Get Your Language Learning Students Moving With Active Games
Life is a Game
From the moment we're born to the day we first set foot in a formal school, we learn by playing. Even after formal education starts, we still learn by playing--on the playground, before and after school, or even during class, when we think we can get away with it.
Why not put this energy and drive to work by harnessing active games to get your students up, keep them moving, and reinforce their language skills, all at the same time? Fun Spanish action games will help keep your students engaged and interested in the rest of your class. These are especially effective for kinesthetic learners, but other learning styles may benefit too.
While this article focuses on Spanish as the destination language, these same techniques can be adapted to teaching almost any language.
The quickest, easiest of the Spanish action games you can play with beginning students is a bit like Simon Says. Have all your students stand up beside their desks, then ask for a volunteer to come up to the front of the class and be “leader”. You then stand off to the side and play the role of “caller”. In a pinch you can be both caller and leader at the same time. This game is a great way to get your students’ attention at the beginning of class and can be played in one of two ways:
- The caller calls out the name of a body part, loud enough for everyone to hear. The leader’s job is to move that body part and keep it moving. Whatever he does, the class has to follow. This game of “follow the leader” continues as you name various body parts and the leader has to find a way of continuously moving each one in turn. You can challenge your leader by naming more than one body part at once.
- The caller calls out the name of a vocabulary word. Nouns work best, although person and place names should be excluded. Most verbs work well, too. The leader has to act out the word the caller named, and the class has to follow.
In both cases you can swap the leader out every few words, or give him a five-second time limit to start moving or acting. If he doesn't get moving in time, he has to sit down and let someone else be the volunteer. While this game is well-suited to working with beginners that have a very limited vocabulary, it's equally useful for entertaining advanced students as they expand their already-wide vocabulary range.
This quick and easy Spanish action game can be squeezed into the first or last few minutes of class, played as a reward for high scores or good behavior, or even used as extra credit on a quiz. Just write down--or have your students write down--a number of words and phrases on slips of paper, then put the folded papers in a fishbowl or hat. Somebody selects one of the papers at random, then acts out the selected word or phrase in complete silence.
If you’re playing just for fun and language building, divide the room into two teams and have students from each team alternate acting the chosen word(s) out in front of the entire class. The team whose member is up and acting gets to guess first; if they can’t guess the word or phrase within a set time (start with one minutes of charades) the other team gets a chance to guess and steal the point the other team was trying for.
If you’re playing for extra credit, you may want to skip the fishbowl part of the exercise and select the word or phrase deliberately yourself. Have every student put away everything but a single blank sheet of paper and a pen. Then act out the word or phrase in front of the class. Students should write down their best guess at what you’re acting out, along with their name, on the sheet of paper. Collect the papers and assign extra credit points accordingly for correct or nearly correct answers.