Simple ideas for teaching Spanish to Kids

teaching spanish to kids

#1 Impossible animal colors!

How does it work? 
Cut out animal shapes and color in with crazy colors.

Now practice the language!

Example: Un elefante rojo / A red elephant

#2 Colored block tower bingo!

How does it work? 
This activity is based on the popular Jenga game. You call out the colors, bingo style, and your child builds a tower out of colored blocks.

How many blocks were there when the tower came crashing down?!

#3 Colored block phrases

To express article + noun + adjective.

Ideal for modes of transport.

How does it work? 
3 separate blocks lined up in color formation.

Example: Un coche grande (A big car)
RED = Article / GREEN = Noun / BLUE = Adjective

Extension: Students choose correct colors for words read out, and make phrases of their own by lining up their blocks in the correct order.

#4 Auction wrong sentences

A higher level activity to practice sentence construction and numbers.

How does it work? 
You write down a selection of simple Spanish sentences, but some of them are incorrect.

Students discuss the sentences in pairs or small groups, then place bids on those sentences they think are incorrect.

If they win the bid, they double their money (win) only if they can also correct the sentence for the rest of the class

As part of the game, students must spend all their money.

#5 Creating sentences

Students make their own sentences.

How does it work? 
Hand out a prepared word list. Students make their own sentences.

Longest sentence wins. Or shortest sentence.

Who has the most sentences?

#6 How many are there?

How does it work? 
Hide a number marbles in your hand/s.

Ask this question: “¿Cuántos hay?”
Students reply with: “Cinco” or “Hay cinco” etc.

A good elimination game when played with many students!

#7 Syllable stress for praise words

An ideal confidence-boosting activity to complement a larger activity your children are doing at the same time

How does it work? 
Praise the children’s work in progress by using a selection of your favorite praise words. Give the words more impact by stressing each syllable.

Tip: Really emphasise each syllable with obvious mouth movements

Examples:
Sen-sa-cion-al
Per-fec-to
In-cre-íb-le
Fan-tás-ti-co

#8 How are you? Very well! Not very well!

How does it work? 
The children draw smiley faces on card, holding them up when you say the words “Muy bien” (Very well). Extend this by getting the children to draw sad faces to correspond with the words “No muy bien” (Not very well). Next you introduce the question: “¿Qué tal?” (How are you?) and the children with happy or sad faces reply accordingly

#9 “Corners”

Do you know the popular game called Corners?

How does it work? 
Put recently-learned single words in different corners of the classroom and ask the children to congregate next to the word they think you are going to call out. Next you pick the word out of a bag. All the children who have guessed the correct corner stay in the game, and the rest are out. Continue with the game by inviting eliminated children to pick out the next word. Eventually there will be just one winner!

#10 “Ups and Downs”

You gotta bob up and down for this one!

How does it work? 
Once the children have the hang of the meaning of “Sube”, “Baja” (Go up, Go down) from your demonstration, you can get them bobbing up and down by saying their names followed by “Sube” o “Baja”. For example, if you say “Kevin, baja” Kevin ducks down. When you say “Kevin, sube” he stands up again. Try and fool the children from time to time by saying ‘Go down’ when they are already down!

#11 “Smiley faces”

Simple and interactive…

How does it work? 
The children draw smiley faces on card, holding them up when you say the words “Muy bien” (Very well). Extend this by getting the children to draw sad faces to correspond with the words “No muy bien” (Not very well). Next you introduce the question: “¿Qué tal?” (How are you?) and the children with happy or sad faces reply accordingly!

#12 “Eat! Drink!”

Note: exactly 5 drinks and 5 food items

How does it work? 
Select one of the more confident children. For example, Libby. Tell the other children that Libby is allowed exactly 5 drinks and 5 food items. Then show the children images of various food and drinks. Every time you show an item of food the children say: “¡Come!” (Eat!) and when you show a drink they say “Bebe!” (Drink!). The object of the game is to ensure that Libby (who mimes drinking and eating) doesn’t have more than 5 drinks or more than 5 things to eat, so the Spanish/English word “Stop” can be used here when the limit is reached

#13 “Between the chairs”

This activity is great for teaching prepositions of place

How does it work? 
Stand in front of a chair or table, gesture the relationship between you and that object and say “Delante” (In front of). Then put yourself behind that object and say “Detrás” (Behind). Ask a couple of children to demonstrate the same moves to reinforce the language. Then add another chair and put yourself between the two chairs: “Entre” (Between). Next put the children into groups, asking each group to perfom an action depending on where you are standing. For example, group A claps their hands if you stand between the chairs; group B jumps up and down if you stand between the chairs. The children can have their own turns at taking up the different positions

#14 “Three colours”

Ever played Jenga?! Here’s a variation on that classic game…

How does it work? 
Introduce the three colours using coloured building blocks. In groups, the children take turns to build towers (in the style of the popular game Jenga) using blocks of the colours you call out. Who has the last tower standing?!

