Become Fluent in Spanish at a Fraction of the Cost
Being a Spanish teacher is at times hard. Countless tasks vie for your attention: lesson planning, managing anywhere from five to thirty students, grading, and juggling multiple classes at once. If that wasn’t enough work, you must instruct in a foreign language and help students speak and understand it. How do you balance classroom management and teaching while ensuring your students are progressing to become fluent in Spanish at an appropriate speed?
Avoid Quick Fixes
If you are struggling to improve your students’ Spanish fluency, you might be tempted to invest in language-learning software. Household names, such as Rosetta Stone and Duolingo, may seem like a cheap way to engage your students and better their fluency, but they lack personalized curricula and instruction. Fluency requires so much more. Before spending money on software, check out these tips and tricks for your classroom below that are much more effective and won’t break the bank.
Teacher (You!), Use the Target Language
This is a no-brainer, right? Of course, you have to actually use the language to get your students to become fluent in Spanish. The unfortunate truth is, many teachers (myself included!) often find themselves reverting to English because it’s easier for the students to understand.
In my first years as a language teacher, I often made the blunder of switching to the students’ native language when teaching. The confused looks on their faces in response to the target language convinced me to use it less than 50% of the time. I thought this would help them comprehend more fully. While their fluency definitely improved, it was at an almost insignificant rate compared to the later classes that I taught completely in the target language.
Foreign language teachers have varying opinions on what percentage of the target language to use in class. Explaining complex grammatical topics is arguably much more efficient when taught in the students’ native language. However, that’s not how we naturally learn a language. As a child, your parents used songs, images, and games 100% in the target language. The grammatical explanations came later when you already spoke the language. Does that mean that as a teacher, you should also teach completely in the target language?
According to the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL), using the target language as much as possible is imperative to achieving fluency.
“ACTFL therefore recommends that language educators and their students use the target language as exclusively as possible (90% plus) at all levels of instruction during instructional time and, when feasible, beyond the classroom.”
Motivate Students to Become Fluent in Spanish
How do you keep your students attentive and well-behaved while speaking 90% of the time in a foreign language? If you don’t know the answer to this, you’re not alone! The ACTFL has a list of recommendations to help you achieve this level of Spanish usage. Use the additional tips below to help your students transition to Spanish immersion:
- Be conscious of what vocabulary you use. Luckily, Spanish and English share many cognates. Try and use words that look and sound like their English counterparts. This is especially important when teaching verbs and vocabulary that don’t necessarily translate well. If you combine the new information with words that are easily understood, you can help the students connect the dots without translating.
- Use a lot of visual aids. This is how you learned your first language and is a great way to teach a concept without translating.
- Act it out! Don’t be afraid to get a bit goofy in front of your students if there isn’t an image that represents a concept.
- Establish your classroom rules on the first day. If you have a beginner class or teach younger students, explain the rules in English and Spanish. Have a visual aid with you while you introduce these rules, with an image that represents the action next to the Spanish phrase or command. This ensures that the students understand the expectations. Keep the visual aid somewhere in the classroom so you can refer to the images while saying the Spanish command.
- Be flexible! If your students don’t understand a concept, try another way to explain it in Spanish. Try at least three different ways in Spanish before you give them a hint in English. If you see your students are clearly frustrated, you can use some English. You want to keep their confidence high, so redirect things if they are losing patience.
- Get the students involved. Ask them questions and encourage peer-to-peer discussion. If they aren’t sure how to answer, give them options to choose from that they would understand. For example, when teaching beginner students the question ¿Cuántos años tienes?, give them numbers to choose from. Write them on the board so they can visualize what you are saying. Once they understand, have them use the concept in pairs or groups. If one student does not understand, ask one who does to explain it to them.
- Reward participation in Spanish. Give out fun incentives for students to speak Spanish in class, like these paper pesos.
