These songs, videos, and cultural activities will light a spark in your students.
When I was a Spanish teacher, introducing students to culture was one of my favorite things to do. We did this by listening to trendy songs, watching videos of people speaking Spanish, and reading about current events and topics students were interested in.
However, vetting school-appropriate materials took so much time that I ended up using the same tried and true resources year after year. In the long run, this can get boring—variety is the spice of life, right?
Not to worry! Here are three pre-vetted cultural assets you can use to enhance immersive experiences in your Spanish classroom, so you can focus on what you do best: teaching.
1. Spanish Music x Scramble Activity
If you don’t know who Sebastián Yatra is, you’ve probably been living under a rock the past year! The Colombian singer-songwriter was already a household name in Latin America, but his fame in the U.S. rose when he sang Dos Oruguitas from the wildly popular Disney movie Encanto, which was nominated for Best Original Song at the 2022 Academy Awards.
Quererte bonito is one of Yatra’s latest releases, where, alongside Venezuelan-American singer Elena Rose, he describes love as uncomplicated and delightful, se hace tan natural quererte bonito. The artists take an “unplugged” approach to the music video by recording it in what seems like a living room with just microphones and a couple of musicians. It’s a feel-good song to brighten even the most chilly, gray day, like a cup of coffee in the morning.
What can you do with this song beyond enjoying it? You can use this music scramble activity. All you need is a printer and scissors!
A music scramble is an activity where you cut the song into verses and have students sort them as they listen to the song. This activity works their interpretive listening skills without the high stakes of a cloze activity. If the activity sheet seems too novice for your students, try cutting each verse in half, so instead of working with seven blocks, your students are working with fourteen.
2. Cultural Discussions in Spanish
Social media: Can’t live with it, can’t live without it.
Since most American teens use a form of social media platform daily, it’s a topic that’s bound to spark your students' interest in your Spanish class.
In a report from Morning Consult, 86% of young Americans surveyed said they're willing to try influencing on social media—and 12% said they were already influencers. Another 20% of young people know an influencer. You probably even have some middle and high school students who are considering a career as social media influencers.
Speak your students’ language to immerse them in Spanish. This iVideo from iCulture–a vast, curated library of continuously updated Spanish language videos, news articles, songs, and eReaders–features four content creators who are native Spanish speakers and how they made social media their profession.
Before showing the iVideo, start with a warm-up activity consisting of a quick online questionnaire or scratch paper answers. Ask students the following questions: “¿Quieres ser influencer? ¿Por qué?”, then give them two to three minutes to answer with one or two sentences in Spanish.
Once you gather all the pros and cons, play the video above. If you have iCulture for your classroom, the video also comes with comprehension questions that your students can answer on their devices.
After watching the video a couple of times and completing the individual activities, establish small groups of four or five students each for a debate, where half will be pro-influencer as a career, and the other half will be anti-influencer as a career. Give both groups two minutes to prepare their arguments, and then they will discuss with each other for four minutes in the target language. As a closing activity, you can ask the same question you asked at the beginning of the class to see if their opinions have changed.
3. Educational Technology Spanish Games as Brain Breaks
Let’s face it: some days, you have time you have to fill. You have students that either finish their work before the end of the class, or you planned so well that you run out of activities with 5 or 10 minutes to spare. What to do? When I had those moments, I made sure to have an ace up my sleeve, usually a quick game or brain break that I kept posted in my students’ learning management system.
This game is called “Descent of the Serpent," from the Google Arts and Culture collection. Even though it’s in English, it takes place at the National Anthropological Museum of Mexico.
The player enters the main gallery, and suddenly, Tezcatlipoca, the Aztec god of the night sky, comes to life and steals the invaluable Aztec Calendar. An unidentified Mesoamerican sculpture comes to life and asks the user to help them find the calendar; otherwise, the world will flood! Users can disguise themselves as one of four gods: Huitzilopochtli, Xolotl, Xbalanque, and Mictlantecuhtli. Also, the game allows you to play in Story mode, where the user will not die, and in Challenge mode, where the user has only five lives. Through each stage of the game, students will learn about Maya and Aztec settlements, geography, history, and culture.
Trust me: Early finishers will love this game. And it’s another task off your plate!
Falling in Love with Spanish Through Culture
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
But it's never about perfection. Any effort you make towards this goal can help your students learn how to speak Spanish in the real world, which we consider one of the most important skills for them.
Natalia Álvarez-Morillo, Spanish Teacher