In this episode, I share three of my FAVORITE low/no prep GAMES for your World Language Classroom! Games for those days where you just "can't even!" If you love this episode, make sure to pass it on to someone else who'd benefit, because let's be real! We ALL "can't even" right now! 💜
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Welcome to Teaching La Vida Loca, a podcast for World Language Teachers seeking inspiration, unapologetic authenticity and guidance in centering joy and facilitating language acquisition for the people that matter the most, our students. I'm your host Annabelle. Most people call me La Maestra Loca... I'm an educator just like you and inspiring teachers is what I do.
Welcome to episode four of teaching la vida loca, I will admit that this is a little bit different than the first three episodes based on feedback that I received from adamant family members and a couple of good friends who are not educators but listen to the podcast, they said that I need to jump straight into the cutesy fun musical intro, rather than doing a preview of the episode. So based on lots of feedback from lots of people, this is how we're doing it moving forward.
Welcome to Episode Four. In this episode, I'm going to share three low to no prep (Yes, I said no prep) games that you can play in your world language classroom. This year, n now more than ever, I have found that it's really important to have these in my back pocket. Because on days when you can't even, but you're forced to even anyways, (if you know what I mean), on days, when you really really, really, really, really want to call in but the guilt is weighing too heavy, because you know what it puts on your team, or .... (WHISPERED: "you should take the day anyways.") or perhaps you come to school with a headache and feeling all the feelings and you're just not into it and you don't feel like running the lesson that you had planned to run .....or perhaps you don't even have a plan in the first place it is really, really helpful to have just some tools in your back pocket that you can use on the fly with little to no prep. And hopefully, at the end of the day you leave feeling a little bit more joyful than when you came into the building because of the high engagement and fun that these games bring.
All three of these were included in the presentation I did for my familia loca PLC community this month. La Familia Loca PLC is a community that I created for educators to develop and enhance their skills using acquisition driven instruction within a positive and supportive community to unlock unprecedented joy for both them and their students. In this community, every month, I choose a theme of the month, and I present on that theme. And then we have a guest related to that theme come and talk to us, and lots of other things. But this month's theme for February has been gamifying our world language classrooms. And these three games were three of the strategies that I presented to teachers at the beginning of this month to give a try in their world language classrooms and they're three of my favorite, go to's when I just can't even! So let's jump in!
GAME NUMBER 1
Game number 1, I like to call....backwards charades. Yep. And that's it. It's as simple as it sounds. It's literally instead of one person acting out clues for lots of people. It's lots of people acting out clues for one person. And in my case, and in a classroom case, I always say that you should have at least two teams. So let me break this down and explain how this works. I will include obviously lots of videos and resources in the show notes. Basically, you start by dividing your class into two teams, Team A and Team B, I always let kids choose their own names. For example, today, we played it in class and one team was team encanto. And the other team was team Rams, because the Rams won the Super Bowl last night. I actually didn't watch the Super Bowl to be totally transparent and honest. But I still wanted the Bengals to win over the Rams. Sorry to any Rams fans out there. Sorry, not sorry. Okay, to continue. Once you have the class divided into two teams, you ask for one volunteer from each team to join you at the front of the class. Those two people face away.... face away from the whiteboard and face away from you. It doesn't matter where they face but they're not looking at your whiteboard and they're not looking at the rest of the students in the class. Because I'm on the stage I basically have the kids face the curtains and everybody else looks at me and my whiteboard.
