Class Activities

Listening Battleship for Home Vocabulary

I´ve been reading Breaking the Sound Barrier: Teaching Language Learners How to Listen by Gianfranco Conti and Steve Smith as a part of my professional learning goal for this year. I’ve been getting a lot of great ideas for how to teach listening, and how to teach grammar and vocabulary through listening. Today, I wanted to share an activity I created based off their activity “Find the object”, described on page 112 of Breaking the Sound Barrier.

find the object listening activity sound barrier p 112.docx

I created this activity for house vocab, but it could work for almost any topic – school schedule, food, and family come immediately to mind. It consists of a battleship-type grid with sentence starters on the vertical axis, and the ends of those sentences on the horizontal axis. As you read different sentences, students will shade in a the corresponding box in the grid. The trick is to plan out the sentences ahead of time, so that the shaded in boxes form a an object. The game ends when the first student correctly guesses the hidden object.

On second thought, maybe I should move some of these around so they aren’t washing their hands in the dining room and eating dinner in the garage

What unit would you use this for? I’d love to see your grids!

Class Activities, Music in Spanish Class

#SCOLT18: #AuthRes for the Novice Language Learner

I am super excited to be headed to #SCOLT18 tomorrow! Here are the slides for my session, #AuthRes for the Novice Language Learner. I’m sharing tons of links to my favorite sources for finding beginner-appropriate authentic resources, as well as activities to go along with them. I’m also sharing three “ready to go” authres activities that I’ve used with my own students on leisure activities, school, and clothing. If you’ll be at SCOLT, I will be presenting Saturday at 9:00 – hope to see you there!

Sp 1 Unit 2: Who am I?

Authentic Audio: Physical Descriptions

Two of my favorite resources for audio are Audio Lingua and Spanish Proficiency Exercises. Each of these sites has audio organized by topic, so it is easy to find something that works with your unit. Since Spanish Proficiency Exercises includes transcripts with the videos, it is very easy to create cloze activities to go with the audio.

I’ve been using a simple cloze activity with this set of videos for years, but I changed the activity around bit this time and was quite pleased with the result.

Cloze, sequencing, and comprehension questions all in one.

Since my students each have a brand new laptop (we are finally 1:1! HOORAY!), I posted the audio on Schoology and let them complete the activities independently (both Audio Lingua and Spanish Proficiency Exercises include download links). We did a practice run as a whole class with the script for Deysibeth projected on the board, and then I set them loose to complete the rest of it on their own or with a partner. I haven’t tried doing audio activities independently very often in the past, so I was pleasantly surprised to notice that my students not only interacted with the audio more, playing it over and over again in an attempt to catch the deleted words, but were so much more engaged than they are when we do audio as a whole class. I also think adding the sequencing activity worked well, as it was easier than the cloze and gave students a sense of success. And, as always when using audio from native speakers, I love how this exposes students to different voices, different accents and rhythms of speech, as well as a wider variety of vocab (ojos pardos, bajito, peludo…the list goes on).

Here is the link to the activity if you would like to use it. The videos are linked above, as well as at the bottom of the activity.

Class Activities, Ideas by topic, Sp 1 Unit 5: ¿Qué te gusta comer?

Authentic Resources: Food

I’m having lots of fun finding #authres for my food unit. They may not all make it into a lesson this year, but here are some of my favorites:


Have you seen this google doc Sara-Elizabeth Cottrell started? It’s full of  links to Spanish-language commercials, with transcripts. I used it to put together this cloze activity for my classes: Food Commercials Clozes

Here are the videos I used:


Sancor Bebe 3

Burger King


Kara Jacobs also has a great collection of videos here.

Spanish Proficiency Exercises:

Oh, how I love this website! Here are the videos on the topic “Mi comida favorita.” We’re getting so much deeper than the textbook vocabulary, with cultural dishes – I can’t wait to talk about el picante de cuy with my students! Here is the activity I made to go with the videos: laits mi comida favorita

La Ogra – Gazpacho

Martina Bex brought this video to my attention last year. You can see the video and find an embedded reading activity here.  I used it in Spanish 2 as part of cooking unit, and used Kara Parker’s idea for giving instructions on how to make it.

What are your favorite resources for teaching food?

Class Activities, Sp 1 Unit 4: En la escuela

Authentic audio: Mis clases

I’m in the midst of my school unit – Realidades 2a, since I’m using a textbook now (and by using a book, I mean that I’m following the topics, teaching the vocab, and integrating the grammar – day-to-day teaching is mostly my ideas and inspiration I find online).  I found some great audio clips that fit well with the topic and vocab – here are the links, as well as the activities I made to go with them.



