I am always a fan of repurposing things in my classroom. Why completely reinvent the wheel when you can just spin it in a different way? Playing cards are something that I always seem to have so I got to work trying to figure out how I can use them to get students speaking the target language. I always want to make sure that in addition to practicing vocabulary and language structures (initially) that activities and tasks also provide ample opportunities for authentic communication as well.
Last year I wrote a blog post about an activity that I crafted using playing cards. You can read the details of that those activities HERE. I was looking though Pinterest and saw that there was a math game that many teachers are doing using playing cards and I started thinking about how I could do this type of activity with my foreign language students. The teachers were having groups lay out the cards in a path of their choice and using them as a sort of playing board. I thought that this be easily modified for use with foreign language vocabulary and language structures and it also lends itself very easily to proficiency levels depending on the task and prompts given to the students.
In my previous playing card activity post I wrote about a reference sheet that I created for students that coincides with each card in the deck.
I decided to have students use this same reference sheet to engage in this new activity. Students have a chance to get a little creative with how they lay out the card path. Once laid out they get a copy of the reference sheet. This can be pictures, time, subject/verb pairings, questions…unlimited possibilities. In addition to the deck of playing cards and the reference sheet, each group of 3-4 students also gets one die and a playing piece, such as different coins or any small object that distinguishes the players.
Each player takes a turn by rolling the die and moving the number of spaces (cards) along the path. They find the box on the reference sheet that corresponds with the card they land on (4 of diamonds, king of hearts, 10 of spades, etc.) and speak using what is in the box. If students are novice they may identify with a singe word or phrase, but intermediate students could use the word or picture in a complete, discreet sentence.
The first student to reach the end of the path is the winner. This can sometimes move quickly, so I have students keep points by the number of wins and go back and start again each time there is a winner.
Be sure to keep this communicative by asking students to do more than say a verb form, time or vocabulary word. Consider what the proficiency levels of the students are and have them speak using the reference prompt in context and with the text type that is at their proficiency level.
You can get these card reference sheets on a number topics by clicking the links below.
This is a fun and interactive way for students to practice vocabulary meaning, recognition and spelling. I call this activity “Everyone to the Table!”
Begin with 4-5 tables with 3-4 students at each table. On each table put 5-8 pictures of vocabulary that students are learning along with a piece of paper or index card with the words for the pictures. Students can easily be involved in this part of the process by having them draw or find pictures on the internet prior to the day of the activity.. They can also write the words needed on index cards or pieces of paper. Memory/concentration cards work well in this activity as well.
For the first few rounds students should work together with their team to put the picture and word card together. They should mix up the pictures and words before beginning. Have students do this several times and the group that assembles the pairs first raises their hand and gets a point for their team. With each subsequent round add in 2 new picture/word pairs. It’s good to add in some review vocabulary as well.
Once groups understand what they are supposed to do, the class can move on to another version of the game. This time teams mix up their words and pictures, but when the teachers says “Everyone to the table!” groups rotate to a new table and pair up the words and pictures. The first group to assemble the pairs raises their hands and gets a point. Groups then mix up the pictures and words and again rotate to the next table. New picture/word pairs can be added in this round too. When 2-3 rotations are complete the team with the most points wins.
The 100th day of school is a very important day in many elementary schools and there are lots of activities to celebrate, all based on the number 100. Each year, I challenge my 3rd graders to list 100 words and expressions that they know in the target language in 20 minutes. I give pairs of students a card with a category and they brainstorm words and expressions. It’s a great way for them to use category words in preparation for circumlocution.
We then write the list. I always hold off on using the words for numbers, unless they are needed to reach 100. We did not need to resort to them this year. It is all about the context. Rather than listing words for fruit, ask students to tell you which fruits are their favorite, or to describe the colors. Instead of asking for examples of verbs, have students tell you what they like to do on the weekends with their friends, and follow it up with when and where. Once they communicate in context the words and expressions keep coming.
This is a fun way for students to practice or review vocabulary . The activity is based on magic squares. There are 16 squares in each grid and each contains a vocabulary word (vegetable vocabulary in the example below). Below to the grid are 16 pictures. The student writes the number for the match in the grid. If done correctly, each row, column, and diagonal add up to 34. Great as a class starter or for a substitute. There is also a template below so you can make your own version with your own vocabulary.
You can make these activities in a WORD document using the template below or you can download the activities below the template that have the words and pictures in them.
This is a great well to keep students in the target language while they focus on a particular vocabulary theme. The example below using clothing. Give slip of paper to each student with pictures of five articles of clothing. There are 6 six pairs total. In the example below the slips on the left are paired with slips on the right.
Students circulate in the classroom and ask each other which clothing they have (they should not look at others’ answers or show theirs). The entire activity should take place in the target language. The objective is to find the other person who has the exact match. If there are more than 12 students in the class, photocopy additional slips and students need to find their group of 3 or 4 that all match. If there is an odd number of students in the class, be sure to give a slip that matches a group.
The first group to pair up without speaking English or looking at each other’s slip wins the round. Students can then exchange slips and play a second and third time. Before playing, review the vocabulary that students will need.
These activities can be made in a WORD document by cutting and pasting images, or you can download the activities that are already made here:
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 best for concrete vocabulary that can be seen in pictures. You can be more creative with more challenging concepts once you work with it. Draw two grids on the board with 9 squares (3X3). This can also be done on the floor of the classroom with tape. Divide the class into two teams and give them one, two or three topics, such as food, weather expressions, furniture, animals, action verbs, clothing, body parts, or colors.
Each team must choose 9 words in the target language that fit the given topic. They then write the words in the boxes on the board. Before playing, put pictures of the vocabulary in a box for each team (there should be two boxes-one for each team- with identical pictures in each). One at a time, a player from each team reaches into their box and takes out a picture. If they have the word in their grid that corresponds to the picture, they put the picture with the word (tape, magnet, etc.). Once they get three in a row, they get a point. It is best to give them a list of 12-15 words that are in the box for each category so that the teams are not choosing words that are not even in the box. Play two or three times, alternating between the teams. This can be done with grammar structures as well, such as verb forms or adjectives. The grid can also be 4X4 or 5X5 to make room for more vocabulary and a longer game.
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.