Now on the whiteboard, you write a sentence. You write a sentence that is review language, you write a sentence that has high frequency vocabulary, preferably high frequency vocabulary that has a gesture assigned, or tied to it. I'll explain more about that in a second. You write that sentence so that the whole class can see it, except for those two people who are playing for each team, you give them (the teams) 10-15 seconds to read it silently to get an idea in their brain of how they're going to act it out for the person representing their team, you erase the sentence, you tell the students who are facing the other direction to now face their classmates, and you give them the signal of go or vámanos or whatever you want to say to signal to the students that are acting that they can now begin acting. Now, the students are going to start acting out using gestures and silent clues. They're going to start acting out for their teammate that's at the front of the classroom what it is that was written on the board, what was the sentence. They may not use any sounds and they may not use any words. That's what's lovely about masks! Oh, my gosh, can you believe I'm saying there's something lovely about masks!?!? What's lovely about masks and this activity is students are no longer mouthing the words like in the past! Four years ago, when I would play this game, my biggest issue was kids mouthing the words out instead of just acting the clues! Well now the masks are protecting their mouths. And they there's no longer that issue, which is like the best ever, I had no idea that I would be that excited about it. The lovely thing about this is you're only listening to two students, because those are the only two people able to talk. So you're listening for which student says the sentence as close to accurate as what you wrote on the board. Soon as you hear as close as you want it to be or as close as it's gonna get you say MUY BIEN!!!! I've also encouraged them to cheer, and then you give out the points.
I'm going to talk about points real quick, because I think that this is really key for how this game is going to go. Anytime I play any game that is highly competitive, or requires any kind of teamwork, or sportsmanship. I tell kids, and I remind them, "y'all remember I am looking for you to be a good sport, I am looking for you to encourage your teammate who is the one, you know, showing courage and taking risks in front of the classroom. What should it look like after they finish,?!!" and they show me with aplausos high fives, chocala, whatever. And encouraging the other team! As soon as I see encouragement for the other team, let's say Team A wins, boom, I'm giving Team A points. If I see Team B say excelente, aplausos, or encouragement in any other way I turn around and I give team B points because they're showing that kind of good sportsmanship instead of being sore losers are whining at me about the point distribution or whatever..... because frankly, I can't handle it. And I'm far too emotional. That has been way too hard a year to have any sort of negativity. So I just I kind of force the positivity, if that makes sense. But it's not toxic, I promise, it just encourages a better classroom environment.
Now, I want to talk a little bit more about what sentences you can write on your board. I posted a reel today (2/14) sharing this activity because I used it in class, got some videos thought, hey, this is a great, great game to share. And it's actually the reason I am recording the podcast today! I received so many messages from teachers and comments saying "this is awesome, I want to try it tomorrow." "Can you give some more examples of what sentences you write on the board.?!?!" And the reality is I can give you an idea of sentences that I've used, but the sentences really have to come from you because they're going to vary between every class that you teach. They're also going to vary based on what high frequency language you have taught to your students. The reason this game is so fun and effective for me is because I teach using acquisition driven instruction. Anytime I introduce a high frequency structure like tiene quiere or le gusta (has wants likes), I am attaching a gesture to it. It's not always TPR because total physical response requires an action word like walks, runs, goes, grabs, gives.... with has and wants I still assign a gesture because those are high frequency words, right? So when I'm writing up a sentence, I want the sentences to be high frequency language that my students know. And I want it to be language I know that they can act out silently! For example, I always include a name at the beginning of the sentence for example, Maestra, my name, and then the next word might be likes le gustan, "A Maestra le gustan...." and then the next word is something that they can act out.... hamburgers or pizzas or unicorns, my students know that inevitably, there are several sentences that include unicorns in some way unicorns are is very easy to act out with one finger on your forehead, it's pretty easy to tell that you're an unicornio. So for example, one of the sentences today said, maestra tiene .....has 42 unicorns, and they want to eat 19 hamburgers. Okay, so my students were acting out that sentence, and the words that are hard are those like connecting words like that? Or, AND, OR, because, and sometimes I just let that go. Like, they're not always going to use those connecting words. What's important is that they're getting those high frequency words that the students are acting out for them. How are the students acting out those words!?!?!, they're using the gestures that I assigned to them, right? So that it's not hard to act out has, because they just cross their arms across their chest, because that's the gesture we have for tiene in my class. It's not hard for them to act out, wants to eat, because they just use our gesture that we use for quiere comer. And my students immediately can spit that out. Because what's beautiful about using gestures and using movement attached to words is there's scientific proof and evidence behind TPR in that when we kinesthetically move. Oh my gosh, is that like a double statement? I don't even know if that makes sense. When we are moving. And we attach a word to it our brain, It is more capable or able to recall! ..... I'm not editing that. I don't know if that makes sense. I hope that makes sense. Whew, that was a mouthful.
