Teaching Colors & Description

Right now, I’m about halfway through a unit in Spanish 1 that I call “Así soy yo”, in which we cover colors, likes and dislikes, and describing people. Here are some of the activities that I’ve had success with so far It’s probably too late for you to use them with your current 1’s, but maybe next semester or next year some of them will come in handy:

I have a poster in front of my room that has the color words on it (in the appropriate color, of course), so in the first unit, I often pulled words off there for whatever activity we were doing. Therefore, my students were already fairly well-acquainted with the color words before we started. But I did spend a couple of days intentionally teaching them anyway.

I started out by telling a story about two people walking through a field. I asked my students to describe what the people saw. I let them say the objects (tree, flower, cloud, etc.) in English, but if they said the color in English, I just said ¿Cómo? and pointed at the poster until they gave me the Spanish. I drew what they told me on the board, and labelled everything as we went along.

Next, I asked students simple (cognate-filled) questions like “What is your favorite color?” “What color are your eyes/is your hair?” (pointed at eyes/hair). I then had all the kids stand up and when I said a color, they had to touch something in the room that was that color. They relied heavily on the poster during this time, and on their friends, but I was fine with that. They were still associating the color with the word when they touched an appropriate object. As they got better with colors, I started asking them to touch something, for example, blue and green. Some “smart” young man decided that he could touch two different things as long as he got both colors, so I made it a rule that all the colors had to be on the same object.

A few days later, I printed out and laminated color copies of this excellent, free game. We played Memory with the cards. I expected that this would hold their attention for, maybe 15 minutes. They were totally engrossed in this game. I was amazed. I thought I’d have to cut it off when they started losing focus, but they played for as long as I would let them, and probably would have continued. I gave them phrases like “It’s your turn,” “I won!” and “Cheater!” and they had a blast picking on each other. I later recycled these cards and we played Go Fish. They weren’t quite as into that one, but they played pretty well for about 15 minutes.

Likes & Dislikes
For this, I took an activity directly from the Creative Language Class blog and created a PowerPoint full of pictures of various activities. For the title on each one I put “¿Te gusta jugar al fútbol/cantar/cocinar/etc.?” I printed it as a handout 9 slides to the page, and cut them out. I gave each student a set and had them sort the activities into categories of “Me gusta mucho” “Me gusta” and “No me gusta”. Then we had some quick conversations about things they like to do. I’ve also done a couple variations on a TPR activity: I say activities, and if it’s one they “gusta” they stand. I’ve also made statements like “Me gusta jugar al fútbol” or “No me gusta limpiar la casa” and if they agree with me they stand.

It didn’t take long for them to get comfortable with gustar with verbs, and they were starting to say things like “Me gusta ojos” so I thought it was time to introduce them to the difference between gusta and gustan. I started out by writing several “OK” sentences with gusta: singular items, verbs, etc. Then I told them it was NOT ok to say something like “Me gusta uvas” instead, they had to say “Me gustan uvas” after several examples of this, someone piped up and said “So gusta is for singular, and gustan is for plural?” Yes! I had them each get a white board and they wrote either “Me gusta” or “Me gustan” (with the option to put no in front if they wanted to) based on what I said. They’ve been reliably getting this right ever since.

We also listened to several Audio Lingua clips of people talking about their likes and dislikes and discussed what words we heard and understood.

Describing people
I know I could do this better next year. I definitely gave them too many words at the same time in this particular area. After a few weeks of practice, they’re doing pretty well picking up most of them though, so all’s well that ends well I guess. At various points throughout the last few weeks, we have:

  • Drawn people on white boards as I describe them.
  • Read paragraphs about people and drawn them
  • Drawn and labelled pictures of ourselves.
  • Done face foldable activities in which they wrote adjectives describing themselves as well as their likes and dislikes
  • Played 2 variations of Guess Who?: One traditional, and one in which one student is the witness to a crime, but who (for whatever reason) can’t see to identify the criminal in a lineup. Instead, he/she has to describe what the criminal looked like to the detective, who figures out who it was based on the clues (as a side note, during this activity I heard lots of kids saying things like “ojos verdes; pelo largo” even though we have never discussed adjectives after nouns or plural adjectives. Some of them are even applying it outside of specifically learned phrases!)
  • Played dozens of rounds of 20 questions in which they ask me about people in class, people in the school, famous people, or whomever else I can think of (Sheldon Cooper was one of my choices today). We’ve been playing in the last few minutes of class each day and they have been engaged by this for far longer than I expected.
  • Read an insert from a magazine “What does your favorite color say about you?” which ended up leading to a great discussion of cognates and how language happens in addition to reviewing color and descriptive words.
  • Listened to an Audio Lingua clip of a woman describing her perfect mate. Students circled words they heard. I added a few cognates like “política” that we hadn’t learned yet. They pretty much caught them.

After a few days of this, I started noticing a lot of “es feliz” or “es pelo largo” which doesn’t bother me – they’re putting language together, and after only 9 weeks of Spanish 1, I’m pretty proud of where they are. But I also didn’t want them to practice that pattern until it was too late to correct it. I’m new to this proficiency thing, and maybe I should have left it alone, but here’s what I did:

I wrote está…, es…, and tiene… on the board and asked the kids to tell me which words or phrases went with each. Of course, they were not terribly forthcoming, so I started making suggestions “Where does tall go?” in order to get the ball rolling. They did great. Next, I wrote “Es” “Está” and “Tiene” on pieces of construction paper and put one in each corner of the room. I said a word or phrase and asked them to go to the appropriate corner. They did pretty well with this as well, and it helped those quite kids who weren’t talking in the previous activity connect the words together.

Finally, I had them get white boards. Then I said a word and they wrote “es” “está” or “tiene” on their boards. This allowed me to make sure that everyone was getting it and see who was still struggling. Overall, they did great. Then I changed it to “soy” “eres” and “tengo”. We’ve talked about estoy/está, soy/es, and tengo/tiene being in the same “families” although we’ve never used the words “infinitive,” “conjugation,” “ser,” “estar,” or “tener” before. This last step tricked a few of them at first, but they caught on quickly.

I was hoping that, after this activity, when we played 20 questions, I would go from hearing “¿pelo rubio?” to maybe “¿tiene pelo rubio?” It didn’t happen, but that’s ok, they’re not ready to make spontaneous sentences like that yet and that’s fine. I’ll keep responding to “¿Pelo rubio?” with “No, no tiene pelo rubio” and hopefully the sentences will happen naturally soon.


One Comment Add yours

  1. I’m bookmarking this, thanks for sharing. 🙂

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