Using Puzzles with Young Language Learners

pinterest kid puzzler poder spanish printables.png

Who doesn’t love a puzzle? Done right, they are a great way to learn vocabulary and grammar. My older students are always willing to solve a good crossword or word search. “Crucigramas” and “sopas de letras” are easy to prep, fun to complete and provide another way for students to review vocabulary.

Younger students love puzzles too! I teach my own daughters Spanish at home. This summer, I wanted to teach them basic high frequency verbs and structures they could use to speak in Spanish right away. I also needed something age appropriate that uses clear but fun pictures they could easily understand. These elementary level language puzzles were the key.

Here are my favorite ways to use these puzzles for elementary or middle school Spanish students.

  1. Introduce the vocabulary first with some fun visuals. I make Google Slides or Powerpoint presentations of the words. Use interesting photographs that incorporate culture when you can. For example, if you are teaching the structure “me gusta comer” then you may want to add in a fun photo of a gigantic Paella in Spain!

  2. Tell a short story with a couple of select pictures. Use the structures in the puzzles over and over. You can also do a Movietalk with any short clip or music video you find online. I love to use Pixar shorts and other readily available material on Youtube. You may be interested in our blog post about how to do movietalks which you can find by clicking here.

  3. Once students are familiar with the words, use the puzzles as either a group or individual activity. Picture crosswords have the added benefit of making students decipher meaning from the clues. I also differentiate in class by making word strips to use as extra clues for kids that need a little more help.

  4. Use a different version of the puzzle as review for another day, homework, or as a substitute lesson plan. Mix it up with a different format. I like to use crosswords first and then word searches as a review.

Our elementary and middle school puzzles bundles have no prep worksheets that are print and play. With cut and paste activities, drawing, sorting and writing, they make learning fun for the youngest learners. I know my daughters love them!

In short, have fun with puzzles and remember that kids just want to have fun!

The Power of Drawing to Teach Spanish ¡A Dibujar!

When you need a go-to class activity that is fun and useful, let your students draw. Drawing can be a powerful tool for reflection. Let’s think about the benefits of drawing in Spanish class:

  • It’s simple to set up and requires little to no-prep.

  • Every student is participating! It’s hard to do nothing if you’ve been asked to draw.

  • Students demonstrate their understanding of the text, class discussion or video.

  • It’s fun! Most kids like to draw!

  • You can keep the drawings. Hang them in the classroom or post them on the board for discussion.

Small student whiteboards are good to have on hand but if you don’t have any, plain paper will always work.

Printable comic strip templates work great too. You can download a free set of ours at at our TpT store by clicking the image below. Keep a set of crayons or washable markers on hand to make the drawings more fun.

Free Comic Strip template

Free Comic Strip Templates

Here are my favorite Spanish class activities which are easily adapted to other languages and subjects:

  1. Scene Drawing. Hand out student whiteboards or use plain paper. Students draw a scene from the book or text you are reading. When finished, have them discuss with a friend.

  2. Game Drawing. Using small white boards, line up students in pairs. Have one line of students with their back to the board at the front of the class. Project or hold up a word and tell the students that can see it to draw it for their partners. Tell the partners to guess what it is. They can ask yes and no questions too. This is great for speaking practice!

  3. Cartoon Strip Drawing. Hand out a simple cartoon template. Tell students to make a comic strip of a scene in a movie they just saw or from a book you are reading in class. Tell them to use speech bubbles. Once finished, have them pass their comic to another group. That group can then write down what is happening (present tense) or what happened (past tense) in the comic. All of our Cuéntame un Cuento lesson plans include two unique comic strip templates to retell the story they wrote.

  4. Drawing for assessments. Use drawing on a quiz to show reading or vocabulary comprehension. I like to add a small Extra Credit question that includes drawing. I make it easy since my goal is to lower tension and add a little fun to the quiz. Here is a picture of one I recently included on a quiz about Kristy Placido’s TPRS book on Frida Kahlo. In this question, students had draw Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera (they had already seen some photos of them together) and show their physical differences. They turned out to be super fun!

  5. Class Artists! In this activity, assign one or two students to be the artists for the activity. Then, ask and answer questions to the rest of the class to make up a crazy story that targets vocabulary or structures you want to cover. The artist students draw the ideas from the rest of the class. Follow up with students doing a retell by writing the complete story on their own paper or on the board.

We have some FREE Comic Strip templates in our Teachers Pay Teachers Store. Get them here and try them out in class!

These are just a few ways to add a little art to Spanish class! You may also like our previous blog post about our Day of the Dead drawing and craft activities. ¡Celebra el Día de Los Muertos!


Happy drawing!

Free Graphic Organizer for Spanish Verbs

Free Verb Master Spanish regular verbs worksheets

It’s September and if you are back in the classroom teaching Spanish, you know this is the best time to review basic verbs and introduce your students to essential grammar concepts. I’m a big fan of comprehensible input in the classroom, using simple verbs and structures in context to making learning fun. However, there are times when a straightforward verb organizer can be helpful for students. I made these that by taking the common concept of Spanish verb conjugations and putting them into a visually appealing format to help students see patterns in the verb endings.

In this example, students find the regular present tense verbs with AR endings that have been left in the basement of an apartment building and “move” them upstairs with the elevator to the matching translation. Once completed, they can see how verb endings match for the singular and plural pronouns. It’s a simple way to organize verbs that works well for visual learners.

