Understanding, speaking, reading, and writing – those are the four skills we want students to master when learning Spanish. But the question is, how do we do that in a way that successfully does the job? I believe it is by having them “do” and use their senses.
When children learn things like how to play an instrument or a sport, we know that it is not sufficient for them to just read or talk about it, nor just listen to someone telling them how to do it. They may understand the instruction they are being given, but only until they begin doing and practicing it, do they become proficient at it. This is because when they practice and “do” they are using what they see, feel, and hear to build complex connections in their brains to skillfully be able to do those activities.
The same goes for learning Spanish or any language. So, how do we get them to “do” and use their senses to successfully learn Spanish? The answer is to provide a variety of learning and practice activities that use the senses. Here are some things I recommend to parents and teachers. You can also use your own creativity to come up with more.
Do Simple, Multi-Sensory Activities
I use lots of games/activities that kids enjoy and engage them in what they are learning. Examples are:
- Matamoscas (Swat the Flies) and Grab the Vocab where students listen and/or read, and have to physically respond.
- Simon Dice (Simon Says) where students listen and do what they hear, and speak if they are Simon.
- Board games – create or find a game board from any game you own. Create a set of question cards in Spanish, students roll the dice, move spaces, pick up a card, have to read and answer correctly or do what the card says, to stay where they are. If you don’t know Spanish, pull questions/material from your child’s Spanish book to create your cards.
- Write and Sing Songs – pick a simple tune you know, like Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, and make up words for it using any Spanish your child is learning. This is something you can really dig into together, or your child/children on their own, using sound, speaking, reading, writing, even dancing too if you’d like.
- Dictation. Students listen to and write words to see if they can spell them correctly. Using dry erase boards for this is nice because students enjoy these! Present it like a fun challenge, “Ok, let’s see how many of these words you can get!” My students often ask to do more!
- Write and perform skits – this takes some effort, but as kids do it, they are using all their senses to create and perform. Keep it simple using only what they have learned so far to communicate the best that you can.
- Relay races like Colors Relay Race or Egg Relay.
- For more simple ideas, visit my Curriculum Activities page.
Do Activities That Use Only One or Two Senses
When you do this, students have the opportunity to focus in a more simple manner and develop the skills to use those particular senses better. Doing these types of activities in short time chunks is usually a good idea so students don’t get bored, unless you see there is a particular one your student(s) like, then let them do more of it.
If you are a parent who doesn’t know Spanish, always take advantage of your child’s Spanish textbook to pull material to do any of these activities. Examples are:
- Read and/or listen to their Spanish textbook on audio.
- Listen to words or sentences and repeat them aloud or write them.
- Read aloud.
- Read a bilingual book to him/herself or aloud, or with an audio if one is available.
- Do a worksheet that concisely practices a new or old concept.
- Listen to and answer questions aloud.
- Read questions and write answers.
- Read questions and say answers.
- Write a journal or story.
- Copy new words or sentences to practice spelling.
- Listen to words in Spanish and touch the pictures that match.
- Draw pictures to show words or sentences.
- Write sentences to describe pictures.
- Look at pictures and name the vocabulary you see or say sentences about it.
- Write translations of words or sentences from English to Spanish or vice versa.
- Give students a set of vocabulary words and/or verbs on paper or cards and have them write their own sentences using them.
- Give students a set of vocabulary words and/or verbs on cards to have a conversation with someone, like the Spanish Conversation Card Activity.
- Write words or sentences on index cards, one word per card, and have your child put the sentence together.
- Hand write their own flashcards. This helps them start to learn new words. Then use the flashcards to do many activities. Read more here.
When students “do” things to learn and practice Spanish, they internalize it better and develop greater expertise. Only using a computer or only using a book will not provide your student(s) with an engaging and effective learning experience. By DOING things, the language comes to life, and they are better equipped to take it into the world and use it.
PS – If you’re looking for a curriculum where students DO and really learn, take a look at Spanish for You! for homeschool or classes grades 3-8.