Adjectives Assemble! 16 Spanish Activities to Strengthen Descriptive Abilities
Not everybody loves grammar, but grammar lessons are a necessary evil.
And whoever really does not like it has probably had a teacher that made grammar lessons pure torture.
Don’t worry. It doesn’t have to be like that! Grammar can be fun, and your students’ enjoyment of it just depends on how far you are willing to go to motivate and excite them.
If you are willing to add games, songs and activities to the mix, then you are already on the right track!
Here I have put together 16 (yes, count ’em, 16!) awesome activities to teach Spanish adjectives. But why just adjectives?
Adjectives are the perfect introduction, for both you and your students, to truly fun grammar lessons. Seriously. Adjectives are what spices up the language. They give that extra flavor and can allow the speaker to express romance and drama, color and intensity, personality and passion. When it comes to describing anyone or anything, anywhere and anytime, it is all about the adjectives.
And it is not just a lesson to be taught to beginners. Adjectives can also be taught to advanced students because the more complex adjectives they know, the richer their Spanish will be. No matter what level your students are, boosting their knowledge of adjectives (and how to use them properly) is a great way to pump up their overall lexicon and confidence in their abilities.
So, start reading and choose the best activities to suit your class. You can always add a little of your own creativity and give your lesson a personal touch.
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16 Flavorful Spanish Grammar Activities to Give Students a Palette of Adjectives
—Warming Up the Class—
Warm up activities are very important to set the mood for any language class. They have to be simple and easy, almost effortless. If they are fun, even better! You can always adapt them to your students’ age or language level.
1. Make the Body Think
With this activity you will definitely wake up your class. If your students are beginners, you can do this warm up the very next day after you teach them some new adjectives. You can do it with non-beginners on the day you will be reviewing or teaching adjectives.
To get started, give an instruction that they have to follow physically whenever they hear a specific adjective or type of adjective.
Example time. Rattle off some random adjectives to your class. When you say a masculine adjective, the male students stand up. When you say a feminine adjective, then the female students do. Then you will have adjectives that can be both masculine and feminine, like inteligente (intelligent), so everybody will have to stand up.
You can also tell them adjectives and ask them to stand up if the adjective has a spelling modification when it is changed from singular to plural. For example: feliz ⇒ felices (happy) has a spelling modification, so they would have to stand up when you say “feliz.” Then if they hear adjectives that do not have a spelling modification in the plural form, you could have them perform another action like clapping or raising their hands. One example is the case of independiente ⇒ independientes (independent) where you just add an -s to make the plural form, without any spelling modification.
You can adapt this warm up however you like. You get the picture. The point is to make them think with both their brains and their bodies at the same time. Even if it is grammar, it can be fun!
2. Pass the Ball
This activity is very fun and it is also definitively a “wake up!” kind of activity. It can be done with students of all ages and levels, and it can work for topics well beyond adjective lessons. Even if you will just use some adjectives in a small part of your lesson, this is a great activity to start any class.
All you need is to have a ball and maybe some specific adjectives prepared. Throw the ball at your students and tell them an adjective. The student that received the ball has to change the adjective from masculine to feminine or tell you its plural form. For example: astuto ⇒ astuta (clever), extraordinario ⇒ extraordinarios (extraordinary).
A variation of this game is that the one who caught the ball has to say an adjective that starts with the second letter of the adjective previously said. For example: rOjo ⇒ oRdinario ⇒ rEal ⇒ eLegante ⇒ lIsto, etc. (red – ordinary – real/royal – elegant – smart/ready). That’s a real thinker, so feel free to let students write down words as you go, so that they can figure out which letter is the second on in the word.
Then they can either pass the ball back to you each time so you can throw it to another student—a great way to make sure you get everyone participating—or you can let the one who answered throw the ball at someone else. That student will need to come up a new word that follows the pattern of the game, and starts with the second letter of the last word. Alternatively, you can have the last student give them an adjective. You will make them think harder if they have to come up with their own adjectives to give to other students.
