games as ci blog pic

Games as comprehensible input

games as ci blog pic

Games can be a fun break from the normal daily routine of a class. Sometimes just playing a game for a few minutes can invigorate a lagging group of students and prepare their minds for more input. As Carol Gaab frequently reminds us, brains crave novelty, and at this point in the year it seems that novelty is even more in demand! One thing to keep in mind as you select a game is the amount of comprehensible input it will provide and the value of the time spent on it. Sometimes a game can be really fun, but provide little to no comprehensible input, thus not lead to acquisition. Sometimes a game might provide a small amount of comprehensible input, but is not the BEST way to maximize your time. A game like that can be used as a short brain break, but might not be advisable for an entire class period.

Here are two suggestions for games that provide comprehensible input that can be used to review a novel or a story.

Reverse Charades

1) Choose 15-20 structures from novel that are easily gesture-able. 2) Review the gestures with whole class. 3) Divide the class into two teams of students. Hint: Divide the class left and right. Have teams select team names, just to start a little friendly competition, or they can choose a Spanish-speaking country to represent.  4) Each team sends up a player to guess when his/her team is about to gesture. Hint: teacher can choose players so they’re approximately evenly matched. 5) The teacher faces the class, while two players stand just in front of teacher, but with their backs to the teacher. All three are facing the class. 6) The teacher holds up a small whiteboard or paper with words (written in the target language) to be gestured (or points to screen which has a list of words). 7) Teams gesture wildly. Hint: No lip synching allowed! 8) Players must guess out loud. First one to guess correctly earns a point for his/her team. Play to about 5-7 points to win. Hint: End the game before it peaks, about 10-15 minutes max.

Partner Pictionary

This game works similarly to Reverse Charades, but uses drawing instead of gestures. 1) Choose 15-20 structures from novel that are possible to draw. 2) Have students sit in pairs. One partner faces the front of the room, the other has his/her back to the front of the room. 3) Teacher displays a short phrase in the target language, either on a paper, a small whiteboard, or on the screen. 4) Partner facing the front sees the phrase and draws it. 5) Partner with back to the front of the room guesses in the target language what is being drawn. When they think they have it, both partners raise hands. Hint: Be sure to cover the phrase when the hands go up or they will automatically turn around and see it! 6) If the “guesser” says it correctly in the target language, a point is earned for that pair.

Sample phrases

Here are some examples of the types of phrases that would work well for either of these games. We are providing them in English, however you would provide them in whatever target language you are teaching. If you are reading a novel, use phrases that are easy to recognize from the novel.

Frida Kahlo was riding her bicycle. 

Felipe Alou wanted to buy a hamburger.

Luis gave Laney a gold bracelet.

Bianca looked for her fan.

Carlos wanted to paint a mural.

Brandon crashed the car.

What are some of your favorite ways of providing the novelty that brains crave? Tell us in a comment below!

Reverse charades was submitted to us but the teacher did not include his or her name on the document. Was it you? Please let us know so we can credit you! Partner Pictionary was contributed by Kristy Placido.


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