Hello!!! hello!? My name Memphis. Hello, what's your name, Memphis. How old are you memphis? Six.You're not six. How old are you? Five. Say I'm two! My two! Hello My name Memphis....
That was a good little brain break for you. Sorry about that. He (memphis) came home with Daddy and I wasn't gonna deny him the opportunity to say hello to you and speak into the "big mic thing as he calls it."
One final note about backward charades is that it's really, really super fun to play this game outside, especially if you have really big class sizes. Like some of my classes of 30 or more kids. I love this. And I'll stretch it out for a whole class period and just take it outside. Although today I played it in 10 minute chunks. In each of my classes we played for 10 minutes at the beginning of class right after our free voluntary reading time, we spent 10 minutes playing the game. And then I jumped into the content of my lesson.... right now we're working on Black History Black futures projects. And so we jumped into the regular content of the lesson and left the game behind. So you can you can use backwards charades in really short bursts, or you can use it and it can take up the whole class. If you're playing outside, I recommend taking one of those small, portable dry erase boards. And then you can track the points on that and give students the sentences or you can if they're really small boards, you can track the points on one and write the sentences on the other. But it's really, really fun. And I'm excited for you and your students to try it.
GAME NUMBER 2
Game number two that I want to share with you is called Trashquetbol. I learned this from Bryce Hedstrom. And I really, really, really love it. I don't know that I play it the exact way that it was intended to be played by him. But, as with everything, I think it's important that we give credit where credit is due. Credit the person that we learned things from and then find our own way of doing it and make it our own with twists or quirks or whatever makes it unique to us and our students in our classrooms. So the way I play Trashquetbol is first and foremost, I'm using it as a review game. So for example, if we are reading a whole class novel, or if we did a whole class on special person interviews, the day before, or perhaps we created a one word image and made a whole story about the one word image. And today I'm coming in and I'm just tired and exhausted and can't even again, I can pull this game out as review and have little to no prep for it. The only prep that you need is a recycling bin. I use a recycling bin instead of a trash can because my trash can in my room tends to be really gross at the bottom and kids make less of a fuss if I use a recycle bin. In fact, I like to have a spare recycle bin on the side.... I'm close friends with the janitorial staff in my building. So once you get on their good side, they often have extra ones lying around they can supply you with. And you can have it just waiting around for playingTrashquetbol. So you need a recycling bin, or trash for them to throw it balls into. And then you need a ball or in my case, I play with three different size balls. You also need places on the floor that are marked for where the throw lines are, because they're going to try and make a basket with the various ball sizes that you have into your trashcan. Now they only make those baskets or they only get to attempt after answering a question. So this is again, where you can split your team your class into different teams, I usually have two to three teams per class, depending on the class sizes, you can split it up what feels best to you. And then you have questions ready for them. If you want to have a low prep, then obviously you can prepare those questions in advance.... no prep?!!?!? don't even prepare the questions and just think them up as you go based on whatever story you read!!! Again, whatever you created in class, but the key to this is that they are reviewing something, right?!?!!? So perhaps you told a story the day before, and today you're asking questions in the past tense about that story and reviewing it. For example, where did Charlie the mushroom go?( If you created a class character named Charlie, the mushroom) as one of my classes did a couple weeks ago. So where did Charlie the mushroom go?
