Spanish » GCSE

How to Tutor Spanish GCSE

Posted 4 days ago by Alice Farrell

Modern Foreign Language GCSEs are some of the most challenging. Not only are there many examinations, one of them involves speaking in a different language! That being said, languages can also be some of the most rewarding and most far-reaching subjects. Students might not use their knowledge of oxbow lakes in adult life, but they are likely to one day visit Spain or South America!

Preparing for your first lesson

Use your first lesson to build a relationship with your tutee and understand what they are hoping to gain from their sessions with you. For example, is it the oral exam that is causing them anxiety? Or perhaps they are overwhelmed with the irregular preterite tense? Understanding exactly what your student wants to gain from tuition is vital to ensure your lessons are impactful and enjoyable for both tutor and tutee.

A great way to build a relationship with your tutee is to take a few minutes to chat informally through their experience of learning Spanish so far. Find out what they have found easy, what they have found difficult, what they liked and what they loathed. Ask to see any work they have completed so you can start to build a picture of their attainment so far. It’s also useful to know the scheme their school follows and which exam board the student is sitting.

A great way to build a relationship with your tutee is to take a few minutes to chat informally through their experience of learning Spanish so far.

Once you have put your tutee at ease with an initial conversation, work through some questions together so you can gain a deeper understanding of their current attainment. Translating simple sentences, a short reading conversation, completing verb tables and a brief conversation in Spanish should be all you need.

Students who are struggling with Spanish will often say something along the lines of “I don’t know what exactly I find hard, I just don’t have a brain for languages”. It can be challenging to change that mindset, and to do so you need to remain positive. If your student is really struggling, try building their confidence with easier work before moving onto GCSE material.

Above all, remain positive and firm in your belief that anyone can learn a language. Remember that they may not have had a great experience of learning Spanish at school and you have the chance to change that!


Remember that speaking, listening, reading and writing are all interrelated skills and remind your tutee of this too. You might find it useful to make the following with your tutee as general preparation for their GCSE:

  • verb tables of common verbs in all required tenses e.g. ser, estar, hacer, tener, ir;

  • vocabulary lists and/or flashcards by group e.g. school vocabulary, holiday vocabulary, jobs vocabulary.

Speaking & Listening

Speaking and listening are two sides of the same coin so it is useful for students to practice them in tandem.

Understandably, most students (even those who love Spanish) are intimidated by the speaking element of the GCSE. The best way to allay any fears is to practice as much as possible.

I recommend starting each lesson with 5-10 minutes of conversation in Spanish. This is also a great way for you to assess how much previous material your tutee can recall.

For students who are lacking in confidence, ask them to read aloud throughout the lesson as much as possible to improve their accent and familiarity with Spanish speech patterns. Role-plays can also be an engaging way for students to consolidate key vocabulary e.g. role-playing buying food at a supermarket.

As the speaking examination approaches, complete a few trials with your tutee. Encourage them to take it as seriously as possible – don’t let them take a break and ask you a quick question in English!

With regards to the listening element of the GCSE, it is important to give students as much exposure as possible to spoken Spanish. I recommend preparing a few sentences on previous topics to read aloud to your student, and some simple questions for students to write answers to. For example, if in your previous lesson you had learnt about the environment, come prepared to your next lesson with 3-4 sentences about the environment and 3-4 questions for your student to answer.

Don’t forget that radio, television and music are great ways to engage your students with Spanish!

Useful links:

BBC Bitesize Spanish Speaking

BBC Bitesize has lots of videos and audio clips with key vocabulary relating to GCSE topics. Some topics also have questions to answer alongside the resources. Depending on your student’s attainment and confidence, you can ask a student to complete these exercises independently or work through them together.

Radio 3 Spain

This is a Spanish radio station targeted at a young audience. Encourage your tutee to tune in to familiarise themselves with spoken Spanish and pick up some interesting vocabulary. Possible activities could include asking tutees to write down three – five words they heard and then translating these words. You could then challenge your tutee to use their newfound vocabulary in a sentence of their own.

Aquí no hay quien viva (Television Show) and Pan’s Labyrinth (Film, NB: certificate 15, currently on Netflix)

Similar to the radio station, both of these can be used to broaden your tutee’s experience of spoken Spanish and develop new vocabulary. However, most importantly, it will spark a genuine enjoyment of Spanish.

Reading & Writing

Just as speaking and listening go hand in hand, so do reading and writing.

Spanish GCSE is about vocabulary, vocabulary, vocabulary! Make sure to make lists of vocabulary throughout your work with your tutee. Even better, challenge them to think of more than one word for its English counterpart. For example:

happy: bien, feliz, alegre, contento/a, afortunado/a

When completing reading exercises, remind your tutee that the answer is always right in front of them. Encourage comprehension skills such as looking at context, identifying types of words (nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc.) and answering questions in full sentences.

Often, Spanish GCSE material can be a little dry. If your tutee is interested in sports, use El Mundo Deporte to engage them. If your tutee is interested in fashion, bring a copy of Vogue España and ask them to highlight all the adjectives they can find. Keeping your lessons fun and relevant will help your tutee to stay engaged and make progress.

Keeping your lessons fun and relevant will help your tutee to stay engaged and make progress.

Make sure that your tutee has the chance to do some writing in every single lesson. This doesn’t always have to be full sentences or an essay – can they label all the features of a bedroom? Can they write a review of a meal they have eaten? Provide opportunities for your tutee to write in a range of tenses (and create those verb tables to help!).

Possible activities using these materials could include:

  • reading articles aloud to improve accent and speech patterns

  • discussing the articles in Spanish e.g. asking opinions

  • reading comprehension (this will require you to read the article in advance and prepare some questions)

  • scanning for adjectives, verbs and nouns and translating these words

  • rewrite a few sentences / paragraph

  • write a follow-up article

  • ask tutees to use newfound vocabulary in a separate writing task


Do I really need to listen to this much Spanish?

Short answer: Yes!

Long answer: Yes, of course. The more you listen, the more you will understand the Spanish accent and the rhythm of speech. This will help you to speak Spanish more naturally yourself, improve your vocabulary, and make listening exercises easier.

Why is the preterite tense so irregular?

This is quite a long story that goes back to medieval Spanish linguistics. Tutees tend to ask this because they don’t want to learn so many verbs off by heart. Try to group verbs as much as possible and remind tutees that it’s better to use a verb they do know how to conjugate than to guess.

Why I love tutoring Spanish

Teaching Spanish should be joyful and fun. Although you may find yourself preparing students for GCSEs, try not to lose sight of the fact that you are also giving them an insight into another culture and a skill for life. If you can keep that in mind, you will not only enrich your students' experience but also love tutoring ¡español!

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