Last week I did a Spanish conversation activity with vocabulary flashcards in a small class of grades 4-8 students. I decided to write a blog post on it because they liked it so much! And, that being the case, I thought your students might enjoy it too, as well as get great conversation practice.
Materials Needed to Do the Spanish Conversation Activity
To do the activity you need the following items:
- large dry erase board or chalkboard in front of your group
- at least one Spanish vocabulary flashcard per student
- (The Spanish vocabulary flashcards that I used are featured in the picture.)
Steps for Doing the Spanish Conversation Activity
- Allow about 10 minutes to do this activity. You can do longer, but that is what I did.
- Give each student one Spanish vocabulary flashcard.
- Tell students that you all are going to have a conversation about what a chosen character does in a day. Our chosen character was a boy named, José.
- Write on the board: primero, luego, entonces, and por fin so the students have some sequence words to use as you have the conversation. They don’t need to use these words, but to begin the conversation, you can start out with “primero” and to end, you can use “por fin”.
- If your students don’t know the meanings of those four words, then write the English meaning next to each: first, later/next, then, and finally.
- Then, tell students that each of them will say a sentence about what the character does in a day. Give them an example by saying a sentence with a vocabulary flashcard you are holding. For example, I was holding the card for “las revistas”. My sentence was, “José compra las revistas en la librería.”
- Tell them they can use any Spanish they know to say their sentences, but it must include their flashcard word.
- Also, they can use verbs they don’t know, but they have to ask in Spanish how to say it. For example, one student asked me, “¿Cómo se dice to throw?” So, I answered, “lanzar”, and I wrote it on the board. That student had to use what he knows about verb conjugation to properly use it in his sentence.
- Advise students to raise their hands when they have a sentence they want to contribute to the conversation. And let them know that everyone has to say a sentence with their card.
What the Students Enjoyed
As we began, hands went up, and students started saying their sentences. One thing they enjoyed was being able to turn José’s day into something silly. So, our conversation had sentences like these:
- “José va a la cafetería y compra un café.”
- “Luego, José da el café al perro.”
- “Entonces, José y el perro van a la heladería y comen mucho helado.”
- “Luego, José va al supermercado y busca una bolsa.”
- “José se pone la bolsa en la cabeza.”
- And so on.
I don’t mind the silliness as long as they stay on task with the conversation and are really thinking. I notice that if I let them make it silly, they are motivated to find out new verbs and use their skills to conjugate them. They work hard to converse, and they pay attention to what others are saying because they get a kick out of what someone might say.
What I also saw was students enjoying putting together longer sentences, and pulling in words, vocabulary, and grammar concepts that they had learned in previous school years. Because they were enjoying the conversation activity so much, were focused, and all contributing, I would give them more flashcards to keep it going.
Ideas for Adapting the Activity for Larger Classes
Doing this activity is best in small groups of no more than 10 students I would say. It helped that I could facilitate the activity because I kept the conversation focused and could provide the students with verbs they wanted to use but didn’t yet know. However, I think this could work with a larger class by trying the following ideas:
- Break your class into smaller groups of up to 8 students and do one of the following:
- If you, the teacher, facilitate, then work with one group at a time. Give your other students something to do during the 10 minutes you are working with a group or allow them to observe and get some listening practice.
- Let the groups hold the conversations themselves. Provide instructions on how to do the activity and write those on the board. Assign one person per group to facilitate and look up verbs if needed.
We did this activity during the last 10 minutes of class. During the class we had done other activities that had the students working with the vocabulary and practicing verb conjugation. So, their minds were all warmed up to use this material in conversation.
This group is working from my Conversaciones Grades 7-8 Themed Course, and we are currently in Lección 3, Week 12. Some of the students only began Spanish this year, while others have been in Spanish for You! classes longer. But, it didn’t matter. Students learn very quickly how to create and speak in full sentences with Spanish for You! So, those newer students had no trouble keeping up with the more experienced.