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Teaching in Secondary Schools

Prepared by Nancy Wheaton Modern


Vocabulary Review Game

Brian Miller

Hamilton Jr./Sr. High School

Hamilton, IN

     Abstract: This Idea describes a timed team game utilizing an overhead projector and competition to enliven vocabulary review in first and second year Spanish.

     Key Words: vocabulary, team activities, review, high school Spanish, games, transparencies

     Reviewing a semester's vocabulary can be tiresome, so a game is always a good way to provoke interest, especially when it is a competitive, team activity. The following timed team game is appropriate for Levels 1 and 2, and even for eighth grade �mini-course� sections.

     Before the game starts, the teacher divides the class in half, which creates teams of approximately eight to ten students. Teams can be arranged around tables or in rows depending on the configuration of the room. If the number of students is not even, the extra person can serve as official scorekeeper.

     The first member of each team receives a clean overhead transparency and an overhead marker. Each team should have a marker of a different color. To keep the game moving, it is necessary to have twice the number of transparencies as teams. The scorekeeper can then clean one set of transparencies while the teams are using the others.

     The teacher then sets out the rules. Students are to put away books and notes. The teacher says a letter of the alphabet (including ch and ll, and excluding k, ñ, rr, w, and x) in each round.

     The first student writes a word in Spanish beginning with the given letter and then silently passes the transparency and marker to the next student. Each student is allowed to write only one word per round, and no help is allowed from teammates. Each round has a one-minute time limit.

     At the end of each round, scores are tallied. Each word spelled correctly is worth one point; duplicated words within a team or misspelled words do not count. Words do not have to be from vocabulary lists that the class has covered. Guessing sometimes provides opportunities to learn new words.

     By putting the transparencies on the overhead projector side by side, each group can see the other's list and the score can be tallied while each group looks on. Words unique to a group are worth two points each. The goal, of course, is to score the most points over the course of the game. I have found that this game holds everyone's interest in a classroom of widely varying abilities for however long one wishes to play the game -in my experience, up to a full (50 minutes) class period at a time.

Sample 1 (first-year high school class) [533]

                               Team A Team B                               
hola (2) hablo (1)
hago (1) habla (1)
hablo (1) Hector
habla (1) hacer (2)
hacemos hace (1)
hablamos (2) huevos(2)
haces (2) hago (1)
haces(2) hombre(2)
hace (1) hacier


     a) The numbers indicate point values for each word. Thus, each team scored 10 points in this round. Remember, words unique to a team are worth two points; words common to both groups are worth one point each.

     b) The words crossed out are either misspelled or duplicated within a group.

Sample 2 (second-year high school class)

                              Team A Team B                             
tener (1) toca (2)
tienda (2) triste (2)
tres (2) tener (1)
tengo (2) Tomás (2)
tía (2) tocar (2)
trabajar (2) tocadiscos (2)
teléfono tarjeta (2)
tienda tomar (2)
tú (2)


     According to the previously outlined scoring system, Team B won this round 17-13. Team A was unable to get all nine team members to contribute within the allotted 60 seconds.



Decompartmentalization: Taking the Language Outside of the Classroom

Nancy Wheaton Modern

University of New Hampshire

     Abstract: In this exercise, students of beginning Spanish receive a list of activities to do outside of the classroom designed to enhance their powers of observation and reflection. The tasks involve speaking, writing, and translating, but above all the students are observing what goes on around them and are using the language as a tool to describe �reality� outside of �Spanish Class�.

     Key Words: activities, integration of knowledge, beginning Spanish, learning beyond the classroom

     Before students come into the Spanish classroom, they may have been to other classes or have had encounters with friends, siblings, and parent(s). They have learned to compartmentalize; home is one compartment, the hallways another; the lunch room is one, study halls are another, and it goes on and on. Each class or place represents a separate category or compartment for behavior, language, or rules to be followed.

     Here are some suggestions for activities for first-year classes that will enable students to think about and use the language outside of the classroom. The tasks encourage and enhance students' powers of observation and reflection and may be used as alternative homework assignments:

     1. Tell (write down in Spanish) the colors that your history/math, etc. teacher is wearing today.

     2. Write down a description of a friend in another class. How is s/he feeling? What is s/he wearing?

     3. Observe other students in your Math class and then write in Spanish:

     What is the teacher explaining? Who speaks/listens the most?

     Who writes (takes) notes?

     4. Try to translate something another teacher says into Spanish. Share the information with your class the next day.

     5. What are you eating for lunch? Same thing every day? What is your favorite food to have for lunch? What else did you do during lunch? Write this down in Spanish.

     6. Say �hello� and �goodbye� to a friend in Spanish. Observe the reaction.

     7. Tell someone about the weather in Spanish. Observe the person's reaction.

     8. Describe (orally) another person in Spanish. See if your friends can guess what you are saying. Use gestures to help them understand.      Notice what helps them to understand.

     9. Tell a simple incident that happened to you, or something that you learned during the day. Invite comments from others.

     10. Describe someone you have never noticed before in writing. Reflect on why you had not noticed that person before.

     11. Draw a map of the school and tell where you go each day. Point out the �fun places� and the places where you have seen trouble, noticed something wrong, or have been teased.

     12. Write some interview questions for a classmate in another class, questions for a sports hero, perhaps.

     13. Translate into Spanish a brief conversation you had with a friend.

     14. Write a different ending to the conversation in number 13.

     15. Report the outcome of a sports event or the happenings at a school dance. [535]

     16. Translate the title of your favorite television program into Spanish. Describe the main characters.

     These simple activities allow the student to take the language outside the classroom �compartment�. As students learn to use Spanish as a tool for expression, they are promoting the language as well!