Practice makes perfect, the old saying goes.
But practicing Spanish isn’t always as easy as this simple statement suggests.
Not every student responds to practice worksheets. Some students shudder at the idea of practice drills in front of the class.
With limited class time ticking away every second, how can you find Spanish practice methods that’ll do the most good for your students?
We’ll show you some great games that target a range of Spanish skills, which you can adapt to your classroom.
How Can Games Help Students Practice Spanish Effectively?
Games provide a great opportunity to reinforce your lessons. Here are some of the specific ways games help students apply their skills:
- Practice communication: Games motivate students to communicate effectively. Anyone who’s played a game knows that the fun of the experience relies on successful communication of rules and other game-specific details.
And fun opportunities to communicate in Spanish are what we’re looking for! Students who have the confidence to practice real communication in Spanish will make strides, and games are an ideal way for students to gain that confidence.
- Practice recall: Spontaneous interactions fostered by game-playing give students real-life opportunities to remember and apply material they’ve previously learned.
Well-managed games offer students a safe place to remember words and concepts and to make mistakes, as the spontaneity limits the time students have to feel nervous about speaking out loud in Spanish.
- Practice resilience: Games cultivate a healthy sense of competition, which asks students to be resilient, a life skill that applies to learning a new language.
Inevitably, students will sometimes perform well and other times, they won’t. Developing familiarity with the ups and downs of classroom games is good practice for the ups and downs of communicating in a foreign language.
How to Design Practice Games That Deserve Your Valuable Classroom Time
You don’t have time to waste when it comes to teaching Spanish, and neither do your students when it comes to practicing. Keep these guidelines in mind as you try the games below to ensure that you and your students are spending your valuable time together wisely.
- Be clear: offer students clear learning objectives, clear guidelines and clear expectations. Ensure students fully understand the purpose of the Spanish practice games and what’s expected of them before playing, while they’re playing and after they play.
- Be repetitive: reinforce important vocabulary and grammar concepts with repetition. It’s all in that old cliché—practice, practice, practice. As you’ll see in our list below, classroom games that spark effective language practice need to have an element of repetition.
Give students a chance to feel extra-competent by setting them up for success with familiar topics and vocabulary words, and then allow them to enjoy this confidence while trying out less familiar topics and words.
- Be challenging: design games that are challenging but within reach for students. Mix it up for students and make sure they don’t feel patronized or bored by combining easy wins with challenges.
This combination might not be obvious from the start, but keep a close eye on how students experience the games to fine-tune your approach for next time.
- Be in charge: as the referee and rule-maker, you model the behaviors you want to see. Your role as teacher includes protecting the players’ boundaries, reining in aggressive players and keeping the atmosphere positive and upbeat.
Stay involved as your students play their practice games to monitor their progress and to make sure they’re all doing what you expect of them.
Pass Go with 5 Fabulous Spanish Practice Games!
How to play:
Depending on the size of your class, either divide the class into two teams to play against each other or invite students to take turns drawing for the class as a whole.
You’ll give the artist a word or phrase in Spanish, and the artist must represent the word silently in a drawing on the board without using any letters or numbers. If playing in teams, the team members must guess the word for a point, or if playing as a whole class, the audience members must guess the word for individual points.
Keeping score is optional, so you decide if there’s a good reason to record the points.
This game is fun and easy to implement, so even brief speed rounds can be useful if energy is low in your classroom or if students seem like they’re lacking enthusiasm.
With this game, students will be given the chance to think quickly and synthesize information drawing a picture that connects to a Spanish vocabulary word.
Students in the audience can also connect vocabulary words with the visual images, which will improve recall no matter how inaccurate or odd the picture. In fact, the more unusual the image, the more likely the student will remember the vocabulary word connected to the image, so embrace weirdness while playing this game!
Two Truths and A Lie
Vocabulary, sentence building and conversation practice
How to play:
The instructions are easy and straightforward. Everyone writes down three complete sentences about themselves in Spanish. Two must be true and one must be a lie.
When it’s one student’s turn to read his or her sentences, everyone else’s job is to identify the lie.
Suggest that the lie be something that could easily be true, so that it’s harder for the others to identify the lie. Gather the sentences by students and read them out loud to the rest of class so that the class members can guess which of the complete sentences is a lie.
