When to Play
You will want to use this Spanish learning game when your students have had a little bit of time to familiarize themselves with their vocabulary words. It would not work well on the first day they are introduced to the words. I like to use this learning game as part of my review the day before a quiz or test involving vocabulary.
This article includes a PowerPoint download for use as a demonstration for setting up the game.
To play the magic wand game, you will need the following items:
- A classroom setup with all students facing the front or able to turn their chairs to face the front.
- An LCD projector and screen with laptop. You may substitute a chalk board or dry erase board for this.
- A list of vocabulary terms in the following arrangements: English terms, Spanish terms, and/or photos or other drawings to represent the terms.
- Two magic wands. Some people like to use flyswatters for this, but I find magic wands are much more fun. I bought mine in the dollar bin at a large retailer for – you guessed it - $1 each. You could also make them out of construction paper and a dowel rod, if you’re crafty like that.
You will be writing out vocabulary terms for use in this game. Some ways of doing this are easier than others. If the game is a spontaneous idea to fill the time left at the end of a class, you may just choose to write the words on your board. If you have time to prepare in advance, a PPT slide or slides is really the way to go here. If you choose this option, you can have the same set of vocabulary terms in all three arrangements ready to go for every new vocabulary unit you introduce. Plus, in this format, you can save the words for the next time you teach the class; with the board, you have to erase and re-write it every time. Whether you choose the screen or the board, just be sure to write clearly and space out the words so the students can see them and reach them as they play the game.
Download this sample PowerPoint to show you how to set up your files for playing the Magic Wand Game.
Playing the Game
Divide the students into two teams. I’ve used front vs. back, left vs. right, boys vs. girls, etc. Each team will send one representative at a time to the front of the room. If you have an odd number of students, you can appoint one student from the larger team to be the score keeper. That student will stand in the front and record the scores on the board for all to see.
The representatives for each team will stand at the front of the room, facing the board or screen. On that board or screen will be a list of vocabulary terms in one of the arrangements described above. I try to space out the words so that they cover most of the board; you don’t want them to be too close together or it will be easy to cheat.
Give each representative a magic wand. (This is where it gets really fun – you haven’t lived until you’ve seen two teenage boys argue over who gets the wand with the sparkly pom-pom on top.) Each representative must hold the wand behind his or her back and face the board. The aim of the game is a race to identify the correct vocabulary term before the other team’s representative does it. As a result of the high-speed nature of the game, you will need to establish yourself as the Grand High Poobah of the Magic Wand Game before it starts: your call is the final word on the winning score. (At times, I have been known to shut down the game and give them something boring to do if they complain too much about my referee skills. Do this once and they will remember next time.)
You are also the Host of this game, so your role is simple: say the vocabulary term out loud and wait for them to identify it on the board. Here are some examples of how this will go, for each arrangement of vocabulary that you use:
- Spanish words on the board: You say the word in English, the student has to be the first to touch the corresponding Spanish word with his or her wand.
- English words on the board: You say the word in Spanish, the student has to be the first to touch the corresponding English word with his or her wand.
- Pictures on the board: You say the word in Spanish, or even a sentence in Spanish using that word, and the student has to be the first to touch the corresponding picture with his or her wand.
Notice that I said “touch the corresponding word with his or her wand,” not “slam the wand into the board or screen so hard it almost breaks.” Sometimes the kids get a little rowdy, but I tell them up front that anyone who breaks my wand owes me a new one. They tend to calm down after a warning, if they get too rowdy.
As you call out the words, make sure you space them out so that they aren’t all in order, or all on one student’s side of the board. This makes the play time fairer for all involved.
After each vocabulary term is called, one team wins a point for being the first to identify. Every once in a while, I call it a draw, and they go again. Either way, after a point is earned the winning student stays at the board while the losing student sits back down with their team and that team sends up a new representative. This gives more students an opportunity to participate directly in the activity. I also remind the students left in the audience that they may NOT help their representative; it is all up to that individual in the moment of game play.
Winning the Game
When you have called all of the words once or twice, or switched out vocabulary lists a few times, you can end the game whenever you choose. The great part about this game is that you can play it in only a few minutes at the end of the period, or take more time, depending on how much time you have and how well your students participate. When you have a team with a winning score, you determine the prize. Sometimes I give those kids a few bonus points on the quiz they’ve been studying for (or I give each teammate the number of points scored by his team, win or lose). Other times I might bring in candy or use some other type of incentive. If you already have an incentive system set up in your classroom, you can use the game win to add to that incentive.
This post is part of the series: Teaching Spanish: Review Games
For each article in this series, Spanish teachers will be introduced to a new review game they can use with their classes. From vocabulary to grammar to general knowledge, these games can help your students prepare for assessments and solidify their understanding of course materials.