Idea #78: Game Language

I have been accused of playing a lot of games in class. I’m proud of it. This is a way to get students actively involved and more engaged in class. Each game has a specific purpose. It might be to review, to teach, or to practice a specific set of vocab or skills.

If we do play games a lot, why not give them some language to use while they play?

This year I have started displaying game phrases on the board that they might want to use to encourage them to use the language more during game time. I don’t ask them to use it, but it is there and students have it when they need it. All it takes is one or two kids to start and it is contagious.

I started with just these words on the board…

“It’s your turn”


“I won”


They used the language! They sounded like the Spanish children I nannied for while I was living in Spain. They got in to these little play fights at the end… “I won!” “No, I won!” “No… I WON!” “Cheater” all while they were laughing and learning!

This is language that can be transferred outside the game world. A student wrote “Te toca a ti. Dime sobre tu familia.” on a written assessment after telling about his familia. Another level 1 student came in to class and told me this: “Señorita…Anthony Davis gané jugador de año!” This isn’t perfect but he was communicating something he couldn’t have done before that game language was learned. I teach in Louisville, Kentucky and I can’t wait to see how many students put this language to use on Monday after the big game between the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville.

All it takes it you putting the right language in their reach when they have a need to use it. They taught themselves! Just like how Kara and Kim put the hello’s and goodbye’s on each side of the door to their classrooms, I’m finding that planning and displaying the language they need is more helpful than TEACHING a lesson about it.

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15 thoughts on “Idea #78: Game Language

  1. I love it. I’ve been meaning to do that for years. Now I must just do it. They do like to have things to say! Who cares if it’s correct at this point. I give Pesos for warm-ups and other things that say “un peso” on them…I’ve hear a million times things like, “He took my un peso” or you forgot to give me my “un peso”. :) I just got back from visiting The Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta and I learned so many easy games. The best/easiest was a dice game: Each pair gets on sheet and a different color marker. The sheet can be something to label or a sheet with the letters for words that begin with that letter, etc. When you say go, one person starts filling in as much as they can while the other person just rolls the die over and over until they get a 6. When they get a 6, they get to write on the paper while the other person rolls until they get a 6…back and forth until time is called. I really liked it because it made the writer focus and the die roller wasn’t just waiting for his/her turn…he was just rolling and trying to get a 6…TRYING to get a turn to write! I can’t wait to try this when I get back to work. I think I’m going to start with pictures to label. They did it with labeling maps (states or countries and capitals…great for Latin America maps)…also with an alphabet grid and the students wrote anything that related to the topic in each letter space. I hope I explained it right. I experienced it and it was the best dice game ever for focus.

  2. Eventually I teach the other forms, but in the first few weeks I teach tengo with the school supplies. :) I’m thinking of re-working everything for next year and incorporate many of the new things I’ve tried this year with all the blog and pinterest ideas. Plus our kids are getting laptops next year. So I’m going to take the opportunity to really change it up. I am looking forward to many of your ideas for helping them speak more. That’s what they want to do. I’m great at giving them listening and reading comprehension, but the speaking part is still the hardest.

    • Some think “games” aren’t preparing kids for college. My theory is that if students are still at the novice level when they are done with 2 years then they aren’t ready for college either. I hate the idea of all written work in a language class because that isn’t the only way we use language (and colleges test on more than that too). I do a lot of activities in class, and the goal of the games/activities is to use the language. It may be interpersonal, presentational writing, or hands-on. I do a game/activity everyday, but it is always playing with a purpose. Teachers do not have to entertain their students but I believe it is our job to TRY to engage them. My classes are never in their seats the whole period, their learning is active and most of them enjoy learning Spanish. My goal is to increase our Spanish 3 classes. Students take the required 2 years and no one wants to take more. If they enjoy the class and are truly learning this will change. Ha! That is probably more info than you wanted. How often do you think games should be played?

  3. LOVE this idea! I play lots of games with my students too and I always teach them the vocab to play the whole game (i.e. Pesca for Go Fish) and sometimes they’ll ask for “cheater”, “I won”, etc. but I never thought of making those phrases available from the beginning! I’m definitely doing this next time we play a game! (which is always soon!)

  4. This is a great idea! I spend the first few weeks going over classroom phrases with my students (¿Puedo ir al baño?, ¿Puedo tomar ague?, Necesito un lápiz/papel, No me siento bien, ¡Ya terminé!, No entiendo, etc.), and it has been more effective than almost any other lesson I’ve taught! Now, I have students ask me those questions or tell me those statements even when I forget to use the target language! I keep them on a bulletin all year long in my classroom so that students can refer to them at any time. I am learning that relevant language (need-related language) goes a long way pretty quickly!

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