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!

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

Stations: Practice and perfect!

I was talking to a few teachers in my department between classes earlier this week:

“I’ve introduced most of the unit’s vocab, but I need more ways to practice it. Students can do all right on straight translation, or remember a phrase long enough to do their stamps, but when I ask them a question out loud, they still can’t tell the difference between ¿Cómo estás? and ¿Cómo te llamas? How do I get them to keep practicing, without it being repetitious?”

How indeed, to get lots of repetitions without it getting old? STATIONS.

Here’s what I put together to practice basic beginning-of-Spanish-1 questions, numbers and letters, as well as letting them explore the language a little bit.

1. Conversation station: practice asking and answering questions out loud with a partner.

20140814_09562320140814_095742My classes are around 32 students each, so I make multiple sets of station supplies to give students the maximum number of options in choosing a station – I don’t want “but there’s nothing left to do!” or, “all the stations I need are taken!” to ever be an excuse. I printed the questions out on cardstock, and plan to save and add to these bags throughout the year. This station WILL be recycled!

2 . Numbers station: I bought these knock-off Jenga blocks from the Dollar General for $3 a few years ago. I wrote the numbers on them in a sharpie, from 1-42. Lots of teachers give students a task to correspond to a specific number, but today I just asked them to put the blocks in order.

20140814_104019 3. Reading station: I’ve been acquiring Spanish children’s books slowly over the past few years. I have pure Spanish children’s books, an Autobus Mágico, some bilingual books (some collected for me by my friend’s mom from Cheerio boxes), plus some “First 100 words in Spanish” type picture-dictionary books. I also have some novels, some poetry, a Bible, and a set of picture flashcards. This station was just for students to explore Spanish independently, from a book that looked interesting to them. For accountability, I asked them to write down five words they learned – either from looking at the English translation, looking at the picture, looking them up in a dictionary, or by recognizing a cognate.


In one period I caught two boys going through the flashcards – Guess what bicicleta means?? Ok, coche? Avión? #ReasonNumber287WhyILoveTeachingNovices

4. Spelling station: a good friend of mine gave me a Spanish Scrabble game (Pensante!) a few years ago. I divided the tiles into 4 baggies (about 25 tiles per bag – so multiple groups could participate at once), and asked students to first look at the tiles and review the alphabet (they need to be able to spell their name for their stamps). Then, they can arrange the letters into as many Spanish words as possible (they wrote them on their paper for accountability), and add up their points. They got really into this one! Also, isn’t it amazing how many words they know after just 2 weeks of class?20140814_10041020140814_104814 20140814_1053365. Tech stations: review vocabulary on Quizlet on smartphone, on my Promethean board, or on my desktop computer. They love the scatter game, and they can plug their headphones in and listen to the pronunciation.

6. Writing station: write a few sentences in Spanish about yourself telling your name, age, birthday, where you’re from, plus any bonus information you know how to say! I posted an example paragraph about myself on the board for extra reading input.

7. Stamps station: This is straight from the fabulous Jefferson County World Language Curriculum playbook. I gave them a set of speaking goals at the beginning of the unit, written as I can statements – I can introduce myself. I can ask someone their age. I can tell the date. As they learn how to do each goal, they do it for me out loud and I stamp their sheet. I LOVE the stamp sheets, but honestly, it’s difficult to balance listening to students individually while managing/teaching the other 31 students. Except on station day! I wrote up VERY CLEAR instructions for each station, posted around the room, and tried to be explicit about my expectations up front, so that students could manage their learning independently. If the rest of my students are occupied in learning tasks that don’t require my direct supervision, I’m free to focus on individual students, listen to their stamps, and give individual help and feedback. Differentiation success!


My stations instructions – don’t reinvent the wheel! I posted these around the room, and made multiple copies so students could take the instructions back to their work area. I also included suggested group size and how long to spend at each station, but I didn’t end up supervising this too closely – if they are engaged in language-learning activities and behaving appropriately, I am happy! Also, I might have taped the “Stamps Station” sign to my shirt… just sayin’ 🙂

More stations resources – the generous sharing of other language teachers has helped me so much in learning how to implement and manage stations! Here are some of the posts that have helped me:

The Creative Language Class has a pretty comprehensive series on stations (and have lots of other great ideas too!), so if you’re just getting started I would recommend starting by reading through their posts.

Kristy Placido on stations:

Stations in Spanish 3 and AP:

More on stations…

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

Audio Resources for my Greetings Unit

Today I want to share two authentic-ish audio resources, as well as activities I’ve put together to go with them. I’m using them in the second week of Spanish 1, as part as the introductory unit covering greetings and leave takings, personal information, numbers, and dates.

The first listening activity is one I made last year, and found last week as I looked through my unit 1 files – hooray for files being organized enough to find things, and hooray for year three of proficiency-based teaching, and having teaching files worth reviewing! Anyway, here is the activity (updated link – PDF formatted 2 per page), and or you find it here in an editable format, with the direct audio links. The audio is from Audio Lingua, and features speakers from Mexico, Spain, and Paraguay. If the audio links don’t work, trying searching the speaker’s name on Audio Lingua, and you should find a “Me presento” file. Each recording includes different information, but it gives students a chance to hear native speakers introduce themselves, tell where they are from, tell their age, and their birthdays.

The second listening activity I have for you today is based on a video from Spanish Proficiency Exercises.   In it, a Mexican woman describes the rules on when cars are allowed to drive inside Mexico City – basically, due to high air pollution, everyone is banned from driving one day a week based on the last number of their license plate*. So I like this audio for reinforcing days of the week and number vocabulary, and again for exposing students to native accents and rhythm of language, but I LOVE the culture in it!  I made a cloze activity for it (there is a Spanish and English transcript for each video, so clozes are super-easy to make!). I will probably ask students to skim for cognates before we listen to it, and underline the days of the week, then afterwards discuss in Spanish (because Martina Bex taught me to do a pre- and post- activity for every authentic resource!) – ¿En Atlanta, hay problemas con el tráfico? ¿La solución de México es buena o mala? I’ll keep the discussion simple, because it’s the second week of Spanish 1but it will still be in the TL! Here is the activity, with a link to the audio at the top.  Irma C. is the last video at the bottom of the page. Enjoy! What authentic audio do you use with your novices?

*My Mexican friend told me the law has been tightened since Irma C. recorded this video – now cars that are more than ten years old are also prohibited from driving on Saturdays.