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Teaching Culture in Spanish Class

A language in not just words. It's a culture, a tradition, a unification of a community, a whole history that creates what a community is. It's all embodied in a language.

Why Teach Culture in Spanish Class?

Culture is such an integral part of learning about a language and its speakers. While we all love teaching and sharing the language of Spanish with our students, an element that is often left as a filler or backup idea is teaching culture. 

The beauty of Spanish is the variety of diverse cultures from which its speakers come. There is SO much to address when it comes to culture. While it can feel overwhelming (don’t worry, I’m here to help!), it’s also a fantastic way to expose your students to meaningful and engaging content! That one student who claims they are “not a language person” just might find his/her passion in learning about artists, sports or tomato fights! 

Not only is teaching culture fun, it is also one of the standards expected of us as language teachers. According to the ACTFL World Readiness Standards, there are 5 C’s we should be incorporating into our curriculum, one of which is CULTURES!

When to Teach Culture?

I used to lesson plan under the mindset of “fitting culture in.” Did I have a random sub day? Did I need a time-filler at the end of a certain lesson? While these are great opportunities to add culture into your lessons, prioritizing it at the start of my unit planning made it more than just an “extra,” added in when convenient.

Ideas on WHEN to incorporate culture in your units:

  • at the start of a unit, to spark students’ attention and introduce the theme (ie. la casa: what do homes look like in other countries? los pasatiempos: how do teens and adults spend their free time in Spain, Peru, Guatemala, etc.?)

  • daily throughout a unit (warm-ups, finisher activities)

  • culture-focus days to change it up mid-unit

  • embedded into your pre-existing lessons (ie. working on describing LA CASA in Spanish? Show culturally-relevant photos of homes/apartments in Chile for students to describe in the target language)

  • at the end of a unit, to recap all the language learned and compare to one’s own culture

Lesson Ideas on Teaching Culture

There are so many ideas for teaching culture, including:

  • warm-up / finisher “cultural fact of the day” (ie. Fun Facts about Chile)
  • cierto/falso movement brain break (choose a side of the room – cierto/falso based on cultural statement shared aloud)
  • cultural webquest – great option for a culture-focus day or sub plan! 
  • cultural report + gallery walk to share with classmates (students can become experts on one country throughout the year!)
  • discuss a song, its meaning and artists
  • share a culturally-relevant video (perfect as a warm-up/exit activity)
  • show a culturally-relevant photo, discuss (great for putting those language skills into use!)
  • make comparisons to students’ own cultures/experiences (do this early to set your students up for success in AP!)
  • Looking for authentic resources? Read here about finding authentic resources for your lessons!

Not sure where to start?

Cultural webquests are one of my favorite ways to expose students to a variety of resources and cultural tidbits on a given topic, country, etc. Try one with your students on the topic of Quinceañeras. Included are versions for both beginner (Spanish 1-2) and intermediate (Spanish 3+) students. Click the link or image below!

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Meet Kristen Photo

¡Hola! I’m Kristen, the teacher-author behind La Profe Digital. I design Spanish teaching resources rooted in culture, communication and authentic resources to help save YOU time!

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