Introductory Activities

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13 thoughts on “Introductory Activities”

  1. I echo this request! I would love to learn an activity that goes a bit deeper than the typical name games, which I love, but for upper levels it would be cool to dig in a bit.

    Here are a few of the “name game” activities I know.

    One thing I used to do with my middle school xc runners was at the first practice I paired them up randomly. Then I gave them a couple of things they had to find out from their partner during the warm-up: stuff like what was their favorite song at the moment, favorite snack food, and one thing not many people know about them (I specified that the “little known fact” couldn’t be something deeply personal) Then they had to introduce their partners when we circled up. I got lots of interesting info, like “I hate milk” or “I’m really good at origami” or “I have never eaten a pickle.”

    I was thinking of trying this with my upper levels. You can pick random stuff like favorite cereal, or “deeper” important things if you want. Pretty open ended, but for a CI class it would be important to keep it structurally consistent “favorite” or “important” “proud of” etc. ??? Just thinking out loud here. Trying not to go wide on day 1 !

    Another game I have played on orientation days is one that I cannot remember exactly, but I think it is common so maybe someone can chime in. You use a nerf ball and you first go around the circle passing the ball. Each person says his name as he receives the ball. Then to play, you toss the ball to someone (random order) while saying their name. Say I toss the ball to Ben. I say “Ben” and he says “thank you Jen”. Then Ben picks out another person to toss/ say their name, that person says “thank you Ben” etc. The goal is to include each person without repeating. AND THEN….you do it again, timed, IN THE SAME ORDER. So you have to remember who you tossed to, and who you received from. Once you have a time, you challenge the group to do it in less than a minute (or whatever random challenging time you want to go for). Maybe this is too cheesy for an upper level group, but it’s pretty fun with middle schoolers / freshmen. For a pure beginner class I probably would only use the names and not make them say thank you, esp. on day 1. But that’s just me.

    On my Dominican Republic trip, we helped to run a summer camp with about a dozen young men from the community. On the first day all of us counselors got together and played this game called “Quién falta?” (Who’s missing?). I was thinking of trying this with my classes. It was really fun, especially after the pace picked up and there were “penalties” and people trying to trick each other by using eye contact with one person while calling someone else’s name. It went like this: you stand in a circle. First you go around just saying names. Then the “designated leader” (I’ll use myself in this example) starts off by saying “Jen’s going over the list and…DAVID’S MISSING! Immediately, David has to say “David’s never missing” then it bounces back to me and I say “Then who’s missing?” Then David picks someone else (or me!) and says “Ben’s missing.” Ben says “Ben’s never missing ” David says “Then who’s missing?… Ben picks someone else, etc. So it goes around and around or back and forth until someone messes up, It can get really heated (in a fun way) when you 1) pick up the pace 2) have a “battle” back and forth between two people for several reps and then suddenly throw a new person in.

    PENALTY happens when either someone does not respond immediately or they respond incorrectly OR the wrong person responds (confusion with the back and forth battles, or someone just spacing out, or tricking ppl with “fakes” using eye contact). So when this happens, that person goes to the “end” (to the right of the leader). AND when you go to the end of the line, you get a silly nickname given to you by the group. This complicates matters because once you have a nickname you cannot use or respond to your real name. So if I mess up and go to the end, I am no longer Jen, but barefoot girl (or whatever name people pick), and then if someone says Jen, that is an error and they go to the end. The same leader starts it off until he/she makes a mistake, goes to the end of the line and the person to his left becomes the leader

    I don’t know if this makes sense or if it will work here, but it was a riot in the camp! People just got really goofy, using weird voices and stuff. It was good clean fun 🙂 Just gotta make sure the nicknames are purely goofy and not insulting, vulgar or personal. I suppose one way to get around that would be to establish that the nickname had to be a random animal or a famous person or ???

    Another one that requires some prep is to make up sheets with a list of things like “has the most siblings” “was born in (whatever town the school is in)” “was born furthest from …..” “plays an instrument” “has more than 3 pets” “works on a farm” “loves to sleep” ….etc. Then you give a time limit and make them go around asking each other for the info. Usually you have to tell them they need to ask at least x different people just so they don’t fill it all in from stuff they know about their friends. They have to stay in target language. Again, it would make sense to keep the structures similar and repetitive.” You can make it a competition, to see who fills in all the answers first, or you can just do it for a certain number of minutes and see what you find out.

