Teaching Tips for the Spanish Classroom
I hope these teaching tips help you deliver a dynamic Spanish class where you enjoy teaching and your students learn a lot and can't wait to come back to the next class! Even with a great curriculum, you have to know how to teach it well. If you join my business facebook page, you will be notified each time there is a new posting.
Sing 'n Speak Spanish is not a full immersion program. We use a Comprehensible Input model to ensure students understand the words and phrases being taught. The use of TPR (total physical response) is a popular technique used by many foreign language instructors. It is much like a sign language where words and/or phrases have a gesture, movement, or facial expression associated with them. The teacher or the students can create these. The use of TPR allows teachers to speak Spanish most of the time in the classroom, using English only to ensure that the input is comprehensible to the students.
Click on each Teaching Tip below to view the contents of each tip.
Teaching Tips for the Spanish Classroom
Tip 1: Keep the class lively and fast-paced.
Classroom maintenance problems often arise when students are restless or bored. As a dynamic teacher, you need to switch activities often so students don’t have a chance to get bored. Students should struggle just a bit to keep up with you.
A typical one hour class should include about eight different activities – an average of 7 – 8 minutes per activity. This is just a guideline, as some activities take longer than others. Be careful not to spend too much time on one particular activity.
Be jealous of your time! Do not allow students to sidetrack you (no storytelling by the students) and be keenly aware of how long you are spending on each activity. During lesson preparation, you might mark approximately where you think you should be halfway through the class. Check the time when you see this mark and see if you are close to where you need to be. Speed up or slow down appropriately.
Be willing to switch to another activity if it is taking too long or the students are losing focus.
Tip 2: Class activities should involve most of the students most of the time.
To keep students engaged and maximize learning, minimize activities where the focus is on an individual student. Split the class into teams to play games so each student is involved in the play as often as possible. Team members can help one another. When drilling the new vocabulary with TPR sentences, first state the sentence in English with TPR gestures, then have the entire group state the sentence in Spanish with you. Hesitate after each gesture so students get a chance to come up with the words before you do. With TPR sentences and TPR singing, insist on participation from all students.
Tip 3: How to Introduce Vocabulary with Flash cards and TPR
The introduction of new vocabulary with flash cards is an important part of the Spanish lesson. It is effective and lots of fun when you use the following method:
1. Students listen and pronounce the new word several times as they associate the picture on the card with the new word. Have fun with the new word by saying it loud or soft, fast or slow, in a high or low pitch, a whisper, or with a voice that implies a feeling (angry, sweet, loving, etc.). You can even sing the word! Use your imagination. The students’ job is to mimic you.
2. Put the flash card down and repeat the word once or twice, creating a TPR gesture that the student can then associate with that word.
3. Use the new word in several sentences. First, say a sentence in English using the new word with grammar and vocabulary from previous lessons. Next, together with the students, say the sentence in Spanish using TPR gestures. Do this slowly, hesitating slightly to give students a chance to volunteer the words. Students enjoy stringing words together to make sentences, especially if they are humorous.
Tip 4: How to teach songs with TPR
The memorization of songs is an effective and enjoyable component of the Sing ‘n Speak Spanish program. If melodies are catchy, students will sing the songs repeatedly, giving them the repetition they need for long term vocabulary retention.
TPR singing is an effective way to teach songs. It helps students comprehend the meaning of the words, gets them moving, and keeps them challenged as they follow along. It also helps you know who is paying attention if you insist on participation.
In this technique, sing each line with TPR, first alone in English and then twice in Spanish with student participation. Each time you introduce a new line, sing the entire verse up to that point in Spanish before moving on to the next line. Once you have introduced the entire verse, then you can play the music CD and sing the entire verse together as a class. Teach each verse in this manner until you have taught the entire song.
Tip 5: How to use puppets
The Year 1 and Year 2 Spanish lessons include humorous and interactive puppet skits. These skits add a delightful component to the teaching of a foreign language.
You may be unfamiliar with the use of puppets and therefore not comfortable using them. It takes a little practice to use puppets effectively in the classroom. Rehearse the puppet skits out loud in front of a mirror or with other children outside the classroom. Give the puppet its own name, voice, and personality. Make eye contact with the puppet when you are speaking to it.
