30 Seconds to Fun! Teaching with Spanish Time Games
Did you know that a year passes 15 microseconds faster on Mount Everest than at sea level?
Or that the strontium atomic clock is the most accurate clock ever built? It can keep time to within a second over 15 billion years!
Time is a fascinating concept, one that has inspired everything from classic rock songs to enormous, over-the-top timepieces.
Telling time is one of the most fundamental forms of expression in any language, so it’s not surprising that time features prominently in every Spanish curriculum. But what’s the best way to teach it?
Much has been written about the importance of classroom games for Spanish students. Games are hands-on, a departure from the monotony of bookwork and worksheets. Most importantly, games are fun.
And as neuroscientists know, having fun is the very best way to learn. Dopamine, the chemical in the brain that’s released whenever people do something they enjoy, not only motivates students to keep learning, but it also helps them to retain information. The more fun they’re having, the more likely the material is to stick.
But it’s important to use the right kinds of games, considering both the age and ability levels of learners. For example, while high school students might balk at being asked to play “children’s games” like Memory or Time Land (a variation on Candy Land), younger students would thoroughly enjoy them.
So, how do you introduce games in a way that works for all skill levels and age groups? Read on to find out.
30 Seconds to Fun! Teaching with Spanish Time Games
Teachers should design games with clear objectives and useful skills that present a challenge to students. It’s always a good idea to post the academic objectives of any activity, both for the sake of students and for administrators. With games this is especially important; it helps students see the educational value of the activity and reminds administrators that there is learning going on amid all the noise and fun!
Grouping is an important aspect of designing games for optimal academic outcomes. Keeping in mind Lev Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development (what a student can’t do alone but can do with help), teachers can place weaker students on teams with stronger ones so that, together, everyone moves forward.
Finally, some important classroom management techniques apply, from giving clear and thorough instructions for the games to monitoring volume level. Another technique for improving student accountability is to include a peer evaluation component after the games. With this type of monitoring, students know that “game day” doesn’t mean “goof-off” day.
With these controls in place, games can be a high-interest, effective way to teach students to tell time in Spanish.
Now, are you ready to learn how you can use games make learning time in Spanish more fun? Here’s how.
Exciting Time-telling Games for Your Spanish Classroom
1. Hot potato
Students pass around a foam clock; either a teacher or a student assistant controls the music. When the music stops, the student who’s stuck holding the clock must move the hands to reflect the time the teacher says in Spanish.
A variation on this would be to divide the students into groups and have several games going at once, with student “callers.”
2. ¿A qué hora?
The teacher writes a schedule in Spanish on the board from, for example, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., with a meal or activity for each hour of the day. Twelve students sit in a circle, each holding a sign with a time on it, from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., with one student in the middle of the circle with a ball. When the teacher says the activity—in English or Spanish, depending on students’ ability levels—the student in the middle must roll the ball to the student who represents the time when that activity takes place.
Obviously, this game should only be attempted once students have the appropriate level of vocabulary, including meals and activities such as sports, school subjects and so on.
3. Clock faces
The teacher passes out worksheets with clock faces filled in with different times; students keep the worksheets turned face down until a signal is given. The teacher keeps track of the first, second and third student to complete the worksheet correctly.
A variation on this game would be to have different times on different worksheets. Students could then exchange and check each other’s papers for even more time-telling practice.
4. Time sentences
In this game, the teacher divides the class into teams of four or five students. The teacher holds up a small dry erase board with a time written in numbers (1:30, 5:40) and students have to write a sentence that says the correct time, such as “es la una y media” or “son las cinco cuarenta.” Teachers may wish to add a.m. or p.m. to times and have the students add de la mañana, de la tarde or de la noche to their sentences. Have a student assistant go around and check each response, keeping track on the board of which teams answered correctly.
A variation on this game would be to have the group make a wager of points before each question, awarding points according to their wagers. Make the wagers secret, having the student assistant write them down for each group ahead of the questions. This can be a fun variation, with surprising upsets at the very end of the game!
5. Time Land board game
Who doesn’t have sweet childhood memories of playing Candy Land? This game is a version of the classic board game, only with Spanish color and time vocabulary. The board should consist of different-colored spaces, broken up by spaces with clocks showing different times. Students will use cards to tell them how to move, with color cards (showing either one or two spaces of a particular color) or time sentences in Spanish, which students will use to move to the appropriate clock space on the board. The first student to reach the end of the path wins.
A variation on this game would have students work in groups to create their own game boards.
6. Time Memory
A version of the classic game, Memory, this game would have students match cards with some combination of clocks, times written in numbers and time sentences. Since Memory works best in pairs, this would be a good opportunity to pair a stronger student with a weaker one.
Teachers may also wish to create different versions of the game according to ability level, with younger or less advanced students using numbers and older or more advanced ones learning more complicated sentences, according to the curriculum.
7. Is it a match?
Another matching game, this one asks students to look at two versions of a time statement and decide whether they say the same thing. For example, can 12:11 be expressed as “son las doce con once minutos?” Students can compete either individually or in pairs or teams.
There are many fun variations on this game, including using “lifelines” to ask for help or taking physical challenges (activities like rubbing their stomachs and patting their heads or doing five push-ups) when students aren’t sure of an answer.
8. Time Bingo
Teachers know that Bingo is a classic game adaptable to almost any subject matter. In this case, the traditional game can be used in a variety of ways, with any of three formats. Students may have cards with clocks showing different times, with times written in numbers or in sentences. Teachers can then call the responses using a different format, according to students’ age and ability levels.
A variation would be to divide the class into smaller groups and have student callers for each group.
But wait, there are online time games too
Online games are another excellent way to tap into students’ interests and give them extra time-telling practice in Spanish.
Teachers may want to use class time to have students play, or they may choose to utilize online games as homework or even extra credit for high-achieving students.
Here are just a few of the many Spanish time games available online:
- La Hora: This game asks students to read Spanish time sentences and click on the numeric answer that matches.
- Spanish Time and Numbers Quiz: Appropriate for intermediate learners, this site has multiple choice questions on time and numbers generally.
- Telling the Time in Spanish: This online game uses giant clock faces that students manipulate according to time phrases like “y cinco” and “menos cuarto.” With funny sound effects, it would be especially fun for younger learners.
- La Hora (Quia): In this matching game, students must make matches between time phrases in different colored blocks (English blue and Spanish pink). Once the board is solved, they can start over and do it again.
- Clocks: Here students select the correct Spanish time sentence from pull-down menus beneath images of clocks.
- Putting Emilia’s School Schedule in Order: This game, appropriate for older and more advanced learners, asks players to order the events in Emilia’s schedule 1-10 based on (rather complicated) time sentences in Spanish.
- Señorita Elena: In this game, clip-art graphic Señorita Elena looks happy or angry according to students’ correct or incorrect Spanish answers to English time sentences.
In conclusion, games can be one of the best ways to teach time in Spanish. They’re hands-on, high-interest, and most of all, fun. So let’s get the dopamine flowing with Spanish time-telling games!