Ways to Mindfully Gamify Your Classroom

If you're having any doubts about how to use games, timing, or what games will help you meet certain goals with students, you've found the perfect post. She's described how she uses these games, what skills they help building, and differentiation! Amazing right?!?!? Check out these games created by Erin from The Engaged Spanish Classroom! She's created these games with her students in mind and I'm sure they would be great for your students also! - :) Jade 




Mindfully Gamify your Spanish Classroom:
Choosing the right games for your students


After 7 years of teaching high school Spanish, I can say that finding ways to bring fun and student choice into my classroom have been the biggest game-changers in my road to uncovering my own teaching style. As a new foreign language teacher, I was always looking for ways to engage my students and increase their desire to learn and use the language. My worst nightmare is a quiet classroom with students that feel bored or uninterested. Speaking mainly in the target language during instruction has always been a goal of mine, yet as a new teacher I realized that I couldn’t increase my own target language use in the classroom without giving my students a reason to want to listen to me.


In my high school classroom, I sometimes have students that are there just for the graduation credit. Spanish might not be their favorite class, and they think they can sit quietly in the back and just “get by.” I have been determined to make sure this is not the case. I teach in a very diverse district racially and socioeconomically, and I needed to find ways to reach all of my students at their different levels of need. Creating a variety of games for the foreign language classroom has allowed me to engage all students at the same time, while also providing room for student choice and still meeting my overall educational goal for each lesson.


The first step in identifying the best game for any lesson is answering one question: What is my goal for this game? Do I simply want students to have fun, to increase class morale and boost engagement? Do I want them to work individually or in groups? Do I want them to speak more today? Do I want them to work on listening, or reading? Do I want them to write creatively during gameplay? Depending on my answer, here are a few of my favorites and how I use them! I hope you can gain some ideas for your students.


The following snippets briefly explain each game, along with a suggested group size and run time. The group sizing is always flexible, and you can decide what works best for your classes. Some of your classes may be able to handle groups of 4 or 5, while others may work best in pairs. The run time is also flexible. In some classes, I play Taco Tuesday for 10 minutes tops. In others, we play the entire game board. I have realized that it is OK to approach things differently in different classes. Not everything has to be *exactly the same*. It’s best to try it out with your own students and see what works best for them!


To see examples or editable versions of each game type, please click on the links provided.


For Speaking: Llama Mía
This game is best for groups of 2-4, and 2 complete rounds can be played in about 15 minutes. Fast finishers working in pairs (or lucky rollers) can sometimes move on to a third round in that time frame. The bigger the groups, the longer the run time.


To play, students share one game board that has a spiral shape of spaces, where their goal is to move from the outside to the end in the center. They take turns rolling the die to move around the game board. When they land on a space, you as the teacher decide what they need to to do earn the space. You can require them to simply conjugate the verb aloud, or you can ask that they create a full sentence. To make sentence creation easier, I often choose a theme for the day. For example, when practicing the imperfect I’d ask my students to create a sentence on the spot about their childhood. This helps them with conjugating but also with the correct uses of this tense! The first student to reach the center wins! In my classes, they must roll an exact number to get to that coveted middle space ;)


My students enjoy this game because there are cute game pieces and of course because there is no writing involved (although... you could always add a written extension by having them jot down the sentences they create).  I enjoy this game because it gets them speaking in the target language!


I have created various game boards geared toward regular and irregular verbs in different tenses, as well as various other grammar themes. Many of my games come with versions that either have irregulars identified or just mixed in.


All Llama Mía sets here. Editable templates here.



For Listening/Reading: Taco Tuesday
This is a favorite of my classes each year. This game is best played in groups of 2-3, with each student using a different colored pen/marker. I typically play for anywhere from 15-20 minutes, but quicker rounds are sometimes appropriate. Run time is very flexible and can fit into as quick as 5 minutes.


To play, students share one game board filled with small tacos. In each taco, there is a word or phrase related to their current unit. The teacher calls out a hint or the definition, and students race to be the first one to find the correct taco. If they find it first, they get to color in the taco with their color. At the end of the game, the student with the most Tacos Wins! You can decide whether your game length will be set by time, or whether you have enough time to play the full board. I usually only do that on half days or days where one class has moved ahead of another class.


