Is all our personal technology an addiction, or is this the next big step for mankind?
Well, perhaps it’s both.
No matter what the consequence for humanity, we educators need to embrace it—our Spanish students, even our older students, love video games.
Many play them on a daily basis and probably even invest more time in these than doing homework!
We educators might see video games as just fun and games, but the reality is that they are not only fun, but can also be highly educational. In fact, games offer one of the best ways to learn a language.
In addition to non-immersive apps and old-school offline games, isn’t it time we educators tapped into this love for immersive experiences and included Spanish video games as part of our language classes?
I think I heard a big “yes”!
Why Video Games Are the Perfect Multimedia Spanish Experience
Before describing some of the coolest immersive video games for learning Spanish out there, first I’d like to share some great reasons for playing them in the first place.
An obvious reason is that video games are extremely addictive.
Players become immersed in them because they provide challenging tasks that must be successfully completed in order to win the game. Players are motivated to find out what happens after they complete a certain level. Others may be interested in beating a friend’s high score.
Some may want to take part in a virtual experience that represents something they couldn’t take part in as part of their normal life: Flying an airplane, for example, driving a race car or planning and building an entire city!
Now, a lot of these features of video games come into play when it comes to teaching Spanish with them. They can actually help students to reinforce what they’ve been learning in the classroom in a very effective and engaging way.
When playing video games that take place in a Spanish-speaking environment, for example, students become immersed not only in the gameplay itself, but also the virtual world where they must use and understand Spanish in order to advance in the game.
Since video games are fun and offer challenging tasks, students are motivated to keep trying to advance in the game, by using Spanish, of course.
Plus, when they try over and over again to complete a task, they are forced to repeatedly use and listen to some of the same grammatical structures and vocabulary. Many video games in Spanish that are made specifically for learners of the language provide strong motivation to learn vocabulary and grammar, as this will be key to advancing.
They also provide a sense of discovery, adventure and accomplishment for students.
Most Spanish language learning video games are task-based, meaning students must do something with the language or complete a task such as buy a product at a store or make a telephone call. They allow students to use the language in context, something that the classroom can’t always provide.
Best of all, video games in Spanish promote time on task like no other homework assignment can possibly do! So, what are you waiting for? Work video games into your lesson plans now, now, now!
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How to Work Video Games into Your Spanish Curriculum
How can you work video games into your curriculum, you ask? It’s easy!
One way is to provide students the opportunity to play the games as extra credit or as “low-stakes” assignments meaning that they are not worth many points or for points that students can earn simply for spending a certain amount of time on the video game or completing the game to a certain level.
You might tell students that for homework, they need to spend at least an hour on the game or get through level one. Most Spanish games that are meant for educational purposes allow teachers to log in and check the progress of each student.
You can also provide students with the opportunity to replace a quiz or a test with a video game assignment. Since students must master the vocabulary and grammar in order to advance in most of the games, it makes sense that once they have progressed to a certain level, they deserve to earn points for having mastered grammar or vocabulary associated with the previous level. How many students do you bet would take you up on this? All of them, of course!
Consider providing class time or for students to work with video games in Spanish. This could be especially useful for students who may not have access to a computer outside of class. If your school allows students to check out iPads, this could work as well since many games are compatible with iPad or iPhone only.
Since most students love competition, you could have them play the video games in teams of two or more against another team. The team that scored the highest could win a prize in addition to winning the competition.
Finally, a handful of games allow students to design their own games for others to play. This could also be a fun idea to try with more advanced Spanish classes.
Now, by now I bet you are wondering what exactly these games are all about and where you can find them. Right? Well, here you go!
The 6 Best Multimedia Spanish Games
Here are some of the coolest video games that every Spanish teacher should encourage students to play.
1. “Practice Spanish” (McGraw Hill)
This game allows students to participate in a virtual study abroad in a fictitious (but realistic) Colombian city. Students play mini-games to practice grammar and vocabulary and then participate in the virtual immersion game where they must use Spanish to perform various tasks successfully. This game is good for beginning to intermediate Spanish students.
(Shh!!! Rumor has it that instructor access to Practice Spanish will soon include supplementary materials such as worksheets and conversation starters based on the game. Stay tuned!)
FluentU takes immersive, gamified learning to a new level.
We’ve got a tremendous collection of authentic Spanish videos that people in the Spanish-speaking world actually watch on the regular. There are tons of great choices here when you’re looking for material for in-class activities or homework. Plus, all the videos are sorted by skill level and are carefully annotated for students.
Each video has interactive subtitles. If a student comes across a word they’re unfamiliar with, they can hover their cursor over the subtitled word. That word’s definition, pronunciation and in-context usage examples will all pop up on-screen instantly. This is what your students will get after they click “watch” on a video. Clicking “learn” opens up a whole new learning experience for them.
In learn mode, all the vocabulary and grammar from the video is taught and reinforced through varied repetition (practicing the same concepts in different forms and contexts). They’ll play with flashcards, games, word matches and exercises like “fill in the blank.”
The best part is that FluentU keeps track of the vocabulary that they’re learning, and it recommends examples and videos based on what they’ve already learned. Every student has a truly personalized experience, even if they’re learning the same video.
You can get them started by signing yourself up for a FluentU Pro account (designed just for teachers!) and creating lesson plans with videos. Just take a look at this quick start guide!
Use FluentU on the website with your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes store or Google Play store.
Designed by researchers at the University of New Mexico, “Mentira” is set in Albuquerque. In the game, players interact with other characters using Spanish. The goal is that players must prove themselves innocent of a murder that took place in the area.
This game is best for local New Mexico teachers who are able to take their students on a field trip to the local sites, but, of course teachers anywhere else can take great advantage of this resource.
The website also helps local teachers with ideas for implementing this game into their Spanish classes.
4. “Big Bad Spanish”
This site allows players to interact with other characters in the game in order to “win” over people who know less Spanish. It takes place in the fictional Spanish city of Cuatro Caminos and is task based.
For instance, in the first level, the player is lost in the city, can’t find his hotel and has no money to spend on food. He must use Spanish to find an ATM, get something to eat and find his way to his hotel. That probably sounds familiar to anyone who has traveled and hit a bump in the road with their travel plans.
A good idea is to assign this as extra credit or as a low-stakes practice assignment for students of elementary Spanish.
This site, once known as “Learn Immersive,” is awesome in that it allows teachers to make their own immersive experiences for their students which can be done in a matter of minutes and with no technical knowledge. However, for now the site is simply taking memberships for the Beta mode of the game.
Soon the program will be polished and completely available for educators and students. Be on the lookout! It seems to be a great game educators can use in order to make “real-life” tasks for their students to perform.
In one of the demo screenshots, for instance, one of the characters reveals that he’s sleepy and asks the player to please help him find a bed to lie on. In this case, students would need to understand the verb form used as well as vocabulary (“bed”) in order to complete the task.
Give the Beta version a try and see what happens!
6. “Second Life”
The popular “Second Life” game now contains a virtual language school and even virtual versions of Spanish-speaking cities students can visit such as Barcelona and Mexico City. Best of all, the Spanish speakers they’ll connect with are players who really speak Spanish! For a digital world, that’s a pretty authentic learning experience.
Here are some great ideas on integrating “Second Life” into the foreign language classroom.
It’s the stuff of the future.
It might also be the stuff of the future of language learning.
Get a head start and bring it to your classroom today!
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