Authentic Back to school Commercials and activities for Spanish class!


  Get students talking at every interval!

I love my Spanish class, but I have to admit, It would be difficult to get the conversation going without sounding contrived or sacrificing free form for a more formulaic model. Year after year I am always exploring ways to get the students talking. This year, I took a slightly different approach.  I decided to include more visual stimuli while expanding the opportunity for more  comprehensible input. If you do not know what comprehensible input is, please click on this link comprehensible input as it may explain why students have a difficult time grasping language- it did for me.  In a nutshell it is providing students with rich, varied and slightly challenging language input before they are expected to output. I was recently at the ACTFL conference and I heard one of the presenters give the analogy of a sponge (recycling from a teacher at her school). The sponge soaks up the water, and then when you wring it out, it produces!  

Now that we are in the school unit of our curriculum, I am have amassed a few resources that I use with students for them to practice their vocabulary and also structures in the interpersonal mode. Using these resources have transformed my lesson and I have to say, I am truly impressed with the results- videos coming soon!

Argentine School Supplies Video 

I found this really cool video on Pinterest. It is an Argentine commercial about school supplies. It is rebonito and the kids loved itArgentine School Supplies Video . Here is with my students: 

1. Watch the video through without taking notes. 

     First, I had students view the video without their notes- remember input is king here! This may be a no-brainer to most teachers but usually I have student take notes on everything!  This time I thought about how distracting taking notes could be and how much more they’d be able to withdraw from their “language ATM.  In addition, taking notes the first watch precludes students from watching the video as a whole, spikes up their affective filter and is overall not beneficial to the language learner.  

Post viewing student engagement activities 

After watching the view, they describe the characters and any words they might have heard. 

2. Watch the video for a second time and then use the note taking sheet. 

3. Students then draw from their notes and discuss the video.  

4. Class discussion- after students have written elements of the video they have seen.  We have a class discussion about the video. Since we learned interrogative words, they use those words to ask questions and follow up questions of other students. I ask them a ton of questions about the video in addition to allowing them to ask each other.  I sit back with my “ACTFL” modified class rubric and take notes on their language abilities. I am not grading them but collecting soft data. 

Notes: Students also were exposed to the verb gustar so they talked about the boy in the video liking the girl, the pen with the flower (we had just wrapped up our Day of the Dead Altars). 

How to extend this video activity?

This year, I will add the following activities to my lesson (this was done at the beginning of last year)  

– True and false  activity

-Match activity for the vocabulary 

-Have students create a mini/simple back story.

Viewing with a purpose- Detective work 

The second video I showed students was one I also found on Pinterest. It may be part of a text book program. Again, I followed the same protocol as above with one variation- the students had to watch the video a third time and take the role of a detective to report the students whereabouts. This activity was sooo fun!!!  

School in Spain Video- School in Spain

1. Watch the video through without taking notes. 

2. Watch the video for a second time and then respond to questions in groups. Click here for activity Video Worksheet- School in Spain.

3.  Discuss the video as a class with the worksheet. I usually give the Writing for a Purpose Activity as an exit slip. 

While students are talking in groups or individually, I usually circle around with my board to take notes on their communicative proficiency and competence.

Let me know how it goes!


Top 5 Reasons why you should add Desconexión to your curriculum!

5 reasons_desconexion .png

For the past two years, my upper level Spanish class has been captured by the short film- Desconexión by  Yecid Johanan. The film tells the harrowing story of a father who tries to save his son’s life, but is challenged in doing so from a series of compounding missed step in his journey.  This of course is the surface story. The upper story points to societal vices, mindsets and other paradigms that prevent people from progressing. This film was produced by a father and son team from Bolivia. Although the film highlights stumbling blocks relevant to that society, it could be applied to any place in Latin America and abroad.

The first time I showed this 20 minute short film, one of my students got up and left the room. He was so angered by the outcome of the film-not me for showing it-but his response was cathartic in nature. The ending has a mega twist that kept my class talking for days.

I used this litany of pre and post viewing activity. The mini unit is culminated with a film critique. These documents are par of my film unit. That said, once students get to the film critique that is attached they’ve had a pretty good idea of what I am looking for in terms of the writing.

Check out this teacher’s Movie Packet. I purchased it and use it every time I watch a movie.

The Devil’s Miner is another great film that highlights Bolivia. My colleagues and I showed to our Spanish III students and it was a hit. The movie is spoken in Spanish but has English subtitles. Bolivian Spanish is so incredibly beautiful and very easy to understand. Click here for the English packet to the movies by Click here for the Spanish packet for the movie by

Cortometraje Eres

 Interpretive Mode Visual Literacy

This year I used a ton of Latin American short and long feature films associated with a particular theme. One of my favs is the short film “Eres” which, is aptly named because all the friends of the protagonist preface every interaction with  ” Eres.”  This is the second year I have used this film, available on here on Youtube.

The film is superior to touching on the Identity and even self-esteem. However, the dialogue can be difficult to understand when you add the speed of light pace of the conversations and other nuances.  To facilitate listening and to lower the filter,  I created some listening, viewing and reading activities to offset the language barrier. The cool thing is that most of the vocabulary that I have included  is in very clear sound bites through the film.

