If you listed to episode 19 with Trudy Anderson you heard her talk about using Jessica Haxhi’s acronym M.A.G.I.C. in the language classroom. This stands for Movement, Authentic Resources, Games, Interaction and Communication. The focus on this episode is games. I speak with Kevin Quigley, a French and Spanish teacher in Vermont, and he shares several low-prep target languages games that you can use in your classroom tomorrow (or even today).
Kevin speaks about:
why games, and student engagement in general, are beneficial
misconceptions about games
several effective games and activities that you use in the classroom right away
This episode is volume 2 in the Teacher Toolbox series. In these “Go-To Activities for Your Teacher Toolbox” episodes you will hear suggestions for go-to activities and games that can be easily modified for any language or proficiency level.
I have to start by saying sorry (not sorry) that once you introduce this activity to your students they will ask to do it all the time.
This activity is all about students listening intently and reacting to what they hear.
No prep involved. Just grab an object, like a ball, and you’re ready to go.
I call this activity Sauter or Saltar. Jump in the target language that you teach.
Pick a topic category. Any category. Any proficiency level. Here are some possible topic categories:
details about a story
information about an article
Here’s how it works:
The entire class stands in a circle. If there is not enough room in the classroom, maybe take a trip outside.
Tell students the topic they are listening for.
The teacher tosses the ball to any student and says a word, phrase or sentence.
If the word, phrase or sentence is on the chosen topic, the 2 students next to the student who catches the ball jump. The one who jumps first stays in. The other sits down and is out. There are often ties. [example:category is “days” and teacher says “Monday”]
If the word, phrase or sentence is NOT on the topi, the 2 students next to the student who catches the ballDON’T jump. If they jump they sit and are out. [example:category is “days” and teacher says “July”]
Continue tossing the ball to random students around the circle.
The same rules apply. Keep in mind that…
If the word, phrase or sentence is on the topic the 2 closest students still standing to the left and right of the student who catches the ball jump. The one who jumps first stays in. The other sits down an is out. [example:category is “past tense” and you say “I went to the store.”]
If the word, phrase or sentence is NOT on the topic, the 2 closest students still standing to the left and right of the student who catches the ballDON’T jump. If they jump they sit and are out. [example:category is “past tense” and you say “I go to the store.”]
When there are only two students remaining the ball is not tossed.
The teacher says a list of words, phrases or sentences that may or not be on topic.
The first of the two remaining students to jump when they hear the word, phrase or sentence that fits the category wins the game.
Once you have played this a few times and students have the hang of it you can choose students to be the one to give the prompts in the middle of the circle. It may be the winner from the previous round.
This activity works well as a class starter, closer or as a brain break at any time. It’s also useful for quickly reviewing vocabulary themes before diving into a discussion or follow-up activity.
Do you have a deck of regular playing cards? Yes? Well, you’re all done and the activity is ready to go.
This is a no prep activity that you can pull out at any time, on any topic, for any language at any proficiency level.
I call this activity Special Card(La Carte Spéciale, La Tarjeta Especial).
Here’s how it works:
Choose one card from the deck before beginning and write it down on a piece of paper. Don’t show it to students. Keep the card in the deck
Put students into groups of 3 or 4.
Groups will need a piece of paper or small white board if you are focusing on writing. No need if focusing on speaking.
Tell students that they will get a question and will either respond orally or in writing. If responses are spoken each group will need individual questions each round. If it is in writing all groups can get the same question for the round.
I make up the prompt on the spot based on the topic. You can do this in advance, but I like to keep it “no prep.” It can be novice level questions with single words answers all the way to higher levels with questions about a reading or video.
If the response is correct, hand the group a playing card. Their points for the round are the value of the card.
Ace is 1 point, number cards (2-10) are their face value, a Jack is 13, a Queen is 11 and a king is 12. [The Jack, Queen & King values are arbitrary. You can make them what you would like.]
Once all cards are earned, and the deck is depleted, groups add up their points. The final move is to reveal the Special Card, which is worth 25 or 30 additional points. The group with that card earns the additional points.
The group with the highest points wins the round.
Collect cards back. If there is time to play another round groups can continue with their points from the previous game or start fresh.