Even though I have written out the puppet skits in detail, don’t memorize them. Become familiar with the skit and understand what vocabulary you are trying to reinforce with the skit. Keep it interactive, have fun, and “ham it up.” If you are enjoying yourself, then the students will too.
I hope this teaching tip helps your students have more fun in the classroom!
Tip 6: Interactive Puppetry Training Video
Interactive puppetry is a magical part of the Sing ‘n Speak Spanish program as it helps children overcome shyness and converse in Spanish. The puppet skits are usually a child’s favorite part of the lesson and they always want more! There are numerous humorous puppet skits embedded in the Year 1 and Year 2 Spanish lessons.
Many teachers don’t know how to use puppets and have a tendency to skip the skits. I encourage you to learn how to use the puppets and learn how to make the skits interactive. Once you are having more fun than your students, you are there. Click HERE to view a traning video on interactive puppetry.
I hope you enjoy it!
Tip 7: Teaching Spanish to your homeschooler
For homeschooling parents who have tried to conduct Spanish classes for their kids, it can be a frustrating experience to find the right resources. The result is the kids never progress beyond some basic Spanish vocabulary. The choices can be overwhelming, particularly for homeschooling parents who teach several subjects.
1. Make a good impression with a fun start As the developer of the Sing ‘n Speak Spanish® program, my philosophy always centered on the belief that learning a foreign language is fun, but ONLY if the child is succeeding at it. Rather than randomly teaching children vocabulary, I believe It is important to find an age-appropriate well thought out curriculum where vocabulary is introduced in small doses and in the right sequence. You might only get one shot to make a good impression where your child either likes or dislikes learning language so your choice is critical to developing a bilingual learner.
2. Use Spanish vocabulary building exercises To be effective, each lesson should carefully spiral-in vocabulary from previous lessons so that little by little children begin to form basic Spanish sentences. The curriculum should include a variety of activities and humor to engage the students and many thematic songs to help with long term retention. Interactive puppetry is a great way to engage in simple conversations and a favorite for children. A good curriculum should include a workbook with a variety of engaging written exercises.
3. Take advantage of lots of online Spanish resources Once you find a proper curriculum, then you can enhance the learning with many available resources. Spanish Playground is an example of a site with many free resources for parents. These include songs, written exercises and workbooks, dialogues, movies/videos, interactive computer games, flash cards, and board games. There are also full-scale online language programs like Duolingo and Rosetta Stone, but my experience is that they are more engaging to adults than children.
4. A professional Spanish teacher is a click away Many homeschool parents do not know Spanish themselves. Would you want your child to learn Math from a teacher who does not know Math? Spanish is no different. If you do not know Spanish, you need to find a Spanish speaker who is trained to teach using well developed materials. This is different from a Spanish tutor online that helps you with homework from an existing class. A teacher is equipped with a Spanish curriculum and you can find some excellent online Spanish teachers. Homeschooling is increasing a 100-fold due to COVID so quality teachers will be in demand.
Improving the Homeschool Spanish experience Because COVID-19 has required that parents become more involved in their child’s education, many are choosing to try and produce an equal or better outcome. So we applaud you for looking for lots of Spanish teaching tips to ensure you create the best experience.
Tip 8: Why should kids learn Spanish?
Did you know that the United States has the second most Spanish speakers in the world after Mexico? Whether you use this language at home or abroad, it’s a lifelong skill with tangible benefits.
1. Elementary aged kids soak up language Sadly, foreign language instruction is undervalued and under-funded in our country. Yet elementary aged children are at their linguistic best and will never again learn a new language as fast, as well, or as easily. When exposed to a foreign language early in life, your child develops a bilingual frame of mind, laying the foundation for advanced learning and fluency. Since many jobs in today’s multicultural world require learning to speak Spanish fluently, this gives your child an edge later in the workplace.
2. Multilingual people show increased cognitive abilities Additionally, many studies have shown that learning a foreign language is good for brain development. Students who study a foreign language early in life score higher on standardized tests, increase achievement in all subject areas, develop better reading skills, enhanced vocabulary, and improved problem-solving abilities.
