One of the beautiful things about SL is that after you have told a story and provided rich input for your students, you can choose to completely switch it up. I feel like it’s analogous to feeding my daughters a healthy meal. After the meal, I don’t feel so bad if they want to have a cookie. Go ahead–indulge, I know there are plenty of good vitamins and nutrients in you already.
Here are a few of my go-to post-story games.
Quick games for 5 minutes or less
- Telephone – (This works best with kindergarten in my experience.) Students sit in a circle close to the story board, which is left up for kids to see. Teacher looks and selects a simple word from the story that day and whispers it to one student. Or, the teacher can select a word independent from the day’s story as long as she’s sure they will recognize it. That student whispers it to a student they’re sitting next to, initiating either a clockwise or counter clockwise movement. Students continue sharing what they hear until it has moved all around the circle and back to the student just before the one who started the chain. The last student shares the word out loud with the class. If the class gets it right, they get a point. If the class changes the original word and it’s off, Señora gets a point. I build this up when I set the stage before we play teasing them with, “No one will beat Señora!” and acting super disappointed when they get it right while I write a tally mark to keep score on the board. Tips and tricks: Kindergarteners do not know how to whisper, which actually makes this hilarious. I try to coach them on this, but I act like it doesn’t matter if a students whispers loudly and the whole class hears it–which happens often. If kids get too competitive, I always deescalate with positivity or humor and make sure everyone remembers we’re playing for fun. A cohesive class culture definitely helps. I do watch what the kids whisper to each other because some will try and change the word on their own just to be silly. I always intervene and make sure they relay the correct word as best they can. This does require me to follow the chain closely. At the end of the game, I make a big deal about the class beating Señora and how it will NEVER happen again. Oh and I always pick a very recognizable and simple word so increase their changes of success.
- Pictionary – (This works well with any age in my experience.) Teacher draws a simple word/phrase on the board (nouns work well with younger students). Students guess by calling out or raising hands. I listen and engage with the Spanish guesses. I typically ignore guesses in English unless it’s the correct word and I might raise an eyebrow or show piqued interest until a student says it in TL. If the students guess the word, they get a point. If too much time passes, (I keep this completely arbitrary as to keep the non-competitiveness nature and focus on community building) then Señora gets a point and I laugh diabolically and tease them if I get the point. Tips and tricks: With younger kids especially I am the only one who draws. With older kids-3rd, 4th, and 5th, students can also participate in the drawing. Just make sure the word/phrase they select is one the class will be able to guess. With older students, you could also do teams if you have time or just do it for fun without keeping score at all.
- I spy – (Works best with Kindergarten or 1st in my experience.) Teacher models saying, “I see something green!” Students raise hands and guess what it could be. If students guess correctly, they get a point. If not, Señora gets the point. After modeling, student volunteers can also select the object. Teacher coaches this student to respond, “yes” or “no” in TL.
- Simon says – (Works well with any age in my experience.) Students stand up and teacher calls out commands using her own name instead of Simon like, “Mrs. Hayes says…/La Sra. Hayes dice…” If the teacher uses that phrase before the command, then the students should do the action. If not, then they should not. If a student makes a mistake, I typically use my hand to motion for them to sit down and maybe even a clicking or whistling sound with it, but I try not to say their name or engage too much and I move on quickly. The student or students standing are the winner(s). I typically act super disappointed and upset with younger kids when the students do the right thing and act like I am frustrated they are not messing up and falling for my tricks. Tips and tricks: What is important to remember about this one in my opinion is that some students will be compelled to play referee and call out when they see someone mess up. I have found it helps to do a few practice rounds first with no to low stakes. I set the stage that Señora will be the ref and that the students’ role is to play and have fun and I enforce this. If another student call out someone out, I request that they sit down for a moment. If we move beyond the practice round, I select a few (often quiet and likable) students to help be my eyes and play ref with me, but they are the only ones allowed to provide me with feedback. This is helpful for older students, but for the younger ones like K, 1st, 2nd–I typically manage by myself.
