Teaching Spanish can be a lot of work. Planning a class, finding materials you want to use, and making sure students are ready when they get there. Despite the best intentions though, many teachers find themselves spending way too much time preparing a class. This can make a less effective class, and you even feel guilty about it.
While you don’t need to spend half your day working on how to create activities that will be fun for everyone or craft an engaging lesson plan — you do need to learn how to prep less and focus more on what matters: teaching!
I hear from many Spanish teachers that it’s a real struggle to meet their students’ expectations. Since there is so much to prepare, how should they know how much time to spend on each assignment? How can you reduce the time spent preparing a class or at least cut down your preparation time?
Here are a few tips to help Spanish teachers reduce or eliminate the time they spend on class preparation. This can be applied to classes of multiple ages and abilities. It also applies to multi-grade classes and/or two Spanish language groups in one classroom.
These 29 world language teacher experts that presented at the World Language Teacher Summit 2022 learned how to protect themselves from spending too many hours preparing for each class. Here are some ideas that have helped them reduce their prep time:
29 Tips to Reduce Class Prep and Planning
“Having weekly and daily routines that I use at all levels drastically reduces preparing for every single level.”
As a #deptof1 with at least 4 levels, reducing my planning has always been essential. Having weekly and daily routines that I use at all levels drastically reduces preparing for every single level.
Long-term batch planning for one level at a time saves time in the long run. Then on Thursdays, I make more detailed plans for the upcoming week. I always make sure my plans for the next week are ready before I leave Friday, so I can enjoy my weekend.
Rachel E. Lerner
“Try to prepare effective and attractive learning activities that can be used again with another group of students.”
Try to prepare effective and attractive learning activities that can be used again with another group of students. That way, you will soon have a stockpile of interesting materials for each topic/issue you are planning to teach.
Sarah Barrientos Svatos
“Find colleagues who are helpful and will answer your questions…”
Remember that when you’re a new teacher you aren’t expected to know everything. Find colleagues who are helpful and will answer your questions, and find Facebook groups, Instagram accounts, and Twitter accounts that inspire you as a teacher!
“Daily weekly routines, units and collaboration with colleagues online and school are essential to me surviving these no prep semesters.”
I am a full-time French teacher at the secondary level, and I have to teach one of my semesters with 0 prep/planning time. Daily weekly routines, units and collaboration with colleagues online and school are essential to me surviving these no prep semesters. When you’re teaching half a school year with 0 prep time, it’s all about survival and being creative. I have definitely mastered the creativity part and that really helps with the survival bit!
“Preparation is easier when the learning goal can be minimized to one statement.”
I have a clear success criteria for each class. This gives me a succinct target to plan towards. Preparation is easier when the learning goal can be minimized to one statement.
“Do the same activity across all classes, but vary the content!”
Do the same activity across all classes, but vary the content! For example, I might do a Card Talk in all of my classes and vary the content based on what we are learning in each course.
Create sets that you can both use in class and students can use for review (I use Quizlet for this!).
“Take one authentic resource (video clip, audio file, or text). Get students thinking about the topic before. Ask what they already know about it.”
Take one authentic resource (video clip, audio file, or text). Get students thinking about the topic before. Ask what they already know about it. Highlight a few key words and personalize them. Create a few discussion questions after working with the resource (interpersonal speaking). Have them list some key details (recall/comprehension) and then a brief written summary in the target language (presentational writing).
“I start designing lots of listening activities as this is the natural way to learn a second language.”
Taking into consideration the time of attention of each group of students according to their ages and design activities to engage them.
I plan the class and design activities according to the type of memory students need to manage the information they need to comprehend.
I start designing lots of listening activities as this is the natural way to learn a second language.
I use brain breaks to maintain a good level of attention throughout the whole class.
“I find it helpful to me to keep a little notebook handy to jot down inspiration as it hits me.”
I find it helpful to me to keep a little notebook handy to jot down inspiration as it hits me. I have developed a schedule to help me respect the boundaries that I have created to maintain the work/life balance and really try to stick to it!
“To make it easier for any educator, I always save and archive EVERYTHING.”
To make it easier for any educator, I always save and archive EVERYTHING. I enjoy creating my own database with worksheets, videos to show to my students, evaluation sheets, progress trackers, books that might be good to read for any sort of level, activities for all 4 forms of communication, and so on.
Sometimes students will ask me for extra work or practice outside of the classroom space or recommendations, so I always want to have something on hand to print out or email to someone as soon as possible. Sometimes you may have to adjust your curriculum and you want to be prepared if necessary.
“I reduce planning by selecting an authentic resource to plan each lesson.”
I reduce planning by selecting an authentic resource to plan each lesson. I then create an interpretive, interpersonal and presentational task based on this resource.
“Keep the Text; change the task!”
Keep the Text; change the task! Like many teachers, I teach multiple levels, so it is important to create materials and learning scenarios to diversify experiences based on good authentic materials. I also incorporate formative feedback and self-assessment tools as co-created documents that guide learning.
“Sometimes plans are meant to be broken.”
1. Trial and error is ok.
2. Sometimes plans are meant to be broken.
3. What works for one class may not work for another class.
4. Use your planning time wisely.
5. Most importantly don’t be afraid to share and collaborate with others at your school, social media, or another campus.
“Routines, routines, routines. I’ll say it one more time – routines!!”