Be Patient with Change
A lot of teachers are accustomed to using both English and Spanish in the classroom. If that’s you, be easy on yourself and your students. The change to 90% of the target language takes time, patience, and dedication.
Involve Activities of Interest
Another way to get your students to become fluent in Spanish without any extra cost is to pique their interest. Many curricula have topics that aren’t necessarily useful to the students or applicable to their lives. To interest students, include relatable projects that apply their new knowledge of vocabulary and grammar. When they engage deeply in a topic or project, they work harder and unknowingly move faster towards fluency.
Practical Application of Activities
These activities can vary widely depending on your students’ ages and Spanish level. Here’s a list of possible projects that will engage your students. Feel free to adapt them to your students’ needs!
- Get musical! Learning songs in Spanish is a great practical application of the language. Whether your students are in preschool or high school, music makes up a big part of their lives. Learn more about what Spanish songs to choose in our elementary and high school music blog posts.
- Design your own restaurant/video game/park. This project can be adapted to any age or Spanish level. Have the students design something of their own that utilizes the vocabulary and grammar they have been studying. For preschoolers, this can be as simple as choosing which animals they want in their zoo. More advanced students can get really detailed with this project and learn extra vocabulary that interests them.
- Set up mock conversations. Split your students into groups of two or three and assign them each a separate character (like waiters and restaurant diners, teachers and students, or interviewers and potential employees). They must use learned vocabulary and grammar to interact with each other. While it isn’t quite the same as real-world experience, this gives them a chance to practically apply what they’ve learned in a fun way.
- Discuss literature. This project also adjusts to any age level. For preschoolers, you can do projects aligned with storybooks like La Oruga Muy Hambrienta. For older students, you can choose a Spanish book at their level.
- Watch and discuss TV shows or movies. This is a great way to practice language skills. Use screen-time as a prize for good behavior or incorporate it into the curriculum. Maximize the learning process with TV and movies.
- Assign research papers. This may sound quite boring at first, but if you ask your students to research topics that interest them, it is a great way to get them reading and writing in Spanish. The trick is to ensure that the research is actually in Spanish, not English.
Homeschool Spanish Academy Resources
Providing real-life Spanish experience in the classroom is difficult. Even if you are a native Spanish speaker, your students get used to your accent and the way you speak. It’s important to expose them to other native speakers, either through live interactions or resourceful videos. Homeschool Spanish Academy offers many interactive language tools that can be used as supplemental resources in your Spanish classes or as the whole class itself.
Spanish Academy TV
- Homeschool Spanish Academy has its own YouTube channel called Spanish Academy TV that produces episodes covering everything from grammar lessons to popular songs in Spanish to cultural adventures. Use these videos to introduce a topic, provide extra practice, or review before an exam. Explore all the videos on our channel and see which ones work for you!
- Spanish Academy TV offers lecturas and conversational exercises at different levels for more listening practice. The scripts are provided with the video so you can have your students either follow along or check how much they understood after listening.
Live Interaction with a Native Speaker
- Homeschool Spanish Academy offers one-on-one and two-on-one Spanish classes. Any students that are falling behind or need personal attention can sign up for classes at their convenience. The teachers will reinforce what you are teaching in your classes and give the students the extra help and confidence they need to succeed.
If you are looking ahead to the next school year and wondering how to provide quality Spanish classes, Homeschool Spanish Academy is your answer! With budget cuts and growing classes, finding affordable options for Spanish classes seems nearly impossible.
Luckily, even with a tight budget, you can still schedule group classes with one of our excellent Spanish teachers. Our affordable prices, top-notch curriculum, and live online classes are a great way to save money and still provide quality education. Compared to other popular alternative choices, our prices are much lower and our success rate is much higher. If you are interested in the group classes, feel free to email us!
Whether you are looking for extra resources for your pre-existing Spanish classes or need to organize Spanish classes for your students, Homeschool Spanish Academy has what you need. Try a free class or contact us for more information!