- Charades – (Works well with any age in my experience.) Teacher models by selecting a well known word that is relatively easy and acts it out without using sounds. Students guess by calling out or raising their hands. If students guess correctly, they get a point. If not, Señora gets the point. Students can also participate acting out, but it works best when I select the word to make sure it is something probable that the class will know. Tips and tricks: Sometimes I mix charades with Pictionary and let the designated students decide if they want to act it out, draw it, or a combination of both.
- Stop – (Works well with any age.) Teach the word stop in TL and add a gesture/motion to it. I typically take one hand and emphatically chop it in an X position against my other hand or hold my hand up with the palm facing the class. You can have fun with a bit of TPR to set up. Once this meaning has been established, the teacher retells the story of the day switching up certain details. Each time an inaccurate detail is mentioned, students must race to demonstrate the “stop” signal. For this I don’t keep score, but I do acknowledge the fast first responders. This was an idea I originally got from Anne Marie Mitchell. See her blog post about it here.
Longer games for more than 5 minutes
- Secret number – (Works well with any age in my experience.) This game I learned from Leslie Davison. The teacher writes a number line on the board. For kindergarten I typically start with 0-10. With first and second grade I would use 0-15. The nice thing is, the number line can always grow with the students. Once the number line is reviewed, the teacher establishes meaning for “greater than” and “less than” in TL. I gloss these terms on the board. The teacher selects one number, “the secret number” and writes it on a piece of paper and places it inside a secret box, bag or folder. One student is shown the number before it is hidden, but they don’t share with the class. Students raise their hand to guess a number in TL. Each time a student guesses, the teacher repeats and confirm the number in TL, and discloses that the number guessed was either greater than or less than the real secret number. Students continue guessing until one students guesses correctly. If students guess correctly, they get a point. If too much time passes and no one get it, Señora gets a point (Once again, time is arbitrary and determined by me). Tips and tricks: The kids get very eager to have a turn to hold the secret number. Instead of having the person who guesses correctly become the next one, I recommend randomly selecting, so feelings don’t get hurt. I also try to play this game a few classes in a row to ensure that each child who wants a turn gets one.
- Secret animal – (Works well with second or third grade and higher in my experience.) Teacher selects a “secret animal” and shares with only one student. That student fields yes or no questions from the class about the animal. I typically display a slide like this and add more vocab/translations if needed for guidance. I find that in this game keeping score doesn’t add much, so we typically just play and the individual who guesses correctly is the next keeper or selector of the secret animal. This works ok with older kids and in classes with a good culture, but you could always select at random and keep score of the class vs. teacher points. Tips and tricks: It helps to have a student keep track of what questions have been asked marking on the projected slide on the board as we go and writing down guesses of animals. See image below.
- Secret food – Same as the secret animal, but with food. I have another slide I use to help guide students and I will post when I’m able to open it. There’s something funky going on with the file.
- Who stole the cookie? – (Works well with 2nd through 4th in my experience.) This is a game I learned from Allison Litten. Read about it in her post here. With my younger students in 2nd grade I’ve found it helpful to show this video, or this video, or both of them to familiarize them with the language and rhythm. Students sit in a circle with their hands behind them and close their eyes. I place the cookie in someone’s possession. Students open their eyes we chant while clapping our hands on our legs, “Who stole the cookie from the cookie jar? Who stole the cookie from the cookie jar?” Then students raise their hands to guess. Once the cookie thief has been guessed, they become the person to place the cookie in the hands of another student and will answer the guesses from other students that round. Tips and tricks: Make sure students know you are a professional “peeker seeker.” Annabelle Allen tells her students all teachers go to “peeking school” and can sense a peeker from a mile away. This usually makes an impact, but if I do catch someone peeking accidentally, I whisper to them that they can’t guess that round.
- Reverse pictionary – (Works well with 3rd, 4th, and 5th in my experience.) Students are each given a whiteboard and a marker. Two students are chosen to be the guessers and sit in front of the class facing the wall so they cannot see anything. The teacher selects a word/phrase in TL, writes it on a small whiteboard and shows the group. They have about a minute to draw this word without using letters or numbers. Teacher call time and the 2 guessers at the front turn around and try to guess in TL. If they get it right, the class gets a point, if not Señora does. Tips and Tricks: I use 2 student guessers so no one feels pressured or put on the spot if they don’t know the word. I don’t make it a race between these guessers, they are a team working with the class and against me.