Activities & Games for Foreign and First Language Classes
A teacher of Spanish shares her favorite and most effective games and activities to boost vocabulary and grammar skills in any language!
by Rebecca Klamert
New contributor to the Gazette
January 1, 2009
This is a compilation of games that I have learned from other teachers, played in school when I was a child, as well as created myself.
Board races - Split the class into teams (as small as possible while still having enough room at the board for one member of each time). Have a representative of each team at the board. Give them a word or definition. First one to spell it correctly in the target language gets a point for their team. Do not allow team members to help. This works with verbs and sentence translations as well. Just give them a subject and verb and they have to conjugate it.
Tic Tac Toe - Have students get into groups of two and draw a large tic tac toe board on a sheet of paper or individual white board. Give a word or definition. The first person writes the word in the target language in the square where they would like their X or O. After about 30 seconds call time and write the correct answer on the board. Students earn their X or O by having it spelled perfectly. This can also be done as a whole class by splitting the class into to teams and playing one game at the board. This works with conjugating verbs as well.
Maquina de escribir/Typewriter - Split the class into two teams. Give students letters of the alphabet (including any accents or other letters in the target language) so that both teams have every letter of the alphabet. Tell students to write their letter(s) on a blank sheet of paper. Give a word or definition. Give both teams 30 seconds to confer and write out the word on their own paper. Then ask team A to spell it. Whoever has the first letter of the word says the entire word and then says their letter. The person who has the next letter says their letter in the target language. Continue until the last person says their letter and then they repeat the word again. Students may only say the letters you gave them and may not help or talk at all during this time (except to say their letter). If team A makes a mistake, stop them and give team B a chance. Then for the next word start with Team B.
Spelling game with paper plates - Split the class into teams (about 8 people on a team seems to work best). Give each team a set of paper plates each with a different letter of the alphabet on them (including any accents or other letters in the target language). Give the class a word or definition. Have them organize themselves in order of the letters. If a letter is repeated that student should be prepared to move to the next spot(s) in the word. Once all teams are ready, have the first person say the entire word and then their letter as well as show their letter, continue until the end of the word when the last person finishes by saying the entire word again. If you can do this outside or in a big space so that teams are far enough apart, you can just move from team to team and each team gets a chance to earn a point. If you do it in your classroom, give team A a chance and then only if they make a mistake give team B a chance to steal and alternate teams to start with.
Brillante/Sparkle – This is a game that colleagues of mine use. All students stand in a circle. Start with one person. Give that person a word in Spanish. They say the letter it starts with and each person around the circle adds the next letter. At the end of the word the next person says "brillante" or “sparkle” and the next person is out and sits down. A person is out if they make a mistake on the letter as well.
Barco de batalla con vocabulario/Battle Ship with vocabulary – Give each student a battle ship board. Students pick vocabulary words as their ships. I usually tell them to pick 3 (or 4 if they are shorter words). They then write them with one letter in each box either horizontally or vertically. Have students play battleship following the typical rules of battleship (but in the target language). When someone hits their ship, they also give the letter so their opponent starts seeing a word appear. First one to find all ships wins. This game is practice recognition more than production and is great after just introducing new words.
Barco de batalla con verbos/Battle Ship with verbs – Give each student a battle ship board with subjects along the left and verbs to conjugate along the top. Students draw in their ships (same size ships as in battleship). Then to guess they must accurately conjugate the verb in the tense you tell them. If their opponent hears them conjugate it wrong, they should not tell them whether it is a hit or miss and they lose a turn. This way it really gets kids listening for the correct conjugations. First person to find all of their opponent’s ships wins.
Dice activity - Put students in groups (the smaller the better) and give each group two dice (two different colors works best). On the board or overhead list the two colors of dice and under one of them have a different subject for each number and under the other one a different verb for each number. A student rolls both dice and conjugates the verb according to the numbers he rolled. This can be done orally or have students write down the conjugations.
Verb ball - Divide class into two teams. Have one team at the board while another team is in another area of the classroom where you have a basket (recycling bin, garbage can, etc.) set up. The team at the board conjugates a verb you give them in all forms while the other team shoots baskets (with a soft ball or wad of paper) from a set distance. The shooting team gets one point for each basket they make but must stop the second the other team has the verb conjugated correctly. Then the teams switch places. The faster the team can conjugate a verb the less chances the other team has to score points.
Around the World - Have the first student stand next to the next student. Give the students a word to translate or a subject and verb to conjugate (or have them on flashcards). First student to say the correct answer moves on to the next student. Any time a student loses, that student sits wherever they end up. The goal is to move as many places as possible.
Seat Races – Have prepared ahead of time a list of words to translate or a list of subjects and verbs to conjugate. Put students in groups of 3-5 (rows work really well for this). Give the sheet to the first students face down and tell them not to turn it over until you tell them to. Have all students in a group write their names on the back of the sheet (so they don’t have to waste time writing names once the game starts). When you say go, the first person flips over the sheet and completes the first question. They then pass it to the next person. On a student’s turn, the student must complete the next one (and only one) in order and they may make one correction they see. As soon as a team is done have them hand it in to you. The goal is to be the first team done with the most correct.
Rebecca Klamert is a 4th year Spanish teacher who taught for 3 years in Minnesota and is now teaching in a very small town in Wisconsin. She has taught Spanish I, Spanish II, Spanish III, Advanced Spanish (combined III/IV), Exploratory Spanish, and 7th Grade immersion Spanish. For links, files (including battleship boards), and other useful things (mostly geared towards language teachers), check out Ms. Klamert’s website. The site was designed as a way to keep resources all in one place and share lessons and activities Rebecca has found. Check back often as she plans to continue to update the site. “I love technology and am always looking for new ways to incorporate technology into my lessons.”