Routines, routines, routines. I’ll say it one more time – routines!! Daily routines, weekly routines, routines in how you plan your units – having a routine for everything cuts down on your time because you won’t have to think of new ways to do something, instead you’ll just plug pieces into the established framework you’ve created for yourself.
“Organizing lessons in digital format by unit is a must.”
Digital grading has been a game changer.
Organizing lessons in digital format by unit is a must. Keeping ideas and links in labeled folders in my Google Drive helps to stay organized. Label each folder by grading quarter and then week one, week two, etc. Each year, modify as needed but use these lessons as a reference and to pull content and lessons.
“Co-create stories with your students. ”
Find a great story and use it for all the levels of your class.
Co-create stories with your students.
Identify 10 activities you love and use them over and over with different content.
You have more power than you know – use it!
“Organizing resources related to my units in my school platform has been a great time saver.”
Organizing resources related to my units in my school platform has been a great time saver. Reusing and adapting activities that proved effective in the past to address new units have also worked wonders.
“To cut down on grading time, I check the students’ work in their notebooks while they work…”
I grade most Middle School classwork for completion, especially formative assessments. To cut down on grading time, I check the students’ work in their notebooks while they work and I check to see that they have made corrections when we go over answers. Then, I can check off that they have completed their work rather than collecting and individually grading what they do every day.
“I use the calendar and events that are happening each month to guide me with my themes.”
I brainstorm at the beginning of the semester the units that I tentatively will use to teach my learners. I use the calendar and events that are happening each month to guide me with my themes. I am not committed to all units 100% meaning that I leave a lot of room for flexibility. I send my copies to my school’s print shop one unit at a time so I can save major time. I remind myself that I only have to be one unit ahead.
If my body is screaming “I need a time-out,” then I must listen.
“All tests, homework, and quizzes are automatically graded in Google Forms”
To reduce class prep and planning, I have a paperless classroom! All tests, homework, and quizzes are automatically graded in Google Forms or similar software. My presentations are usually made in advance as Pear Decks, so the fun and engagement is still there. For me, paperless was the answer!
“I recycle lesson plans from previous years and just tweak for the current year.”
I use rubrics, easy to grade simple assignments.
I recycle lesson plans from previous years and just tweak them for the current year.
“Canva has reduced my prep time by providing templates and easy-to-adapt materials…”
Canva has reduced my prep time by providing templates and easy-to-adapt materials like classroom decor, games, student projects, and even front-of-class instruction. Students are able to ignite their creativity by using these templates and resources on Canva to create posters, videos, social media, class assignments, pamphlets, presentations and more! Canva produced materials also work with your Learning Management System (LMS) or can be embedded into websites or social media.
“I have students grade their own work, self-assess on reading, listening, and writing assessments, and self-reflect on their performance.”
One of the biggest changes I’ve made in recent years to cut down on my work outside of class has been to provide as much feedback as possible on assessments in class. I have students grade their own work, self-assess on reading, listening, and writing assessments, and self-reflect on their performance.
Because I have a classroom environment built on encouraging student success, they don’t feel the need to cheat or lie on these self-assessments. This makes it so much easier for me to go through them, and it allows me to spend my precious prep time on making creative and engaging lessons.
Margarita Pérez García
“I do Story-Listening using graded readers instead of fairy tales, so I don’t have to look for stories to tell…”
1 – I learned to use the Story-Listening approach well and to apply Comprehension Aiding Supplementation all the time so that I can stay in the language consistently when teaching.
2 – I do Story-Listening using graded readers instead of fairy tales, so I don’t have to look for stories to tell and I have a consistent pool of language and a story that goes on from lesson to lesson and keeps students engaged.
3 – My students and I engage in Guided Self Selected Reading (GSSR) in the first 10/15 minutes of every lesson. My library features books from diverse authors, but makes a special place for authors who write stories of their land in their own language. I love this insider outlook into their own culture.
“Give a copy of the template to your students and have them design an activity!”
Use Google Docs or Google Slides to create templates of activities you do frequently in class. Then create a copy of the template to create a new activity. Think outside of the box: Give a copy of the template to your students and have them design an activity!
“I’ve been using vocabulary review games as quick warm-ups for my classes.”
I’ve been using vocabulary review games as quick warm-ups for my classes. With Gimkit, Kahoot, Quizlet Live and Blooket, these activities are quick to create and easy to use. Students ease into engaging with the target language.
“I have a weekly routine to start the class that helps me with planning….”
I have a weekly routine to start the class that helps me with planning: Monday we watch a news clip, Tuesday and Thursday we do choice reading, Wednesday we do a writing prompt and Friday we dance or sing. With a little tweaking I can use the same materials across all levels and from year to year, so the first 5-10 minutes of my classes are planned.
“Using novels as the center of your teaching.”
Using novels as the center of your teaching.
“Making the shift to proficiency-based instruction and assessment has really shifted my lesson planning mindset!”
My gradebook is now broken down by mode of communication. This helps me to be more purposeful with not only my lessons but also my assessments. No more 4-page conjugation quizzes!
As a Spanish school teacher, you are always on the go. Swimming in a sea of schedules and tasks that keep coming at you. Sometimes it is nice to take a break and do something fun for the sake of relaxation. I don’t know about you, but I think sometimes it is virtually impossible to relax knowing that there are still things that need to be done before the next day arrives. So, I hope this amazing group of speakers provided you with some inspiration.
Check out more articles about Teaching Spanish.