It turns out that not all changes from 2020 were bad! I find myself creating more digital activities for my high school Spanish students, which has helped me stay organized (and save paper and resources!)
You can read about my typical back to school activities here, but keep reading to find additional digital-friendly ideas to support the start of the year in your Spanish classes. These are all resources that I use within the very first week of Spanish class (at any level I teach.)
Activity 1: Digital / Editable Back to School Survey
I give this survey every year to get to know my students from the start. During a normal school year, I give this in between activities within the first few days to give students some quiet time during the overwhelming first week. I always give them time during class to complete this (and honestly I offer plenty of time, around 20 minutes) because I want them to know that I take their answers seriously. I value what they share with me during this first encounter. I used to give this as their first homework assignment, but I didn’t get detailed or thoughtful answers. I’ve since moved away from hw altogether, but that’s a different story for a different blog post 😉
Within this download, you’ll find:
- a PDF version, ready to print and go
- an editable Google Doc TM version
- an editable Google Form TM version
To give students a break during those first busy days, I like to give the survey during the last 20 minutes of class and offer to answer questions for any students that have those first week jitters. I definitely suggest making it a part of your class time, so that students aren’t needing MORE screen time once their classes have ended for the day.
I have learned so much about my students by using this survey in past years. By asking them their preferred name and offering a space to share pronouns, you show your students that you value their identity. This may seem inconsequential but I promise you that it is very meaningful. By asking about their motivations for learning Spanish, you may spark their enthusiasm for your content. By asking about a student’s outside responsibilities, you may learn why a specific student has their head down or seems disinterested. Honestly, opening these lines of communication from the first week can have lasting effects throughout the entire school year.
Sharing with students: This survey is editable within Google Drive. This means they can type their answers if you share a force copy link with them; they may delete the lines as they go. With iPads, students can write directly on the document with a program such as Notability.
To share a force copy for any Google Drive document:
Step 1 grab the normal sharing link, and set sharing settings to “anyone with the link can view”.
Step 2 find the end of the link that starts with “edit” or “view” and delete that word as well as anything that follows.
Step 3 write the word “copy” in that place.
Step 4 TEST the link for yourself! Does it prompt you to make a copy? Great!
Activity 2: Taco Tuesday – now ready for digital play!
This is a game I ALWAYS play within the first few days of school. I love bringing games into my classroom, and I feel that competition often brings out a more relaxed and silly side of my students. I have “back to school” versions for Spanish 1, Spanish 2, Spanish 3, and Spanish 4. I love playing within the first few days to prove to students that, YES, you remember a lot from last year. And for Spanish 1 students, I love proving that YES you know more Spanish than you might have thought!
If you decide to play on paper, 2-3 students can compete on one game board. My ideas and strategies for differentiation during traditional gameplay can be found here.
And now, the game is completely ready for digital gameplay! You decide which version makes the most sense for your class. Both options are provided in every single download!
All of my pre-made games (and my Taco Tuesday editable templates) are now READY for digital learning! I have pre-populated translucent circles on the side of the game board for students to play head to head online. Instead of racing to color their taco with a marker like they usually do, now they will claim a color and just click and drag one of the circles to cover their word! When they move one circle, there is a stack of more right underneath, ready to go.
For more detailed instructions on this virtual update, read more here.
Make sure you re-download any Taco Tuesday games or templates you already have for this FREE digital update!! I hope you love it. There are also now 5 game board sizes included in the editable resource, so you can create games of all different sizes!
Want access to a free game to try today?
This free version covers Spanish/English cognates, and would be a great morale booster in any level!
If you are NOT ready to have multiple students working on one digital game board, I understand.
- Instead of competing against one another, students can focus on their own game as you read the clues. You could prompt students to raise their hands I think this option would work best for smaller groups, so that students don’t feel overshadowed within the group.
- Another way for students to play is by recording yourself giving the clues so that students can play on their own time. I tried this a few times during remote learning, and it went well. I would tell students that there would be 10 tacos, or 15 tacos during the round. That way, at the end they could count and make sure they didn’t miss a clue. The benefit of a recording is the students can also rewind and listen to clues multiple times, so you may feel more confident staying in the target language 🙂
- Taco Tuesday at home: I made this version for Spanish STUDENTS to act as the TEACHER within their homes. During remote learning in 2020, many of my students sent me videos of their families playing. It brought joy to me, and laughter to their homes during a difficult time. I also made an at home version of Sonidos Secretos.
- More ideas for differentiation within Taco Tuesday here.
Activity 3: La Silla Caliente
This is one of my favorite whole-group games, and it is one of the best morale-boosters for my classes! Students compete in teams of 5(+/-), and is a great opportunity to build a sense of community with new students at the start of the year.
I also love this activity at the start of the year because it is an easy way for me to gauge how EVERY student is doing after the summer vacation. It is a perfect way to assess how much review each class needs before moving on to new material.
