Learning a new language can feel like an overwhelming task. Luckily, kids now take a foreign language at much earlier ages. Students’ minds are already open to learning new vocabulary and conjugating verbs. It’s important to get kids out of the classroom and into the world to learn these new words. Keeping their bodies active will help their minds stay active too. These ideas will help kids learn while having fun.
Getting Out of the Classroom to Teach Spanish: Ideas to Practice Vocabulary
1. Restaurant: Asking questions in Spanish
Call a Mexican, Spanish, Cuban or Dominican restaurant in your town and ask them if they can accommodate a group of students for a language lesson. Let them know you only want them to speak Spanish to the students.
When you arrive with your group, tell your students they can order whatever they want—but they must ask the waiter at least three questions about the menu in Spanish. Take turns going around the table and letting the students ask questions throughout their orders; ask the other students to pay attention and encourage them to help anyone who can’t find the right vocabulary to ask questions. The students who get their orders correct get to choose a dessert for the whole class to share.
2. Farmer’s Market: Learning names of fruits and vegetables
Bring your class to a farmer’s market (la plaza del mercado). Give them each $1 and allow them to buy anything they like; the only catch? They need to return to the meeting place with the item and use their purchase in a sentence. The student with the most creative sentence and most elaborate story gets a prize. This activity is especially helpful when learning the names of fruits and vegetables.
3. Sporting Event: Learning verbs and action words
Another idea that gets children learning verbs and action words is to take them to a sporting event. Bring them to a baseball game and explain the importance of baseball in Cuba’s history. You can explain action verbs like “to run” (correr) or “to throw” (lanzar) in this lesson. Take turns letting each student create a sports commentary on what’s happening on the field. Or, bring students to a soccer game and explain the importance of soccer (or football) in Spanish and South American cultures. Explain the rules of the game and how the game is played. You can also use the sports commentary game at a soccer match too.
Take the students to a concession stand and let them take turns ordering food in Spanish. Let two students order at a time—one to order in Spanish and another to translate to the cashier what the Spanish speaker wants. The team to get the right order wins a prize.
4. Games in the Park: Learning action verbs in Spanish
Students can learn how to play their favorite childhood games while learning action verbs in Spanish. Hide and seek (jugar a escondite) and duck-duck goose can all be played while learning to speak another language. For hide and seek, have all the children hide. If the person who is “it” finds a child, the child must conjugate a verb—or be sent to the “jail”.
For duck-duck goose, one child walks around a group of children in a circle. When the child “chooses” a goose, he or she must ask the goose to say a word in Spanish. If the child can properly translate the word, the “goose” gets to chase the other child around the circle.
5. Musical Games: Descriptions in Spanish
Other teaching ideas don’t need to take place outside. Take your class to a museum or exhibition that has plenty of musical instruments for them to see. While most of the children might not know the name of the instrument in English, ask the child to describe the instrument. If you point to a ukulele, the child should say the instrument looks like a small guitar. If you point to a lyre, the child could say the instrument looks like a small harp.
On the bus ride to the museum, pass out popular songs that can be sung in Spanish (like “Oye Como Va”, “La Bamba” or “Quizas” that kids can sing along to. If your bus has a PA system, play the song over the loudspeaker.
6. Animal Games: Learning animal names and descriptions
Take your class to the local zoo or aquarium. Ask your students some easy questions, like “What animals do you want to see?” After your students have answered (in Spanish), take them to the different parts of the zoo. Ask them to describe the lions (Are they sleeping? Are they eating? Do they look dangerous?). Take them to an animal feeding and ask them to describe the animals as they eat. Ask the students what the animals are eating (Are the giraffes eating lettuce? Do the dolphins get small fish?). Bring them to the petting zoo and tell them they can pet one of the animals if they can answer a question about the animal they would like to pet. After they’ve pet the animals, ask them how the animals felt. (Was their fur soft? Was the snake’s scales rough? Was the dolphin’s skin smooth?)
Your students can practice what they learned in the classroom everywhere they go. Check out these other articles to Teach Spanish.