For the activities, I started with a word cloud, and they just circled the words that they heard.  After that, I had them flip their papers over to the back. I found it worked best to have them read and match the Spanish and English first, then listen one or two more times and number the statements in the order they are said. You could also have them cut up the sentences, and physically put them in order as they listen. Here’s the word document: listening seiji cristina

Audio Lingua

There are a TON of recordings related to school on audio lingua.  These are the three that I used.

For the activities, I typed up transcripts and had them fill in the blank (there might be a few errors in the transcripts – check me before you make 800 copies!). My students were all jealous of Elvira and Edinson getting a recreo in the middle of the day! I really liked all the culture in Edinson’s recording, so I typed up a short embedded-reading style summary to make sure they understood the idea of his schedule. His passage is a great review of time, too! Here are the activities: listening audio lingua – mis clases

Have you taught a school unit yet? What are your favorite resources and activities?

Class Activities, Sp 1 Unit 3: What do you like to do?

Authentic Audio: Me gusta/No me gusta

Here are some links to Audio Lingua recordings of native Spanish speakers talking about their likes and dislikes:

1. Alejandra:

2. Edinson:

3. Paola:

4. María:

I had students set up a graphic organizer on their paper:

Screenshot 2014-10-01 09.47.29
Super low prep – no copies required!

I played them in the order listed above, as they get progressively more difficult. María speaks really fast, but my kids could still catch Me gusta fútbol! I played it multiple times and had them also listen for her age and the days of the week she practices.

Differentiation: I downloaded the files from Audio Lingua so I could save them in my dropbox and easily share with my department (and also still have them in case the internet went out). I used VLC media player to play them (a free download), and discovered that I could speed up and slow down the playback speed. So cool! So I played it once or twice at regular speed, slowed it down once, then played it again at the normal speed. Neat!

Screenshot 2014-10-01 09.47.14

Class Activities, Sp 1 Unit 2: Who am I?

Four Corners: Take vocabulary practice out of the classroom!

Last March, I went to an excellent presentation at FLAG by Lee Burson and Erin Smith called “Halls, Walls, and Using it All.” The presentation was all about creative ways to utilize your available space, getting students up and moving around. So here’s an activity I learned from them called four corners: basically, you just need four categories, and four separate physical areas – corners, walls, whatever. Label the areas, call out a word or phrase, and students decide which category it fits in, and move to that area. So, for example, my categories today were Soy, No Soy, Tengo, and No Tengo (I am, I’m not, I have, I don’t have).

2014-09-24 09.43.12

I call out a word or phrase in Spanish (blonde hair, artistic, lazy, brown eyes) and then direct my students to physically move to the appropriate areaAfter they sort themselves out, I have each group repeat the phrase – I have blonde hair/I don’t have blonde hair, I’m artistic/I’m not artistic. 


  • Review/reinforce descriptions vocabulary
  • Distinguish between I have phrases and I am phrases – let’s not say tengo alto or soy ojos azules
  • Practice masculine and feminine adjectives – when I had a gender-specific adjective, like artístico or perezoso,  I always had the guys and girls repeat separately – Chicos, repitan, “Soy artístico!” ok, chicas, repitan, “Soy artística!” 
  • Provide lots of comprehensible input for where to put the no – I want no soy and no tengo to just sound right, so I don’t get Tengo no lentes or Soy no alto on speaking or writing assessments.

Adapt it:

  • Do it in the hall with the signs taped up to the wall, or take it outside on a pretty day and let student volunteers hold the signs.
  • The options for categories are endless:
    • I like it, I like it a lot, I don’t like it, I hate it – use it for foods, activities, or school subjects
    • Sometimes, a lot, once in awhile, never – use it for activities, places around town, chores, daily routine verbs
    • In the morning, in the afternoon, at night – Again, activities or daily routine verbs
    • Breakfast, lunch, dinner – for categorizing foods/drinks
    • Alone, with my family, with my friends – maybe for working verb forms, ask Who do you ____ with? And the sentences could be, I study alone. My friends and I go to school together. My family and I watch TV together.  You could indicate other groups or individuals to get in the he/she and they forms.
  • Make it more challenging: after a few rounds, prompt each group of students to produce the sentence on their own, rather than repeating
  • Make it simpler: If you have TPR-able vocab, you can do this at the beginning of the unit and support comprehension of the phrases you call out by doing the gesture. You could also use picture cards to support comprehension (rather than clarifying in English) if the vocabulary doesn’t lend well to gesturing.
Class Activities, Sp 1 Unit 2: Who am I?

Comprehensible Input: Draw What I Say!

Drawing is a great way for students to demonstrate comprehension, without requiring them to produce language they aren’t ready for. “Draw what I say” (fancy title, I know!) is a simple, no-prep activity to get lots of reps of draw-able structures. This week I used it to work on colors and physical characteristics.

My paper - filled out as I talked first period.
My paper – filled out as I talked first period.

