Authentic Language Learning: Bridging Classroom Learning to Real-World Application


As a middle school Spanish teacher, I've developed a fun project that extends Spanish learning beyond the classroom walls. This month-long portfolio assignment empowers students to utilize and apply their language skills authentically. The project entails students completing and documenting twenty-five points of activities to maximize their Spanish skills out in the real world. I typically provide the project rubric a month in advance—ensuring students have ample time for preparation—and post the rubric on Google Classroom, which serves as a reliable reference point. Here are some examples of the types of activities I had my students choose from, which could work within any language learning classroom!

Listening activities:

  • Watch a movie with a cultural theme from a Spanish-speaking country,
  • Watch a film in Spanish with English subtitles,
  • Listen to Spanish radio for 10 minutes,
  • Listen to 3 Spanish songs and watch a news report on Univision or for 10 minutes.

If a student showed a lack of interest in completing listening activities then I gave them the following options:

  • Read authentic outside articles in Spanish,
  • Have a 10-minute conversation in Spanish with a native Spanish speaker,
  • Help Spanish speakers with English or even attend a Spanish church service.

For my students who were comfortable with singing in class I gave them the option to:

  • Sing a traditional song in Spanish for the class with a partner (NOTE: The song must have been originally written in Spanish).

A few of the most popular activities that my students chose included:

  • Use the self-checkout at a Spanish grocery store to buy something small “en español.” (NOTE: I required them to attach their receipt as evidence:)
  • Dine at a Spanish-speaking restaurant and interact completely in Spanish. (NOTE: I also required that they must also attach their receipt as evidence.) I particularly liked this activity because it gave students real-world experience ordering in Spanish and potentially connecting with a native speaker.

To work on reading in Spanish, I had students complete the following activity:

  • Choose three children’s books to read and make a vocabulary list of the words that you learned.

With the intention of meeting students where they are in this digital age I also gave them the option to:

  • Have a conversation via text message with a peer in Spanish. (Middle school students tend to always choose this activity and it is fun for me to see what words they are incorporating.)

I gave each of my students a log sheet that corresponded with the rubric. Throughout the project, students logged in their activities, point value, and needed to write at least four to ten words that they heard while completing their activity. The purpose of the log was for students to stay on task with the completion of activities and for me as their educator to track their progress. I enjoyed seeing which activities students chose and what words they learned from all the activities. For example, many students enjoyed eating at a Spanish-speaking restaurant so the words mesero, cuenta, por favor, querria tener, una mesa, etc were written as newly acquired vocabulary. From the self-checkout activities students would hear the following new words: bienvenidos, pagar, tarjeta de crédito, dinero, etc. All of this vocabulary are common day words that will help students in many ways, from being able to navigate purchasing items to preparing them for traveling abroad.

Request a sample of the Auténtico Spanish Textbook and Online Curriculum for Grades 6–12

After the final submission of the project, my students filled out a reflection paper that allowed them to articulate what they have learned, what went well, and what they would like to see improve. The five questions were the following: What did you learn from this cultural portfolio? What activity was your favorite? What surprised you about this portfolio? What other activity could you add to the list and assign it a point value? Taking all the feedback given by my students into account allows me to refine and improve the project from year to year. For example, one year, one of my students suggested that I should add a cooking demonstration, sing a song, and even perform a short dance for student choice activities. These were all very good ideas I eventually added into my activity list. I hope these activity ideas (listed below in their entirety along with the post-activity reflection questions) inspire you, as educators, to integrate more authentic experiences for your students outside the walls of your classroom!

Scarborough’s Rope shows the complexity of reading development.

Request a sample of the Auténtico Spanish Textbook and Online Curriculum for Grades 6–12

Auténtico infuses authentic language into your Spanish classroom as students interact with authentic resources and vibrant Spanish-speaking cultures. Weave authentic conversations, culture, and customs, and more into every lesson of your print and digital curriculum.


About the Author

Laura Boyd

Spanish Teacher