Beto y Gaby from Santilla
These would make great MovieTalks for a Thanksgiving in Spanish day. You narrate the stories in language the students understand, discuss, possibly type up a reading, and voila– you have a high-interest, language-packed activity.
Salt, sugar, cooking terms
Re-tell the Story
Retell the original Thanksgiving story, perhaps choosing a character from the perspective of the Native Americans, and one from the perspective of the Pilgrims. You could use this video for visuals (definitely address that it’s a simplified version– it glosses over the complicated story of colonization and it’s impact on native people in the Americas). If you like, contrast it with the version below.
How Latino immigrants are adopting the holiday of Día de acción de gracias:
La historia de Thanksgiving en español (very much from the perspective of the Pilgrims, but fairly comprehensible with subtitles):
Studying La ropa in your classroom? Here’s a free printable dice game from my newest Game Pack in my TpT store. I am working on a series of game packs that teach vocabulary through images. I like to teach and practice vocabulary this way, (more…)
I have been busy updating my look on my TpT store, and just made a new 41-page game pack for learning animals. Here on the blog, I’m making a few pages of that available for free! I love games for introducing vocabulary. This pack includes games for Go Fish, Yo Tengo (beginner’s and intermediate), Old Maid, Concentration, and a board game. One of the sets also doubles as a flashcard set, which can be used for many other activities. (more…)