How to Teach Spanish Vocabulary

Instructor: Sharon Linde

Sharon has a Masters of Science in Mathematics

Teaching students in their native language is a difficult task. Teaching them a whole new set of vocabulary words - quite a challenge. Teaching Spanish vocabulary takes specific and intentional methods. Read on to find out how teaching Spanish can be mucho fun. Ole!

What is Spanish Vocabulary?

Spanish is quickly becoming one of the most spoken languages around the globe. The ability to speak and understand written and spoken Spanish is an important skill for many to learn, and there's no better time than childhood. Spanish vocabulary is words written and spoken in Spanish. Teaching children Spanish is becoming the norm in education across the country, and instructors are being required to be professionals in their craft, not simply native language speakers. Is there a certain way teachers should approach Spanish vocabulary instruction? As with any other teaching subject, Spanish instruction requires specific and intentional planning. Not quite clear on the right steps to take? No worries, read on for more instrucción.

Teaching Spanish Vocabulary

There are three main methods of teaching Spanish vocabulary. These are not stand alone ways of instruction, but rather, to be used in tandem at differing times. Spanish teachers should provide a good blend of visual, interactive and creative time for students.


Children learn best when using their senses. Being able to observe the Spanish vocabulary words, in addition to hearing them, layers their acquisition skills. Begin by pronouncing the new word and showing an image to go with it. If possible, show real objects. Use flash cards and attach these cards to a permanent word wall.

spanish word wall

For example, if teaching the Spanish word for 'ball', begin by saying the word in Spanish and showing a real ball, or picture if you don't have a ball handy. Repeat the word, 'bola', a few times and have students echo it back to you to make sure they are able to say the word correctly. Next, show the children the word written on a flash card. Keep the card handy until the students show long term understanding, and then attach it to the word wall for future reference.

All this focus on visual recognition helps the brain to make connections, promoting long-term memory.


Another way to make acquisition of Spanish vocabulary stick, is to allow students to socialize and interact with the words. Use the words in many different circumstances, like games and poems. Sing songs and read stories with new vocabulary words in them. Set up time for the students to have conversations using the words, guiding and monitoring their correct usage.

Brain connections are further strengthened with meaningful, extended usage.


New Spanish vocabulary solidifies in the memory when students have a chance to make it their own. Building on personal discovery and meaning, allows children to be creative with the words. Activities that support this include creating board and card games, writing original stories, poems and plays, and making personal dictionaries or scrapbooks.

spanish dictionary

When students use their personal ideas and expressions to make sense of new Spanish vocabulary, they make a new place in the brain for the words to be stored.


Another way for students to learn Spanish vocabulary is by requiring students to use only Spanish words during class. This immersion method of instruction forces students to use the vocabulary words in order to communicate everything, from basic needs to class content. Immersion schools are becoming popular lately, and many Spanish classes have adopted this method as well. Proponents believe this strict learning model makes learning more meaningful and useful for students and vocabulary acquisition is faster. While some students thrive in this environment, not all do, so be careful when considering the immersion model. You'll need plenty of support and training to make it work.

Do's and Don'ts of Teaching Spanish Vocabulary

There are some simple rules to follow to strengthen your vocabulary instruction program.


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