Fun Spanish Learning Games for Kids (Preschool & Early Elementary)

Fun Spanish Learning Games for Kids (Preschool & Early Elementary)

Inside: Spanish learning games for kids (preschool and elementary). 

 

I have a ton of Spanish learning games I’ve collected over the years. But I’ve been missing a list just for younger kids! 

Here are games that are easy to explain, not-too-competitive, and require more listening than speaking. These are best for preschool and early elementary, before drawing and writing skills are ready to go. 

Little learners have tiny attention spans. In my experience, they’re even shorter in a foreign language class. So keep it moving along, and end the game if the interest is waning.  Anytime you are working with young kids, I recommend lots of songs, puppets, and movements. If you are looking for preschool, you may want to see my Spanish preschool series

 

Spanish Learning Games for Kids

 

1. Musical Cards

 

This one is similar to musical chairs, and requires a set of cards with images of the target vocabulary. 

If you are studying numbers, for example, hand out number cards to all of the students. (It’s okay if several students have the same number.) Turn on music and allow them to move around. When the music stops, call out a number. Whoever has that number sits down, and play continues until one student (or one number) is left!

(I saw this game discussed in the Facebook Group Teaching Spanish to Children, run by Munde de Pepita. Definitely join if you haven’t already!)

 

2. Where is the button?

 

Again, prep a set of picture cards. (Credit to Susan O’Donnell Bondy for the idea!)

Have the students sit in a circle, and spread the cards out, face up, in the middle of the circle. Tell the students close their eyes, and hide a cut-out of a button (or whatever object you choose) under a card. The students take turns guessing which card it’s under. This sounds like an output-heavy activity (the students have to say the word), but you can provide a ton of input here: A ver, ¿está debajo del queso? ¡No, no está debajo del queso! ¿Dónde está? Or, if someone says el pollo, point to the zanahoria  and ask, ¿Éste? ¡Ay no, no es el pollo!

Susan shared that she has a chant that her students do. In Spanish, it could be something like Boton-cito, boton-cito, ¿dónde está?

 

3. Bingo

 

Bingo is fun for all ages, but doesn’t always work with younger crowds. If your students aren’t able to grasp the concept of 4-in-a-row, simply play to fill the boards, without a winner. They’ll still enjoy playing, and it’s a great listening activity. 

 

4. What’s missing?

 

I’ve played this one for a long time, but I love Julie’s take on this one from Mundo de Pepita. Read her post for a full explanation, but here is the basic explanation of how I play: have a set of objects or pictures in front of the students. Have them close their eyes (or turn away!), and remove one object. They open their eyes, and guess which object is gone. 

You can maximize the language opportunity here by chatting about their guesses. ¿La manzana? ¡Uy, la manzana está aquí! No es la manazana… ¿qué es, clase?

Spanish learning games

 

5. ¿Qué hay en la bolsa?

 

This is another fun guessing game, and best if it’s a real object or toy. I like to call up one student to put their hand in the bag, and feel they object. They can guess what it is, and if the answer isn’t correct another student gets to try guessing. 

For slightly older classes who know some basic like colors, big, small, you could also give them clues about what’s in the bag, and have them take some guesses after each clue. 

 

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Spanish learning games for kids

Find Your Blob: A Fun Brain Break for Spanish Class

Find Your Blob: A Fun Brain Break for Spanish Class

Inside: A fun brain break in Spanish for the language classroom.

I’m working hard this year to make sure I break up our classes with some sort of movement. I came up with Find Your Blob for something that’s quick and ties into the lesson. The students are speaking the TL, but because it’s related to their opinions and preferences, they get into it. (It’s also LOW-PRESSURE. I don’t consider it a brain break if an activity creates anxiety for the participants!)

How to Do “Find Your Blob”

The idea is simple: Come up with a question related to the content you’re working on. ¿Qué te gusta hacer?, for example.

Then, list or brainstorm 4-6 answers (depends on your class size). Me gusta: correr, dormir, leer, viajar, etc. The students silently pick their answer. 