If you’re playing additional games, be sure to choose new special cards each time.
The topics and proficiency levels are open depending on what you are doing in your class. Here are some prompt ideas
What are three colors, animals, days, months, seasons, articles of clothing, activities, etc.
Questions about concrete vocabulary themes that require a 1-2 word spoken or written response.
Where do you …?
When do you …?
What are your opinions about…?
Questions about concrete vocabulary themes that require a sentence of chunked spoken or written language as a response.
Sentence level questions about details in a story
Questions about personal or story details that require a complete spoken or written sentence response created by the group.
Tell me about…
Questions on themes covered in the current unit that require 2-3 spoken or written sentences that are connected by transition words.
After groups read a passage together on their own…
Specific or general questions to demonstrate understanding
Questions on themes covered in the reading that require 3-4 spoken or written sentences that are connected by transition words and may require speaking or writing in various time-frames.
I also talk about this activity on episode 25 of the World Language Classroom Podcast.
This episode is the first in a series of episodes that I will publish 4-5 times a year. In these “Go-To Activities for Your Teacher Toolbox” episodes you will hear suggestions for go-to activities and games that require little-to-no prep and can be easily modified for any language or proficiency level.
Why Games and Activities:
useful teaching and learning tool
particularly useful when engaging and motivating unwilling and disinterested students
opportunities to practice speaking and understanding the target language
playing in (with) the language and building confidence
Brain Breaks – keep interest and focus
provide a relaxed context for risk-taking, lowering the affective filter
and building community in the classroom.
Your students can recognize and say the the words on various vocabulary topics. They can do the same with adjectives and verb forms in a variety of tenses.
But, the challenge is finding opportunities for students to use these language elements in context that moves beyond simply saying them as individual words. We need to support our students as they level up their proficiency and strive to create language beyond novice level.
That’s where this activity comes in.
Starting Point (Point de Départ / Punto de Partida) is a partner speaking activity that is quickly and easily adaptable to any proficiency level. If your students are at the novice level (words and phrases), then they can add one or two additional words.
If they are at a higher proficiency level they can create discreet or connected sentences with connecting words, adjectives, adverbs and other vocabulary to form more complex sentences. For the activities with verb forms there are question words along with each subject/verb pair to guide students in creating sentences.
Your students will be speaking non-stop in French or Spanish without even realizing it, because the object of the activity (aka game) is what they are really focused on.
You’re probably wondering how it works, so here you go…
This activity is done in pairs. Each player needs a pencil or pen that is a different color.
The goal of the activity is to score the most points by filling in the most boxes.
Player 1 begins by connecting any 2 dots. Before connecting the dots the player identifies the picture or prompt or says the verb forms on either side of the line.
Depending on the proficiency level of the class, the players can also be prompted to use the vocabulary words or adjective/verb forms to create more complex phrases and sentences.
If the player is not able to complete the prompt the turn passes and a line is not drawn.
When a player draws a line to make a complete box around a picture, prompt or subject/verb pair the player fills in the box and records a point on the top of the board.
Once all boxes are filled in the player with the most boxes wins.
So, your students know the vocabulary and adjective/verb forms, but you would like them to use these language elements in context to create sentences. Problem solved with Starting Point (Point de Départ / Punto de Partida)….and no prep for the teacher at all.
I have done a paper version of this activity, but now I do them digitally using Google Slides™. Students are actively engaged in their language learning with these interactive digital squares verb form activities.
To complete the puzzles, students begin with a subject/infinitive from the number column and locate the correct form in the letter column. They then find the corresponding square in the grid, such as 1E, 5G or 7B, and drag a red dot to it.
Keep your students actively engaged in their language learning with these interactive digital squares vocabulary activities. I have done a paper version of this activity, but now I do them digitally using Google Slides™.
To complete the puzzles, students begin with a word from the number column and find the picture in the letter column. They then find the corresponding square in the grid, such as 1E, 5G or 7B and drag a red dot the the square.
When all numbers are filled in students can verify their answers. The total of the numbers in each row, column, and diagonal is 34.There are 4 puzzles in this activity, an answer slide and a vocabulary reference page.