Even the best Spanish students can struggle when it comes to learning verbs. Not only do students need to study and remember the vocabulary words, but they also have to learn how to conjugate the verbs in a variety of situations. A good teacher helps her students work on these skills in ways that are fun and engaging. With repeated practice, students will start to improve their skills.
1. Develop activities to practice speaking and pronunciation
A. Play “Around the World” (Alrededor del mundo) to have students practice quick recall of their vocabulary words. One student starts by standing behind another student. You hold out a verb-based flash card and the students battle to be the first to call out the word. The student who was the first one to answer correctly gets to move on to battle the next student. If the standing student lost, he has to sit down in the other student’s chair. The person who successfully makes their way around to their original seat is the winner. Make this more difficult for advanced students by asking them to conjugate the verb rather than simply saying the vocabulary word.
B. You could also have students practice their speaking by assigning them partners to practice a scene in front of the class. The students will work together to write the scene using a variety of words. Alternatively, have each student write and perform a “newscast” style speech, detailing what someone recently did. Students could work together on this by interviewing other students and reporting on their past activities.
2. Organize activities to promote listening skills
A. If you have a small group of students, get them to form a circle on the floor and lay out flash cards in front of them. When you say a verb, the students should compete to be the first one to slap the card with that verb pictured. Whoever is first gets to take the card, and the student with the most cards at the end is the winner. Make this game more fair by having students place their hands on the top of their heads so that it’s harder to slap the card. If you want to make the game a lot more challenging, use the word in a sentence. When you conjugate the verb incorrectly, the students cannot slap the card. They have to wait for the correct conjugation.
B. With a larger group of students, try leading a game of “Señor(a) Says” (similar to Simon Says). You tell the students to act out certain verbs and they have to listen carefully to hear if you are telling them to do it or not do it. You can try to trick your students by saying one thing and doing another.
3. Reinforce daily writing to improve recollection
A.If students keep a daily journal detailing the types of things they’ve been doing, they get practice remembering vocabulary and conjugating the verbs in real-life situations. If you assign the journal for homework, some students might “cheat” by writing all of their journal entries in one day. Instead, plan to let students write in their journals during the first five or 10 minutes of class. It’s the daily practice that will help them really get the basics down.
4. Integrate games
A. It’s helpful to have a few games on hand that you can adapt to any lesson and use when you find that you have a few minutes left at the end of class. For example, take something that’s a physical activity, like trying to hit a target on the board, throwing a paper ball into the wastebasket, or beating the teacher at rock, paper, scissors (piedra, papel y tijera). A student must then perform a Spanish task before being able to do the physical task, such as correctly conjugating a verb before he can try to make a basket. The student gets a point for correctly answering the Spanish question, but also if he gets the ball in the basket. If you divide the class into teams, they can compete.
The most important thing when finding strategies for teaching Spanish verbs is to pay attention to the personality of your class. Some types of students enjoy written work and prefer to be quiet, while other classes are more boisterous and active. When you match your activities to the style of your class, you’ll have a winning combination all around.
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