How Do Your Spanish Students Learn? Activities for Visual Learners
Strongly visual learners need to see what they're learning represented as images. Pairing visuals with Spanish words---whether it be someone in traditional dress that identifies the name of each garment they're wearing or a PowerPoint presentation that displays images first, then the proper Spanish word for each image---is helpful for all learners because it helps to bridge the gap between Spanish and mental images without first filling that gap with English translations. But, for strongly visual learners, this is literally the key to setting them up for success.
Here are a few quick tips that will give your students the opportunity to learn visually:
- Create flashcards that pair not English and Spanish words but, instead, a representative image with the appropriate Spanish word.
- Provide a visual version of each lecture. Try to pair pictures with the words whenever possible as opposed to just providing lists of words. This could mean providing handouts for each lesson, following along in a picture book, or using overhead slides or digital projections.
- "Hire" one student each class to act as a scribe. Have him or her draw the lesson on the chalk board while you teach it. Obviously, it's important to choose students for this task that will stay relatively on-task as opposed to doodling behind your back; you'll also need to pace yourself to give the student time to draw.
- Turn the previous appointment into an exercise for each student. Have each student prepare a short speech in Spanish and "illustrate" it on the chalkboard---or via other technology if they're sufficiently adept---as they talk.
Teach your students to spot errors in Spanish---thus improving both their reading and writing while testing their comprehension---by setting up "What's wrong with this picture?" scenarios. For early learners just starting to build basic vocabulary, this could be as simple as pairing placards representing basic vocabulary words---tree, dog, and cat, for example---with separate placards each bearing the Spanish word for one object: árbol, perro, gato. When first teaching the words, pair each word with its correct image. But, once you're ready to test your students' recall---perhaps at the end of a class which has dealt with other subjects---mix the placards up so that some of the words aren't paired with the right images. Ask your class to point out and correct the errors. This activity works well in both large and small groups; you can mix the placards up yourself or let students within the groups do so in an attempt to stump others.
For more advanced learners, challenge them to proofread increasingly complex sentences. Pair each sentence with an image. The key here is to alter the sentence slightly so that it's still a decent sentence---or close to it---but just doesn't match up with the picture any more. For example, if the image is of two boys playing, instead of writing a correct sentence---Dos niños están jugando---you might switch "boys" for "girls" and write Dos niñas están jugando instead. It's up to your students to spot the inconsistency between the words and the image and then correct it.