Friday, October 20, 2017

Hide-N-Seek Vocabulary Game (for Second Language Learning)

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I struggle sometimes on how to get my youngest students to use the language especially when they are in the first few months of exposure to Spanish. The first problem is that with lower elementary-age students their attention span is very short, and when you add the fact that they have limited vocabulary at the beginning it can be challenging to find activities to get them talking in the target language. This week though I came across an activity that really worked! Not only does this activity require that they speak in Spanish, but it incorporates repetition of the vocabulary in a way that keeps them motivated. Here's how it works...

I create picture cards with the vocabulary on them we are working on. The ones you see here are for the weather, but the cards could be any group of vocabulary as long as you can use pictures: clothing, rooms in a house, places in a city, foods, etc. I laminate the cards (VERY IMPORTANT) so that I can use the dot stickers on the back of them. If the cards aren't laminated then you won't be able to get the sticker off as easily.  I lay out the cards face up on the table. If you have a large group of students you can make bigger cards and hang them up. Then I ask my students in the target language to turn around (away from the cards) and close their eyes (young ones are expert "peekers" so I have them do both actions). I then take a colored dot (See these here as they are easy to remove.) and stick it to the back of one of the cards. Then all my students can turn around and open their eyes. They take turns asking in the target language about a card to see if the dot is behind it.

So for example, if we are working on weather words they would ask, "¿Está nublado?" or "¿Hace viento?". I then reveal the underneath of the card to show them whether the dot is there or not. After I have hidden the dot a few times, I let some of my students do the hiding. If you have a large group, you may not be able to let everyone hide each time you play the game. So you may want to keep track of who has hidden the dot so that next time other students can do it. My students absolutely LOVE hiding the sticker and being in charge of answering the questions and revealing the backside of the cards. Another variation I do (normally at the end of the activity) is for me to "hide" the dot one more time. However, this last time around, I don't actually hide the dot on one of the cards. I put it some place else out of sight. This forces the students to ask about ALL the cards and review all the vocabulary. When the last card is revealed there may be some surprised looks! 😊

While I have used this with great success with elementary-age kids, it can be used as a quick review for older students (like in high school). I love how it requires students to use the language and how they get to hear the words/phrases over and over again. The other added benefit? If a child has the task of hiding the dot, he or she then also has to practice finding which card the other student is asking about. There's plenty of repetition and review without it being boring!

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Motivate Target Language Speaking

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Have you ever been to a baby shower where they hand you a clothespin or two and forbid you to say the word "baby"? If you do, another party guest can take your pin. The one with the most pins at the end of the party wins a prize. I have been to tons of baby showers and even some wedding showers that have played this game...

So today I was teaching Spanish to a small group of kids who were speaking WAY TOO MUCH English during the lesson, and the idea hit! Why not do the same thing with my students? So I pulled out some clothespins and gave each student about three of them and told them the rules. I was thrilled at how well this worked! My students immediately started to strive to speak Spanish. When they couldn't communicate in the target language they acted out to the best of their ability what they were trying to say. It was stretching for them and satisfying for me to watch them go through the process, or shall we say...the struggle.

Here are a few tips to implement this idea:

  • Limit the game through groups. If you teach a whole classroom, you might want to break the kids down into groups. They may only take from those in their group. Those they sit closest to would be the ideal candidates.

  • Define the time. How long will you maintain the game? With bigger groups, you may want to start small when it comes to length of time...maybe have them complete one or two activities while maintaining communication in the target language.

  • Be creative with the item you use. It doesn't have to be clothespins. At my daughter-in-law's bridal shower this past summer we played the game with gaudy plastic rings. You just need an item that they can attach to themselves so they don't lose it unless they start speaking in English.  Binder clips would work. These smiley face clips would be cute. There are also decorated clothespins like these that might be fun.

  • I give my students the option to use English once during the session if they have a question about what they should be doing in the lesson. They must request from me in the target language the ability to speak in English. They are allowed one question, and that's it, which makes them really think through how to avoid English until they absolutely need it. Many students will opt to not even request a question in English. 

Have fun! By limiting English you will find that your students will become more animated with their gestures and more creative in their communication. Another side benefit? Your classroom will become a bit quieter since they can't speak in their native tongue!😊