When I say so, everyone stands up and walks around asking the question. If the answers match, those students stick together. Then those two look for more people. Everyone with the same answer has to be in the same blob (or group of people), until the whole room is sorted into four blobs.

That’s it! I like to erase the two most popular answers, and replace them, so everyone has to mix it up again. Most everyone in Spanish 1 this morning, for example, chose cansado in response to ¿Cómo estás? So we erased that, and added in more creative options. Once they get the hang of it, you can add in things like ¡Yo también! or ¡A mí también! 

If the groups are interesting (perhaps one person is alone, or one group is huge), it can make for some fun conversation and helps you get to know your students. I ask what the groups represent, which could bring in ¿Qué les gusta hacer?, and then Nos gusta… I’ve really liked this because the language is organic and memorable. Sometimes we do two or three rounds of responses, and then sit down, ready to work again.

You can do this with anything– any tense, any topic. Some more ideas:

If you could be any _________, what would you be?
If you could have a superpower, what would it be?
What would you like to do this weekend?
What’s your favorite _______?
You’re going on vacation. Where are you going?
Which book would you like to live in?
If you had to wear one outfit the rest of your life, what would it be?

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Find You Blob, a Fun Speaking Activity for the World Language Classroom

10 Awesome Icebreakers for High School Spanish Classrooms

10 Awesome Icebreakers for High School Spanish Classrooms

Inside: Icebreakers for high school and middle school Spanish classrooms.

 

As a semi-introvert, most icebreakers terrify me– all the ones that make you remember everyone else’s name, think of a clever adjective for yourself, or THE WORST KIND: make up a dance move. I’m not sure super-confident people can really comprehend what that situation can feel like.

 

via GIPHY

(This is me. ^^)

Icebreakers can be tricky in the World Language Classroom. They reflect the tension we feel most days: how can we stay in the target language, connect with our students, communicate effectively, and make the whole process enjoyable? No wonder we’re tired! In those first days, I do think it’s important to establish a couple of things:

 

  • We speak in the TL as much as possible. This isn’t a class about Spanish; it’s a class mostly in Spanish.
  • I care about you. You’re safe here: safe to try new things and make mistakes.
  • My job is to make sure Spanish is comprehensible, and yours is to pay attention and stay with me.

 

Icebreakers for High School Spanish Classes

 

I really think it’s important to do low-pressure icebreakers those first days, especially if you’re trying to do so in another language. Games that build community, look for things in common, and ease everyone into the target language can be a great way to start. Hopefully these will help!

 

1. The Glob Game

 

This is a low-pressure get-to-know-you game. Call out (perhaps show) a term like “eyes,” “number of siblings,” or “favorite subject” and the students with the same answer stand in a group. If two “globs” form over the same things, they should join. If students are upper-level, use words they know in the target language (TL). If they are new, use pictures to make it comprehensible.

This is good for getting to know each other and finding out things in common. (From Cult of Pedagogy)

 

2. The Cognates Game I

 

Mark one side of the room as “I like” and the other as “I don’t like” (in the TL if desired). Call out cognates (like “chocolate” and “animales” for English-Spanish) and student stand on the side of the spectrum that shows how they feel about it.

Alternatively, put a line down the middle of the room. Students stand on the side that matches their opinion/answer.

This game, of course, only works for languages that have cognates. It’s a good way to show students they can understand many words right away, even when they are brand-new to the language.

high school spanish games

 

3. Strip Bingo

 

This one is more innocuous than it sounds! If you are planning to start off with an “About Me” presentation, or an intro to the syllabus or procedures, spice it up a little by with this one. Choose about 5-7 key words from your presentation, words that will be repeated frequently. Write those words on the board, and tell students to write them down in a horizontal row on a piece of paper, but in a random order. As you give your presentation, tell students they may tear off the key words as they hear them, but ONLY if the word is on the outer edge. If the word if blocked by a word to the left or the right, it can’t get torn off. The first student to tear off all the words gets a prize. (From from Martina Bex at the Comprehensible Classroom.

