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Games are Necessary
Most of us know what it is like. We have an intensive Saturday Spanish Class or are reaching afternoon time when kids’ attention spans are an equivalent of nice Popsicle: Make it short and sweet before it melts. It is necessary for young children to have games to contextualize their experience in learning the language. Children need visual and physical stimulation, and this is a way to stimulate multiple intelligences. To pick a game, make sure you choose one based on the children's level of Spanish and age level. These games are made for smaller children, but can be applied to older ones as well
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One of the most common Latin American games is one called “el cartero" (the postman). This game should only be used for children in mid-level Spanish, as it requires conjugating verbs, although it is quite repetitive and will help children with their pronunciation and listening skills.
Children have to go in a circle and one person is chosen to be “el cartero." The objective of the game is to have everyone scramble for a chair, and the student who is left without a chair becomes the “cartero". The postman must indicate different characteristics such as hair color, and those with that characteristic must get up and scramble for a chair. The postman must switch as well if he does not want to become “el cartero" anymore. The dialogue goes like this:
Cartero : Traigo Carta
I have a letter
Audience: ¿de quién es...?
Cartero: Traigo carta para todos los que tienen pelo negro
I have a letter for all those who have black hair
Traigo carta para todos los que tienen camisa azul
I have a letter for all those who have a blue shirt
Traigo carta para todos los que tienen ojos verdes
I have a letter for all those who have green eyes
The game can continue for a while, so make sure you time your lesson well. Beware to do it for too long, as children tend to get rowdy with this activity. If children are more on a beginning level, you can provide the script and just have them identify colors and objects and simplify the language a bit.
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This game can be for earlier levels, and the purpose is to identify color and object words. The first part of the game, show pictures with certain objects in incorrect colors. If the children identify the right color and object, they get a point. You start the game with showing some examples (you can also use songs in the background)
(Showing a drawing of purple apples)
¿Son moradas las manzanas...?
(Are the apples purple?)
No! Las manzanas no son moradas, son rojas
¿Es negra la pera...?
No! Las peras no son negras, son verdes
Make sure you do many examples before you separate into teams and have children repeat this exercise. Children then take turns going in front of the class and showing different examples to the opposing teams. They have five minutes per group and the winning team gets a prize.
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Follow the Leader
This game can be used for entry-level Spanish speakers. Children are placed in a circle and someone at random is chosen to leave the room. The child does not hear when you choose “el lider." The purpose of the game is that everyone in the circle follows the leader's actions without the child noticing. When the child wants to guess they have to point at someone in the circle:
¿Maria...eres el lider...? (Insert different children's names)
Maria, are you the leader?
Answer: No, yo no soy el lider
No, I am not the leader
Or: ¡Si! ¡ Yo soy el lider!
Yes! I am the leader!
The person gets three tries, and if they do not guess correctly, they have to go back to the next room and another leader is chosen. The purpose of the game is to guess the right leaders, if guessed correctly the leaders change. This is also a good way for children to learn each other's names
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Tips for Selecting Games
- Try to create games that are interactive
- Make sure children understand the task
- State instructions carefully and slowly so that they understand the task
- Giving children encouragement during the games is a great incentive