12 Back-to-School Tips by Spanish Teachers

The “back-to-school” period is an exciting time – you are rested, renewed and full of energy to tackle a new year and help your students fall in love with the Spanish language. It’s a great time to implement Sarah’s Spanish School curriculum and plan out the entire school year, and you can even use the fact that everyone is still getting used to being back at school to try out new ideas instead of throwing your students into deep waters right away!

Thanks to a group of Spanish teachers, especially Mrs Cabello Spanish Class who volunteered their time to speak with us over the last couple of weeks, Diana and I heard a variety of fabulous ideas that we want to share with you. I guarantee that you will implement at least one or two when teaching Spanish. 

Also, we discovered that there are some amazing resources available that many teachers don’t know about, which we will also share here.

12 Back-to-School Tips from Spanish Teachers

1. Share a List of Cognates

Learning a new language can seem overwhelming, especially for students with little or no prior exposure. To ease their fears, start the first day by showing how many words in Spanish are similar to English. For example, words like “animal,” “doctor,” and “hospital” are the same or nearly the same in both languages. Seeing these familiar words can make Spanish feel less intimidating. A great resource for this is Madrigal’s Magic Key to Spanish.

2. Use Frozen’s “Let It Go” to Introduce Your Students to Languages

Show your students the “Let It Go” video from the movie Frozen, sung in 25 different languages. This can be a fun way to introduce them to the idea of learning new languages, including Spanish. It’s a great way to spark their interest and show them how amazing language learning can be.

3. Grade Homework and Assignments in Class

Donna from Florida suggests grading homework and assignments together in class. Collect the assignments, redistribute them among the students, and go over each answer. This allows students to ask questions and understand why an answer is correct or incorrect. It keeps them engaged and makes grading a part of the learning process. This method works especially well with longer class periods, but it can also be adapted for shorter classes with simpler assignments.

4. Label Different Parts of the School in Spanish

Start the school year with a fun activity: take your students around the school and label different areas with signs in Spanish. For example, label the gym as “gimnasio” and the bathroom as “baño.” This helps students see Spanish words daily and can also benefit other students in the school who are not in your class.

5. Encourage Spanish-Speaking Parents to Speak Spanish at Home

If you have students with native Spanish-speaking parents, encourage those parents to speak Spanish at home. Some parents mistakenly think their children will benefit more from speaking only English, but maintaining their native language can be very beneficial. Discuss this with the parents and, if possible, invite them to school to speak to your students. This can be particularly effective with more advanced students.

6. Use Songs in Spanish

Music is a great way to keep students engaged and help with listening comprehension. Studies show that music can aid memory retention. Use songs that are popular among your students, like those by Kevin, Karla y la Banda, who create Spanish covers of popular English songs. This makes learning fun and relatable.

7. Select Materials Based on Student Interests

Choose topics, songs, and resources that your students are interested in. Michelle from Wisconsin suggests having students fill out a questionnaire at the beginning of the year to learn about their interests. This allows you to tailor your lessons to what they enjoy, making them more likely to engage with the material.

8. Do a Video Call with a Native Spanish Speaker

Arrange for a native Spanish speaker to have a video call with your class. This can be done 

through platforms like italki or Skype. It doesn’t have to be a structured lesson; even a casual conversation can be very beneficial. It gives students a chance to interact with a native speaker and learn about different cultures.

9. Expose Students to Current Events and News in Spanish

Finding beginner-friendly Spanish resources can be challenging. News in Slow Spanish is a great podcast for sharing current events in an understandable way. Another resource is Pictoline, which releases daily visuals about current events. These can be used as conversation starters or discussion topics.

10. Incorporate “Destinos,” a Telenovela That Transitions from English to Spanish

“Destinos” is a telenovela that starts in English and gradually transitions to Spanish. It’s a fun way to introduce students to the language, and there are exercises available to accompany the episodes. This resource can be especially useful when you have a substitute teacher.

11. Use Hands-on Visual Activities

Carina from Michigan uses Play-Doh to help her students learn vocabulary. Creating objects with Play-Doh can make learning more interactive and memorable. This activity can be enjoyable even for high school students, providing a break from traditional lessons.

12. Make Sure Your Students Enjoy Your Class

The most important tip we gathered from speaking with Spanish teachers is to ensure your students enjoy your class. Even if they don’t achieve fluency, fostering a love for the language is crucial. If they have a positive experience, they’ll be more likely to continue learning Spanish and other languages in the future.

The Bottom Line

We want to extend our gratitude to the teachers who shared their insights with us. While there’s no definitive guide to being a great Spanish teacher, learning from experienced educators can help you develop strategies that keep your students engaged and excited about learning. Best of luck as you start the new school year!