Learning Spanish doesn’t have to be a chore—and neither does teaching it.
There are lots of games that will help students exercise their Spanish knowledge, broaden their vocabulary and work together. Research has even shown that concentrating on other activities (like awesome games) while practicing a foreign language helps you memorize new words.
No matter who wins or loses the games, every student will be a winner—they’re all learning, practicing and achieving something in the process of playing. In the end, the whole goal is to increase their exposure to the language. Here are a few favorites for getting the job done.
Win, Lose or Draw: 6 Fun Spanish Games Your Students Will Love
You can buy an inexpensive, authentic lotería (lottery) game on a trip to Latin America or in a teaching materials store, or you can simply print out your own cards from the Internet. You can get tablas (cards, literally “boards”) with the word for the picture next to it, or you can get ones that are pictures only. Beginning students find the ones with words useful, but intermediate students will be pleasantly challenged with just the pictures alone.
Here are some resources for setting up a winning game of lotería:
- (Printable Cards) Viva la Lotería!
- (Printable Cards) Kids Printable Page
- (Adorable Mini Lotería Cards) Bees Knees Industries
- (Free DIY Cards and Lotería Announcer) Maravilla Software
- (Free Lotería Game on Facebook)—Lotería Mexicana
Warning: Some of the pictures in the first resource (and some others) are classified as folk art but are somewhat racy. The sirena (mermaid) is topless, there is a borracho (drunk), and the corazon (heart) looks ready for a transplant—it’s not a valentine. The sirena can be fixed with a felt-tip marker. The borracho may respond to Alcohólicos Anónimos (Alcoholics Anonymous) but all that’s up to your discretion. Even so, you can see that this is some useful vocabulary—and a game that might work as-is for adult students.
This game is like Bingo but with pictures instead of numbers. It’s even great for the first day of beginning Spanish class because you can get the students speaking and learning right away.
You can be the announcer (the person who calls out the card content) or have students take turns with this role. When a card is called, the whole class should repeat the word(s) together and then hunt for that picture on their tabla. You can use dried beans to mark the pictures that are called so you can reuse the tablas. When a student fills up the card, he shouts “lotería!” and wins. Have the winner read the words from their tabla aloud so you can ensure they really did win.
More advanced Spanish speakers use a rhyme to make a riddle about the word and players guess at the word. This is more challenging. This game is so much fun that it is played all over Mexico by adult native speakers. Learn more about lotería history here!
2. Cuenta atrás (Countdown)
Have students stand in a circle. If you have more than a dozen students, make two groups. Announce the highest number that will start the countdown and throw a ball to one of the students. He should say the next number down and throw the ball to another student. For example, you say “cien” and throw the ball. The next student says “noventa y nueve!” and throws the ball.
A soft, sponge ball works well for this game. If you want to slow down the game for beginners, use a balloon. The throws are random, so students must pay attention—the next turn could be theirs!
3. Listas (Lists)
Divide students into groups of three or four. The groups do not have to be even. Give them all the same topic, for example, school things, fruits, sports or colors. Have each group write down as many Spanish words that relate to the topic as they can think of. Give them between ten and fifteen minutes to do this.
Have teams state the total numbers of words on their lists. Then have one team read their list and have the other teams cross out words that the first team has listed. The next team to read their words aloud will have a shorter list, as they read only words not listed by the first team. Continue until all teams have read their lists. Write the words unique to each list on the board.
4. En el ático de mi abuela (In my grandmother’s attic)
This is a repetition game. Each player repeats what was said by the previous player and adds something. This can be alphabetical or not. Make it more productive by having everyone repeat the entire sentence together before the next player adds an object. Things can be funny, outlandish or even impossible. This is good practice for matching articles with nouns and using “hay.”
En el ático de mi abuela hay una licuadora. (In my grandmother’s attic there is a blender.)
En el ático de mi abuela hay una licuadora y un fútbol. (In my grandmother’s attic there is a blender and a football.)
If players want they can make notes but remember that exercising your memory makes it stronger, just like exercising your muscles. And a stronger memory can certainly help you learn Spanish.
5. Voy a Sevilla (I’m going to Seville)
Another repetition game with a twist. You will need to break students into groups if your class is large. Each group (or the whole class) will have a student appointed as the game leader. The leader chooses a category of items and names one. Here are some examples of categories:
- things that grow in the ground
- words that begin with the letter L
- things in the water
So the leader says that they’re going to Seville and names one item from the chosen category that they’re taking with them. For example, if the student leader thought of textiles (textiles) as a category, they might then say “voy a Sevilla y llevo un kilo de algodón.” (I’m going to Seville and taking a kilo of cotton.)
The goal for the other players is to get the leader’s permission to accompany them to Seville. They can only go if they have an item in the leader’s category of items. One player might say, “tengo un pez, ¿puedo ir también?” (I have a fish, can I go too?). The leader answers “no” in this case.
If a player names an item in the same category, then the leader says “sí!” and that student wins the round.
6. Carrera de Relevos (Relay Race)
Younger students love this game that gets them moving and using their hands.
Collect several unbreakable items that relate to your lesson, or at least represent words they have learned. Examples might be plastic fruits and vegetables, toy cars in two or three different colors, plastic tableware—spoon, fork, knife, plate, cup, glass.
Divide them into two teams and line the teams up at the far end of the teaching space. Put the items in a large box at the other end of the space. The leader stands between the two teams and calls out an item in Spanish. The first person on each team must run to the box, find the correct item and bring it back to the leader.
Instruct the students that there is to be no fighting and, if necessary, match girls against girls and boys against boys. If there are some extra items in the box it makes it more difficult. The leader keeps score, giving one point to the team that brings back the correct item each time. Announce the score from time to time. It really gets interesting when the equipos están empatados (the teams are tied). Continue playing until every student has had a chance to bring back an item. All the kids will be laughing and ready to sit still after this game.
You’ve got some great Spanish games to start with. Don’t forget old favorites like Veinte preguntas (Twenty questions) and Bingo. The kids already know how to play but doing it in Spanish can be a challenge.
With all these game possibilities, I bet you’re ready to get started playing right now!
Remember that some extra incentive can always be provided in the form of a candy or sticker for the winners, if your school permits it. Writing the names of the winning team on the blackboard for the day, labeled as ganadores (winners) is another good reward.
Ahora a jugar! (now let’s play!)
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