This is a game I created after Christmas break last year, when I went from speaking mostly English to speaking only Spanish with my Spanish III students (there wasn’t enough interest to garner a Spanish IV class). I was still following the textbook, and I was totally stymied by the idea of getting my students to practice vocabulary without translating from one language to the other. Logically, I knew that it would be better because they’d end up with a deeper knowledge of that vocabulary…if I could only figure out how to get them there.
I don’t know what made me think of it, but I ended up basing a new game on the $25,000 Pyramid gameshow. Using my SmartNotebook program (but it could have easily been done in Word or PowerPoint), I made a pyramid of rectangles, 4, 3, 2, 1. I assigned the bottom row 10 points/word, the 2nd row 20, the 3rd row 40 and the single top rectangle was worth 75 points. I then filled them with vocab words, easier words and cognates on the bottom, and increasing in difficulty as I climbed. Since my textbook had rather hefty vocab lists for Spanish III, I usually made 4-6 of these boards in order to use all the words.
In class, I had the kids get into pairs with one facing toward the SmartBoard and one facing toward the back wall of the room. Of course, I didn’t project the game “board” onto the screen until one of each pair was not able to see the words.
Once the words were projected, I started a timer (I originally went for 7 minutes, but have since shortened to 6) and the student facing the SmartBoard had to describe the vocab word while the one facing away guessed.
The rules state, similarly to the gameshow, that the describer could not use the words from the boxes, or any related words. Unlike the game show, I leave all the words uncovered rather than uncovering as the words are either guessed correctly or passed. It’s the only way I could think to make it work when all the teams were pulling words from the same screen.
My students took to it immediately. They loved it. They asked to play almost every day. I was particularly proud that I had created a game that they loved but, more importantly, was so communicative. The very day after we played for the first time, a student told me that she “felt like that game helped my speaking so much!” And certainly speaking only Spanish made a huge difference, but I saw a definite improvement in my students’ circumlocution abilities and their comfort with spontaneous speaking in general.