Then each team is going to try and buzz in.... the way they buzz in is literally raising their hand, and the first hand that I see gets to answer the question first, if they are correct, I will ask them the question "Do you want to play? Or do you want to pass?" If they say I want to play, I then ask them which ball they would like to play with and which line they would like to shoot from. If they would rather pass then that just means that they're choosing somebody else on their team that they would like to play for them. Like, for example, if a student who really likes to answer questions, maybe doesn't want to stand up and shoot a ball in front of class, then that's fine, they can choose somebody else to do that for them. So I have a pom pom, a medium size ball that's always one like you can hold in the palm of your hand, and then a large size ball and for the large size ball, I have a dodgeball like an old school dodgeball, not the kind of dodgeball that they use nowadays, which is soft and squishy, and doesn't even hurt when it hits you!
When I was in school, I used to go home from dodgeball with welts on my skin because I was the girl who hid behind everybody else until there was nobody else left to hide behind on my team. And then there were like, five, six other people on the other team. And they all had balls, and they were all slowly creeping up to, you know, like, just pummel me with all of them at the same time. And it was awful. And the whole time I had my team screaming just catch a ball. So needless to say, My memories of gym class are not the greatest...
BUTTTT..... the big ball that I use in class is a dodgeball like the old school bouncy dodgeball. So the kids tell me how many points they're going for. They're either going for three, five, or 10 points, the line closest to the trashcan is three points. If they shoot from that line, they are going for three points. If they're shooting for five points, they go from that middle line. And 10 points is that line that's really far, far back. Now, the size of ball will increase their points based on where they're standing. For example, if they choose the smallest ball, it's multiplied by three. So if they choose the smallest little pompom and they shoot from the three point line, if they make it they get nine points, if they choose the pompom, and they're shooting from the farthest away line, it's times three points. So that's 30 points. Does that make sense?
The biggest ball multiplies whatever their points are by one. So it's essentially if you're shooting from the three point line, you get three points from the five point line, you get five points from the 10 point line, you get 10 points.
The medium size ball, it's times two. If you shoot from the three point line, it's six points, five point line 10 points, 10 Point line 20 points..
The pom pom earns you three times the amount you're going for.
Obviously, these are all added things that are just extra and make it novel. You don't have to do any of that you could add those in as flavors later. If you think that Trashquetbol needs like a level up, but those are the those are the rules and that's I play my classroom. I also always introduce the rejoinder "SUERTE" So my kids are yelling, good luck, good luck, "SUERTE" at the teammate, whether it's their teammate on their team, or the other, because again, in this game, I'm encouraging good sportsmanship, and good teamwork. And so I'm giving points to the kids that I hear or to the teams that I hear students yelling, SUERTE, they are wishing each other luck. It's always really cute when everyone ends up chanting, "SUERTE" when the student at the front is going for it.
Your most athletic and most competitive will go for the crazy one and try and shoot the pom pom from the 10 point line to try and get 30 points. I always want to roll my eyes like that's not ... ugh ....You're not gonna make it. It doesn't work like that!!! And you're really quiet kiddos will choose to use the pom pom from the three point line because at least that's nine points... and that's really smart. It's actually not hard to make because you're only like, a few feet away from the trashcan!!!!!
Please don't email me asking how far the distances are, I don't know do what's best in your classroom. LOL Whatever fits your space, obviously, your space is going to look very different from mine. I'm on a stage this year. So my distances from the trashcan has changed greatly. And that's not the point of the game!!! The point of the game is to review whatever it is you're wanting to review whatever story you did in class, give them more input of the high frequency language and give you a break from planning some very involved lesson and get high engagement and fun out of this game with students.
Now if the student you called on in the beginning was incorrect with their answer, you go to the next hand that you saw up. Obviously, it's hard not to kids are gonna raise their hand at the same time. My only requirement is that they don't raise their hand before the question is finished. Like they have to let me finish that question before they raise their hand. And that's it for Trashquetbol.... I think it's about time for brain break!!!!
