Don’t freeze your teaching before winter break.
Published on 12/13/2022. Updated on 12/05/2023.
Feeling stuck in your lesson planning for the last week before winter break? I've been there.
I’ve been there: students are wiggly because they feel the winter holiday is approaching, and you’re probably at the closing point of a unit and don’t want to start a new one. Let’s be honest: you’re probably also thinking about drinking hot chocolate and chilling by a fireplace.
When it comes to the winter holiday season, all world language teachers are looking for that sweet spot that requires little-to-no prep to get you to the finish line. You know the type—lessons where all you have to do is grab some supplies and get started. Luckily, world language classes are perfect for learning through fun activities!
Here's a list of my favorite winter-holiday-themed Spanish cultural activities from my classroom you can use during these final days before winter break.
MovieTalk: El gato de Simón
MovieTalk is a great way to practice prior structures before winter break. In this type of activity, you can choose a video clip on any topic—from the FIFA World Cup to Christmas—and play it without dialogue (if there is any) to give students a chance to practice language without getting bogged down by trying to catch every word they hear.
Although MovieTalk usually requires some prep, we’ve done all the work for you for this winter-themed lesson. Just print the documents below, and you’re ready to go!
Simon's Cat is a series of silent animated cartoons featuring a plump, black-and-white cat and his shenanigans. This particular short video shows the cat, along with a dog, trying to build a snowman.
It’s a perfect video for using MovieTalk as it’s both simple and humorous. The best part is that it reinforces the most common communication structures in Spanish 1 and 2. Also, you’ll get to exercise your students’ Spanish without committing to a brand-new unit.
Here’s how to use these downloadable materials:
Pause the video at 0:07. This will be your still.
Hand out the first page of the printable. It has two questions in Spanish. This is where students will predict what will happen in the video based on the still.
Discuss what they think will happen in the animated short as a class in Spanish. Remember to circle any expressions that you want to highlight.
Narrate what is happening in each scene. Remember to stop and take time for students to respond to questions about what they see.
Pause the video at 00:51. Ask students for their predictions about the end of the movie. Then, play until the end.
Finalize the discussion by narrating what happened at 00:57 and 1:02.
As an extension activity, we’ve also included a printable reading passage best suited for Spanish 1 and 2, with comprehension questions to reinforce the structures used.
Download the free resources and start working on them with your Spanish class.
Student Glyph: Las uvas del tiempo
Eating grapes as the clock strikes midnight on New Year's Eve is a Hispanic tradition practiced for many years. It originates in Spain, but most countries in Latin America also replicate this practice.
People believe eating 12 grapes at midnight will bring good luck and prosperity for the coming year. There’s even a belief that if you swallow all 12 without chewing, your wish will come true! However, this last step is a personal choice since many would rather not have a choking accident at the start of a new year.
This activity may sound better suited for elementary students, but I’ve done this with 8th and 9th graders. They love how calming it is!
Here's what you'll do:
For a bell-ringer, ask students about their New Year’s Eve traditions.
Then, show the slideshow that explains the 12 grapes tradition. The slideshow has videos so that students can see the grape-eating.
Once they understand the tradition, hand out the printable. Explain that you will display some common New Year's wishes on the board (included in the slideshow).
Students will color each grape with the color matching the wish. For example, if their wish is paz mundial and marked in red, they will color that grape red.
You can decorate your bulletin board with your students' wishes!
This activity uses interpretive skills and exercises three of the 5 Cs of ACTFL standards: communities, cultures, and comparisons.
Este o ese: Edición de fiestas
This or that—or Este o ese in Spanish—is a simple game with the following premise: asking students what they prefer between two options. These questions will inevitably turn into a debate and can stay within the target language, even when things get heated!
At what moment in the class can you do this game? Anytime! It can be used as a brain break or a full-fledged movement and TPR exercise. You can make it as short or as long as you'd like. When I used this activity, five minutes would turn to twenty; time flew by instantly. You'll enjoy hearing your students’ reasoning behind their choices, and they’ll enjoy a healthy discussion that they think is not school-related.
Here are two easy options for playing Este o ese:
PearDeck, which lets every student in the classroom participate using their Chromebooks, and
Slides you can show on your whiteboard.
If you haven't used PearDeck, it's a platform where teachers can create and present content on a big screen. Students can follow along on their devices and interact when invited, making the presentation more immersive. It integrates easily with Google Classroom and is accessible across devices.
You can also download the Google Slides file below if your students are not in a 1:1 classroom. When you click the link, you will automatically get an editable copy of the file on your Google Drive.
You’re in the Home Stretch, and We Want to Help!
These resources are a great place to start if you're looking for an easy way to keep your students engaged in learning Spanish this winter. I hope you enjoy using them as much as I enjoyed creating them!
Former Spanish teacher based in Columbia, MD. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish Language and Literature from la Universidad del Zulia and a Master's degree in Spanish Linguistics from the University of Colorado at Boulder. Her interests include SEL education in the world language classroom, theater, and how to make the world a less scary place.Explore more related to this author
When it comes to the winter holiday season, all world language teachers are looking for that sweet spot that requires little-to-no prep to get you to the finish line.
Natalia Álvarez, Teacher