 

4. Games with Music in the TL

 

These don’t require speaking– they’re just for fun. Ending the first day of class with games played to really good music in the TL just makes everyone feel good about class, and leave with a good feeling about the language! (Grab some songs in Spanish from my music page.)

  • El Hueco: This one was a favorite dinámica back in Peru, and requires no speaking.  Arrange chairs in a circle, and everyone sits down. Make sure there is one extra chair. Start the music. Two students will have an empty chair between them, and they need to grab each other’s hand, and run and grab another students to sit in that chair. When the music stops, whichever two people have a missing chair are either out or get a “punishment.” In Peru, the castigos were pretty embarrassing; I’d suggest something light like high-five the teacher or count 10.
  • Musical Chairs
  • Islands: Set out several newspapers around the room. This is similar to musical chairs, except that when the music stops, everyone tries to stand on the newspaper. Each time, the newspaper gets folded in half, and whoever isn’t touching the paper is out. There will be as many winners as there are newspapers. Obviously, this is more physical, so use your discretion!

 

5. The Cognates Game II

 

This is another version of the cognate game. Use my PPT bracket outline to project onto the board, and list cognates on each side (extreme right and extreme left). Do a tournament to see which cognate beats all the other ones. Start on the outside, and have students vote for the top or bottom choice by going to the left or right side of the room. This game is fun because you can introduce cognates and get to know one another as well.

2

 

If desired, use the TL and make it comprehensible with pictures, so that you can have more useful terms for finding out student preferences (hobbies and pastimes, for example). If you are calling out the terms in the TL and pointing to them, you can stay in the TL the entire time, and they will understand you. This is either great review for returning classes, or a good way to show new students they can understand the new language, even on the first day.

If you have more advanced classes, you might choose a category like “things done over the summer.” Let students share what they did, and vote on favorite activities. For a more ironic group of students, you could have them compete for most boring summer activities, the worst part of summer vacation (and trick them into remembering what’s good about the school year). 

For Returning Classes that know each other:

 

6. Human Bingo

 

Prepare a board that has questions your students know from previous years. Remember to keep them simple, and include picture clues if necessary. The students must go around the room asking questions to their peers. (Do you have a cat? Is your birthday in September? Are you a new student?) If someone answers yes, they write their initials down in that spot. Whoever gets Bingo first wins.

 

7. If You Were on a Deserted Island…

 

Give this classic question a language twist by telling students to think of three things they’d bring to a deserted island– but only using words they remember from the year before in the TL. Everyone writes down three things, and you collect the cards. Have everyone guess who wrote which card.

 

8. Two Truths and a Lie

 

Students write two truths and lie about themselves in the TL, on a note card. They write their name at the top, and give them all to you. If their language isn’t perfect, you can correct errors and make the sentences comprehensible as you read them out loud. Don’t say the name, but let the class first guess who wrote the sentences. Once everyone understands them all, and knows who it is, have the students guess which sentence is a lie.

 

9. The Salad Game

 

Write celebrity names or any terms on slip of paper. Students sit in a circle. Divide the class into 2 or more teams by counting 1-2. For each team’s turn, set a time (1-2 minutes).

1st round (verbal clues): The first team begins. One students draws a slip of paper, and describes the person or word to his or her team without saying the actual name. As soon as the team guesses, the next team member draws another slip and play continues until the timer goes off. Then the other team gets a turn. Once all the slips are used up, tally the points for each team.

2nd round (one-word clues): This round is the same as the second, except that the students must only use one word to get their team to guess the celebrity or word.

3rd round (actions): Similar to the first and second round, except that only gestures may be used as clues.

This game would work to explain circumlocution, and also to talk about proficiency levels. You can discuss how being a “novice” might mean only being able to communicate in isolated words or phrases (and/or gestures), and moving up in proficiency will mean putting words together and then communicating through more complicated sentences.

 

Games in English: 

 

10. The Circumlocution Game

 

Ok, this is basically Taboo. Prepare slips of paper with words on them, and divide the class into two groups. Set a timer (1-2 minutes). One student draws a slip of paper, and tries to get his/her team to guess the term without saying the word itself. After the word is guessed, the next team member draws a word, and so on until the timer goes off. Count the slips up and give those points to the team.