My students really loved the film because they really saw how other people form our identity. Many students think they are “themselves” but this film points out our nature to conform as well as how to preserve our own identity- at least that was the lesson I got. Please enjoy and consider giving me a rating. If you have any questions, please send me an email at

One more thing…

The film is more of an PG-13. It is about 10 minutes and my students have liked it for the past two years (or 1.5 years). There is no nudity although there is a 5 second showing of two of the characters kissing while falling onto the bed.

Conversation circle, film interviews and debate: 7 activities to broaden students cultural knowledge through film

El niño- cartel

Spanish Cinema delivers with El Niño

Before talking about the pedagogical merits of  El Niño , I have to say that I absolutely love the protagonista (Luis Tosar) and antagonist (Jesús Castro). I have seen their work in other films and series and they are the real deal!  I have become a fan of Spanish Cinema as I find the films to be refreshingly real, costumbrista and very gutsy. This film not only delivers on action, but it does on thematic content, storyline and romance!

Te llamas el Niño, por qué te gusta jugar…

    This month I got to introduce some of my favorite short and full feature films and series from Latin American and Spain. The goal was to get students talking in Spanish much like they do in their English classes.

          El Niño is an action-packed 1 hour and 40 minutes film. ¡Ojo! it does have two scenes that I usually censure. Prior to this film, I do a mini lesson on Spanish-Africa, we watch a video on Ceuta and Melilla as the film takes place at the crossroads of the two cultures.  The film explores the themes of illegal immigration, oppressive governments, corruption, unemployment and the selling of contraband- all these things really mesh together to create the storyline.  Many students were completely unaware of the presence of Spanish Africa, the Moors and the confluence of Spanish, African and Arabian culture. The love interest and tension between the Spaniard and a muslim girl from Africa, kept them on their edge of their seats and gave us some meaty morsels for class discussion.

    One of the best activities I did associated with this was the Film Interview. We compiled a list of themes presented in the film. I called five students out randomly and facilitated a discussion with them highlighting  one of the themes. I tossed one catalyst question and they just went at it. Of the comments made, it was encouraging to hear them use their accountable talk phrases to agree, disagree and when they struggled they relied on circumlocution, much like they would in a more authentic context with native speakers.  They added  new perspective to the film that I had not even noticed (I annotated them for the following year). However, students noticed an interesting detail in the film; possessors where criminalized more than consumers of contraband. This dichotomy surfaced as those who shipped, grew and sold  contraband were relentless pursued by police, while those who topping the  “demand” aspect of the chain  aspects brillaban por su ausencia. This led to several dynamic discussions. I had to extend interviews because se calentaba la mesa de conversación.

Activities for viewing the film 

1. Conversation Circle 

To introcomunicacion-iconduce the lesson, we discussed favorite books and movies. These lively conversations inevitably led to words and ideas that would comprise our vocabulary list. I used activities such as these to engage them in the begging stages. From there I created a simple vocabulary list.  The list was used as a point of reference and also provided students with vocabulary for describing, analyzing and writing about films.  Vocabulary for Flim unit 

I’d also like to put a plug in for this amazing Movie Sheet  I got from one of the teachers on TPT. This sheet saves my life every time I am in a bind. If you ever show a movie or even a Telenovela, just have a view of these handy to avoid students annoying asking ” Do we take notes? What do we do?

Preliminary input and interest 

2.  To get students excited about the unit in addition to providing them with resources they could view on their own beyond the four walls of the class,  I featured a few trailers of Spanish-speaking series. Most of the series are from Spain (I have A3series- a new channel offered on RCN).  However, it also highlights Spain’s dominance in this particular market. Series such as Gran Hotel and El Internado are also popularly viewed by both Spanish-Speaking and non Spanish-Speaking audiences. Since we had been working on the subjunctive in this particular class, I organized activities to include that grammatical point. This activity Hoja de actividad worked the vocabulary and grammar.

Trailers o Avances to the series. 

El principe

El barco

El Mar plastico

3. As we begin to discuss how to analyze film. we looked at camera angles and shots in terms of their importance in bringing the story alive.  Here is the activity with the video that I used to help students get a sense of the language used to describe angles in addition to their importance. This is the second year I’ve included the angle shots. The first year I had introduced them was disastrous as I assumed that students had some familiarity with photography (we have AP Photo at my school). Lesson learned! This year we covered all but only emphasized a few.

Film shots in Spanish (the url of the video is embedded in the document).

4.  Film Carrousel

This was something different I did this year. We have 90 minute block periods so this worked perfectly for one class. I selected three films. The vocabulary as well as questions front loading some the films content and themes were included in the anticipatory set prior to seeing the film (see the PPT).  The order was as follows:

– Complete previewing activities

– View cortometraje and jot down new vocabulary words

– Turn to a partner to discuss the themes, characters, plot and overall impression of the film (next year I will include the camera shots)

– Engage in a class discussion about themes.

Power Point used to launch the film carrousel activity

Activity sheets for students

Useful websites

Film Vocabulary in Spanish

!Más actividades por delante! Please share your favorite films!  

Join the ACTFL Cinema SIG page on Facebook where we discuss and share film ideas!