Inside: Spanish TV shows: a list of series you can (hopefully!) use in class.
If you’d mentioned movies or shows to me as a new teacher, I’d have assumed you meant how we teachers sometimes use them (hey, we’ve been there right?): that last day before winter break, when the stack of grading gets too high, or a weird testing day when half the class is gone.
Since then, I’ve realized just how amazing Spanish TV shows in class can be. We can bring native speakers straight into our classrooms. We can travel to different places and cultures. I can get them hooked onto authentic resources they’ll remember for years.
When using Spanish shows in class, I vary my approaches depending on the circumstances. Sometimes I incorporate a lot of extra activities, because when it comes to TV, it’s not just “listening practice.” As my classes get invested in the characters, and story, it’s a really great chance to have rich discussions and readings. If the show if not immediately comprehensible to them, it takes these extra activities to turn the show into meaningful input.
Sometimes, though, if I’m sure the language is accessible, I let them get absorbed and try not to pause too often. At the end of Spanish 2, one year, we were getting frazzled and sort’ve limping to the end. I enacted a Spanish-only rule, and told the class that every day, for the rest of the year, I would write “10” on the board. That meant 10 minutes of Extra, at the end of class. If I heard English, I erased a minute. If I slipped into English, I added a minute.
It was so much fun, and served two purposes: motivation, and input. Because, as we all know: if it ain’t compelling, they aren’t acquiring much. That’s why a good show is gold.
I used to use a lot of isolated listening “practice” clips that my students totally dreaded. Part of reason they dreaded those clips was that they had no relation, no meaning we cared about. But give them an interesting show, and they can’t get enough. Why? Because they care about the plot and the people.
FREE SPANISH TV SHOWS
See my Spanish movies and shows page for many more Spanish-language suggestions, and of course let me know if I missed one of your favorites.
1. Mi Vida Loca
Designed for absolute beginners, BBC produced this free show to introduce basic language, the kind you would need to get around town while traveling. Set up as an interactive mystery show, my students really got into this one and didn’t mind that it’s a tiny bit outdated. This is a perfect end-of-the-year treat when students are getting restless, or to watch over the summer and keep up the language from Spanish 1. If you click on the link above, you can watch interactive lessons. If you don’t have flash, you can also use the episodes on YouTube.
Level: Novice-Low and up
A loose spin-off of the sitcom Friends, Extra is fantastic for beginners, in the sense that it provides compelling, highly comprehensible input. My students loved it and by April it was the perfect little reward to watch at the end of class, a bit each day.
However, I feel that it’s often awkward and borders on inappropriate, even for high school. I usually kept my clicker in hand and skipped awkward parts; you can preview and use your judgement.
Level: Novice-High and up (with support)
Destinos is a bit dated, but if you can get past that, it’s a great resource! Follow a lawyer around the world as she tries to solve a mystery and travels the world in search of answers. This is a great way to get immersed in Spanish in the context of a telenova, with culture thrown in too.
Level: Novice-High and up (with support).
4 ¿Eres tú, María?
Created by Realidades for Spanish beginners, this is another (somewhat dated) mystery show.
Level: Novice-Mid and up
5. La Catrina
A 17-year-old Hispanic-American studies in Mexico for the summer.
Level: Novice-High and up (with support)
Many teachers showed Disney’s Violetta– about a musically gifted teen who moves to Buenos Aires– when it was on Netflix, but it’s since been removed. Most of the DVDs on Amazon seem to be foreign (do you hear us, Disney/Amazon? We want to give you our money), but there are episodes available on Vimeo and YouTube (I have no idea how long these will be there).
SPANISH TV SHOWS ON NETFLIX
All of these are authentic shows, and only truly “comprehensible” to Intermediate-Mid or High and up. However, many teachers have developed materials (readings, discussion, guides, etc) to make the material more accessible to their students.
Most of those materials are not currently available to purchase or download, but
Students in an isolated boarding school become involved in mysterious events and dark secrets from the past, as friendships and loyalties are tested. (Sidenote: I haven’t watched the wholes series. It’s VERY popular among many amazing teachers, who choose to skip over some scenes. There is language, and if you put on English subtitles, the language gets translated more strongly than in the original Spanish. I didn’t feel comfortable using it in my own classroom, but you decide!)
Check the following resources if you plan to use the series:
Mis Clases Locas
El tiempo entre costuras is a mini-series based off the novel of the same name. Set during the Spanish Civil War, it follows a Spanish seamstress who ends up in Morrocco after an ill-fated love affair, and eventually gets caught up between spies in Franco’s Spain.
This is one of my very favorite Spanish TV shows, and I’ve used it in class along with a study of the Spanish Civil War. The first few episodes have some scenes I skip, but it is generally a clean show and one I love using.
3. Gran Hotel
Set at the turn of the century, a young man applies for a job at a hotel to investigate his sisters’ disappearance. Forbidden romance, intrigue, and danger follows as the truth comes to light.
Here are resources from Mis Clases Locas for using the show. Though it has scenes I would skip, it’s one of the cleaner shows out there and so good.
4. Soy Luna
An Argentine telenovela produced in partnership with Disney, this series is currently on Netflix. A teenage girls who loves to skate moves to Buenos Aires with her parents. I haven’t watched the entire show, but it looks appropriate for middle school and along the veins of Violetta. (If this isn’t available for you in the U.S., you still may be able to access it by adjusting the VPN on your device.)
Six different teenagers– all interested in music– attend an exclusive private school together. Preview this one before using at school.
5. Silvana sin Lana
A wealthy family’s life comes crashing down when the dad leaves and their fortune is lost. The mother must get a real job and the kids have to adjust to a “normal” life. I haven’t seen this one to the end, but the first episodes are pretty clean and funny.
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