Differentiation: With your upper level classes or when you are more familiar with a topic, play completely in the target language! Students obviously prefer when the clues I give are in English, but I always try to challenge them and have a “Spanish only” game. In the end, this always proves to them that they understand more than they give themselves credit for. Other differentiation ideas are adjusting the speed at which you give clues, making students put their hands behind their back in between clues, and adjusting the difficulty of the language you use / details of the clues you give.


Notes: If there is a tie, I have my students quickly play rock, paper, scissors ro determine the winner. This happens once or twice per game. This game gets very competitive and sometimes the papers at the end are in ROUGH shape. When we get toward the end of the game, I make my students close their eyes and keep their hands behind their backs as I give the clues.


All Taco Tuesday sets here. Editable templates here.


For this skill, also see: Matamoscas (you can find this on TPT at La Secundaria! It is basically Taco Tuesday but on the whiteboard in front of the class with only 2 students playing at a time.)


For Writing: Doble Donas
I love this game because it provides for student choice at each and every turn. Students work in groups of 2-4 (flexible) and it is best if they have different colored pens/pencils. This activity can be played for anywhere from 10-25 minutes.


To play, students share one game board filled with 30 Dona spaces. The spaces are numbered, but not in order so that you can provide the answer key to each table without fearing that it would be easy to cheat. Students take turns choosing a card from the pile of provided game cards. If their card has a number on it, they must earn that space. To earn the space, they look at the subject pronoun and the two verbs provided. There are two verbs provided so that students can choose whichever verb they feel more confident using. You (the teacher) decide whether students simply conjugate one of the verb options in the designated tense, or whether they must write a sentence on the attached written extension sheet. Once they have successfully earned the space in whichever way you have determined, students can write their initials or draw a certain symbol on the space to mark it as *theirs.* (This is why different colored pens is helpful.)


If the card they pulled has a call to action on it instead of a number (free space, steal a space) they follow those instructions as well. This adds a fun twist to the game, and added to the choice piece on each space it helps to level the playing field a bit between students of all ability levels. All of these cards are in Spanish and can be seen in the preview online if you want to take a better look. At the end of the game, the student with the most spaces wins!


Differentiation: My more competitive classes usually decide that in order to win a space, a student must complete the determined action (conjugation or sentence) for both verbs rather than choosing just one. I always provide this game twist as an option, but not a requirement. I’m always interested to see which groups accept this challenge!


All Doble Donas sets here. Editable templates here.


For this skill, also see: Guerra de Miel (which is like Doble Donas but with only one verb per space), La Lluvia (my other favorite for providing student choice)


For Individual work: Variety
When I have a class that needs some down-time (on a hectic day) I often go for games that can be done individually. This can be playing Quizlet on their own, or completing crosswords and word searches. These aren’t the most difficult tasks, but sometimes students need a little bit of “easy.” On days like this, I also always have extra printouts of my Llama Mía, Guerra de Miel and Doble Donas games. Students sometimes like to treat these like worksheets rather than playing the full game. Again, you may be surprised what one class prefers compared to your others. While I have some classes that beg for Taco Tuesday, I have other classes that would prefer I give them 10 minutes to quietly study on Quizlet on their own. I try to give them what they want as much as possible, to keep them engaged. As long as we are meeting the overarching goal of language comprehension and acquisition, I am happy. And if they are happy, I am happy.


Providing Student Choices
In each of the categories above, I mentioned other games that are my “go-to” options for each category. Instead of prepping one game for the day for all classes, I sometimes prep half copies of 2 or 3 different games. That way, I can walk around each block and ask each table which game they’d prefer out of two options. Once we have played each game once during the year, it is very easy to walk around providing the options; my students are able to identify which game they prefer by name. Usually, the favorites vary from class to class. I make sure that all game options on a specific day meet the same overall goal, however, I have found that providing student choice leads to happier and more invested students which leads to increased language use DURING the game. Since this is always my top priority, prepping the extra copies is worth it to me :)


P.S. In my TPT store I provide EDITABLE TEMPLATES of most of the games I mention here. I created these so that teachers can create endless versions of their favorite games. You can find those templates individually, or you can see my Editable Bundle here.


Thank you for reading and happy gaming!

Erin, The Engaged Spanish Classroom


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