Spanish-Speaking Countries Classroom Activities for 2020-2021
Class is back in session! That means it’s time for new, innovative activities to teach your students about Spanish-speaking countries.
Whether you are a homeschooling parent or a Spanish language teacher, providing engaging activities about Latin America is essential to get them interested in the history, language, and culture of the region. We have put together a list of 10 fantastic activities for Spanish students that can be adapted for learners of any age.
10 Activities to Introduce Spanish-Speaking Countries
1. Regions of Spanish-Speaking Countries in the World
Spanish is spoken all over the world—on four continents, to be exact! Because the language has spread so far, just looking at one country will not give you the complete picture of what Spanish-speaking countries look like.
A great way to manage all 20 countries (plus territories) that speak Spanish is to divide them into regions. Some possible regions are South America, Central America and Mexico, the Caribbean, Spain (or Europe), and Africa. Since there is only one Spanish-speaking country in Europe and one in Africa, you could combine the two regions.
Split your class into groups and assign them different regions of Spanish-speaking countries. They can either do their own research or use materials you give them to study their assigned areas. Ask them to work as a group to put together a short presentation about what they learned.
- You can have them focus on one specific aspect like history, culture, food, geography, or wildlife or ask them for a general overview touching briefly on each of those topics.
- The presentations can be as simple or complex as you would like. They could prepare anything from a mini-booth with food from the region to a list of fun facts. The idea is to get them interested in these countries!
- For homeschoolers: If you have multiple kids (or are teaching for a co-op or a homeschooling group), you can assign each region to only one child. Or, if you’re just homeschooling one child, let them pick the region that most interests them.
- For older students or high-level Spanish learners: Encourage them to do their research and presentation in Spanish! They may complain about this, but it is a fantastic way to improve their Spanish fluency.
- For younger students: Focus on just one region at a time (you can always do other regions next year!). Use books and YouTube videos to introduce the concepts, then follow up with coloring sheets and flashcards to memorize key aspects of each country and region.
2. Create a 3D map
Who doesn’t like to get their hands a little dirty? Just because you aren’t an art teacher doesn’t mean you can’t have a little hands-on fun in class!
Choose a Spanish-speaking country or region and find the outline of the country to trace onto a large piece of cardboard. You can either print out the outline on several pages (to make sure it’s big enough!), have your students freehand it, or use a projector and trace the image shown on the wall. Once you have the outline done, make some salt dough! Have a topographical map handy so your students can see how the land rises and falls, and have them form what they see with the salt dough.
- What you do with the map once the dough is dry is up to you! Your students can paint it like a topographical map, decorate with the plant and wildlife found in that country, or paint the country’s flag on it. You can even have them paint the ocean on the cardboard if the country borders the water.
- For large classes: Several kids can work on one map, but if you have a class of 20-30 kids, it’s best to split them into groups and do their own maps.
- For older students: Encourage more precision in their execution. Have them research what type of terrain the country has in each topographical region.
- For younger students: Just have fun! This is a wonderful activity for the youngest of learners and opens the door to conversations about many more topics, like topography, terrain, and wildlife.
3. What’s in a Name?
One of the best ways to introduce Spanish-speaking countries and help your students remember them is by studying their names.
Depending on your students’ Spanish level, you can either show them the real meaning behind the country names in English or Spanish. This is a fun way of getting them to think about a country’s history and terrain. You can have them draw a map of the countries and decorate it based on its original meaning. For example, El Salvador means “The Savior,” so they could draw what a savior looks like or means to them within the country outline.
- For younger students: Have a map and the list of country meanings ready. resent them to your student in a conversational setting or even circle time. Ask them to interact with the map and show you where the country of “the land of many trees” is.
- For older students: Take it a step further and talk about the country’s history and when it first adopted that name. Also, you can ask them to memorize the meanings in Spanish!
The flags of Spanish-speaking country are quite interesting because a lot of them look similar. Studying the flags is a great way to learn about each country’s history and culture.
Again, you can choose to do all the Spanish-speaking countries or split them up into regions. Introduce students to the flags from the regions and talk about what the colors and coat arms mean and why many look similar. All of this information is ready for you on our Spanish flags blog! Once your students have some information, split them into groups (or even assign one country to each student) and ask them to recreate the flag being as creative as possible.
- For homeschoolers: If you just have one homeschooled student or a couple, assign a couple of different flags to each kid. You can do this over the course of a couple of weeks so you don’t overwhelm them.
- For older students: They can either make the flag by hand or on the computer if they’re able. Also, ask them to pair the flag with a short explanation (in Spanish if possible!) of the colors and history. Another option is to ask them to explore the history of one country’s flag and how it has changed over time and why.
5. Food by Region
Learning and eating is a great combination, especially when you’re trying some delicious traditional foods from Spanish-speaking countries!
Introduce the Spanish-speaking countries by what they eat! You can either do some research on your own or ask your students to look up some dishes from specific countries. If you’re feeling adventurous, try making some of the dishes or asking students to volunteer to bring some in to share with the class. The teaching opportunities provided by this activity are endless: talk about the history of food in Latin America, why corn is a staple food in the region, what influence Spain has had on Latin American food, how to cook in Spanish, and Hispanic food in the United States.
- Make a menu! For younger kids, this can be just drawing pictures of the food in Spanish-speaking countries and talking about what they made. With older students, you can have them elaborate a full menu in Spanish.
- For older or advanced Spanish students: Ask them to look up recipes from different Spanish-speaking countries and translate them to Spanish (or even find them in Spanish and translate to English!). Have them write their own recipe in Spanish and explore cooking words and ingredients in Spanish.