Today I want to share with you zip zap zoom. That's what I call it. But I know If Teresa York is listening, she will tell me it's Zip Zap Zop. She is a theater guru. She is trained in all things improv and often uses improv games in her world language classroom, she's actually presenting to our Familia Loca PLC this month on that, and how we can incorporate fun improv games in our world language classroom! I saw her present this last month at our Louisiana foreign language teacher conference. And oh my gosh, it was reminded me that I haven't played zips zap zoom in my classroom in a long time! So I reintroduced it this past week with students as a brain break, and they loved it, it was so much fun.!
You stand in a circle, which makes it great for COVID times, stand in a really big circle. And students are basically sending energy across the circle, using eye contact. If you teach a student population with students from West Africa, eye contact can be not a great thing. So it's really important....( I mean, forcing eye contact is not advisable) Also, with our Native American students, forcing eye contact is not something you want to do..... So you just want to make sure that if you are teaching those populations that the gesture is really clear that you're sending the energy. I will of course, include a video of this in the show notes so that you can go and watch real students playing this in a classroom. Basically, everybody's standing in a circle, and you send energy.....The first person says zip, they send the energy. The next person says zap. And the next person says zoom, zip, zap zoom zip zap zoom and, you're sending the energy across the circle. Every time a student receives energy, they send it on to the next person. Again, I don't like outs.... So if a student messes up, we just say Darn, let's start again, zip, zap zoom, zip, zap zoom. But I will be honest, almost every class convinced me last week to play with outs..... And it did make it really, really fun and more competitive.
The point of a brain break though is to keep them short. If you are not keeping it short, it becomes a game instead of a brain break. And games are great! Games are fine, but CALL it a game. Don't call it a brain break. Brain Breaks should be 30 Seconds or Less is what I typically say.... however this year, my brain breaks have been much more like 60 to 90 seconds, and then we go back to class. And that's just because I've needed those moments of joy with my students in a year that's so hard. Year three of the pandemic. So yes, my brain breaks have been longer than usual. But anything longer than that you really need to call it a game and say you're playing a game in class. Just don't call it a brain break. differentiate those two. So I will definitely share videos of what this looks like in class. It's definitely easier to understand this one if you see it, it'll be shared in the show notes!
GAME NUMBER 3
The final low to no prep game that I want to share with you tonight is called A mí también. Or me too! or moi aussi ....depending on what language you are teaching. I learned this game from Chio Jacoby who is part of my Familia Loca community... She introduced it a couple months ago, in the chat during one of our live events, and I thought it was brilliant and I loved it. She told me she learned it from Carolina of "Fun for Spanish teachers" on Instagram. I will link to both of their Instagram accounts so you can get to know these wonderful ladies. but I'm very grateful for this game and this idea, and I've had so much fun with my classes this year with it. The reason this one can be low prep is for your novice learners, you do want to have sentence stems prepared for this game. I don't think you need them with your middle to upper level students, I just think that it's actually probably better to play it as a game that encourages output in a fun and low affective filter way to get students using the target language. It certainly works that way with our novice learners too but providing those sentence stems, make it safe and provides them with the opportunity to read something rather than just coming up with their own sentences. If this is something you're not interested in doing, don't even worry, I've got you covered!
I made a resource for my Familia Loca community in October, called A mí también, Moi aussi, or me too, I made the resource in three different languages, English, Spanish, and French. And you can grab those on my TPT. I will link to them in the show notes. And they are full of lots of sentences you can use with your students.
The purpose of this game is to find connections between students. So it's really powerful. It's a way to build classroom community, you don't need to do it just at the beginning of the year, you can do it whenever! In fact, I played this last month with my students as our game for juego jueves... Every Thursday, we play a new game. And I played it again this past month, because I wanted to reestablish some community and connections and remind students how much they do have in common with each other.