Just remember that this has to be a dynamic activity to avoid boredom, so if they get stuck help them out and keep the activity flowing.
3. Pairing up
This is a great activity to practice noun and adjective agreement. No matter how advanced your students are, they always have problems with the agreement. Even people who are nearly fluent will slip up with this from time to time. So, any time is a good time to squeeze in some extra practice with this! The more regular practice they get, the more natural and intuitive these agreements will feel.
You will have to prepare some small pieces of paper in advance, on which you will have written either nouns or adjectives. Then students will have to pair each noun up with an adjective so they all agree.
There are plenty of variations you can do to adapt the activity to your class. If they are beginners, use simple pairs that still make them practice elements that can be confusing. For example, words like taxista should be thrown into the mix. Since taxista ends in a, a lot of students get confused thinking it is exclusively feminine, so using an adjective that ends in o will make the brain work. Then they can make matches like taxista grosero (rude taxi driver).
For more advanced students, you can use more complicated pairs that they can only solve having a rich vocabulary. How would you feel about throwing them a pair like actitud ecuánime (unbiased attitude) or estribillo repetitivo (repetitive refrain)?
And if you want to spice up the activity you can divide your class in teams and make team compete. You give them the exact same set of pairs and see who can solve it faster. They will only get points if:
- the pair makes sense (you can always have pairs that allow several solutions)
- there is noun-adjective agreement
- they place them in the correct order (mesa roja and no roja mesa) (red table and no table red).
4. What Do They Have in Common?
This can be a simple activity for beginners or a more complex one for intermediate or advanced students. If your lesson will be focused on creative writing, this activity is great for activating their imagination from the beginning of the class. (Note: see activities # 15 and 16)
Basically they have to come up with an adjective that describes a set of elements. For example, what do an elephant, a whale and a bear have in common? (They are big)
You will give them a couple of minutes so each of them can think of at least three sets of words for the class. You can also use the ball for this one to choose who asks about their set (I personally love the ball at the beginning of the class, it always gave my classes a very relaxed environment to start with).
If your lesson will be all about creativity make sure you ask them to come up with really crazy sets of words. What could a cup of tea after breakfast, a new house and a notebook on the first day of class have in common? Let them find out!
These activities are great to do in the middle of the class. Let’s say you just taught them some grammar or they just did a really long exercise and they are evidently exhausted; well, any of these activities can change their mood and relax them a bit.
5. Open Your Ears
This is a listening activity, great to contrast a written one. And it is ideal for students of all levels. Select a suitable audio sample—one that mainly features vocabulary and grammar that is at their level—and let them find all the adjectives in it.
You do not even have to make them fill in the blanks in the lyrics. They can simply listen and jot down all the adjectives they hear. Then they will compare their results either in pairs or all together. If they are beginners, it is better to compare results as a group to clear all the doubts and get involved in more discussion.
Another excellent variation on this is to have two audio samples that have similar yet different information, like two broadcasts from two radio stations on the same news story. For example, here you have a couple of links from some news reports in which the main theme is a famous building in Mexico City (sample 1, sample 2). One report has more adjectives than the other one, but can your students tell why? Which adjectives are only featured in one but not the other? What makes both narrations different? Ask them to discuss how different adjectives can convey a different tone, attitude or meaning.
You can even ask them to create a third news report on the same building but with different adjectives. What kind of narration would it have to be? What adjectives are suitable for news report, and what ones are more suitable for a casual podcast? It can be a team activity. You can always find more fun audios with themes related to the ones you are teaching.
6. How Well Can You Describe?
This is an activity that you can squeeze in the middle of any lesson. Spanish is a very descriptive language and that is why adjectives are so important. Students at any level can feel like they are approaching fluency faster once they have more diverse adjectives at their disposal. This activity will work for students of all levels, so you can just adapt the task according to the amount of vocabulary they know.
