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 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? Here I am playing with a Spanish 2 class.
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.