#15 “Coloured card”

Ever heard of ‘air writing’? Imagine air guitar but with a pen instead of a guitar!

How does it work? 
Here’s a simple way to practice all the colours your children have learned so far. Hold up pieces of coloured card and ask the children to name the colours. They can reply with the name of the colour or include the verb ‘to be’: “Es verde” (It is green). An alternative to showing the actual colours is to write the names of the colours in mid air. The children have to say out loud the colour you are writing. Make sure you are writing from right to left so the children are reading from left to right!

#16 “Hide the marbles”

Lost your marbles? You’ll need to find them for this fun activity

How does it work?
Hide up to five marbles in one hand and ask the children “¿Cuántas hay?” (marbles – “canicas” – are feminine in Spanish). If there are three marbles the answer is: “Hay tres”. (‘Hay’ means ‘There is’ or ‘There are’). Vary the number of marbles in your hand. You can play this as an elimination game in which the children who guess right stay in the game.

#17 “Ten Green Bottles”

Knock over one bottle after another in this game which is great for adjective + noun and practicing numbers.

How does it work?
The children make a cut out ‘green bottle’ (out of card; the bottles need to stand up). Before lining up 10 of the bottles make sure the children know the vocabulary. Use the finger drill technique to present “Una botella verde” (One green bottle) and work your way up from one to ten – “Diez botellas verdes” (Ten green bottles). Note how Spanish nouns, like English nouns, add an S to become plural (or -es if they end in a consonant). Next the bottles are eliminated or knocked over one by one. So you start with “Diez botellas verdes”, then you have “Nueve botellas verdes” etc. At the end you can say “No hay botellas verdes” (There are no green bottles).

#18 “Auction”

Going, going, gone!

How does it work?
For this ‘auction’ activity you will need some pretend currency up to a value of 50. Using the currency, demonstrate the new numbers 20, 30, 40, 50, then put the children into teams, and give them 50 units of currency each. Explain you will be showing them different Spanish phrases but that only some of them are correctly spelled. The teams ‘bid’ on the sentences, with a maximum bid of 50, and ‘win’ currency if successful with their bid. Of course, the phrases they bid on must be correct or there’s no ‘win’, so encourage the children to be careful with their bidding.

#19 “Frequency Graphs”

How representational graphs work for language learning

How does it work?
Present the relevant numbers first. The children draw a frequency graph to represent colours of objects you show to them. For example, show 5 red objects, 13 blue objects and 3 yellow objects (any objects will do, it’s the colour which is important). Make sure you include in the frequency table one or more of the new numbers presented in this activity (for example, 14 blue objects).

#20 “Gimme five!”

Did you know that “Gimme five” in Spanish is “Choca cinco”?!

How does it work?
If the children know all numbers from 1-20, play a variation of ‘high fives’ in which the children touch hands using the number of fingers you call out (any numbers from 1-20). For example, “Diez” means ten fingers, or two hand palms coming together in a ‘high ten’; “Dos” calls for more inventiveness from the children – two fingers touching each other!; “Diecinueve” would be a ‘high ten’ plus nine fingers!

#21 “Mental Math”

No writing allowed in this activity! The children need to visualise the numbers being practiced.

How does it work?
Present some new numbers by adding two numbers the children already know. For example, “Veinte más diez son treinta” (Twenty add ten is thirty). Then, with the children in teams, conduct a mental math test (no writing allowed). For example, “Veinte más veinte” (answer “Cuarenta”; ‘Forty’). The winning team is the team that gets the most correct answers.

#22 “Family photos”

Photos bring language learning alive.

