Teaching Language in the Era Distance-Learning: Demos, Hacks, and Examples

by | Mar 22, 2020

Inside: Tips, demos, hacks, and examples for teaching Spanish online.  


March 16 was a time of unprecedented upheaval in the educational system. Hundreds of teachers made the switch to online teaching or distance learning. Many just had a day or two or make this massive switch. You guys: teachers are amazing. 

Now, as the dust settles and the trial-and-error process continues, we’re already learning a few tricks of how to make this all work. Instead of a huge list of resources, I’m sharing tips, demos, and samples of how teachers are putting everything together and creating entire virtual lessons.

I sat down to write this post knowing that many teachers are scrambling right now. Ironically, about fifteen minutes in, I accidentally hit publish. My internet is really bad right now and I was having trouble embedding all the videos. So here my post sat, public, with half-finished sentences and blank video spots, for like two days.

That’s kind of a fitting image for everything right now. It is what it is! 

This post isn’t here to tell you that your online lessons aren’t good enough and you should make them fancier. People get it. You’re doing your best. You’re doing great. 

These are just some tips and examples to help you streamline what you’re doing, and get some new ideas if you need them.


General Tips and Hacks


  • Here’s a document on structuring an online class from @LeslieGrahn.
  • When recording videos for students, shorter is better (remember some of them are staring at the computer hours each day now). In most cases, it’s better to record short videos and mix them up with assignments. Also, remember that if your videos are less than 10 minutes, you can upload them more quickly.
  • Loom is currently free and a helpful extension if you want to easily record your screen and have a small video of yourself in the corner in G Suite. (Zoom does this as well.)
  • If your school blocks YouTube videos, try putting them through EdPuzzle or ViewPure (this removes ads and comments too).
  • Having trouble using Screencastify? Look through this awesome presentation from Stacey Hyslop.
  • Need to reset or establish expectations with your students when meeting virtually? Here’s a cute freebie for that.
  • For using Zoom: you can also join the session with your phone. THEN you can use your phone to record you drawing or writing on a notebook or small whiteboard. Pile up some books and wedge the bottom of your phone between them, so it’s filming the mini-whiteboard or paper below. This is a lot faster and easier than using the virtual whiteboard!

Credit: @Krissy Venosdale

Google Classroom Tips


I saw some of these tops from the teaching language online Facebook group. Join to stay up to date with other teachers and get help if you need it.

  • If you are completely new to Google Classroom, read this clear and helpful “teach from home” guide from Google.
  • Here is another guide to going remote with Google Suite.
  • The tool Flippity can automatically turn your Google spreadsheet into a set of flashcards, a trivia game show, a crossword puzzle, and other activities.
  • The stream can become pretty overwhelming if you are posting often. Direct students to click the classwork button at the top.
  • Create topics/headings with clear titles (attendance, tasks, announcements, etc.)
  • You can also make each different day a topic, and put everything for the day there.


Creating Assignments in Google Classroom


  • Number each assignment sequentially (#001, #002) as an easy way to track all the different assignment and refer to them when talking to parents and students (Bethanie Carlson Drew suggested this.) This is MUCH easier than referring to long, possibly vague, titles.
  • Select “make a copy for each student” of an assignment you have already created, so you can see students work in real time. They won’t need to attach and send to you because you can already see their work in progress (and when it’s complete.)


Google Forms Tips

  • AnneMarie Chase has a really helpful quick quiz doc you can copy and use with readings, videos, and more. The link also includes a really, really helpful post on Google Forms as quizzes and how to embed from YouTube or other places. 
  • You can use the extension Flubaroo to help grade your students through a Google form. The teacher completes the form as an answer key, and Flubaroo will grade it for you and email the results to you.


Teaching Spanish Online: Videos and Demos


As I said in my post showcasing Videos and Damos of Spanish teachers in their classroom: I want to give a huge shout-out to all the amazing teachers who have created video of their classes. It’s not easy. (Only thoughtful/supportive comments allowed.


Structuring Online Classes 


Here are some tips on planning your classes and shifting the mindset to online:

Dealing with COVID-19 Closures: Getting Through This STRONGER from Tina Hardgaden

COVID-19 Survival Guide: Making a Reading to Provide Input with a Packet with Tina Hardgaden

In this video, you can get guidance on planning, setting up, and running a 1-hour live class for elementary and upper-elementary classes. 

Julie from Mundo de Pepita shares, “Here are three activities you can do with our printable play food sets during extended school closure, distance / remote learning (adaptable for ANY language!). These activities can be done live with students (such as on Zoom) or remotely via video taping and uploading to the platform you are using.

Some concrete, reassuring suggestions on the switch to virtual for language teachers. 


Structuring an Asynchronous Classes


Most schools seem to be choosing this option, where classes and materials are online, but not in real-time.

How the one-and-only La Maestra Loca records a class for her elementary students! This is an example of not having to do anything fancy with an online whiteboard, just using a home setup with paper. 

Am I suggesting you get on your roof and make a hilarious video for your students? Probably not doable for most of us. But – it’s a cool idea to recording short clips to connect with your students and have a “hook” for kicking off your online lesson or asking questions.

An example from a French teacher recording a lesson for her elementary classes. 

And one more demo of a French elementary lesson!

A demo of adapting MovieTalks to online teaching from Diane Neubauer. 


Videos and Demos of Tech Distance Learning Tools


Sometimes you need to see it to understand it! Here I’ve collected video instructions on how to various learning platforms or quick tips.

General guidance and information for teaching remotely. 

A guide to using Zoom, specifically for world language teachers. 

Tips and tricks for using Google classroom. 

Suggestions for making digital assignments for Google classroom. 



I hope these tips were helpful to you! Please send me links and videos if you have more suggestions that would be helpful to other world language teachers.

teaching Spanish online



Hey! I’m Elisabeth, a teacher and mom raising two bilingual kids in the Peruvian jungle. Read our story here. I love digging up the best Spanish resources for all you busy parents and teachers!

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