Sunday, December 29, 2019

Beating the Post-Break Blues: Little to No-Prep Activities to Get Students Moving and Speaking in Target Language on Day One Back to Class



There are two types of teachers:

The one who already has the entire week planned when they return from winter break (their desk is probably really organized, too!)

And the other who left the building running at the 3:00 bell on the last day before break.

I won't say which one I am.

No matter which teacher you are, you better be sure that whatever you have planned for your students on day one back from break will be as engaging as possible.

Chances are your students have been staying up all night playing video games, sleeping in, and their diet (like mine) has consisted of all things sugar related.

The last thing any of our students want to do when they return to school is sit at a desk all day. Here are a few of my favorite go-to activities that will have your students up moving AND speaking in target language.


"Cuatro Esquinas" (Four Corners) - This is a staple in my classroom and my students BEG to play. Here's how it works:

First, put up four posters in each of the corners of your room displaying different categories (I like to use the verb gustar). There are many variations to this activity. You could practice time expressions by having signs like todos los días, nunca, casi siempre, de vez en cuando, etc. 

Next, I have some vocabulary words prepared related to winter break. For example, la navidad, el frío, la nieve, esquiar, patinar en hielo, ver películas, jugar en la nieve, tomar chocolate caliente, etc. 

In the target language teacher says a vocabulary word and students move to the corner of the classroom that corresponds to how they feel about that activity.

From here, you can vary what you want students to do. Sometimes, I ask students to say a complete sentence using the vocabulary word and category that corresponds to corner they are in. This is what it would look like: student says, "No me gusta nada tomar chocolate caliente." or "Todos los días yo juego/jugaba en la nieve". Obviously, what students are capable of saying will depend on their level of language. I ask students to say their sentence to at least two different classmates who are in the same corner. Then repeat with different vocabulary words. This is great to keep students MOVING and SPEAKING!

Another option is to play for "outs". For this I will have the four posters hanging in the corners, but also have them written out on a card and placed in a bowl/jar. Teacher says the vocabulary word and students move to corner like previous option. This time after students say their sentence, the teacher pulls out one of the cards and all the students in that corner are out and must return to their seats. You continue playing until there is one student remaining. 
      • Helpful Tip: For this option, it is important for students who are "out" to have something to do while the remaining students are still playing. Often times I find that they still want to participate and hear them creating sentences from their desks. 
"Busca a Alguien... - Versión de Invierno" (Look for Someone... - Winter Break Version) Here is another great activity to get students up moving and SPEAKING on day one back from break. The best part is, there is Absolutely NO-PREP!

Begin with a review of the winter activity vocabulary (I always assume my students have not practiced Spanish in a while!)

I have my students first look up the words they do not know and translate to English. Then we practice pronunciation before the speaking activity.
There are three versions included in the Winter Break Speaking Activities resource

For more advanced students use one of the two preterite versions:
    • Student 1 - "¿Miraste Netflix o Disney+ la semana pasada?
    • Student 2 - "Sï, miré Disney+." or "No, no miré Disney+."
For novice-low students practice with gustar + infinitives
    • Student 1 - "¿Te gusta jugar en la nieve?
    • Student 2 - "Sí, me gusta jugar en la nieve." 
Students walk around asking/answering questions IN SPANISH. You could decide ahead of time how many boxes you want students to have signed.

The first student to reach the goal could receive a prize or another incentive. I usually just say “get as many as you can”. The reason for this is that I want my students speaking Spanish rather than be concerned with getting the activity done quickly.
"Levántense, Mano Arriba, y Hagan parejas" (Stand up, Hand up, Pair Up) - This is a classic Kagan Strategy designed for quick pairing of students when you want them to discuss any given topic. If you are not already using Kagan cooperative learning structures in your world language classroom, I highly encourage you to read more about them. Click here to learn more. To watch a quick 30 second video of what this activity looks like click here.
    • Ahead of time, you can write a prompt on the board you want the students to discuss. 
      • For my 8th grade students I will have them discuss what they did over break using the preterite - ¿Cuál fue una cosa que hiciste durante las vacaciones navideñas?
      • For my 6th and 7th grade students I will have them discuss what their favorite food is to eat over the holidays or what is one activity they like to do during the winter - ¿Qué te gusta comer durante la navidad? or ¿Qué te gusta hacer en el invierno?
    • Show students the prompt and give them some "think time"
    • Then number students off one to six (sometimes I go higher or lower depending on class size), then say "Levántense, mano arriba, y hagan parejas" (Stand up, Hand up, Pair Up). Students stand up, hold up their hand with their number, and find someone else that has a DIFFERENT number. The first time you do this activity you will need to demonstrate. 
    • To make it more fun, I have some upbeat merengue or salsa music playing while students are moving around. When the music stops they must have a partner. If there is an odd number, there can be a group of three. One of my all-time favorite songs is by Elvis Crespo, Suavemente. It's and oldie, but goodie!
    • Once the music stops and all students have a partner, have them discuss the prompt in the target language. I usually set my class timer for one minute. Students must stay in target language for the entire time. For novice-low students you may need to guide them a little more or have more prompts on the board. 
    • Then hit play on that upbeat merengue music again and repeat! Students will do the same thing, but must find a new partner. 
Do you have another favorite post-break activity? How do you get your students motivated after a long break?

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