How does it work?
Spanish speakers distinguish between masculine and feminine cousins: Primo (masc) and Prima (fem). In this activity the children construct a real family ‘tree’ out of small branches, twigs and leaves, then write the names of the family members on large pieces of card and insert the names into the tree (brother and sister placed near together etc).

#23 “Family Tree”

Note: Spanish speakers distinguish between masculine and feminine cousins: Primo (masc) and Prima (fem).

How does it work?
In this activity the children construct a real family ‘tree’ out of small branches, twigs and leaves, then write the names of the family members on large pieces of card and insert the names into the tree (brother and sister placed near together etc).

#24 “Pass the ‘Bomb'”

Continuing the Family theme… (but this activity works for any vocabulary set you choose)

How does it work?
The children practice all the family members learned so far with a ‘pass the bomb’ game in which each child has to name a different family member and ‘pass the bomb’ to the next child. If you don’t have one of these plastic ‘bombs’ that ticks and ‘goes off’ at random time intervals then the children can pass any object and you set the game to music, stopping the music whenever a mistake is made. The last child remaining in the game is the winner.

#25 “Dictionary order”

Continuing the Family theme… (but this activity works for any vocabulary set you choose)

How does it work?
The children practice writing all the names of the family members they have learned by listing them in order as they appear in the dictionary. For example, Hermana > Hermano > Mamá. They can draw pictures to go with the words.

#26 “Who’s who in the family?”

STILL continuing the Family theme!

How does it work?
“¿Quién es la hermana de mi mamá?” (Who is the sister of my mum?). Answer: “Mi tía” (My aunt). Ask the children this question and similar questions such as: “¿Quién es el hijo de mi abuelo?” (Who is the son of my grandpa?). This is a mental challenge and works well ‘against the clock’!

#27 “Relay race”

To practice prepositions of place.

How does it work?
Place two chairs about a metre apart somewhere in the classroom. Explain that ‘The chair’ in Spanish is “La silla” (pronounced ‘Seeya’). Then take a ball (“pelota”) and place it in various positions around the chair to elicit the required phrases from the children. For example, “La pelota está al lado de la silla” (The ball is next to the chair); “La pelota está encima de la silla” etc. The children practice with a two-team relay race in which they carry out your instructions, placing the ball in the corect position. For example, if you call out: “Detrás de la silla” the children need to put their balls behind the chairs. Language can be reinforced if the children state where their balls are, for example: “La pelota está delante de la silla” (The ball is in front of the chair).

#28 “Name the celebrity”

Instantly recognisable subjects are great for linking in new language or for practising language previously learned.

How does it work?
A simple activity in which you show images of well known personalities, ask their names – “¿Cómo se llama?” – and the children say who they are. A typical answer would be: “Se llama Katy Perry” (Her name is Katy Perry). Note: ‘Se llama’ literally means ‘He calls himself’ or ‘She calls herself’. You could also ask the children: “¿Quién es?” (Who is it?).

#29 “Human letters”

Cool kinetic fun!

How does it work?
Select a few of the easier letters to form and some children to come forward to make them by reshaping their bodies accordingly!

Check out these examples of how it’s done: http://www.onehopeunited.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/ABC.jpg

#30 “Alphabet mailbox”

How to make the Alphabet fun

How does it work?
Assign a separate letter of the alphabet to the each of the children. First they practice saying their corresponding letter then they copy their letter onto a piece a paper, put the paper into a blank envelope and ‘post’ it into a cardboard ‘mailbox’. Next the letters are removed from the mailbox and opened. Each letter revealed is read out loud by the child who originally posted it! Use different coloured envelopes if you have them so you can revise colours too

#31 “Splat the drinks”

Another cool kinesthetic way to learn simple Spanish vocabulary

How does it work?
Use flashcard images of drinks to present the vocabulary, then fix the flashcards onto the wall. Call out the name of one of the drinks. The children have to identify that drink on the wall and ‘splat’ it. This works best as a team game

#32 “Guess the drink”

This activity teaches the present continuous tense in Spanish

How does it work?
Use the flashcards from the previous activity. Pin one of them to the back of one of the children (let that child see what it is but don’t let the others see). The same child then takes a pretend sip from an empty cup and you ask the class: “¿Qué está bebiendo?” (What is he/she drinking?). Whether it is a ‘he’ or a ‘she’ is not clear from the Spanish verb, ‘está’ meaning either ‘he is’ or ‘she is’. The children take a guess. For example, “Está bebiendo leche” (She is drinking milk). If this is correct, you say: “Sí, está bebiendo leche” (Yes, she is drinking milk) and it’s the next child’s turn to pretend to take a drink. If the answer is incorrect, you say: “No está bebiendo leche” (She is not drinking milk) and the children continue guessing until they identify the corrrect drink on the hidden flashcard

