How-To Teach a Movie in Spanish Class

November 16, 2022 Mis Clases Locas by Allison Wienhold

Inside: Are you struggling with how to teach a movie in Spanish class? Do you want to know how to get the most out of a culture-rich film in Spanish class? Find out exactly not just what movies to show in Spanish class but how to use them with ready-made materials to save busy teachers time. 

Movies in Spanish class

Hey friends! It is Allison from Mis Clases Locas with one of my favorite things to use in the classroom, films! Back when I was in high school Spanish class the only movies I ever remember watching were translated Disney cartoons on VHS. (Yes, this shows my age). While we of course enjoyed getting to watch El Rey León with the substitute, I now realize what a missed opportunity it was for integrating authentic culture. When I am talking about how to teach a movie in Spanish class here, I am referring to using one of these appropriate films. 

How to Teach a Movie in Spanish class

How to teach a movie in Spanish class  - Secondary Spanish Space

Pick a Film to Use in Class

The best place to start to pick a movie is to check out this list of my top 10 appropriate films. If you teach upper levels, also check out The Ultimate List of Movies to Show in Spanish Class. When choosing a movie, a big question to ask yourself is “what is my goal for this film?” There is no right or wrong answer, but this will change what you choose. Maybe your goal is to integrate a certain theme that you are already teaching, like the environment. Or maybe you want to tie in with a country that you are reading about. Personally, I only pick movies for my classes that have deep cultural connections to the Spanish-speaking world. If I am going to spend multiple days or even a week on something, there has to be culture and more than just watching any movie with Spanish audio. **This is also how you can get admin buy-in to show a film. Show how many standards one film can cover. (Hello culture, connections & comparisons, along with interpretive communication of watching it in Spanish). Also, you need to look into the availability of the film you want to use. I once had a school computer without a disk drive, so my only option was steaming. Yet, I know other teachers who are not allowed to stream, so DVDs are the only option. For the cheapest option check out your school and public library for any DVDs you might want to use. Just check that the audio and subtitles you are hoping for are included.  

What subtitles and audio to use in Spanish class?

Depending on the group and your goals will decide which audio and subtitles to use.
  • Upper-level Spanish- Spanish audio & Spanish subtitles
  • Spanish 2 – Spanish audio & Spanish or English subtitles (depending on the purpose and group)
  • Spanish 1 or Exploratory Spanish – Spanish audio & English subtitles
  • Culture or non-language class – English audio & no subtitles

But, as a note, if a non-Spanish speaking substitute will be there while students are watching, using English audio can be a safer bet to make sure students understand the film. Also, on a sub-related note, make sure you leave explicit directions on HOW to change the audio and subtitles and even have a student who is set to help. Otherwise, students might get to watch a whole movie in English while they are on a Honeymoon. (real talk, it was fine and worth it).  

How to Introduce a Movie in Spanish class

Honestly, I used to skip introducing a film and just press play. Over time, I learned from the resources of others that introducing the characters in a slideshow using comprehensible Spanish could be a game-changer. Not only did it allow for more input in Spanish, but it also makes the viewing experience much more valuable for everyone. Watching a full film in another language could be daunting to a student, but if they already understand and know which character is who, it lifts a lot of the anxiety of following along. Knowing the characters builds confidence and adds to the overall enjoyment of the film in another language. For an example of what I mean, you can get slides to introduce the characters of Coco here.  Another way to dig deeper into the culture of a film is to introduce cultural products, practices, and/or perspectives before watching. This can be done by projecting authentic resources, screenshots from the film, or watching videos in advance, such as the trailer. This way students can point out cultural references as they are watching to be able to better connect and compare. As an example see this blog post with lots of authentic resources to introduce Encanto, plus get slides of authentic resources and characters here.   

How to Watch a Film

As with everything this will vary greatly depending on your situation. If you are crunched for time, or students have a sub, you might watch the film pretty much straight through over a couple of days or one block. For example, when I taught junior high exploratory, we had a long final block on the last day of class, but they did not need to take a final. So, we always just watched the whole movie of The Book of Life in Spanish to celebrate the end of the quarter. We used this basic movie guide to keep them on task. I do not ever grade while watching guides, but rather they help students focus. They might be a completion, accountability grade for 21st-century skills, but never based on correctness (who has time for that anyway?!). If you have a longer amount of time, I have found great success in spreading out a film over a few days or a week, only actually watching 20-30 minutes per day. How a typical day like this might look in a 45-minute class is: introduce/review the film, watch 20-30 minutes using a movie guide, do a five-minute mini-partner or group discussion in Spanish over what they watched, close with a five-minute free write about what they watched. This would also make sure to get multiple modes of communication all in one class. To mix it up on a later day: start with a ten-minute Blooket review of characters, watch a film using the guide, play a quick review game (like the marker game) to wrap it up, or discuss your guide questions so far. You can see all of my ready-to-go movie guides together here. 

What to do after a movie

Depending on your goals there are many ways to wrap up a film or assess if needed. All of my movie guides come with a few post-film reflection questions in Spanish to discuss, plus a character matching. This page could be used as an assessment if needed. This could be given the next day after reviewing and discussing the film. One specific post-film example comes from a time when I was out of the state for a wedding in early November on a Thursday/Friday and then had a scheduled formal observation the Monday after in Spanish 1. (I know right). I introduced the character with my slideshow and used the film trailer before I left. Then, the students watched Coco with the sub while I was gone. On the Monday of my observation, we did a post-film “everyday IPA” (Name & idea c/o Meredith White). The post-film day plan included 15 minutes of each task, interpretive, interpersonal, and presentational.

  • Interpretive – They used an authentic infographic about Coco and answered questions in English
  • Interpersonal – I cut up basic discussion questions about the film in Spanish & students worked in pairs to chat
  • Presentational – Students wrote about the film

The observation went very well, as students were engaged in utilizing all modes of communication in one class period. This also really helped my admin see the WHY of showing a film. They saw the cultural connections, the standards utilized, and how it gave the students something they wanted to speak and write about in Spanish. You can get all of the resources from that post-film activity here.   

But what if I do not have time for a full film?

The new Netflix show Maya y Los 3 is the answer for a lack of time! Episode 1 is only about 30 minutes. I have a ready-to-go episode 1 guide here & you can also get free character introductions. My own five-year-old loves the show, so it could work from elementary all the way to high school.  

Another new option is Tierra Incógnita. You can learn more about this PG thriller on Disney+ in this blog post. It also includes freebies & season 1 activities. 

Watch this video about using TV programs in Spanish class to learn more. 

Resources for specific films 

I know you are super busy and have very little time to create things yourself. So, to help you out here are blog posts with tons of authentic resources plus guides that are already made for you. Pick one and enjoy a nice break from the routine with your students.

Resources to get started


How to teach a movie in Spanish class  - Secondary Spanish Space

What are your favorite films to show in class? Please let me know in the comments!

More blog posts from Allison on Secondary Spanish Space you might be interested in

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originally posted by Allison Wienhold on 12.7.22. Most recently updated on 11.16.22.

Mis Clases Locas by Allison Wienhold

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1 Comment

  • Michelle Hay September 26, 2022 at 8:46 am

    This is amazing! muchas gracias xoxo

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