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How to Begin Teaching Spanish - First Day of Class Activities

Welcome to the World of Spanish!

Welcome to the World of Spanish!

Prepare the classroom for the first day of class

Starting the first day of the school year in a Spanish class can be anxious for the teacher, as well as the students. How do you get started on that very first day? How do you engage a roomful of anxious faces that are staring at you?

First, make sure your classroom is inviting, with maps of Spanish-speaking countries and perhaps flags from some of them. Introduce culture immediately by having colorful pictures on your bulletin board of such events as Cinco de Mayo or Day of the Dead, the running of the bulls or flamenco dancers,

Having an inviting environment is the first step in making students feel comfortable the first day of class. As many people experience fear of learning a foreign language, making students feel less anxious is doubly important in the Spanish class.


Spanish Class Pictures and Labels to Put in Your Classroom

Label everyday objects with Spanish words

Another preparation is to label common objects in the classroom with brightly colored signs. Label the door, the windows, the walls, and the floor. Label the teacher's desk, the clock, the bookshelves, the globe--whatever items are present.

Surround students with these visual reminders. Many students will learn some of these words just by looking at them every day in class.


Pick a Spanish name

Now it's time to welcome your students into Spanish class. One thing my students always seemed to have fun with was to pick out a Spanish name. Generally, their Spanish textbook will have a list of names from which they can choose. Some students will choose the translation of their own name while others opt for a name that is totally different.

Instruct your students to address you with Señora, Señorita, or Señor before your last name. Just using and hearing everybody's Spanish names in the classroom will help to create a positive environment--and a good vibe--for learning the Spanish language.

I still run into students who were in my classes fifteen years ago. Sometimes I remember their Spanish names--they usually remember, too--from class before I remember their real names. Many of them still call me Señorita, a name I allowed them to call me without use of the last name.


Learn Key Spanish Phrases

Meet and greet with Spanish phrases

After the students have chosen their names, let the class meet and greet their classmates. Teach them how to say "Hello. My name is ____." Put the class in pairs and have them introduce themselves to each other.

Ex. "Hola. Me llamo Pablo."

There is no need to go into any kind of grammatical lesson at this point about the structure of the phrase. For the first day, just get the students used to hearing and speaking the language.

As the teacher, you can assess how the students are doing by walking around the classroom. After the introductions, you might also ask a few students "¿Cómo te llamas?" to get them used to the question "What is your name?" and thus give the response that they have already practiced.

After this exercise, add a few more common Spanish greetings such as:

¿Cómo estás? -- How are you?

Muy bien, gracias. ¿Y tú? -- Very well, thank you. And you?

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After asking each other how they are, the students can then add that it was a pleasure to meet the other person by saying "Mucho gusto." The other student can use something different. "El gusto es mio" says that "The pleasure is mine."

Now students have a short introductory conversation they can practice. Have the pairs practice the conversation with each other. Then call on two or three--or more--pairs to volunteer to role play the conversation for the class.

Let's do the tango!

Let's do the tango!

Get students engaged with music!

If you have time that first day of class, introduce students to music they have heard with Spanish words, such as La Bamba or La Cucharacha. They might be surprised to learn that a cucharacha is a cockroach! (You don't have to go into other meanings behind the song.)

Show a video with both Spanish and English lyrics. Talking about what the song is saying may get the students more interested the next time they hear the song. Looking at the translation of lyrics is another way to get students to learn phrases in a foreign language.


La Bamba with Spanish and English Lyrics


Have students keep a learning journal

Something I found helpful for me as a teacher in beginning Spanish classes was requiring students to keep a journal. The purpose was for students to share their thoughts about their own learning, which was very helpful to me as the teacher. Students should keep a separate notebook for this purpose.

Most students are not good at regularly writing in journals on their own, so at least once a week, it's a good idea to give them a few minutes to write. You might ask them to write about how they are feeling about their progress in Spanish class so far and in what areas they are having the most trouble. You might even ask them to write a paragraph response to their first day of Spanish class as their first assignment. This will give you an idea as to how the class is feeling as a whole.

These journals can be taken up once a month or so. Give students points for just completing the number of required entries. Leave feedback on their entries that warrant it. The journal can be helpful to both student and teacher, as it provides a venue for students to share their anxiety and issues in their efforts to learn a foreign language.


Have Fun in Spanish Class!

Get your Spanish class off to a good start!

With these activities, you will engage students and get them speaking the Spanish language the very first day of class. There will be some nerves out there but also some laughs as students try to pronounce new phrases with each other.

As the semester goes on, you can bring in topics on the importance of learning Spanish. Knowing a second language helps one to be more marketable in the career world. It makes people more well-rounded in their education. Learning a language is also healthy in that it challenges the mind.

At the beginning, though, just get your students engaged and interested. Another positive thing about learning a foreign language, as your students will see, is that it can also be a fun experience!


More Greetings and Goodbyes: Great pronunciation exercise!


Janisa from Earth on July 17, 2020:

Great article! I think choosing Spanish names can make classes more fun for students and make them more motivated to learn in order to develop their 'foreign' personality. I wish this was a thing in my school... the only time students got to choose a Spanish name was when there were several people with the same name in the class

Victoria Lynn (author) from Arkansas, USA on March 31, 2016:

Yes, marieryan--very challenging! And you make a great point about the language classroom needing to be lively!