#33 “The Taste Test”

Mmmm, yummy! Or maybe not so yummy

Use ‘realia’ (real things!) for this activity. Show the objects to the children then ask for a volunteer to put on a blindfold and take the ‘taste test’. You or one of the children ask: “¿Qué es?” (What is it?). The child doing the tasting can use “Es” in their answer: For example, “Es una manzana” (It’s an apple). See how many children want to take the taste test!

#34 “Birthday Wheels”

PART ONE

The children make ‘birthday wheels’ out of card, like the one pictured below (use plain white card if you like). Use a clip to fasten the two pieces of card together and allow the ‘wheel’ to turn. At this stage the children don’t write any dates, just the months of the year. Spin the wheels and practice saying the months

birthday_wheel

#34 “Birthday Wheels”

PART TWO

All the children write when their birthdays are under the appropriate month in the wheel. For example, if a birthday is on the 19th of May the child would write on the wheel: “Mi cumpleaños es el diecinueve de mayo” (My birthday is on the 19th of May). Note that months in Spanish are not written starting with a capital letter unless they are used to begin a sentence.

The children have previously learned numbers 1-20 and the number thirty: “Treinta”. Thirty one is straightforward enough: “Treinta y uno” (Literally: Thirty and one). While the principle is the same, the spellings are a little more complex for 21-29: Veintiuno, veintidós, veintitrés, veinticuatro, veinticinco, veintiséis, veintsiete, veintiocho, veintinueve. So, for example “Mi cumpleaños es el veintiocho de julio” (My birthday is on the 28th of July).

#35 “Popsicle stick shapes”

Recycle the used popsicle sticks for some tasty Spanish learning fun!

How does it work?
The children make the shapes using popsicle sticks, colour them in, and write the names of the shapes on the sticks. Do the children have a solution for making the circle shape out of their sticks?! Then they can say the names of the shapes and their colours. For example, “Un triángulo azul” (A blue triangle). All these shapes are masculine nouns so the article is always ‘Un’

stick shapes for spanish

#37 “Transport flashcards”

Welcome to the next theme in this mega series: Transport

How does it work?
First the children make their own flashcards of the modes of transport, writing the name of each one underneath. Then you organise them into teams to play a ‘relay race’ in which the first child in the line turns over one of the flashcards, names the mode of transport and passes the card down the line. Each child holding the card must name the mode of transport too

#38 “Count the cars”

A flexible worksheet activity!

How does it work?
Download the worksheet here and hand a copy to each child (remove the wording first if you haven’t taught it before). The children draw in as many cars as they like on the roads but tell them they need to know how many they have drawn! Then the children show their completed worksheets and ask: “¿Cuántos coches hay?” (How many cars are there?). Example answer: “Hay siete coches” (There are seven cars). Which of the children can answer the question correctly? Let as many children as possible have a turn at questioning and answering

#39 “Transport colors”

Staying with the transport theme…

How does it work?
Show the children images of different coloured modes of transport and ask: “¿De qué color es?” Literally: Of what color is it? The answer will always be in the masculine, for example: “Amarillo” (Yellow) or “Rojo” (Red). But if you add “Bici” (Bike) then the adjectives – the colors in this case – need to be made feminine: “Amarilla”; “Roja”. “Azul” (Blue) wouldn’t change because it ends in a consonant

More than 100 ideas will be listed here. Feel free to contribute your own!

Do you teach Spanish to kids? Then check out our Scheme of Work for Spanish teachers. It includes over 350 classroom activities, 100s of Speekee video clips and much more.

*** MASSIVELY UPDATED APRIL 2015

Colorful sets of video thumbnails. Just click to watch!

Colorful sets of video thumbnails. Just click to watch!

See you next time,

Jim

Jim Porter is a co-founder of Speekee, home of the most comprehensive Spanish learning program for children ever to appear online

Jim began his Spanish learning journey in 1990. He has been a language teacher since 1994 and he lives in sunny southern Spain with his two bilingual children. Loves it! More…

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