How Not to Fail Spanish Class This Year

by | Aug 18, 2016 | Fall, High School

I’ve seen this happen a few times.  There’s that stellar student who’s just brilliant.  He doesn’t have to study, but gets awesome grades in Algebra, Biology, Physics, Gym, Debate, you name it.  And then Spanish class happens to him.  He steps foot in the classroom on the first day and everything seems foreign to him.  (Imagine that!  Things feeling foreign in a foreign language class. Who knew?)

What is the teacher saying?  You mean we really have to sing songs in here?  No way, I’m in high school.  I don’t need to sing baby songs.  That teacher is having way too much fun.  Does she really like Spanish that much?

He sits there and just watches and observes like he does in his other classes.  He doesn’t take notes.  He doesn’t worry about memorizing vocab.  Then the first test comes along and when the teacher hands back the grades there is a big D staring at him.  What happened?  Why is this A student getting a D in Spanish class?

In years past, I have tried to explain to all my students that learning a language is not like learning any other subject in school.  You have to employ a different mindset to be successful in the Spanish classroom.  Essentially, high school Spanish 1 is a class in which you try to simulate in one semester what your brain did as a baby over the course of two years of life.

Although that may sound daunting, don’t shut down on me yet!  Learning a foreign language IS hard, but it’s not impossible and it doesn’t have to be a GPA foe.  Set yourself up right by following these strategies below, and you won’t have to worry about failing Spanish class.  I promise.

1) Commit 25 minutes a day to studying, Monday through Saturday.  

Yes.  I said Saturday.  It’s like the Little Engine That Could.  Or maybe the Tortoise and the Hare?  Either way, it’s better to study consistently, on a daily basis in little chunks, than to save all your Spanish homework for the night before some big quiz or test.

2) Memorize your vocab.

You may think you know all those words on the vocab list your teacher gave you . . . or the ones at the beginning of the chapter. Sure, you read over them in your head.  You held your hand over the English side and quizzed yourself.  You got them all right, except for one or two you had to peek at.  But here’s the real way to tell whether or not you know them.  First, make yourself a set of flashcards.  Write the Spanish word on one side, and the English word on the other.  As you write each Spanish word, say it out loud.  Now quiz yourself by looking at the Spanish side and see if you can say the English word for each one without looking.  Did you do it?  Great!  Now for the hard part.  Flip the cards over and quiz yourself from the English side.  Do you remember how to say all those English words in Spanish?  Once you can nail that without any mistakes, you’ve got a pretty good handle on your vocab.  If you learn better by hearing things, watch this video on the “Flashcard Strategy” to see what I mean.

3) Get a study buddy.

This is the only way I survived Spanish 101 in college, and it’s also how I managed to pass many a hard tests in college.  Make it fun!  Meet for coffee or rotate dinner at each other’s house and study together while cooking something yummy to eat.  Use Netflix or ice cream as a reward at the end of your study time.

Everybody loves a buddy!

4) Check in with your teacher at least once per unit (or chapter).

Even if you think you understand the material, find something to have a question about.  Trust me, teachers like to know that you care.  And doing this will form a habit to make it easier to go to your teacher with questions when there really is something you don’t understand.

5) Take notes.

Nothing is learned unless it is self-taught.  This means, you are not going to learn Spanish if you aren’t trying to understand the material.  Your teacher is just a guide.  You have to make the material your own, which means when that input is coming towards you make sure you are understanding it enough to say it back.  Taking notes is the best way to do that.  If you can’t figure out what to write down, that might be a sign you’re not comprehending the material.

6) Make a Spanish playlist on Spotify and listen to it throughout the week.  

Have you ever thought about how we hear our native language for TWO YEARS before we ever start to try to form words ourselves?  Hearing the language is so important, and music is one of the most enjoyable ways to hear a language.  You could also try watching your favorite movies on Netflix with Spanish audio instead of English.

7) Read out loud & speak out loud.  

This goes along the same thread as number 6.  Your brain needs to be hearing that language.  As much as you can, read your assignments and exercises and vocab lists out loud as you study them.  You might feel silly doing it, but I promise it helps!

I would love to hear if you decide to follow these steps in your Spanish class this year and how it goes for you!  And don’t be afraid to ask me any questions you may have.  Probably one of my favorite things is helping people learn about the Spanish language.  Buena suerte!


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