    Looking forward to learning more of these!

      1. I like these ideas and using the questionnaire is a great idea. Last year I ended up using a lot of the comments the kids made in the “big circle” game and working those into a series of short stories that got the first weeks moving. I can envision taking 3 or 4 kids a day and doing PQA about them just like I would do with circling with balls. Only in the case of my upper level students, more structures will be known, and it will be a good time to clarify and review what structures they have retained well into the new year.

        Thanks all, David

  2. Andrea Westphal

    Another idea that I’ve used with upper levels and social studies classes (it’s a good idea to create community no matter what the subject is) is the game two truths and a lie. Each student writes three statements about him or herself on a piece of paper. The students take turns reading their statements and the class has to try and identify the lie. The students who know each other try and stump one another. This can be a fun opener.

  3. I’ll usually start out by having each student draw me a “postcard” about a highlight of their summer, and then I’ll put those on the document camera and we’ll spend the first two weeks working through everybody and making up stories that combine and expand the pictures. Some years I’ve had the class bring in an object from their summer, but it’s easier to exaggerate/lie by drawing.

  4. See this is gold. Stuff like this. Upper level start-the-year gold. I’ll file this thread under a new category called Introductory Activities and also under the Starting the Year and Beginning the Year categories so we can at least have a shot at finding this gold nugget if we forget it.

    This year I have all level 2’s plus am inheriting a traditional level 3/4 combined class. I will definitely use the post card idea (thank you Nathan!) with the 2’s and maybe with the 3/4 class if they successfully can learn how to play this year.

    This post card idea with the doc camera is so simple that it will allow me to focus fully on those two posts about Staying in Bounds and Checking for Understanding. The result will be 99% or higher in the TL. Love this. Lerf it. Loove it. Lough it.

  5. I used a book today with my 5th graders in their second year of language. It’s a small Tintin book on opposites entitled, cleverly, _Contraires_. We went over perhaps 10 new words (short/long, open/closed, clean/dirty, dry/wet, empty/full) and reviewed others (big/small, in front of/behind). I poured water on a kid, he went from dry to wet, dirty to clean, and my pitcher went from full to empty. Simple, yet golden. Kids could even draw these so they make their own little books. We had a blast, input was flowing and, when they were ready, gave me some output. Solid 20 minutes right there.

  6. …I poured water on a kid….

    This is the essence of PQA. We involve the kid in each utterance. Each question is about some kid. Immediately we reject the mundane answers and reward the cute outlandish answers which are the main rocket fuel for the fun to happen. To repeat, as Allison has done above, we involve each kid directly in each question we ask, so that the question is directly about them, and then we encourage funny answers by the class. That’s PQA.

  7. I do a “get to know you” Bingo. On the first day, I ask students to write something unique about themselves that no one in the class knows, but that they aren’t afraid to share. I then make up a Bingo card out of the statements for the next day.

    This is a “Black Out” bingo — they have to match up ALL students to the statements. (I always include myself too — it stumps them, because I just sit at my desk as they walk around the room, and they forget that I am there …..this reminds them that *I* am part of their little community also, and that we’re all in this together.) After this, is when I start talking about the need for community, respect, kindness, etc. etc. We do this in English.

    JEN: I love your “¿Quién falta?” game, but I think I need for you to explain it to me a little more….I am dense at times!!! 🙂

  8. *forgot to mention that this also lends itself to future PQA and story fodder. Like, being afraid of clowns, of feet, being able to put entire fist in mouth, etc. 🙂

  9. I love this thread! This year I have level 3s that are new to me and level 4s that I have had for four years! This is also a small district so the students already think that they know everything about everyone (soooo untrue, they know very little about the real person inside!) Since they already have a great deal of language I feel more comfortable skewing towards output on these particular activities.

    The first one I ‘harvested” from my alma gemela Karen Moretti. She calls it Teacher’s Pet and uses it with her 8th graders. I’ve incorporated it as a monthly activity for my seniors. I have a couple of versions for grades, 9-11 as well, but I love how it works with my oldest groups.

