Quick Fix to Get Kids Talking… When Playing Games – Free Resource

April 11, 2019
Audrey Yates Irias

I have done a variety of types of games in my class to get students to maintain speaking in Spanish and, equally as important, to stay on topic. Both are a huge challenge. I am a big believer in incorporating games. That said, I think everything has to have a learning component. Otherwise there is no purpose for it in my classroom. (Call me strict!)

When to Incorporate Games:

1. As a method to recall information

When I would introduce a new concept, as with all language topics, I approached it as a building block off a concept they already had learned. As such, I would do a quick review game to see what information they could recall. My goal would always be to get them all speaking.

2. As a comprehension check

After they learned a new concept, I wanted to see what they had learned and if students confused any new information with previous material. My goal would be to get students talking, so they could incorporate vocabulary from their short-term memory into their long-term memory.

3. As a review before a test

I would set up games to play for every concept we learned over a unit or a chapter, if we used a textbook, and have a Game Day. Usually, this coincided with when they would turn in a study guide on said unit, so they felt prepared for both the Game Day and the subsequent test. My goal would be to review everything, as much as I could, time permitting.


The trick is to get every. Single. Student. Engaged. For example, make a game like the classic Matamoscas (Fly-swatter) game into a partner game, by printing out the same grid and having students race to find the image with a pencil eraser. The more each student participates in a game, the less likely they are to get lost or fall behind, theoretically.

Second Tip:

If they work in groups, like with Quizlet Live, students help out and learn from each other inherently. While that particular game groups students at random, students also learn when you partner them with others who have a stronger comprehension and/or complementary personality traits. I liked to partner my shy students with my extroverted students, for example.

Top Five Reasons to Incorporate Games into Your Classroom:

  1. It gives the students a chance to practice what they just learned, in a fun way.
  2. Many times students don’t even know they are learning when they do it—it is an inherent benefit, as they let their affective filter down. (Ssh! Don’t let them in on the secret!)
  3. It is a great alternative for students to do on a day when you need to get caught up on grading or if you need a lighter day. For example, if there was an event that may have raised stress or emotional levels recently, games allow them to not focus on personal issues and channel it on the target language.
  4. It is a great way to break up the day. Whether you have a 45- or 90-minute class, adding in a game gives students the chance to be kids—even if they are 18-year-old seniors in high school. Many students have a full class load with difficult classes, plus sports and/or jobs they go to after school, so it is a nice respite—with great benefits. My students would often tell me that games were a great perk and they looked forward to my class every day. (I hope they would look forward to it anyway, but I digress.)
  5. Games allow you, the teacher, to get to know students on a different level. Generally speaking, we have a professional relationship and students look at you as an authority figure, but if they let their guard down and have fun in your classroom, it seems that they let you see the real “them,” and them, the real you. You laugh and joke together, and build a sense of camaraderie—which helps build trust.

Please enjoy the attachment of handy expressions to use in Spanish, so students can maintain speaking 90% in the target language! It goes with virtually any game you play.

Posted By Audrey Yates Irias | Teacher’s Discovery

Audrey Yates Irias started learning Spanish at age 10 in a FLEX program in her elementary school, because her aunt lived in Puerto Rico. She was so enamored with learning languages that she dove in head first, and took multiple years of French and Spanish in high school. Following her passion, she was a double major in Spanish and French Education and a TESOL minor, at Illinois State University—during which time she studied in Spain and France. She taught for 11 years in both traditional as well as virtual classrooms. In 2016, she earned her master’s in Translation and Interpreting from the University of Illinois.

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