This game might be played at the beginning of the year when students are new to one another, and then part of the value is in the introductions.
Or the game can be adapted so that the sentences must contain specific material, such as vocabulary words from a particular list, or grammar concepts that are useful to sentence-building like practice with ser (to be) and estar (to be).
This game gives students a chance to interact with one another while reinforcing their ability to build sentences and understand spoken Spanish.
This game also might suit unusually rowdy groups of students since it encourages positive rapport among the players, but without any emphasis on competition as no one can be declared a winner.
Who Am I?
Writing, reading and question-forming practice
How to play:
Give the students index cards and ask them to write down three complete sentences about themselves describing activities they enjoy, musicians they like, places they’ve been and other fun details. Emphasize legible handwriting as other students will need to be able to read the sentences.
Then ask students to fold the index cards in half and turn them back in to you.
Distribute the folded index cards so that each student gets one that belongs to a classmate. They must read the sentences and then develop a series of interview questions to ask the other students in order to discover the original owner of the index card.
For example, if one of the sentences on the card reads Viaje con mi familia a las islas Canarias (I traveled with my family to the Canary Islands) a corresponding interview question might be, Te gusta viajar en avión? (Do you like to travel by airplane?)
After all questions have been written, allow students to mill around asking one another their interview questions. If a student thinks he or she has discovered the original owner of the index card, they must keep it a secret until all interviews have been conducted.
Then, once everyone’s seated again, ask students to share the results of their interviews and introduce one another to the rest of the class.
This game pairs well with lessons on forming questions in Spanish. You can use it to follow up a lesson on the grammar of questions or to give students some extra practice before a quiz or test.
Students will also appreciate the opportunity to get up from their desks and move around the classroom, and you’ll be glad for the practice in casual Spanish conversations.
This is another icebreaker-style game that works well at the beginning of the school year. If students need some help getting to know one another, use this game to practice writing and reading sentences while giving them that opportunity.
Always, Often, Never
Grammar practice with adverbs
How to play:
These instructions are clear and easy to communicate to students. Students must write three complete sentences in the first person on a sheet of paper that they can turn in to you. One sentence must contain the word siempre (always), one must contain a menudo (often) and one must contain nunca (never).
To make the game more challenging, add more sentence requirements with more subtle adverbs, like raramente (rarely), a veces (occasionally) and en otro tiempo (once or formerly).
Collect the sentences, read them out loud and ask class members to identify the writer of the sentences. This game doesn’t require a lot of time or resources, so if your students enjoy it, offer it as a reward for good behavior.
Focus on intermediate sentence writing skills and the use of adverbs in the context of informal conversational practice with this game, and practice three or four essential Spanish skills at once.
This game is best played after students have had some time together to observe and learn about one another. Students will have to put some careful thought into their sentence writing to make the sentences as accurate as possible as class members will have to guess who wrote the sentences.
Grammar practice with regular/irregular commands
How to play:
Depending on where you’re teaching, most students will likely be familiar with this game, but it’s still helpful to review the instructions with the class before starting.
All students must stand, and one student volunteers to be Simon (let students know that all students must take a turn being Simon at some point as Simon is the one who creates the sentences in command form). Simon either commands the students to perform an action—for example, Simon dice: siéntense (Simon says: sit down)—or Simon conjugates a verb alone.
Any students who sit down if Simon doesn’t use a command is out.
Depending on your class size, give every student the opportunity to be Simon two or three times. Keep an eye out for Simons who avoid making commands as that phenomenon may reveal that they don’t quite understand the grammar concept and may need some review time.
This game is a familiar one students will recognize, which may enable somewhat bashful students to feel more comfortable speaking in front of one another.
It also drives home the significant grammatical differences between commands and non-commands, and students may only have to go out once or twice before remembering the correct verb conjugations!
Plus, restless students will appreciate the chance to stand up and move around, so take the game outdoors if your school and your students can handle the change in environment.
So as you can see, well-planned, well-executed Spanish practice games can be a great use of precious class time with your students. Whether you want to improve vocabulary recall or give students a chance to practice conversational skills, Spanish practice games can definitely help you meet your teaching goals.
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