They will have to describe something specific to participate. That something specific can be chosen from their imaginations or from an image. Pictures always work great, so clip some out of newspapers or magazines. Of course, if you have a computer and access to Internet, you can print them out, show them the pictures on-screen or you can even use videos.
You can start off with basic people descriptions for beginners but with a slight twist: Assign them a picture of a person of the opposite sex and tell them that they have to describe them in first person. They have to speak as if they were that person. This will force them to think more carefully about the gender of each noun and its agreement with adjectives.
You can also ask each of your students to give you certain amount of adjectives that describe the classroom (their house, family, garden, dog, the winter, the spring, a park, etc.) and you write them in the board. Then you ask them to choose some of those adjectives and to use them to describe something else. Just remind them about the noun and adjective agreement.
If you have the possibility to get your students outside of the classroom, do it. Use their surroundings to inspire them to describe something of their choice. Learning will be more meaningful if it makes sense. This is essentially a Spanish class version of the classic “I Spy.”
7. Noun and Adjective Agreement Domino
This activity is mainly for beginners or for children that are more advanced but need a game to break the routine.
Here is the link to the activity and how to do it and here is a link to the domino ready to print. Of course, you can use it as an inspiration to create your own domino with more complex nouns and adjectives (or adapt the idea to any other lesson plan).
Divide the cards among the students. If it is a large group, I recommend you to make two or three sets and team up your students to make the activity more dynamic. They have to put together a noun or an adjective that agrees with one on the table. And after they make a correct match, they have to use that pair in a sentence.
8. Ask the Stars How You Are
With this activity you will basically have fun with the horoscope. No matter if they take it seriously or not, you are going to use it for fun!
This can work for any level; if you have advanced students you can simply make more—and more difficult—questions.
You need to prepare a description of each zodiac sign in Spanish, using both phrases/idioms and adjectives. So, each phrase/idiom will have an adjective that matches it. Write every phrase/idiom and adjective on a separate card or piece of paper. Students will then have to figure out which matches with which.
No mataría ni a una mosca (wouldn’t kill a fly) — pacífico (peaceful)
Siempre dice lo que piensa (always speaks his mind) — extrovertido (extrovert)
After matching the phrases and adjectives, they will then need to find their own description according to their zodiac sign, and you can have a discussion whether they agree with it or not. If the group is large, divide them into groups and let them talk about it within their groups. You can give them an example of how to agree or disagree with what is said of them by their zodiac sign, for example:
“Yo no soy extrovertido, yo más bien soy tímido.” (I am not extroverted, I am actually shy.)
After you finished that activity, you can ask them to divide the adjectives into cualidades (strengths) and defectos (weaknesses) and discuss it as a group. Are they all definitively positive and negative traits? Or could some be both? Some adjectives can be polemic, and this will give them a great opportunity to defend their perspective!
—Immersion Activities to Fill a Whole Lesson—
These activities can become whole lessons if you are willing to go far. And since they are hands-on activities, the learning becomes more significant. Plus, they can work with students of any level because they can easily be adapted. And trust me, these are lessons that your students will remember for years!
9. Turn Your Class into a Museum
For this activity, it is important that you give students a list of adjectives that are helpful when talking about art. Create a list of vocabulary related to artistic media, techniques, materials and displays.
In the class session prior to doing this activity, you can start setting the mood by showing them on the computer some famous art pieces of your choice. Ask them to describe them, and you will end up building that adjective list together. As homework, ask them to study the list—you can always trick them by telling them you will have an exam the following class to force them to study.
And now imagine what a nice surprise it will be for them—nervous and worried about an exam—to arrive to a classroom that looks like a museum. They will love it!
Of course you will need to prepare few things in advance; for the art exhibit you can either print some pictures of paintings or you can bring “sculptures” (that can basically be any decorative object) and distribute them around your classroom to make it look like a gallery or a museum. You can also bring few lamps to add illumination to your “gallery,” as well as some drinks or snacks for the “visitors” to give it a more realistic touch.
