Games to teach Spanish
Learning colors reminds students of the sense of playfulness that they used to have about learning.
Too often, though, we feel pressured to rush through the words that—from a developmental standpoint—come first in language development (think colors, numbers, family members and farm animals, etc.).
Instead, we’re itching to get to the “meat” of the language: classroom vocabulary and grammar, common conversation starters and (of course!) verb conjugations.
Surely, given the time constraints, a day to pronounce the colors and practice them in class will be enough?
No way! Here’s why:
Students make connections to new vocabulary
When students have mastered their colors, they can use colors to describe new vocabulary items as you teach them. For example, you can introduce new clothing vocabulary by labeling a visual, then immediately get students pronouncing and using the new words by describing what color their clothes are.
Connecting new vocabulary to words students already know also helps build neural pathways and makes learning the language easier than it would be to memorize a list of words in isolation. Because colors are so visual, they’re a natural way to build connections.
Helps your classroom remain Spanish-only
Colors are also very useful for circumlocution, as students can ask a question like, “¿Cómo se dice la cosa amarilla?” (How do you say the yellow thing?) to remain in the target language even when they’re not sure how to say something.
Makes learning fun
If you’re not totally convinced that you should take some extra time to teach colors at the beginning of the school year, consider this: Starting out with something fun will engage your students and give you a chance to get to know them in a low-key way.
Playing games that tap into the joy of learning is a great way to do some team building while still learning Spanish. When your students feel comfortable, they’ll approach Spanish with lower inhibitions and be willing to take more risks—a crucial trait that gets kids using the target language without worrying about making a mistake or sounding silly.
You can also capitalize on your students’ good will to get them to do some pronunciation exercises with the colors to work on their accents (a notoriously difficult thing to get middle and high schoolers to do!).
Teaching Spanish Colors for Mastery: You Need to Hit All the Modes
- Interpretive: Students can understand colors when they hear or read them. Interpretive activities include having students follow oral or written directions, listen to a story or play a game following rules that incorporate the target language. These are usually pretty easy to incorporate into your classroom, since you’re used to talking and your students are used to listening.
- Presentational: Students can use the colors in a rehearsed situation. These activities can include making a PowerPoint or poster, giving a memorized (or semi-memorized!) speech, and role playing as part of a scripted activity. Presentational language includes both speaking and writing, and tends to make students nervous if you haven’t created a comfortable learning space.
- Interpersonal: Students can use colors to communicate with one another in spontaneous ways—not following a memorized script. Rather than performing a rehearsed skit, interpersonal activities ask students to gather information from each other, give each other directions and interact in authentic ways. These are the most important types of activities to get students really using the language, but they can be the most challenging to design.
To get students to master the colors, be sure to include activities from all three modes in your color unit. Check out the ideas below to get your students talking about the whole arco iris (rainbow).
Teaching Spanish Colors in the Interpretive Mode
Once you’ve presented the colors and practiced pronouncing them, your students are ready to build their interpretive skills to get lightning fast at recognizing the colors.
Try these fun activities to give your students the practice they need to internalize this new vocabulary:
1. Color bingo
To differentiate instruction (and save your voice!), invite confident students to be the callers when they are ready. This also gives you a chance to work your way around the room to assess how well your students understand the colors being named.
2. TV time
You can pause the scene in any video and ask students to circle the names of the colors they see on a printed list you provide.
3. Art projects
A great way to get students to follow directions using colors is to talk them through a simple art project. You can give directions in Spanish for coloring in a picture and have students follow along with the colors you name. (Bonus points for using flags of Spanish speaking countries for this project!)