Of course we want to teach our kiddos how to circumlocute or use words they know to describe words they don’t know. But how do we teach that skill? With lots of comprehensible input! And because everything is more fun when it’s a game, I introduce to you the ¿Cómo se dice? Game (The how do you say? Game).
To prep: Ask kids to help you by writing down English words that they don’t know how to say in Spanish. They should write them on strips of paper and collect them all in an envelope. (I’ve been reusing these for years! Once you’ve got a good collection, there’s no need to have them do this step again. ) Divide the class into 3 teams. Either assign a student to be the timer or use this awesome youtube video timer.
To play: The teacher faces one team and starts describing the pieces of paper in the Target Language, going slowly and making everything as comprehensible as possible for one minute. (I try not to use my hands…we’re not playing charades here- I want them listening carefully.) The students listen and guess in English. (Of course they’re not guessing in Spanish, the whole point is that you’re describing words they don’t know in Spanish!) As soon as the teacher hears a student say the word she is describing, she passes the paper to the team and she continues on the next word. Each paper that they have at the end of the round count as their score. When the timer sounds, the teacher begins again with a new team, describing the words for one minute.
Pro Tips: If you get a word that’s inappropriate, or you can’t figure out how to describe it comprehensibly, or you’re describing and describing and they’re not getting it, just separate out the paper and go on to the next one.
Play as many rounds as you have time for. The winning team has accumulated the most pieces of paper. In my class that means they bring me their Stamp Sheet for a Stamp.
Want to see it?
Variations: There are a few variations I play of this same game. I like to play with famous people in Spanish one. He is a famous athlete. He plays basketball for the Cleveland Caveliers. He is very tall…. She’s an actress and she’s Justin Beiber’s girlfriend….It’s an animal and he is Walt Disney’s friend. He lives in Disneyland with his dog…You get the picture. However, it’s harder to re-use the same papers year after year because they become dated and the kids don’t know who you are talking about. Today I tried to describe Sarah Palin….I could almost hear crickets. They had NO IDEA who I was talking about. And when I do famous people I have to skip a lot of papers because I have NO IDEA who the person is written on the paper. I also have a set of cards for places (also made by students years ago) Some places are specific like the The Great Wall of China or The Pacific Ocean. Some places are generic like School or Gas Station. Others are countries, cities, states, etc. It’s nice to give lots of exposure to words like city, country, state.
Carla Tarini modified this to make it work with her kiddos and I LOVE how she changed it to make it accessible to the lower level students. Here are her notes:
I played it for the first time with a few modifications. I did not play it as a competition because I thought it would be too stressful for me and I was worried about some of my slower processors tuning out.
Here’s my adaptation: Write sentence starters on the board and point to them as you describe the object, person, place that you want students to guess. (Note: I played one day only with objects, then another day people/professions, and the third day places.) Try to give clues from the most general to the most specific, that way students are listening hard to refine/reformulate their thinking about what you are describing. [ Consider scratching your chin and asking then quickly answering your own question. This provides some reps on questions formation. Consider asking a question and then quickly answering your question with a negative response before giving the correct information. For French, this provides much needed reps on negation. Consider inserting a statement about yourself. ] Do not allow students to blurt answers. They must wait until you have finished the entire description. Pay attention to students’ faces. They will get excited when they know the answer. Repeat and clarify or add extra language if there are students who don’t have it yet. This gives everyone a chance to have the “aha” moment. After playing this game over a few days, see if your students are ready to switch roles with you. Have them come up with an object (person or place) and write the statements out. You can make sure they are comprehensible and then play the game the next day, with student volunteers (or pairs) giving the clues.
Thanks for sharing, Carla!