Tell them they were invited to an art opening and they are going to role-play being art critics. All the adjectives they studied for that fake exam will come in handy during this activity. You can let them role play on their own and just walk around them encouraging more conversation.
You can close up the activity with a group discussion of the activity and you can ask them to write a small art critic piece for a magazine—that you can even assemble yourself at the end of the unit.
10. Transform Music into Words
With this activity your students will transform music into words—more specifically into adjectives. Music is an incredibly powerful art form because it can cause all sorts of emotions in a short time. And to describe emotions we need adjectives.
In this case, it is not so much about becoming music critics (although for advanced students, you can definitely consider exploring that idea to complement the activity). Rather, the goal of this activity is more related to feeling the music and being able to express the feeling.
You are basically just going to play them some music and ask them to write all the adjectives that each piece (or song) makes them feel. Make sure you select different fragments of pieces that reflect different emotions. They can also use adjectives to describe the pace, rhythm, mood and movement of the music itself.
To spice up the activity, you can rearrange the classroom in advance to make it more comfortable. Adding some cushions or pillows and changing a bit the illumination with a lamp will give you the perfect setting. Now they can relax and enjoy.
11. Food Tasting Day!
As with the museum activity, it is important that your students have learned some food-related vocabulary in advance. You can either give them a list to study in a previous class or you can do this activity after any lesson in which you talked about food, just make their established vocabulary that much richer.
Organize a food tasting in your classroom. You can make it like those cooking reality shows in which there are judges that have to try some food and talk about it. Or you can pretend you are doing some food tasting for an event. Be as creative as you want!
You can ask your students to prepare some simple dishes and bring them to class. On the selected date for the food tasting, you will organize your classroom in advance to make it look like a judge panel in a studio, or like a restaurant. A few pieces of fabric spread out like tablecloths can make a classroom look very different. Don’t forget some forks, spoons and paper plates to serve the food. This change of environment can be a welcome breath of fresh air.
They will need a lot of adjectives to describe the colors, flavors and textures of the food, and after this activity those adjectives are really going to stick!
12. Smell Paradise
In a way, this is a more challenging activity since we are not used to experiencing the world primarily through our noses. And even if we are, we are not really aware that we are doing this. Because of this, this can be a really interesting activity.
It is as simple as this: Have them smell different things and then describe the smell. What things to smell? Fruits, vegetables and other foods are always good. Soaps, shampoos, perfumes and other fragrant items are fun to add in.
One version can be to do it with their eyes open so they can see what they are smelling and then describe it. Another version can be to have them blindfolded so they cannot see what they are smelling and they have to guess what it is.
For the first version, you can bring different objects and distribute them between them—depending on how large is your class, you can either pair them or group them. Let them smell and talk about it—is it strong (fuerte), sweet (dulce), soft (suave) or intense (intenso)? Do they agree or disagree with each other about the smells, and why?
For the second version, you will blindfold your students (one at a time) and pass them to the front and give them something to smell. They have to describe the smell and after, without the blindfold, you show them several pictures so they match the correct one with the smell. Since you will go one student at a time, this version is best for small groups.
13. Discover the World with Your Hands
This is another activity that replaces sight as our main sense, and your students will do it blindfolded! As a preparation, ask them in the previous class to tell you all the adjectives they can think of that do not involve sight in any way—so colors are out! There are many adjectives that describe things that we can touch and feel, and now is the time to focus on those. Talk about textures, temperatures, shapes and more.
On the day you will do this activity, aside from the blindfold you should also bring objects of different sizes and textures. If the group is large, you can bring more than one blindfold and divide them in groups. Let them touch the objects and describe them.
If you want to spice up the activity, rearrange your classroom to make it look like a museum. Just make sure that there is easy access to the objects on display, and that there are clear paths for students to walk along. Go around and place plenty of objects in the “museum” to touch. In this case, you can put them in pairs—only one is blindfolded. The one that can see is the museum guide and the other one will touch the objects and describe them to his/her partner. Then they switch roles. Just do not forget to rearrange or replace the objects so it feels like a new activity for the ones who were able to see before!
