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.
4 games and activities that are:
- little to no prep
- can be pulled out at any time
- are easily adapted to proficiency level of class
The games and activities:
Work with Joshua either in person or remotely.
Follow wherever you listen to podcasts.
Posted in Activities and Games, Podcast Episodes
Tagged ACTFL, Activities, french, french teacher, Games, language, language learning, Listening, Listening Comprehension, spanish, spanish teacher, Speaking, target language
I’m always looking for ways to get students up and moving in the classroom while they are practicing their foreign language speaking and writing skills. This is an activity that I call “Hide and Speak (or write)” that accomplishes this goal and students enjoy it and often ask to play. I’m happy to oblige because they speak (or write) so much during this activity.
- Begin by hiding 20-30 prompt cards. These can be index cards with vocabulary words, an image, a question about a reading, or proficiency-based questions aligned with ACTFL standards. The possibilities are endless for prompts based on the material that is being covered in class. Memory Cards or Task Cards work very well for this this activity.
- Pairs of students set out to find the prompts and when they do they return to the teacher with the card and perform the task: identify the image in the target language, use the word or verb in a sentence, answer a proficiency-based question or complete a Task Card. Lots of possibilities. This can all be through speaking or writing. When writing I give pairs a small white board and marker.
- If the pair responds correctly they can get a point for their team or the teacher can make it a point for the entire class with the goal being to get a certain number of points collectively in a specified amount of time. The teacher keeps the prompt card and the pair sets back out.
- Be sure to tell pairs that they need to wait in line to check in with the teacher so that that they don’t call crowd in.
Check out these task cards these task cards and memory cards that work well in this activity.
This game motivates students to speak and to recall vocabulary. Any type of thematic vocabulary can be used.
The Set -Up: Lay out abut 5 or 6 index cards or slips if paper. Choose three vocabulary themes (numbers, colors, family, professions, verbs, etc.). Choose one word and write it on half of the cards. Choose another word and write it on the rest of the cards. Do the same thing for the two remaining vocabulary themes. Each card should have three words. Make sure that no two cards have the same three words.
The Activity: Hand the cards out to students and have those students go to the front of the room. Tell the rest of the students (and write on the board) all of the words that are written on the cards. The teacher chooses one of the cards in advance and it is the class’s task to figure out who has the card by asking questions of each person who is holding a card. They need to keep track of the information that they learn and make a guess when they think that they figured out the right person.
Keep it Communicative: Write digits, draw lines in color, draw (print out) pictures, etc. for the cards so that students must use their own language to play the game rather than simply reading words. Use these for the students who are asking the questions as well.
There are many variation for this activity, including more advanced questions using various tenses (the card may say “to eat-preterit” and the question would be “did you eat?”). This can also be used several times in the same class, just switch the students and choose another card.
This is a great way to get students reading new words and understanding their meaning. Begin by placing the same number of slips of paper as you have students in your world language class side by side on a table in front of you. On the first slip write the word for “start” in the target language. On the back of the slip of paper, write a new vocabulary word that the class has been familiar with for a few class periods. On the next slip of paper write the English translation of the vocabulary word. On the back of that slip, write another new vocabulary word in the target language. On the next slip, write the English translation of the word with another target language word on the back of that sheet. Continue with these words on both sides of the slips of paper until there are enough for all of the students in the class. Write “end” in the target language on the back of the last slip of paper.
In class, give a slip of paper to each student in the class. The student with the word “start” begins by saying his or her target-language word and the student who has the translation says the meaning in English, then turns his or her paper over and says the target-language word. The student the translation of that word then turns the paper over and says the target language word. The class continues until the student with the word “end” says “end”. Time the class and try to have them beat their time by repeating the activity. Have students exchange slips of paper to change the order and to expose them to other words. If a student is absent be sure to give two slips to another student so that the process continues.
This can also be done with verb tenses. Write a subject and verb on the card and the verb in a the chosen-tense on the other card. If the class has done a number of tenses, you can write a subject and verb along with one of the tenses (i.e. yo/comer/imperfecto or io/mangaiare/pasato remoto). Try using adjectives as well, with a noun and an adjective (des chats/noir) and write the correct form of the adjective on another sheet).
Another variation is to have students put themselves in the correct order without speaking.
This game is essentially like Scrabble, but players are not limited by a few letters. Rather, players can create any word that they want using whatever letters that they want. This game is best played with two players so that each player stays involved, but you can also play with groups of three or four. Create a grid (by hand or on a Word document) that has about 200 boxes. Randomly shade in about 25 boxes. Write a word somewhere around the middle of the grid so that players have a starting point. As each player takes a turn, he/she must write a word into the grid that builds on a letter from a preexisting word (see how this is like Scrabble?). For each letter that the player puts into the grid, he/she gets one point. If the player writes a letter in a shaded box, that letter is worth two points. This point system motivates players to find the longest words that they know in the target language. For an added challenge, you can give them limited vocabulary themes, such as days/months/numbers, food, or verbs. Set a time limit and the player with the most points wins. You can make it less challenging by making broader categories and allowing players to repeat words. Here is a scaled-down version of what the game grid might look like:
Download a template HERE.
This is a great site out of England that has pages and pages of online activities for students. It is very well organized and you can find almost any topic that you want. It is comepletly free.
Check it out HERE.
Remember all games we liked to play while growing up (and still like to play now)? There was Scrabble®, Yahtzee®, Sorry®, Monopoly®, Twister®, Ker Plunk®, and many others. I am finding that even with the invention and arrival of all of the new computer and video games on the market, kids are always content to play the classics once in while. I think that they are intrigued that you can move game pieces or read a card without having to plug anything in. This has inspired me to use these classic games in my classroom with my middle school students, with some modifications of course. The addition of a language-learning component can easily turn these “games” into an enrichment activity. Sometimes I use the game pieces or the game-board and make up my own rules. You can be very creative with these “raw” materials. I simply try to find a way of using a game that I have enjoyed (and have access to) that can have a language objective.
I was recently introduced to the new game LCR® (Left Center Right). The game is simple and requires very few materials. There are three dice, each marked with an “L” for “Left”, a “C” for “Center,” and an “R” for “Right.” The other sides have a dot.
Each player (there should be at least 4) gets three tokens or chips. Player one begins by rolling the dice. If he gets an “L” he must pass a chip to the person to his left. If he gets an “R” he must pass a chip to the person to his right, and if he gets a “C” he must put a chip in the center of the table. If he rolls a dot he keeps the chip. The game continues clockwise until one person is left with a chip(s) and he is the winner. The game is fast-paced and the players constantly say, “two to the left” or “one to the right.”
This is a great game for world language classes, helping students to learn and practice the words for left and right (and sometimes finally be able to distinguish their left from their right.) I found some blank wooden blocks at a local craft store. They were very inexpensive, about $4 for a bag of 50. I took a black marker and wrote the letters “G,” “C,” and “D” on the blocks and put dots on the other sides. I now have the French version of the game (Gauche, Centre, Droite). I did the same for my Spanish classes, marking the cubes with “I,” “C,” and “D” (Izquierda, Centro, Derecha). The students play in a group of five and I give them bingo chips.
This is just one example of using a common game in the classroom. There is probably a way to use just about any game since communication is typically required.