1. Introducing vocabulary
- When you introduce new vocabulary to your students, group the words in some kind of order. You could introduce feminine nouns first and then masculine ones. Words could be grouped according to a known order (such as days of the week or numbers). For colours, you could start with the primary colours and then the other ones; or you could group them according to their ending.
- Include articles (un/una, el/la, los/las) when you introduce nouns: it will help your students become familiar with genders from the outset. See point 9 for more on gender.
- Link items of vocabulary to signs/gestures that will help students remember words (physical response strategy). Weather phrases, animals and greetings are topics where this can be used easily.
- Activities involving movement help to motivate students and reinforce learning; for example learning through games, or even asking students to go to the teacher and pick up cards.
- Repeating new language many times is crucial for remembering it.
- Vary your mode of repetition: happy, sad, angry, quietly, loudly, fast, slow.
- Ask different groups to repeat vocabulary (boys, girls, other groups).
3. Introduction and practice activities
You can use the activities below with flashcards, real objects, OHPs, computer screens, whiteboards.
- Listen and repeat: change the repeating mode as above.
- Yes/No: Teacher shows a flashcard/object, s/he says a word; students have to say Sí or No if it is right or wrong.
- Options: the teacher shows one flashcard and gives two words for it. Students have to decide which one is right and repeat it.
- Guess the word: the teacher chooses a card and hides it from students. They have to guess the word.
- Word/Number: link each word/phrase to a number. The teacher says the word; students have to recognise the picture and say the number.
- Number/Word: as above but the teacher says the number and students say the word.
- Face up: the teacher puts all cards face up on a table/on the board; s/he says a word and a volunteer comes to pick up the correct card.
- Face down: as above, but students have the chance to pick up cards until they find the correct word. They have to say the word for each card they pick up.
- Put in order: teacher lists words in order and students have to put cards in that order.
In all these activities, students can take the role of the teacher after some examples. Each one can be used as a whole class, group or paired activity.
Introduce numbers early on. You can use them to do all the above activities.
- You can use letters of the alphabet instead if you prefer.
- Use activities that enable students to practise numbers in random order (dice, dominoes). Otherwise students will always have to count in their heads before saying a number – you could be there for a long time if you are working with larger numbers!
5. Silent period
Children should not be forced to speak in the target language until they are ready. Many will be reluctant to speak in front of the class until they feel more confident.
- It's better to ask for volunteers at the beginning.
- Quiet students often speak more confidently when they are in pairs or smaller groups.
- If a student does not know an answer, giving options will help, as s/he can hear the correct word and repeat it.
- When asking a question, or if you want students to do something, it's best to say the question first. Leave some time for all students to work out what you mean, then ask for a volunteer.
6. Error correction
Help students accept errors and learn from them. Praise the student for trying (even if what s/he said is wrong) but then say the correct word to reinforce learning.
7. Knowing about grammar
Try to help students to deduct grammatical rules from examples, rather than teaching them independently.
- Instead of explaining why an adjective has an -o or -a ending, give examples and see if students can explain a general rule.
- Explain the rules of gender and number agreements as they appear in your lessons. It's best not to make a special lesson of them.
- Revisit the agreement rules every time they appear after their introduction. For example, ask students why they think "verdes" has an 's' when talking about eyes.
8. Praising and encouraging
Use lots of Spanish vocabulary for praising and encouraging. See the teachers' phrase book for examples.
9. Gender awareness
In Spanish, nouns, pronouns, adjectives and articles are gender-related. Try to make students aware of this from the beginning.
- Nouns could be introduced with their corresponding article.
- Try different exercises where students have to group words by gender.
- Help students to recognise that, in general, masculine nouns/adjectives end in -o and feminine in -a. (But beware - things can't be that easy! There are a lot of exceptions.)
- If you do dictionary work, make students aware of the terms their dictionary uses to specify the gender of a noun.
10. Capital letters
In Spanish, days, months, languages and nationalities do not use a capital letter. Only names of people and places do.