14. Feel the Colors
Who said that colors are only for beginners? You can use the colors to open up more difficult activities to intermediate and advanced students. How about letting the colors express some feelings? Though we see colors every day, now you can show your students how to feel them!
For this activity, ask them first to write down a feeling or emotion that they associate with each color. For example:
amarillo – avaricia (yellow – greed)
azul – paz (blue – peace)
They can write more than one emotion for each color. Then ask them to transform each feeling into an adjective. So:
avaricia – avaro (greed – greedy)
paz – pacífico (peace – peaceful).
Now they are going to fool around with those adjectives. After you checked they got the adjectives right, put them in pairs and let them ask each other what their favorite colors are. According to what each one wrote on each color, they will describe their partner based on those favorite colors. So for example, if one student told the other one his favorite color is amarillo, the other will look at their paper with the associated feeling adjectives and tell him:
“eso significa que eres avaro.” (“that means you are greedy.”)
The other student can then make a statement to show that they agree or disagree, for example:
“no soy avaro, yo me considero generoso.” (“I am not greedy, I think of myself as generous.”)
Through play they will practice new adjectives. These personal, emotional and, in a way, colorful adjectives. This can turn out to be pretty fun!
These activities are for intermediate and advanced students, since they will end up doing some creative writing. We always teach our students the practical use of the language, so how about now teaching them some creative use as well?
They will be amazed by their creations at the end of the class, and if you decide to turn their stories into a book and give it to them at the end of the year, they will love it!
15. Go with the Flow
Here you are basically going to let them flow into a stream-of-consciousness kind of activity, only one that focuses on adjectives above all else. So, they’ll have to direct their consciousness just a little. You will give them time—let’s say from three to five minutes—and then they will need to write down all the adjectives that they can come up with.
The idea is not to stop to think, but to flow. And how can they accomplish this? Give them a “safe letter”—a common one like a or s—and tell them that every time they get stuck instead of thinking, they have to write the first word that appears in their mind that starts with the safe letter. In this case, the “safe word” doesn’t have to be an adjective. It is just a method to help them regain the flow. When the time ends, ask them to write an adjective to match up with each “safe word” they wrote.
Now that they have their list of adjectives, ask them to write a noun that corresponds to each adjective. You can also ask them to exchange their list with another student and fill in the nouns of the other student’s list.
Then later, with their list back in hand—full of nouns and corrected by you—ask them to write a story that includes all those pairs of words. Not only you, but they too will be amazed by the results!
16. How Crazy Can Your Story Go?
The third activity on this list, “paring up,” is going to come in handy now because you are going to do a creative variation on it and you will get some pretty cool results.
For the warm up activity, you kept the pairs simple so they could solve them fast. Now this is not as important. In this activity, they will not need to compete or watch the clock.
You do have to prepare in advance a set of pairs for the students (nouns and adjectives on different pieces of paper). You will give each student their own set but with the same words. This time, make sure that they can combine the all the different nouns with different adjectives so the pairs they get will be different from each other’s.
Once they have matched words up, now they have to write a story with those pairs. Each noun will be a character in the story, so make sure to keep that in mind when you write down the nouns. Of course, you can go as extreme as you like and include some objects among your nouns. I am sure that having an object as a character will make their imagination flow and they will find themselves using the language in a way they were totally not expecting.
If you turn this into a book and give it to them, they will love to see how many different stories can come out from very similar (or completely identical) sets of words!
So how about now? Do you feel you are ready to teach them a fun grammar lesson without them even realizing it?
With your own personal touch, you can make any of these activities blossom into memorable ones!
Help them spice up their Spanish world and have fun along the way!
Download: This blog post is available as a convenient and portable PDF that you can take anywhere. Click here to get a copy. (Download)