For a full game tutorial, including game rules and strategies, visit this blog post.
I keep this activity in my back pocket at all times because it is so low-prep. My students just need their iPads/devices (or small whiteboards,) I need my game file, and we are ready to go. No printing, no handouts needed. Every game file also includes my digital score tracker that I designed… so now I don’t have to stand at the front tallying our team scores!
All game versions are now EDITABLE and ready for the digital world. Many teachers had success this year even playing via Peardeck and Nearpod, though I personally have only played in person. Still, I love activities that require nothing but the opening of a file and splitting my students into teams. Let’s go!!
The three examples below would be great for review or intro during the very first few days of class, depending on the level you teach!
Perfect for the first few days in Spanish 2
Great for review at the start of Spanish 3
Ideal for upper levels or native Spanish speakers
Want access to a free game to try today?
This free version covers the present tense of irregular Yo verbs – would be great for the first week in Spanish 2!
Activity 4: ¿Mano o Manos?
This activity is appropriate for in person, hybrid, or fully remote learning. Again, there is no prep needed. No printing, and no teams/grouping either!
In general, I love activities that get students moving! I love playing Four Corners or ¡Salta! where students express their answers or opinion with movement. In Four Corners, students move to designated corners of the room based on their answers. In ¡Salta!, which I learned from Allison Weinhold, students stand in a straight line and jump to the left or right based on their answer, then back to center before the next question. (Answers/options are usually posted on the board for students to see during each question.)
I created ¿Mano o Manos? as a way to incorporate this style of low-pressure and high-input activity withOUT needing to actually move around the room. Unlike in the other movement activities, students only use their hands/arms, and no movement from their seat is necessary.
The following versions were created with the beginning of the year in mind!
YES, this is meant for the very start of the year in Spanish 1! Focus on COGNATES and common words 🙂
Meant for the first few days of school, great for Spanish 2 and up
Perfect for the start of the year in Spanish 3 and up, as preterite tense is used
I don’t have a tutorial blog post specifically for this activity like I do for the others, so here is a quick rundown!
Teacher role: Share the PDF or editable Google Drive version on your screen. Each slide has one question or statement, with two options. Instead of being labeled A and B, or left/right, the questions will be labeled MANO and MANOS. (Questions should be low pressure with lots of FAMILIAR input, especially during the first week of school. For Spanish 1, teacher could have a note on the slide that says “me gusta = I like” and then use cognates with pictures throughout. Upper levels may need less support, but teacher can still provide support on the slides as needed.)
Student role: Students read the question, and show their answer by raising one hand or both hands based on their answer.
Teacher decides if there will be discussion after each question, or if it’s a REALLY low pressure game and more of a stream-of-thought pace.
Prefiero beber… MANO – agua MANOS – soda
Me gustan más… MANO – gatos MANOS – perros
Me gusta más… MANO – el verano MANOS – el invierno
(leaving out obvious options here can prompt students to participate and take ownership in the activity by exclaiming “¡¿y el otoño!?!”)
In the student instruction page, I have added the option for students to raise one hand in a fist to show that they have a different answer to share – one that isn’t provided on the page. My goal is to prompt discussion/ownership here!
Activity 5: Reflective Language Learning from the start
During a typical year, my students complete these self reflections 8 (!) times throughout the year.
At the very start of the year, it is a great way to set a baseline and expectation for students to consider their proficiency within the language as they grow throughout the year.
I also think it is a great reminder that there is no “end” goal – but that we are all learning and progressing in the language at different rates and in different ways. I remind my students that even as a teacher, speaking continues to be the area where I need the most practice and focus.
Some students have an easy time identifying their strengths. Others need concrete reminders like this reflection. Personally, I need to be reminded to recognize my strengths. At the start of what is sure to be a difficult year, I think starting on a positive note could make a big difference. I also like that this reflection page gives students the opportunity to identify their biggest problem area – it could affect your plans for the following weeks. Maybe you notice a majority of your students express anxiety about their listening skills. How can you adjust your upcoming plans? Sometimes small changes can make a big difference in this way.
This reflection is completely editable so you can make any adjustments you’d like.
You will download your ready to print PDF, but have access to your own editable version in Google Drive TM.
For Spanish 1, you might consider adjusting it to be more of a goal-setting activity rather than a reflection.
I always plan to do this on a different day from my back to school survey. If you are teaching on a block schedule, however, this could serve as a mid-class break for your students. Or, it could be their exit ticket for the day.
Bottom line – however you welcome your students this year, you’ve got this!
I hope you can take something from this post and move through your first few weeks confidently. I’d love to hear if you try anything that works well for you! You can contact me via this page, or find me on social media. I’m most present on Instagram, and I love collaborating with you there! Feel free to tag me so I can follow you back, @theengagedspanishclassroom.
Thanks for reading and remember to take care of YOURSELF! Your students will be better for it.
Go get ’em, Profe!