Marie Ryan from Andalusia, Spain on March 30, 2016:

I also agree with this great start, in any language class!

Language teaching is so, so challenging, in a "classroom" situation...

High school classrooms are, usually, a place where students are supposed to sit quietly listening to teacher who teaches....

Language classrooms should not be like that! Students must be able to speak and use their new must be a terribly NOISY place,,,

but until that becomes accepted in Education terms, poor language teachers are doomed to be considered 'bad teachers' if they can't keep the noise level in classroom to minimum! Ironic, when teaching language!

Victoria Lynn (author) from Arkansas, USA on August 11, 2012:

teaches--Glad you can validate these methods. Thanks so much!

Dianna Mendez on August 10, 2012:

I can totally agree with your wonderful suggestions. WEll done. I have taught Spanish over the years and have used some of your mentions. Voted up.

Victoria Lynn (author) from Arkansas, USA on August 09, 2012:

Yes, random! I agree. Thanks for commenting!

Victoria Lynn (author) from Arkansas, USA on August 09, 2012:

Thanks, REALH! Maybe I'll get that Spanish class going for ya! Learning as a child is the best, as it does stay with a person better. It's not too late, though!

Victoria Lynn (author) from Arkansas, USA on August 09, 2012:

Austinstar--Awesome! Whatever works! True, you forget a lot of ya don't use it! Thanks for the comments!

Victoria Lynn (author) from Arkansas, USA on August 09, 2012:

Thanks, TT! Wish I could have been your teacher! :-)

Victoria Lynn (author) from Arkansas, USA on August 09, 2012:

klanguedoc--I loved your comments! I would love fo any student of mine to feel that way! Thanks!

Victoria Lynn (author) from Arkansas, USA on August 08, 2012:

suzette--What a coincidence! Wow! I'm actually only teaching English online right now, and I just filled in for a Spanish class last semester after a long hiatus. Glad you appreciate this hub!

Rose Clearfield from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on August 07, 2012:

Great job with this topic! Many of these tips are applicable to any language class.

Kelly Umphenour from St. Louis, MO on August 07, 2012:

I wish you were my Spanish teacher!

Foreign languages are so important to learn! I learned some Spanish in 4th grade and a few basic words and colors. Never forgot those either like "roho" my favorite color..."la casa" "grande"..."nino" "nina" ~ you see? I learned all that so many years ago - then I took French for my college requirement - aced it - all four semesters and tested out of Grammar and Comp! lol

Love it and I really want to learn Spanish - I am considering a class just for fun (maybe audit).

I think this is so important - awesome up and everything!

Lela from Somewhere near the heart of Texas on August 07, 2012:

Watching funny movies taught me more Spanish than anything else I tried. I'll never forget a Mexican series that was something like The Perils of Pauline. Sheesh, 25 years ago! It's true, if you don't use it, you will lose it.

Terrye Toombs from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map. on August 07, 2012:

V, I used to dread Spanish class in high school. I think if my teacher had used some of your techniques, I wouldn't have been so apprehensive. Great information and I bet your students are going to be brilliant! :)

Victoria Lynn (author) from Arkansas, USA on August 06, 2012:

Thanks, KD! Sounds like your linguistics teacher was right on! Songs are great to aid in learning. Thanks so much for your input.

Victoria Lynn (author) from Arkansas, USA on August 06, 2012:

Effer, you are so funny and delightful!!!! LOL. Or jaja en espanol!

klanguedoc on August 06, 2012:

Great hub Victoria. This would be an excellent lesson plan for any new language. Reading through your hub got me very excited, it felt like an exciting place to be, in your class, learning a new language. Immersing everybody in the experience with all the wonderful visual cues and getting everybody exciting about learning this new language. Bravo.

Suzette Walker from Taos, NM on August 06, 2012:

Victoria: This is just too, bizarre! You are also a Spanish teacher? I was a Spanish/English teacher also. I can't believe your first day of class. Again, exactly, and I mean exactly, how I began my first days of Spanish class, also. Wow! I have to say you are a great teacher! LOL I have always found this approach to be so successful for the students and the teacher. They love choosing Spanish names and they do remember them forever. What a delight to read this hub and your English writing hub. Good luck this school year - I'm sure you will have a good one - you certainly get going on the right foot! Thanks for the memories!

KDuBarry03 on August 06, 2012:

This is very informative! I remember ten years ago, when I was in 5th grade, we had a linguistics teacher and gave us a different name for French, Spanish, and German to get us into learning the language. She even had us sing different songs to the seven days of the week in accordance to the language. Everything you said in this hub is definitely helpful material for anyone starting a career in teaching a language or need a refresh in different tips and advice. Voted up and sharing!

Suzie from Carson City on August 06, 2012:

LOL.....thanks....Maybe should speak Spanish all the time. I rarely "get my point across" in English!!!!

Victoria Lynn (author) from Arkansas, USA on August 06, 2012:

jajaja! Effer, tu eres muy comica!!!! Hey, your Spanish isn't bad. At least you get your point across. It's understandable!! You're awesome!

Suzie from Carson City on August 06, 2012:

Hola, mi amiga, Victoria!......Yo estudio Espanol para quatros anos en escuela.....pero, mi espanol es muy pobre...Ay Carrumba! ......Adios y Feliz Dias!!

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