3. Spanish enhances appreciation of cultural diversity and global connectedness Finally, and so importantly, Spanish is a part of our multicultural world, and language is a key that opens the door to a world with some 30 million native Spanish speakers in our own society and another 500 million in the 20 or so countries of Latin America and Spain. Learning to speak Spanish helps broaden the world for our children, giving them a tool to both accept and appreciate cultural diversity and richness as they communicate with our Spanish speaking neighbors right here in the United States and in other countries.
4. Speaking a second language makes you more competitive in the job market Showing that you are truly bilingual on your resume is personally rewarding compared to getting the ‘A’ in Spanish with no speaking skills. You also have lots more opportunities when you can communicate to a massive audience when you are a teacher, nurse, flight attendant, or work in any public facing business. Help your child become linguistically competitive and possibly earn a higher salary. In other countries multilingualism is a requirement.
The world is more internationally connected In this digital age, the world is more connected internationally. So whether you use your Spanish skills in person or with remote tele-networking in an international call, there is increasing demand for English/Spanish bilingual speakers.
Tip 9: Proven models for teaching Spanish to kids
The push these days is toward student centered learning. So in order to make decisions on what is right for your Spanish learner, you should know the different Spanish teaching models and figure out which one is right for you.
Total Immersion Spanish classes In a Total Immersion model, the language of instruction is completely in Spanish. This develops the ear quicker. It can be a good model for very young children who spend many hours a day immersed in the new language. The main challenge with this model is the initial steep learning curve where kids get frustrated with lack of understanding. This model is found in some schools, but most elementary schools do not have this option for parents.
Dual Immersion Spanish classes In a Dual Immersion model, class time is split between the student’s native language and the foreign language being learned. This happens across all academic subjects, not just language. Many more school districts are identifying a portion of their schools to be taught with this model. And almost all of them have a waiting list as parents try to seize the opportunity.
Comprehensible Input Spanish classes Comprehensible input means that students are presented with enough verbal English, visual pictures, or gestures to understand the Spanish lesson. When input is comprehensible, the transition to a learned phrase is easier for students. In this model, the teacher speaks Spanish most of the time, using English only to ensure that the input is comprehensible to the students. This model is particularly useful when the contact time with the student is very limited such as after school enrichment.
Don’t get stuck with the default Spanish program What is not described is the typical Spanish class taught throughout American school systems. Textbook driven and heavy on vocabulary and verb conjugation memorization. It’s hard to develop a love of language via a worksheet. By knowing these models, you can ask informed questions of schools or teachers to see which method is employed. Can anyone recommend a school/model combination that worked for your kids?
Tip 10: How do I evaluate a Spanish curriculum?
You are looking for the magic recipe: fun + retainment. If learning isn’t fun, then your child won’t want to continue. And if they don’t retain anything, you won’t feel like your time and money was well spent. So let’s look at the key qualities for a strong Spanish program.
1. Makes language learning FUN
Children learn best when they are having fun. Language learning involves a lot of repetition which can be boring. A good Spanish curriculum delivers the repetition needed with variety, drama, and humor. It should include a lot of colorful visuals aids, songd, movement, and many different activities and games, including stories.
2. Makes vocabulary sticky with songs and gestures Learning gestures is easy. Connecting gestures with words and phrases is a powerful tool for recalling vocabulary. Look for a curriculum that uses gestures extensively to introduce vocabulary, build sentences, and teach songs using many games and activities. In the foreign language world, this is called TPR (total physical response). Thematic songs are a component of any good language program for kids. The songs need to be catchy so kids will sing them over and over which give them the repetition they need for long term retention.
3. Makes the teaching interactive
A good curriculum for children should be highly interactive so the kids get a lot of opportunity to learn to speak Spanish. For example, the use of interactive puppetry is magical in getting children to speak. It’s harder to be embarrassed when talking to a llama. Ask about the conversation topics to see that they are matching the students interests. They like soccer? Talk about fútbol. They like guitar? Talk about tocando la guitarra.
4. Has a student workbook that reinforces what children have learned in the classroom.
The Sing ‘n Speak Spanish curriculum has all these features and more. The offer trained online Spanish Teachers and personal Spanish tutors.