Use this game to talk about circumlocution, talking “around” a word you don’t know in to avoid resorting to English. Establishing an expectation of circumlocution is a big part of staying at least 90% in the target language.

 

 

What are your favorite icebreakers for high school and middle school? Let me know in the comments below. 

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10 Beginning of the Year Icebreakers and Games for the World Language Classroom

 

 

10 Interactive End-of-the-Year Games for the Spanish Classroom

10 Interactive End-of-the-Year Games for the Spanish Classroom

Inside: End of the year games for Spanish class.

The end of the year can be… interesting, right? Everyone is tired, you have run out of ideas, testing has already been done, and summer is on everyone’s mind. Here are some ideas that work with any unit or theme and put all the summer energy to constructive use. (And don’t miss my post on Icebreakers for High School and Middle School.)

If you have a few weeks that need some fresh content, the BBC’s beginner’s Spanish series Mi Vida Loca is also a great option. Most of the ideas below are gathered from my series on Games and Ideas for Mi Vida Loca. I have free activities from Episodes 1-5 available, and an entire Activity Pack available as well.

 

1

 

1. Serpiente 

 

Divide the class into two groups. Write a word on the board, and draw a slash after it. The first team has to write a word that starts with the last letter written, then draw a slash. The second team writes word starting with the last letter of that word, and so on. No words may be repeated, and you can adjust the rules for what words are allowed (ie, they must contain at least 3 letters).

 

2. 20 Preguntas 

 

Play Veinte Preguntas to review people, places, and words from the series. (Give the students some basic structures and phrases if necessary: ¿Es una persona? ¿Es un lugar? ¿Es una cosa?)

 

3. Bracket Activity

 

Do a bracket tournament and vote on any topic. It could be food, songs you learned this year, etc. Use my March Madness bracket PPT here to project a bracket on the board and list the items. Designate one wall for the upper choice and one for the lower choice. Call out “¿Agua con gas, o café?” for example, and the students vote by moving to one side of the room or the other.

 

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4. Around the World / Sparkle

 

 This can be played in a circle or with everyone in their seats. Choose one student. He/she stands up next to the student to the right. Call out a word. The first student to give the meaning advances, and the other stays in that seat. The first students to advance all the way around the room and return to his/her original seat wins.

 

5. Teléfono escrito

 

This is like the game Telephone, except with drawings and written words.

1. Everyone will start with a piece of paper. At the top, they should sketch a scene. (You may want to give a theme.) They then leave a bit of space, and below describe the scene. Then, they fold the paper so that only the description is showing. Everyone passes the papers to the right.

2. Now everyone reads the description and does their best to sketch what they read. Then, they fold the paper so that only the drawing is showing. Everyone passes to the right again.

3. Only the latest drawing is visible, so everyone looks at it and write a few sentences describing the drawing. Then, they fold the paper so that only the description is showing, and pass to the right again.

You can do this however many rounds you choose. Just be sure to end on a drawing, because the funniest part of the game is comparing the progression of the first drawing to the last. It’s really funny to see what changes happened! Beginners can simply write words they know. Intermediate learners can write sentences.

 

6. Manzanas a Manzanas

 

This game is awesome for practicing opinions and adjectives. I have a free download with instructions to play, or you can make your own cards. To play, you will need adjective cards and noun cards. For the noun cards, use whatever vocabulary you want to review.

Put the green adjective cards in the middle, face down. Deal 5-7 red noun cards to each player. Designate a “judge” or juez for the first round. The judge turns the first green card over, and the players put the card they think the judge will pick to match the adjective in the middle. The judge mixes the cards, turns them over, and picks his or her favorite. Whoever that card belongs to keeps the green card as the first point. The leftover red cards can be recycled into the red card pile. The play continues in a circle, with the players taking turns judging.

Model for your class how judges would talk about the cards they are evaluating. For example: La manzana es pequeña. El elefante no es pequeño. or, if it’s something plural: Las manzanas son pequeñas. Los elefantes no son pequeños.

