For many teachers textbooks don’t clearly communicate cultural and social nuances. Many texts simply focus on basic verbs and sentences like, “Lina went to the store” or “Lina fue a la tienda”. If you teach kids a language using tools that are already integrated in their lives—like popular movies and books—they’re much more receptive to a new language.
10 Non-Textbook Spanish Teaching Activities
Make class a little more exciting by integrating food into your lesson plan. Write easy recipes for Latin dishes on pieces of paper and have your students draw a piece of paper from a hat. Each student gets to make a dish and bring it in the following week. The student must explain the dish, including all the ingredients that went into the dish—in Spanish. You can also ask students to supply the class with simple directions on how to make the dish.
If it is not possible for your students to make the recipes, you have the alternative of looking for cooking videos in Spanish where they can see the ingredients and the process. Many shows like Despierta América have a short cooking segment that will be cool for them to watch. Then ask questions about the recipe.
Many supermarkets also have latino food. You can get tortillas, tostones, empanadas or arepas that are ready to cook. This requires some coordination, but you may talk with your school cafeteria to prepare some of the foods for you (something simple as fry or warm the food). Your students can list the ingredients and describe the cooking process using your recipes.
Borrow class pets from other departments or send students on a scavenger hunt around the school to find different animals. The “animals” could be a frog paperweight, a taxidermy snake from a biology class, a cheerleading uniform with an eagle emblem on it or other animals the students find around school. Ask the student to give the animal’s name in Spanish and ask the student to tell a story about the animal. The story could be one the student makes up or a real story about how he or she found the animal at school.
3. Field Trips
Take your kids on a field trip to the zoo, aquarium or art museum. Ask the kids questions that they can answer in Spanish. Walk up to a painting in the art museum and ask what the person in the painting is doing. They can answer whatever they like (the woman is sleeping, the woman looks angry, the woman is tired), as long as it relates to the painting. This will teach kids how to express emotion vocabulary. Take kids to the zoo or the aquarium to learn verbs like run, sleep, swim, eat and roll.
4. Class Crossovers
Collaborate with other teachers to find out what students are learning in other classes. If students are reading “The Great Gatsby” in English class, ask them to bring their books to Spanish class and ask them questions about the book in Spanish. If students are learning about genetics in science class, ask their professor to visit the Spanish class to explain the lesson—then ask the students to conjugate simple verbs from the science teacher’s lesson. Ask the physical education teacher to stop by and give the kids some simple instruction on how muscles in the body work. Ask the kids to name different parts of the body in Spanish.
5. Popular TV Shows
One way to engage with your students is to teach them using things that interest them. Pick a show on MTV or a popular show on the CW that most members of the class watch. Their “homework” for that evening is to watch the TV show and write a report about the plot of that week’s episode in Spanish. Or, let the kids watch a half hour of MTV Tres. Every few minutes, pause the show and ask the kids what just happened.
Read a popular novel in Spanish. Most books—like “Twilight”, “Harry Potter”, “Gossip Girl” and other teen favorites are translated into Spanish. Take a vote once a month on what book the kids want to read. Read one quarter of the book every week and at the end of the week discuss what happened in the novel that week. It’s like your own Spanish book club for students.
Learning doesn’t have to be all fun and games. You can keep kids abreast on situations in different Spanish speaking countries by cutting out simple newspaper articles and asking the kids to translate the articles in class. Talk about what’s going on around the world in Spanish and then take 15 minutes for the kids to debate the topic in English. This will not only help them learn another language, it will help them gain an understanding of other cultures and help them form opinions about world events.
8. Board Games
Resurrect everyone’s favorite board games from childhood with these ideas. Grab an old version of Candy Land and translate the cards into Spanish, then tape the Spanish text onto the cards. Play the game with the kids in class and see who wins—based on their accurate translations. These games help kids learn color-based vocabulary. Make your own game of UNO in true Spanish. Instead of numbers, spell out the numbers on the cards in Spanish so your class is forced to do math in Spanish instead of English.
There are other board games in Spanish you can use in you class. You can also use the Spanish version of a classic game such as Monopoly, Scrabble, Operation and Twister. Check out a list of 32 board game options here.
One of the best Spanish teaching supplies is magazines. Ask your students what magazines they like to read, purchase a Spanish version of the magazine and make some photocopies of a few feature stories and quizzes. The kids will find it hilarious to take a Spanish Seventeen Magazine love quiz or read a story about Selena Gomez. The Spanish versions of these magazines often feature Latina celebrities instead of Americans, so kids can learn a little more about Spanish speaking cultures. Buy a US Weekly magazine and cut out the “Stars, They’re Just Like Us” section. Ask the kids to translate this section in to Spanish. Since this section is full of actions like “They take their kids to the park!” or “They go grocery shopping!” kids will learn how to conjugate verbs into Spanish.
10. Show and Tell
Ask your students to tell a story once a week. The story should be accompanied by some sort of visual. Maybe a student made the winning goal in a soccer match that week. He or she can tell a story about kicking the ball, running down the field or celebrating by eating pizza afterward. Connecting Spanish to a student’s everyday life will help your students use this language more frequently. By only teaching words or situations in a textbook, students can become disinterested or not understand how what they are learning connects with real life.
With these ideas you and your students can rest for a day from the textbook and still learn Spanish.
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