    1. Create a questionnaire in the target language. It can be anywhere from 3-30 questions long depending on your goals and available time. Example:

    What is one television program that you watched last night after 8pm?
    What is one food that you ate last night after 8pm?
    What is one thing that you worried about last night after 8pm?

    Hint: The questionnaire becomes the INPUT, so I like to make it as high-quality as possible!

    They are given permission to lie, although for some reason they rarely do.

    It helps to word the questions so that the answers are short, one word if possible.
    You don’t have to focus on one question “form” (past tense last night after etc.) but I like to do that.

    (hint, the next piece is not the one that is most important, but it is usually funny and gets us started)

    After everyone has answered all of the questions on their paper, students take turns asking me the questions and I answer. If MY answer and THEIR answer match (exactly or close enough lol) they give themselves a point. The student at the end of the activity who has the most points is the “Student of the Day” It’s usually very funny because many of the surveys leave me with “nothing” in common with my students and they think that that is hilarious…)

    Then, and here is where it really makes connections, the fun begins. They must get in pairs and ask each other the questions, again, giving themselves a point each time they match. We go very carefully the first few times. They are NOT allowed to see the other students’ must be a CONVERSATION. They are not allowed to just say the answers, the questions must be asked.

    To make things a little more fun, if they match they should both yell (or say) What a coincidence!! and if they don’t, You’re kidding!

    After the first conversation with a peer of their choice, then, they must come to me to be paired up with someone else. I am standing on a chair in the front of the room so that I can monitor who is really doing it right :o) When a pair finishes, they come to me and as soon as the next pair finishes, I can give them new partners. If no one else is ready, then we have a little chat in Spanish about which things they had in common and which they didn’t.

    We can usually get through 4-5 rounds of conversations before it wanes. Some students will only get to 3 and others 6, but that doesn’t matter at all, in fact, it’s great because everyone can speak and respond at their own pace. I am totally underhanded about who I pair up. I make sure that kids are paired with students that I know they would work well with,even if they would have never chosen them themselves.

    After we have done this for a couple of months, then I start asking people, in front of the class, who was their highest “match”. It is always surprising, in a very good way. I used to do this from the start, but it didn’t go over as well. So now I wait until November or December. By this time they have figured it out and they themselves are actually looking forward to being surprised by what they have in common with kids that they thought that they knew!!

    with love,

  10. The second is a spin-off of a camp game as well. (camp games are GREAT!!!) The students and I stand in a circle and have a toss-able Beanie Baby (or any stuffed animal that will toss well).

    Round 1: Everyone raises one hand. I tell them that I am going to make eye contact with someone in the group, say I’m throwing (ie GENTLY TOSS) it to you, and then throw the Beanie. They must then do the same,throwing the Beanie to someone whose hand is raised. (once you ‘ve caught a Beanie, then your hand goes down. this way everyone will be involved) Then we start. The last person to receive the Beanie says I’m throwing it to you and throws it to me.

    Round 2: Hands stay down. I confirm that they all remember who they threw the Beanie too. Then we repeat the process…and of course it goes a little smoother. So…..

    Round 3: We start again, but, this time, once the Beanie has been thrown to 3 or 4 people, I add another Beanie to the “Throwing Circle”. : o )

    Rounds 4 and 5: Each of these adds a new Beanie!!! They can usually manage 4 Beanies flying at a time, but very few groups can pull off 5 Flying Beanies successfully!!

    It’s an icebreaker and a moodchanger every time!! It isn’t about language (ok maybe some io and do pronouns) as it is about the eye contact and the giggling.

    Now, I often change up the statements so that each time we play we change tenses: simple future, future, commands (catch it!), I want you to catch it.
    It’s great to play in this order: Eye contact, throw – catch, and receiver says I have it now, I caught it, I have caught it.

    It’s just really for comfort when it comes to a casual way for the language to be used.

    Lots of fun. Hint: stop the game the first time one of your “pitchers” goes for the 90 mile an hour fastball Beanie. Repeat the phrase GENTLY TOSS and start over. Never let it go.

    with love,

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