True story: I took my students to Spain this past summer.
The weather there is just amazing, so it was a great opportunity to make them fall in love with the Spanish way of life, the relaxed atmosphere, the outdoor lifestyle and, most importantly, the sun.
On our second day there, after a morning Spanish grammar practice session, we headed off to the waterpark.
There were loads of slides to enjoy and so little time!
At some point, though, one of my students went down a crazy slide and fell off his inner tube.
In the heat of the moment, he saw a 10-year-old Spanish kid and managed to shout out, “¡Ayuda, ayuda!” (Help!)
He was successfully rescued by the boy in a rather comical way, but the story does not end there.
When we were chatting about his “near-death experience” later on during the day (teenagers can be a bit dramatic…), my student claimed he remembered how to say “to help” (ayudar) after recently writing one of his essays. It had been about the importance of helping the environment (ayudar al medioambiente), so he got the word that “saved his life” (his words, not mine) from there.
How did he manage to successfully conjugate the verb on the spot, while he was falling down a water slide, though? He wasn’t able to explain it—and neither was I at first—but after some reflection, I have come to accept this is just another example of how successful grammar practice actually is.
Because enough quality practice will make it stick, and once it’s there, it won’t leave you. But what does this quality grammar practice look like? Keep reading for tested-and-approved activities!
Top Tips for the Best Spanish Grammar Practice
We all want our students to ace their Spanish grammar, as being able to apply this wide range of rules will significantly affect their understanding of what is being said in real life.
If you’re eager for Spanish grammar practice that will make things stick, have a look at my top tips:
- Let them try it first. Allow your higher-ability students to experiment with the grammar at their own pace. If you have introduced them to the present tense, for example, let them discover how to conjugate the past or the simple future on their own! It will allow them to have a deeper understanding and improve their execution.
- Follow your grammar explanations with AfL techniques. AfL, or Assessment for Learning techniques, are strategies to check the understanding of your students before moving on to something else. It requires less time than grading grammar exercises, and it’s the most effective way to correct small mistakes. Doing exercises on mini whiteboards or multiple choice answers (“Show me a yellow card for answer A, blue card for answer B…”) will allow you to get a feeling of how your whole class is doing with the new grammar point.
- Don’t run away from traditional grammar exercises. Grammar exercises can be considered boring and old-fashioned, but you’ll hardly find anything out there more effective for making it stick! I always give my students regular grammar practice as part of their homework, because, let’s face it, mastery comes from repetition.
- Practice weekly. The problem with grammar practice in Spanish lessons is the lack of consistency. I will be the first one to admit I haven’t always been on top of my planning enough to ensure I’m introducing regular activities that reinforce grammar points. It’s not a matter of setting some exercises the week after explaining a new grammar point and then forgetting about it for the next two or three weeks, but more a case of going back to them every so often to ensure it sticks with them forever. My advice? Set aside at least 15 minutes every week to do some grammar review, or plan to give your students regular pieces of homework based on grammar recap.
Now, are you in desperate need of some fresh ideas to spice up your Spanish grammar practice? Fear not! Here are seven ideas I’ve successfully used in my own classroom that’ll make sure your students ace Spanish grammar once and for all!
7 Cool Ideas for Spanish Grammar Practice That’ll Make a Splash in Your Classroom
1. Board Games
Traditional board games can be easily adapted and used to practice tenses, word order, adjective agreement, etc. We have previously explained how to use Snakes and Ladders in lessons to recap verbs, but quiz games like Trivial Pursuit, Monopoly or Battleship are also fantastic for our purposes!
Snakes and Ladders and Monopoly are quite simple. The only thing you need to do is include a question in each of the boxes or positions. For example, in Monopoly if I roll my dice and get a 6, I move forward 6 spaces and then have to answer a question about adjective agreement, a verb conjugation or perhaps list three different possessive adjectives I can think of. Getting the right answer means being able to win that street. In Snakes and Ladders, if I get it right I stay where I am, and if I don’t, I move backwards.
Battleship is fantastic for verbs. As you probably know, Battleship consists of a grid with columns numbered from 1 to 10 and rows identified from A to J. Each player has a number of ships they get to hide in the grid, while they try to guess where the other person has hid theirs.
Whoever “sinks” (locates) all of the ships first, wins. Well, it couldn’t be any easier for Spanish! Instead of columns being 1 to 10, they can be different subjects and tenses (i.e. 1 — “I – present tense”, 2 — “we – past tense”…), while the rows can each have a different infinitive (for example, A can be “dibujar”). When it comes to guessing a square in the grids, rather than saying “1A,” students actually conjugate the verb correctly (for 1A, “dibujo“).
Finally, Trivial Pursuit offers a huge range of possibilities. Choose a grammar point for each color. For example, you might have verb conjugations for blue, numerals and time for yellow, possessive pronouns for brown and so on. Questions can range from conjugating verbs or “fill in the gap” sentences, to actually having to explain how different rules work—depending on your students’ ability and level. For lower ability students, giving them different options is the best way to help them access the game!
