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Spanish Class Activities: Starting the year in a Remote or Hybrid Setting

The only consistent thing about the start of school this year is that it looks different for everybody. Some schools are starting completely remote, while others are remote with teachers in their classrooms. Some are hybrid, and some are fully in person with safety measures. Regardless of how you’re starting your year, chances are your traditional first day activities need some adjustments. I hope one of the five options below can help you get started confidently.

You are still a great teacher, even if you feel a little (or a lot) out of your element this year.

1) 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 😉

I think that in a hybrid or remote setting, getting to know our students is more important than ever. It will be harder if you can’t see them in person right away. It is harder to make connections via a video chat, and some students might not be comfortable being on camera. Heck, some teachers might not be comfortable either. This isn’t an easy transition for anyone.

If teaching remote or hybrid, I would offer this survey as a break from being on camera. I’m not sure if your school is requiring students to have their cameras on, but it can be draining to know that everyone can see your face/expressions at all times. If it is draining for me, I can only imagine how an already-self-conscious 15 year old might feel. Offering a camera break in class to complete this survey might not be a true break from screen time since they may complete it digitally, but it can serve as a break form being “ON.” You could give it 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, 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!

2) Taco Tuesday – yes it can still happen!

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!

Typically, two or three students compete on one game board. Obviously, even in-person classes most likely won’t be sharing a piece of paper right now.



My Taco Tuesday editable templates are now READY for virtual 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 your Taco Tuesday templates for this awesome update!! I hope you love it. (There are also now 5 game board sizes included in this resource!)



Other options:

If you are NOT ready to try that with your students, for tech reasons, 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 (on camera or by being the first to type their answer in the chat.) I think this option would work best for smaller groups, so that students don’t feel overshadowed within the group.

One last 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 in the spring during remote learning, and it went well. I would tell students that there would be 10 tacos, or 15 tacos during this 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 🙂

I definitely prefer finding a way to play live, to build that sense of community. I have heard wonderful things about breakout rooms within Zoom as well as Google’s Jamboard, but I’m also not pushing you to learn 1,000 new tools at this exact moment. Find what works for you. And if this activity isn’t a good fit right now, you will find something that IS a good fit and it will be ENOUGH for your students 🙂

*Taco Tuesday at home* I made this version for Spanish STUDENTS to act as the TEACHER within their homes. In the spring, 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.

Sharing with students: you could save the pdf as an image and make it the background of a Google Slide, or students could use Notability on their iPads to draw directly on the PDF that you share with them via your LMS.

Ideas for differentiation within Taco Tuesday here.

3) Music

Music plays a huge role in my classroom. I love participating in Mis Clases Loca’s HHM music bracket each fall, and Locura de Marzo in the Spring. I have an entire blog post dedicated to music.

Within the first few days, my students always study the “Latinoamérica” music video. I have activities to accompany the video, but truly just watching the video and having a discussion with your students will be *invaluable.* This could be another opportunity for them to turn off their cameras and just focus on you sharing your screen. I see “camera breaks” being essential for students this year, to allow them a chance to relax and adjust to this new normal, especially during the first few weeks.

I utilize this song every single year, and I don’t see myself changing that anytime soon. Calle 13 is groundbreaking and your students will be intrigued by the various styles of their music. I highly suggest you look into their other songs and videos as well (Prepárame la Cena is another video and song with a strong/serious message. I have activities here.)

Sharing with students: Same as above. My activities are currently in PDF form but I plan to work on them this week to provide an editable option.

Another music option: Recently in a Facebook group for Spanish teachers, a fellow educator shared a link to this song called ¿Cómo Te Llamas? by Ilich. I do not know much about this artist, but the video is cute (there is kissing, depending on age group of your students) and the song is VERY catchy. I can see my Spanish students enjoying this song for years to come, and I think this would be a great “hook” at the start of the year!!

4) Reflection – at the start? YES.

During a typical year, my students complete these self reflections 8 (!) times throughout the year. I have never given one at the very start of the year, but with the proficiency page I have recently added, I think it would be a good 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. For Spanish 1, you may adjust it to be more of a goal-setting activity rather than a reflection at the start of the year.

I would 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 second camera break for your students. Or, it could be their virtual exit ticket for the day. Again, you could remain on camera to support students while they finish up

Sharing with students: Same as above – this is an editable document within Google Drive.

5) ¡¿Mano o Manos?! – An activity I made up because I wanted something that will work for full in person, hybrid, AND remote learning.

When in class, 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!, 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’ve been trying to think of ways to incorporate this style of low-pressure and high-input activity in a remote and hybrid setting. My best idea so far was to create a game called ¡¿Mano o Manos?! that only uses their hands/arms, and no movement from their seat whether they be in the classroom or on camera. And yes…. I’m trying for a play on words here from “mano a mano” 😉 Does it work?

I have made a few versions so far, as well as editable templates for you to make your own Mano o Manos games!

Version 1: Meant for the first few days of school, great for Spanish 2 and up

Version 2: Meant for the first few days of school, great for classes that have covered the preterite (likely Spanish 3 and up). Can be used later in the year for Spanish 2 to discuss a weekend instead of the summer 🙂

You can find FOUR styles of Mano o Manos Editable Templates here!!

Here’s the general idea for you:

Teacher role: Whether hybrid or remote, teacher shares a PDF (premade sets) or Google Drive (editable versions) on their 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

(maybe 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!

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 comment below, 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.


P.S. You can read about my typical back to school activities here.

My name is Erin and I have 8 years of experience teaching high school Spanish. I love building positive student relationships and bringing a bit of fun into my lessons to keep my students engaged!

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