Step 1: I ask students to get out a piece of paper, and fold it three times (all in the TL – I demonstrate as I talk). I then have them number 1-6 (again in the TL, walking around and pointing at my own paper), leaving the last two squares blank – we’ll draw in squares 1-6, and write sentences in the empty spots. I also direct them to get markers  or colored pencils (our fabulous German teacher lent me his class set).

Step 2: Tell them what to draw! I was able to hit physical features, colors, clothing (really basic – shirt, pants, shorts, dress, shoes – we’ve already practiced these through stories and TPR), and feelings (feliz/triste/enojado – easy to model or TPR) as well as review some key phrases from unit 1 -we named each character, gave them an age, and said what time it was.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Step 3: Extend the activity!

Reading: Give a warm up with comprehension questions based on the drawing:


Screenshot 2014-09-03 10.13.11
1st period’s warm up questions.

Listening: I made statements about one of the drawings, and had students point or hold up fingers (1, 2, or 3) to indicate which character it was about. Ie: Tiene pelo castaño. Lleva un vestido. Tiene 15 años. 

Writing: Use the empty boxes to have students write descriptions of the characters.

Speaking: Ask questions in class about the drawing, and have students answer chorally. Have them work with a partner to ask and answer questions about the drawings, or just have them practice making statements about the characters (telling other people’s age, hair and eye color are among our goals for this unit).

Class Activities, Sp 1 Unit 1: Greetings/goodbyes/ numbers/calendar

Teaching Time With Picture Cards

One of my favorite resources for almost any unit is a set of picture cards for vocab words. Today I was teaching time,  so I gave students this handout:

time images


You can make prettier ones here (digital or analogue clocks! five minute intervals! quarter hour intervals! thirty minute intervals! customize the clock face!), but I couldn’t easily get the combination of numbers I wanted, so I just typed the what I wanted into a chart in Word (still trying to think of a way to use the pretty ones though!) .  Download for free here.

So, step 1: input! After briefly introducing vocabulary, (Son las ___, y cuarto, y media), I started calling out times and having them point to the corresponding clock on their picture sheet. Note: the order of the clocks is deliberate! Since time is new to them (and in the past it’s taken my students a looooong time to be able to tell me what time it is!), I wanted to get lots of reps of the most important phrases – Son las ____, es la una, y cuarto, y media. I started with just the clocks on the first row, and gradually started calling out times on the subsequent rows as their confidence increased. You can also have them look at the clocks and repeat the vocab, or start it for them (Es la una…) and then let them finish (…y media)

Tip: Give directions in the target language! I say indica or toca and exaggeratedly mime pointing at my paper. If they don’t get it, I clarify with a word or two of English.

Step 2: Practice! Picture cards lend themselves quite well to matching. Matching activities are great because they feel like a game, they get students to read (without them realizing it’s a reading activity), and they give my fidgety teenagers a hands-on way to practice. Furthermore, it’s a student-centered way of giving input (so much CI is teacher-centered!), and when you match Spanish to pictures, there’s no English! Here’s what it looked like:




I made a class set of the “words” handout (download it here), and two class sets of the “numbers” handout – one to keep whole for the first half of class point-at-what-I-say activity, and one to cut apart for the matching activity.  I like to print the cut-apart cards on a different color paper – it makes them “pop” during the matching activity, and it helps to find them when they fall on the floor (Side note: one of my students couldn’t find the match for “Son las cinco.” So he called me over and told me, “Hey, Señorita, I’m missing one – there’s a five o’clock somewhere!”).

Tip: Keep your workload manageable – don’t try to cut thirty sets of cards yourself! My first period takes a couple of minutes to cut the cards apart, then clips each set together at the end of class. We throw them in a plastic bag, and a student walks around and collects the sets at the end of the activity.



Step 3: Practice some more! I asked them to hold up one of the pink cards for their partner, and have them tell what time it is. They have the white handout right there with the answers for support, so they can look at it to give their answer, or just use it to check each other.

More activities:

Lo tengo: A listening comprehension game. Divide students into groups, give each group a set of the picture cards (the clocks in this case), and have them split up the cards among them. Call out a word in the TL (or a definition or description in the TL), and each group races to be the first to find the corresponding card and yell Lo tengo!   More detailed instructions here!

Bingo? As soon as my students saw the cards they started begging me to play bingo. I haven’t yet found a program to take my vocabulary words or pictures and randomize them into 30+ unique bingo cards. Any ideas? All I can think of is having students cut apart the pictures and tape or glue them into custom bingo boards – is there a way to do that electronically? Free, preferably?

That’s all I’ve got – what else do you do with vocabulary picture cards? Quite a bit of prep goes into making the cards, so I like to get as many uses out of them as possible. Share, share share in the comments!