5 Easy Ways to Mix Technology with Spanish Classes for Kids
As the year begins to wind down, we’ve been thinking about the latest trends in second language learning and teaching and how as teachers we can use them to help our students learn Spanish in the future. We’ve found that one of the most successful ways to teach Spanish to kids is through technology. The combination of Spanish videos, catchy songs with natural language, and interactive games with vibrant images and accompanying worksheets are what we believe really works and what we’ve built our Spanish teaching resources around. Today we’re taking a look at how technology can help Spanish teachers get their students learning the language in a way that takes the process out of the classroom and promotes a passion for lifelong learning and interaction with the Spanish language.
1. Electronic Pen Pals
Many studies have shown that the current trends toward using technology for language learning focus on combining the language, in this case Spanish, with technological resources that students will use in the future. For example, instead of isolating the language and practicing it as a second language, find ways to incorporate it into daily life using resources that students will use in the future. One fantastic way to do this is through telecollaboration or the present day version of international pen pals. Instead of writing and receiving letters, which unfortunately for all of us paper-lovers has become outdated, create a connection with students from different countries using tools that students likely already use or are dying to use: video and chatting tools. This transition from traditional methods of communication to current methods connects directly with the students interest and life, practices language in a context that they will most likely use again in the future, and helps them to develop as independent learners. Most likely what starts out as a connection in the classroom will become a connection that students keep up outside of the classroom and maybe even after the school year finishes.
If you’re interested in starting up a pen pal exchange but don’t know how to get started the website EPals focuses on creating an online pen pal connection or use social media to help find a class. Post in the Facebook groups for language teachers or look on the ACTFL community page where others have searched for Pen Pals.
2. Interactive Games
Another way to bring technology into your classroom in a way that speaks directly to your students interest is through online games. Games are important because they take the pressure off of learning the language and provide an opportunity for students to have fun and practice the language. They are not just about the language in the written or spoken form, but are also visual and fast-paced. We have a library full of interactive Spanish games for kids to practice vocabulary, grammatical structures, high frequency verbs and so much more. All of our games can be played individually on tablets or laptops, or in teams on a classroom digital board.
Another interactive game platform that we’ve used and the students love is Kahoot. It’s quick, interactive and practices a wide range of skills. Something important that the game practices is the ability to read quickly in Spanish and to make a decision. We find that it’s really important to stress that students read ALL of the before answering. Sometimes our classes get caught up on speed when what’s most important is accuracy. It’s a great way to practice quick decision making and looking for the best answer, both of which are useful skills for the future. If you're classes are able to, have them create a Kahoot that you can play in class! They'll love having control and you'll love that it makes learning memorable.
Quizlet is another great resource for online class quizzes.
3. Spanish Videos for Kids
Videos, like games are very visual and combine natural language with a fast-paced way to deliver it. Our videos are designed to combine vocabulary with high frequency structures so that students don’t feel like they’re “learning Spanish”, but instead enjoying it. Something that we’ve loved creating is the live concert series where classes can tune in and interact with us in the moment by singing along or watch at a later date. Another wonderful way to use videos is through digital storytelling. We still have a strong love for books, but we recognize that today’s students are so connected to screens and technology that we’d be overlooking a way to reach them by not taking advantage of digital storytelling. The best way we’ve found is through short video comics that can be read, watched, and used for a wide range of activities.
4. Use Social Media
Kids love the idea of using social media, especially in school. For them, it feels like a free time activity and not like they're studying. This blog outlines some ideas for using Instagram to complete a scavenger hunt and about how to use YouTube videos at the beginner level.
Social media is not just a way to connect with your students, but also a way to connect with other educators to share ideas and talk about hot topic issues. Twitter has become a place for language teachers to connect using the hashtag #langchat or specifically for Spanish teachers #charlaele. For more advice on how to connect, check out this blog post.
5. Take Online field trips
Field trips are the perfect way to take learning from the classroom setting out into the world. Plus, for most students they are an exciting time when they learn new information, skills, and get to be out and about with their friends. But, they're not always possible, especially when you're a Spanish teacher who wants to talk and learn about other cultures, traditions and countries. Enter online field trips. The perfect way to help your students visualize how different other cultures can be without actually visiting the places. Technology has been awesome in opening the doors to places that students at such a young age would otherwise never see outside of a picture in a book. This blog post from Fun for Spanish Teachers is a wonderful resource if you're looking to create your own online field trip experience.
PBS also has a great guide for creating a virtual field trip for beginners with a strong focus on culture and student reflection.
These ideas were written back in 2015, which in the word of technology is ages ago, but still have some good ideas for how to use videos as a virtual field trip with a focus on culture and language learning.
Although we still believe that the most important factor in a positive language learning experience is the teacher and the environment he or she creates in the classroom, we also can see that technology is a tool that can and should be used in modern teaching methodology. Technology creates the possibility to connect worlds that are otherwise far off, teach about culture and language, and to make language learning interesting for the new generations that have grown up with such a strong interest in devices and online applications. It’s not just about teaching Spanish, but about doing it in a way that is visual, interactive and teaches skills that students want to learn.
Thanks for reading, we'd love to hear how you use technology.. you can comment in the comments section below or on our Facebook page! Keep on rocking, it's almost summertime!
*Inspiration for this article came from this paper (if you have time it's a very interesting read!):
Kannan, J. and P. Munday (2018) New Trends in Second Language Learning and Teaching through the lens of ICT, Networked Learning, and Artificial Intelligence. In: Fernández Juncal, C. and N. Hernández Muñoz (eds.) Vías de transformación en la enseñanza de lenguas con mediación tecnológica. Círculo de Lingüística Aplicada a la Comunicación 76, 13-30 http://dx.doi.org/10.5209/CLAC.62495