 

¡Manzanas a Manzanas! (2)

 

7. Steal the Bacon

 

This game is best played outside or in a gym. Line up items practiced for vocabulary during the year (clothing, classroom objects, plastic food) exactly in the middle. Make sure nothing is fragile or sharp!

Divide the class into two teams,  and have them arrange themselves each más bajo to más alto. Count up so each team member gets a number (ideally, pairs from each team will be fairly evenly matched). Then have the teams line up on opposite sides of the space.

Call out an item of clothing: el zapato azul. THEN call out a number: ¡Cinco! The students who are from each side race to the middle to grab the zapato azul. To involve more students, call two items of clothing and them two sets of numbers. Just make sure to save the numbers for last so everyone is listening to the clothing terms and paying attention.

 

8. Categorías

 

Choose a letter of alphabet. Set a time limit (probably 2 minutes) . Everyone should think of a word that begins with that letter for each category. The trick is to try to think of creative words, because at the end of the time limit the students take turns reading their answers out loud. If anyone else has that word, it gets crossed out for everyone.

Example: The letter is M.  la comida: manzana, la ropa: medias, en la escuela: mapa, los adjetivos: malo, los verbos:  mirar

The first student reads his or her words. Other students have also written malo and manzana, so those words are crossed out. Three words are left: the student got 3 points that round. It is best to arrange students in small groups of 3-4, and have them compare answers at the end of each round.

Get free game sheets for Categorías here!

 

categorías (6)

 

9. ¿Quién es?

 

Choose an object (anything small). Choose one student to be it, and have them go out to the hall. Give the item to one of the students. “It” comes in, and asks yes/no questions to find out who has the item. (It may help to have everyone stand up and sit when they are ruled out. For example, it says: Es un chico? It’s not, so all the chicos sit down.) The competition can come from seeing who can guess in the fewest number of guesses.

 

10. Mafia

 

My students absolutely love this game. Martina Bex has a free printable. It includes everything we want: comprehensible input, interpersonal communication, and listening. The printable includes detailed instructions, but here’s the gist: this is a role-playing game, in which certain students are assigned to be the Mafia, other as citizens, and some as doctors and police. The mafia is trying to eliminate the entire “town” before the citizens discover them and  vote them out of the game.

You have to check out Martina’s post! It’s a perfect way to end the year and let the students loose with everything they have learned.

 

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10 AWESOME End-of-the-Year Games (2)

 

Mano Nerviosa: Awesome Game to Learn the Numbers in Spanish

Mano Nerviosa: Awesome Game to Learn the Numbers in Spanish

Inside: Learn the numbers in Spanish with the game Mano Nerviosa.

I moved to the Peruvian jungle at 22, without really knowing Spanish. I learned on the fly: getting a mototaxi, or hanging out with friends after a day of teaching. We’d sit around the kitchen table playing cards, late at night– all the young people in the house.

I knew the least Spanish out of anyone. This was unfortunate, especially when someone said something clever or cracked a joke. The rest would be crying from laughter, while I waited for the translation (usually to be told it didn’t translate!).

It was also very motivating, as I learned Spanish. One of the games we played was Mano nerviosa, a numbers-based game. My future husband was super-competitive like me, and would always win. You better believe I studied those numbers on the side, just to beat this annoying creído.

(We ending up dating and getting married anyway, of course. I still get just as mad when he beats me at cards!)

And this is all part of why I love games in the classroom. When I teach, I’m always reaching for that kitchen table.

I’m thinking of how to create that feeling of some great inside joke happening; that there’s magic on the other side. I want them to feel that by learning Spanish, they’ll access that other side and feel the world open up too.

For me, the perfect lesson happens when the task is so engaging everyone forgets we’re there to “learn” Spanish. Some games have every single person engaged, practicing exactly what you want them to practice. Mano Nerviosa is one of those game, and my students beg for it! Once everyone has the hang of it, use it as a brain break, class reward, or for Spanish club.

When I started teaching, I realized it was perfect for learning numbers 1-13– and actually knowing them. Most students come to me being able to count, or learn 1-10 fairly quickly. If you ask them what seven is, though, they can only get there by counting.

