Calles y Avenidas: A brain break

Oh friends! I just got back from the best 3 weeks in Costa Rica! I was so blessed to introduce my husband to Costa Rica (we spent a week at Manuel Antonio, perfección!) then he headed home and I was doubly blessed to join the Live the Osa CI Teacher Trip. I learned so much and I’ve got some cool Costa Rican Culture Capsules to share with you…but that will have to wait for another day because I am so dang excited to teach you this brain break!

Helaine Wemple, our trip leader extraordinaire, originally learned this game in a Costa Rican high school and taught it to our group. She graciously gave me permission to share this game, and I can’t wait to introduce it to my Little Darlings! (Now…this is more of a brain break/ need something to do during a fire drill/it’s a beautiful spring day and we need an excuse to go outside/ they kids are wild after a pep rally kind of activity. It’s high on the “fun factor” and not so high on the “loads of comprehensible input” scale. Fair warning-use judiciously 😉

The pre-game

First of all, you’ve got to give your Little Darlings some background info about San José, the capital of Costa Rica. Downtown San José is made of up a grid of calles (running north to south) and avenidas (running east to west). Now here’s where you’re going to give them some CI (because in the actual game it’s just running around and screaming), so really take your time on this part! Show them a map of San José. Compare it to a map of your town. Compare that to the biggest nearby city. How are they similar? How are they different?

Let’s play

You need some space: maybe a deskless classroom, but outside or the cafeteria would be even better. Before I take my Little Darlings outside, I like to explain first before we leave, what we’re doing and what they’ll need to do, using the whiteboard to make my instructions comprehensible. For this game, we’ll need a grid of students. If you have a class of 27 students, you’ll need 2 volunteers and the rest of the students will make a grid 5 across and 5 down, like so:

For the two volunteers, one will be the ratoncito and the other the león. The león will be chasing the ratoncito once we get outside. More on that later!

Now go outside and get the Little Darlings lined up. They should be close enough that they’re just touching fingertips when they stand with their arms extended. Now the teacher explains when I announce “calle” everyone will face one direction with their arms extended. When the teacher calls “avenidas” students pivot to face a new direction. To help them keep their directions straight, see if you can make a connection for them. Like for “calle” we’ll face the cars in the parking lot. Calle- Cars. For “Avenida”, we’re facing that árbol right there. Totally confused? Don’t worry, the videos below will clear it up for you! Practice a few times before the game starts: holler out “Calle” and everyone faces the calle direction, with their arms extended. If they’re too close or too far away, have them adjust, remember their fingertips should just barely touch. Then holler “Avenida” and everyone pivots, with their arms still extended, fingertips just barely touching. Once they’ve got it down and their spacing is good, the fun can start.

The ratoncito starts running through the “city” and after a little head start, the león starts chasing him, trying to tag the ratoncito. Meanwhile the teacher is hollering “calles” and “avenidas” and the students are pivoting. The ratoncito and león have to follow the calles or avenidas but are not allowed to “break through” anyone’s arms.

A special thanks to my new friends and very good sports who graciously played in 1000 degree heat so I could make a video, knowing that the game instructions would be hard to explain but easy to show! And special shout out to Beth for letting me chase her; they don’t call me Señora Chase for nothing!

Suzanne, thank you for your encouragement in writing this post, and I’m sorry you couldn’t join us to play!

And not that I was fact checking or anything, but there’s a whole slew of Calles y Avenidas videos on YouTube! How cool is this!? Real kids actually play this in real Spanish Speaking places! Maybe after you explain the game, you show the video, so everyone is clear. Or…even better: Movie Talk the video below!! (In the video below these kids hold hands, but I am certain that my Little Darlings would not. Just follow your heart regarding the hand holding!) 

One more idea: it’s not really part of the game, but I think I’ll add in a rule: if the ratoncito evades the león for 1 minute (or 45 seconds?!), the ratoncito wins. If the león tags the ratoncito within 1 minute, the león wins. Then seek new volunteers for  ratoncito and león and start again!

Fun, right?! And the best thing about this game, you only really need 2 enthusiastic kids to play…everyone else just stands around with their arms out. Told you, not rich in compelling and comprehensible input…but some days we need a break and a little structured madness.

Hope you’re doing well, dear friends! I hope that if you’re back in school already, you have great Little Darlings and are off to a smooth start! If you’re hanging on to the last bit of summer vacation for dear life, I see you and I’m here with you!

Cheers to the 2022-2023 school year, it’s going to be a good one. IT IS GOING TO BE A GOOD ONE, YOU HEAR?! 

One comment

  1. As one of the ‘guinea pigs’ for this game (but missed being in the video because my coat was gone… not for Costa Rica, you understand, but for the ice cold airplane flights we were all leaving for!)… it is a BLAST. I think the students will dig it and beg to play. Use as a free carrot for yourself as you bend those kiddos to your will.

    I have been waiting for this post, so mil gracias, fun pun Señora CHASE!


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