So you sit students in a circle. Again, I'm a huge advocate for deskless classroom. Can you do this with with desks? Yes, but you're going to do some rearranging, have your kids arrange your desks in a circle. And if they have the chair attached to the desk, you want to make sure that they can access it towards the center of the circles. So for example, the opening of the chair and the desk should be towards the center of the circle so that they can jump up and get into a different seat. If you are already deskless, then you have your students rearrange the room so that they're sitting in a circle. If you have a very small class, my suggestion is to play this outside or in another space perhaps using the gym, use to use the library in my other class or at my other school. I also have used other classroom spaces to play this game. If I am in a situation where my classroom is a little bit too small. The next thing you do is you make sure to remove one seat so there'll be one person standing in the middle of the circle, and everybody else is sitting in the circle, like that person to be me the first time around so that students can get a feel for it and understand the purpose of the game.
I then make a statement ... an "I like" statement. For example, I like chocolate. Every single student that also agrees with that statement says A mí también. they usually don't say it,, they shout it which I'm totally okay with. They say A mí también when they get up and they find a new seat to sit down in in the circle. If they do not like chocolate, they stay seated. So if they like chocolate, because that's the statement I said a mí me gusta chocolate, and anybody that agrees with that is going to say A mí también. and stand up they find a new place. They may not sit in the seat directly to their left or to their right. In your big classes. I always say they could not sit in the two seats to their left or to their right they must find a brand new seat.... in my small classes that doesn't work, they can't sit in the seat directly to their left or the seat directly to their right. Obviously really important to have students model doing this safely and quickly. You don't want to have any bonked heads or students sent to the office.....Where are you coming from? Oh, Spanish class again. ....I'm sure my nurse does not love me. There have been a few injuries, but actually none with this game this year, which I love.
So students say A mí también and they find a new seat. Inevitably there's one student left standing because you only have enough seats for everybody but one, so the student has left standing now makes a statement of their own. This is where those sentence stems come in really handy. They might look up and a sentence stem for example, from my slides is,a mí me gusta Instagram. And any kids who agree with that statement who also like Instagram, they shout out a mí también and they find a new seat. Another sentence might be a mí me gusta jugar al voleibol. I like to play volleyball, any students who like to play volleyball stand and switch seats.....an alteration that you can play for this game, I actually talked to a teacher that does this at LFL TA. She said, I use statements based on what kids are wearing, because some of my students, some of my high schoolers don't actually stand up, unless it's a statement that they can be called out on. So my kids know each other well enough that if they say, I like Xbox, and a kid who likes Xbox doesn't stand, they're gonna call that kid out. They're gonna be like sssí te gusta Xbox!!!! and they're gonna make that kid stand. But I loved what this teacher said about what they're wearing. Like, I am wearing tennis shoes, or I like people who wear tennis shoes.
This is brings it back to the theater aspect. There is a theater game called "I like people who" and you say I like people who wear tennis shoes, and anybody wearing tennis shoes gets up and finds a new seat. I like people wearing the color black. Anybody wearing black gets up finds a new seat. That way you're getting every get involved. Definitely.
The thing that's really important with I like statements and students is to clarify from the very beginning, we are making statements only about what we are wearing. And statements about what students have control over. Students don't have control over whether they are tall or short. Race and gender, those sorts of things need to be left out. So that needs to be made clear from the very start. But the reason I like doing with just I like statements, I like chocolate, I like video games, I like volleyball, I like music artists, whatever it is, I like finding connections between my kids because it's really good for them to see Wow, nine other people in the class like that. And when only a couple students stand for something, it's like, oh, okay, those are my people. Those are the people who really liked classical music, or whatever it might be. So it's a wonderful game for building community and finding connections between students.
I do have a video of my classes playing this, I will link to it in the show notes. As well as link to those resources that you can find on TPT of Spanish, French and English sentence stems to play this game in your classes with your students. That's all I have for you today. I hope that you will let me know which of these games you're trying with your students and how it goes. You can hook up with me on Instagram. You can tag me any any pictures or posts that you make. You can also tag me in your stories, or you can just email me and let me know how it goes!!! email@example.com. I love hearing from you and I'm super excited to continue to support you through this podcast. And I look forward to speaking with you next time. Until then, I'll be teaching la vida loca sure you will too! Take care!
Transcribed by https://otter.ai