This game fixes all that, and works for any topic students learn by chanting or recitation (months, days, ABC’s– you would just need the cards for it).

 

How to Play Mano Nerviosa

(My Peruvian friends in the video said “una” instead of “uno”– a regionalismo you might need to explain to your class.)

Divide the students into groups of 4-6. (Can be played with 2-3 if needed.)
Ace = 1
2 – 10 = 2 – 10
Jack = 11
Queen = 12
King = 13
(Optional- use the Jokers and write 14 on them)

Divide all of the cards evenly among the players, and use two decks if possible. One person starts by laying a card face up, in the middle, and saying uno (or one— any language works!). The play continues clockwise, laying down cards and counting. When everyone counts to 13 (or 14), they start back at 1 and count up again. Anytime a number is placed in the middle that matches the number spoken, the players can slap the pile. The first person to hit the card gets the entire pile to keep. The first person to get all the cards in the game wins.

ALSO– and this is cool– if anyone loses all their cards, they can still slap in. Everyone is involved and engaged with a chance to win, right until the end!

Here’s a another (older!) video showing the game being played:

 

 

A few more caveats/notes:

  • Give a strict lecture about losing turns, being out of the game, etc. by being too rough. They REALLY get into this one!

 

  •  If you have super-shy, sensitive kids, make sure they are in a less competitive group. It can be helpful to group loosely by ability, so the competition is even. 

 

  • If you have students slapping every time– or to up the competition– tell them they have to deduct ten of their own cards and place them in the middle pile for each false slap.

 

  • Do a class tournament. Put the students in groups of 4-6, and then have the winners, 2nd place, 3rd place, etc, move to the same tables and compete against each other. This is fun because everyone has the chance to beat their group (on their own level), to the end. 

 

If you’re looking for games to play in Spanish class, make sure to check out my Spanish Classroom Games page!

Here are my top game pages you can quickly jump to:

Fun & Interactive Vocabulary Games for the Language Classroom

Icebreakers for Middle and High School

End-of-the-Year or Review Games for the Language Classroom

 

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Learn the numbers in Spanish with Mano Nerviosa

Bingo in the World Language Classroom

Bingo in the World Language Classroom

Inside: Ideas for playing Bingo in the Spanish classroom and a free printable Bingo board.

It might seem odd to dedicate an entire post to the humble game of Bingo. Bingo is traditionally a game for developing listening skills and recognizing words, a staple in almost any language classroom.

Don’t miss the versatility of this game, though!: it’s always been popular from my little ones to the high schoolers. Anytime I can turn an activity into a game, I do. Here are some quick ideas for getting the most out of Bingo in the foreign language classroom.

 

Bingo in Spanish Class

 

free bingo download

 

Use pictures instead of words.

 

 When possible, look to buy or make games that use pictures as clues instead of English. There’s not reason to match el gato to cat when an image would keep everything thinking and operating in Spanish.

 

Have the students draw.

 

Consider giving the students a blank Bingo board to draw the terms themselves. Pre-printed Bingo games can be great for quick practice, but when students draw, it creates a stronger connection to the vocabulary word. I do sometimes get complaints about this one. Something to consider, though: the ones who love this are often the less traditional learners who might struggle with the regular exercises.

 

Assign Bingo illustrations as homework.

 

 Print out a Bingo board with words or phrases listed. As homework, the students read and draw the terms. It’s super-easy to check who did their work, and you can play the game in immediately or store the games to periodically review. I include assignments like this in my game packs.

 

Use more than just a word.

 

Make the terms more complicated than “la mesa,” or “el libro.” Describe a scene using whatever vocabulary they know: el libro verde está encima de la mesa. It’s always best to use language in context, whenever and wherever you can. 

 

Use the Bingo games for writing. 

 

After using the games for a few days, tell the students to cut their boards into vertical strips. Paste them into interactive students notebooks or onto pieces of paper. Then, have the students write a sentence or two describing each scene or object.

 

Grab your freebie below!

 Free BINGO Download

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