12 January 2017

HOW Do You Learn Spanish Online?

I had good kids in my first online class, kids who are going to go on to do cool things. I just couldn't get the same vibe, the same relationships that "real" teaching, teaching in a classroom gets me.

The connection is what makes all of that other school stuff worth it, you know?

Admittedly, my getting-to-know-you activities were pretty much pure academia. I mean, I'll cut first semester me a little slack because I haven't had a class I had to get to know after my first class with them since Bieber had bangs. And I do want to know what they can do and what motivates them ASAP. But there's really no reason I can't ease in like I do with Spanish III. A game changer for me from #FLANC50 was the idea that language should be familiar when concepts are new, and the corollary, language can be new as long as concepts are familiar.

And lemme tell ya: online language learning ain't familiar for any of us in these courses.

So I'm thinking we're gonna do like Spanish I and start of with maybe a little collage-based discussion, but definitely the How and Why of it all--especially the How.


As with novice language learners, I want to make sure to provide a starting point, options for my novice online learners. It is the plight of the novice that they don't know what they don't know, so I need to offer suggestions--just instead of vocabulary, I need to offer online resources and strategies.

So what I want to do is prepare a sort of sampler platter of different "Hows" for learning language, including "traditional" online grammar lessons and activities as well as helping them locate some good sources for input that they can enjoy--a sort of online FVR (or musical FVL or FVW for telenovela binge watching). I'll give them a sample resource or activity, and they'll evaluate it:
  • How enjoyable was it?
  • How beneficial was it?
  • How can it contribute to their language proficiency?
After sampling all of my wares, I'll have them pick at least one of each that they want to keep using:
  • language resource
  • listening resource
  • reading resource
And their choices can turn into their self-selected personal practice throughout the semester!

Language Resources

Now when most people sign up for an online language course, I bet they're looking for something like these online grammar lessons I stole from Sr. Jenneman:

They might also anticipate some gamified-type learning:
And these are good resources that I want them to be aware of. But they don't really hit on any modes of communication beyond, what, reading, do they? And they generally seem to be kind of stuck at the novice level, at least as far as text types.

So what I want them to do early on is sample each of these "traditional" online learning methods and then find some sources for authentic input that they can get into.

Input Resources

Part of the "rules" for the self-selected homework is that only half of their time can be spent on the language study resource, because, as Sr. Jenneman emphasizes, the goal is to get kiddos as much good input as humanly possible. So the goal here is really just finding one that they will come back go again and again for fun. So I divided the topics up like this:

Input alone is not going to do anything, though, if the students don't have any guidance, so for this sample platter, I want to show them a few different ways they can interact with the texts, including paraphrasing, questioning, graphic organizing, summarizing, and visualizing.

The Goal

My thinking is that exposing students early on to the various ways they can take control of their learning will A) give me insight into what they prefer, style-wise and content-wise and B) empower the kiddos to take the learning by the horns and understand what works for them, even though I can't be there with them to fill in all of the gaps.

I still plan to schedule our monthly restaurant meet-ups, and possibly schedule more online conversations.

But if we start off exploring what students like and feel comfortable doing, by golly, they might just like (or at least feel comfortable with) the online language learning experience.


  1. We are working on our online classes. They have required synchronous sessions at least once a week. I think that will really help!

    1. Do they do it in the evening? I got a lot of excuses (band, work, etc) that made it impossible to get everyone, and I can't see scheduling two or three when I only have 5-10 students...