Top Tip: Don’t waste planning time getting the game ready. Instead, ask your students to design the board and the cards! It’s really engaging, plus finding suitable questions and answers will also be amazing grammar practice. Check out Snakes and Ladders here or get some help designing your own Trivial Pursuit cards and board here.
Another great game to do some grammar practice is Pairs. Pairs is a game in which you have a set of homemade cards facing down, and players must turn them over, two at a time. The aim is to make pairs with them or match them together. It’s just as easy to prepare and adapt as it is to play!
Again, I ask my students to create the cards themselves. It helps if you ask them to write down a list of noun + adjective pairings first (black cat, black turtle, big problem, big house, tall skyscraper, fast train…) and then create cards for both nouns and adjectives in Spanish. Then they can use the list as guidance to ensure they are finding the correct pair (black cat and not big cat, for instance).
If your students have never played Pairs, you can help them get familiar with this game by using the Pairs Vocabulary Games at the BBC Spanish Bitesize website, a fantastic plenary for your class if you have an interactive whiteboard.
3. My Spanish Games
This website is a fantastic resource for practicing different grammar points, and really useful when it comes to assigning homework. Students can screenshot and email or print their work as proof of actually completing the assignment.
It has activities on a wide range of topics and grammar points, although I specifically use it for adjective agreement practice, which is always a struggle for my students. If you have an electronic board in your classroom, this can also be a good ice breaker or plenary activity to end your lesson.
FluentU is a brilliant resource that harnesses the educational power of videos in a special way.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language lessons.
I love to use them during my lessons as a quick ice breaker. I simply browse through the hand-picked options—which are conveniently categorized by level (newbie to native) and category—pick my favorite one and play it.
With a single click I can turn on subtitles to turn the video into a proper grammar practice session, in which I ask students to annotate feminine nouns, verbs in the present tense or whatever grammar point I want to focus on!
While you can definitely build a complete lesson around FluentU or use the videos as a quick brain break, the online Spanish immersion platform also provides students with engaging at-home practice—with fresh new videos being added every week.
5. The Grid
Another great game is the Grid, a engaging way to review vocabulary and grammar. The game consists of creating a 3 by 3 grid, each box containing a verb in the infinitive (i.e. dibujar) and a subject and verb tense (i.e. “I drew” or “yo – past tense”). The grid will have nine different boxes, and each box will contain a different conjugation the students have to complete.
Stick the grid on the wall somewhere inside or outside your classroom and put your students in pairs. One member of the pair must run to the grid and memorize the infinitive and conjugation instructions (that is, “dibujar – I drew“), and then run back in to tell the other student. This partner remains seated and must fill in a blank grid with the correct conjugations (in this case, dibujé).
I love Dominoes as a way to review the time. Rather than using an actual set of dominoes, you’ll want to make paper cards. On one side of the card you will have a clock or digital time (i.e. 10:30) and on the other, the time in Spanish (i.e. Son las diez y media) for students to match up (as you’d play a regular game of Dominoes).
There are great resources out there to create a Time Dominoes or, again, you can get your students to produce their own set of cards using their textbooks or notes. They will review the time without even noticing! The great thing about Dominoes is that it can be used for many other activities, so just let your imagination fly and explore all the possibilities out there.
Here’s yet another fantastic game that can be used to reinforce different topics. Obviously, Bingo is especially useful for numerals and to vocabulary review, but it’s also great to review the time. With Bingo, students get a card with ten different numbers (or time, colors, animals…) which they have to listen for and cross out as they hear the teacher mention it.
Once they have managed to cross out all ten, they call out “Bingo” and win the game. Depending on the ability of your students, you can opt for calling out numbers in Spanish, getting them to identify them in English, or the other way around.
Great Online Resources for Spanish Grammar Practice
Nowadays, the marriage between technology and education is solid, and has proven to be immensely beneficial for both students and teachers. When it comes to grammar practice, there are many resources out there to help us pair these two up, but which are the ones you just can’t miss?
- Socrative: Socrative for teachers enables us to create tests and quizzes that students can then access and complete through the student app. It can be used on smartphones, tablets or computers. Not only will it provide corrections and explanations for students to reflect on their mistakes, but it also gives the teacher a wide range of information on the students’ general and individual performance!
- FluentU: We’ve already mentioned FluentU above, but it deserves to be in this section as well. FluentU gives students access to authentic audiovisual content, enabling them to explore grammar in the real world and learn Spanish as it’s spoken in real life. You can also assign videos, flashcards or audios to your classes and track their progress.
- Verb Trainer: This is another one of my favorite apps! It can be downloaded into smartphones and tablets and provides students with the most complete and easy-to-use resource for verb conjugations. If you train students on how to successfully use this app, it will become their ultimate verb tool.
- WordReference: I know, I know! Who doesn’t know about WordReference, right? However, no list of the best online resources would be complete without a special shout out to their amazing forum and everyone that contributes to it. There is no better way to actually understand the correct use of certain grammatical points, learn phrases and recognize exceptions to many grammatical rules than by using WordReference.
Now’s the time to try out your favorite ideas from this list for to give your students the best Spanish grammar practice—practice that will actually stick with them for years to come. Hope you enjoy!