- For younger students: What better way to learn than with real-life experience? Bring in small samples (even tortilla chips and salsa) and talk about the food in Spanish-speaking countries while experiencing it.
6. Spanish-Speaking Countries… Or Are They?
When we use the term “Spanish-speaking” to describe a country, we assume that Spanish is the only language spoken in that area. However, there are dozens of other indigenous languages still widely used in addition to Spanish.
The world of language is diverse and complex. Spanish-speaking countries cannot be defined just by the language a majority of the population speaks, especially when that language has numerous dialects, forms, and pronunciations.
- This is a great activity for focusing on an individual country. With smaller groups of students, take it one country at a time. For larger classes, you can assign each group a different country. Try to pick Spanish-speaking countries in different regions around the world so your class can learn about diverse indigenous languages.
- For younger students: Instead of presenting them with a list of languages that they may not understand, use visuals. Show them a map with the regions of each spoken language marked with a different color. Include pictures of the culture groups so they can relate them to the different languages they speak.
- For older students: Encourage research and discussion about why Spanish is more common than the original languages of the area. Ask them why they think some languages have survived longer than others. If they are at a high Spanish level, this is a great way to practice their conversational fluency.
- For homeschoolers: Present the topic with a trip to the local history museum or library! Both places are rich in visual resources for active learning.
7. Did You Know?
Kids love learning weird and strange facts. They are much more captivating than lists of country data, historical dates, and capitals. Get your students excited about Spanish-speaking countries with fun facts!
Compile some fun facts about the countries you want to introduce your students to. You can either find lots of fun information about one country or just a few facts about multiple countries in a region. Open up the floor to group discussion. Discuss what they think about the fun facts and how each specific tidbit of information has affected the country’s culture and history.
- For younger children: Introduce just a couple of fun facts and have the students draw a representation of that fact in the map outline of the corresponding country. If you have access to old magazines (especially National Geographic), you can also let them look through the pictures and make a collage of images that represents the country.
- For older students: Have them research the fun facts on their own and make a report or short presentation about a given country. If possible, ask them to do it in Spanish. If they are beginner or intermediate students, have them present the information in a bulleted list with short sentences. More advanced students can write and present more developed Spanish paragraphs.
8. Giant Timeline of Latin America
Hands-on activities are the best; they are fun and keep the kids engaged in the subject at hand. Instead of having each student create a small-scale timeline on their own, have them work together and make a large one to put around the classroom.
Just like with the other activities, you can choose to make a timeline of multiple countries’ histories or just one. It’s up to you and your class! Either way, give each student a different time period and have them elaborate key dates during that period to form part of a giant timeline with their classmates.
- For younger kids: If your students are not reading yet, you can still do this activity with a twist. Give them a piece of paper for each time period with the years already written there. Work with them to explain key events and have them draw or paste corresponding images. If you have a group of kids, let them work together to organize the dates in chronological order.
- For older students: Delve deeper into the historical events, and compare what was happening in different countries in the same year. If possible, have them do it in Spanish!
- For homeschoolers: Creating a giant timeline can be time-consuming for one (or a few!) kids. Don’t be afraid to cut back a little and do a smaller-scale version to decorate your at-home classroom.
9. Create a Game
This option can work both as an introductory activity or a review exercise. Adjust it to fit your students’ needs!
Ask your students to do some research about a specific Spanish-speaking country on their own (fun facts are a great place to start), and then create a game using that information. One perfect example is Jeopardy. The students create various questions about their country and organize them according to difficulty; the harder the question is, the more money it’s worth. Then, the students who designed the game can lead the rest of the class in a game to teach them trivia about Spanish-speaking countries.
- As a review exercise, ask the students to use their books or notes and to include information pertinent to the exam. This is a great way to test their understanding of the Spanish-speaking countries. To take it even a step further, have them do it in Spanish!
- For younger kids: Switch up the game! Try a more visual or active game, like a scavenger hunt, Simon says, 20 questions, Pictionary, or hot potato.
- For older kids: Narrow down the game topic to something like food, history, or geography.
10. Travel Brochure
What better way to learn about a country than by preparing a travel brochure? Your students will get to give an overview of the country and convince their classmates to visit their countries.
Assign a Spanish-speaking country to each student and have them research travel destinations, adventurous activities, and a brief history of the area. Once the brochures are done, you can have a small “travel fair” for the kids to share about their country.
- For younger kids: If they aren’t ready to make a full brochure, you can opt for a poster with pictures, drawings, and decorations.
- For older students: Spanish, Spanish, Spanish! The more activities they do in Spanish, the better their fluency will be. You can also ask them to include some travel precautions and tips in their brochure.
- For homeschoolers: Your child can present his or her given country to the family. If you want to include another teaching opportunity, cook a traditional dish from that country with your child!
Start the School Year Right!
These activities are sure to get your students (or children!) excited for the school year and learning about Spanish-speaking countries. As you plan these activities, keep the following in mind:
- The above ideas are just that: ideas. You know what’s best for your learners, so feel free to adapt these learning activities however you see fit.
- Include Spanish where possible. Students often protest when asked to research or complete a project in another language. However, if they have a Spanish dictionary on hand, it won’t be as hard as they think! Plus, it will help them start to think and create in Spanish without translating.
The 2020-2021 school year will be a splendid one, especially with these engaging Spanish projects. Have fun with them and enjoy watching the kids learn! ¡Diviértanse!
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