The first slide below shows the blank worksheet. The answer sheet on the second slide is color coded to help students see the endings better. The next two slides use the verbs in student interviews! Dictate or print the worksheet with the questions, have students interview classmates, and then share the answers. The final page can be shown in class to recycle words and practice more speaking.

Want this Easy Prep Spanish Lesson Plan for FREE? Just sign up for our newsletter below and we will send your free copy to your email. Let us know what you think! P.S. You can find the NEWSLETTER SIGN UP at the bottom of this page. Don’t forget to get your free PDF lesson now!

August 2018 Back to School Sale with TPT!

TPT August Sale speak more spanish

Wow! It's hard to believe it's August already! If you are thinking about going back to school soon (or perhaps you already are!) then don't miss the annual August TPT sale to stock up on some EZ Prep Spanish Lesson plans. All of our lesson plans will be 25% off during the two day sale, August 1st and August 2nd!  Even our Bundles are on sale!  

Save yourself some prep time and add some fun to class to kick off the new school year! Just use the code BTSFRESH at checkout.

Click here to save big at our TPT Store

Or Follow our Store here for future sales and freebies!

While you are at it, why not sign up for our newsletter below?!

Don't miss the sale!

FREE Games for the Holidays!

Games and puzzles are great vocabulary builders. Give your students a much needed break from the standard class exercises!  This month we are celebrating the winter holidays with a FREE Multi-cultural Word Search you can download at our store.  While you are there, you may also like our Winter Bundle of vocabulary activities and fun for the Spanish classroom. 

Oh yeah, scroll to the bottom of the page and sign up for our newsletter for even more fun! 

¡Feliz Navidad!

ACTFL 2017 Updates

ACTFL is the national language teachers' conference. This year it's in Nashville, TN.

It's one of my favorite times of the year. Where else can you geek out with 12,000 other language teachers for three days?  If you couldn't make it this year, check back here to find out what's going on!  We'll be blogging about the conference all weekend.  Plus, sign up for our newsletter for more Spanish fun!

Let us know if you are at ACTFL this year!  Read more here.

 Music City Center. Nashville, TN.  ACTFL 2017!

Music City Center. Nashville, TN.  ACTFL 2017!

Crafts for El Día de Los Muertos

El Día de Los Muertos is hands down one of the best holidays to teach in Spanish class. I love highlighting the mixture of cultures, the art, music and food of Day of the Dead. It's worth the time to take a break and celebrate the holiday by decorating your classroom with some Mexican themed art.  Try these craft packs below which are designed to be flexible to allow for student choice. Your students can make banners, masks, paddles or drawings with the different size templates. These are loads of fun, even more so if you play some Mariachi music while creating your art!  Download the free sample version below!

Free Spanish Halloween Puzzle

La Noche de Brujas

If you are teaching about El Día de los Muertos in Spanish class this year, you know it's a great opportunity to point out the differences between this famous Mexican holiday and Halloween. Before you delve deep into the wonderful intricacies of the Day of the Dead, it's helpful to have a little fun with some Halloween vocabulary so students can compare and contrast later the holidays later. Crosswords and puzzles are fun ways for students to learn some essential vocabulary. 

Click the image above to download our FREE spooky crossword for Halloween.   While you are at it, don't forget to sign up for our Newsletter! Scroll down to the bottom of the page to sign up and hear about our free resources!

Great Short Films for Spanish Class Spookiness!

La Leyenda del Espantapájaros

Teaching with movies is still one of the best ways to engage students in the language classroom. When you find a good one that includes cultural pieces you can tie back in with current festivals, you got a winner. This short movie is one of the best you can find on YouTube for the Halloween season. Although Halloween is not really celebrated in Spain, this movie gives you the eerie Halloween feeling and an opportunity to tie in some Spanish culture to your lesson plans.  Click the image above to download our full lesson plans that include crosswords, word searches and visual presentations that make teaching this film a breeze!  Perfect for Spanish 1 and up! #teachmorespanish

Movietalks. Comprehensible Input in the Spanish Classroom


MovieTalks are big in the TPRS world. Spanish teachers like Martina Bex, Kristy Placido and Bryce Hedstrom have demonstrated how to leverage the power of movies and incorporate ideas from Dr. Stephen Krashen’s work on comprehensible input to teach a second language. They are a great resource for Spanish teachers looking for engaging materials to teach vocabulary and culture.

Click here to download the MovieTalk and Google vocabulary presentation for FREE.

If you are unfamiliar with MovieTalks, the basic premise is that the teacher "talks over" a short film using a list of words she wants to teach. The goal is to provide comprehensible input through repetition. This helps teach the targeted vocabulary you want your students to learn.

MovieTalks can take a bit of practice but once you have the hang of it you can improvise most of them. Just take the time to think about what words you want your students to internalize and focus on those as you talk over the film.

You can also use MovieTalks to teach culture if you can find the right film, for example an animated short about El Día de Los Muertos. But what happens when you find a short film that works well for your vocabulary list but doesn’t contain cultural items from the Spanish speaking world? 

Here’s a tip: When you want to use a movie that is lacking in culture, you can pre-teach the vocabulary with a slide presentation that includes authentic photos from the Spanish speaking world. If you need to teach the word “volar” then why not use a picture of a Quetzal and then talk about the importance of this animal in Guatemala?  There are many ways to sneak in the culture!

Try the movie talk below about a few disgruntled birds.  It has a fun little message about the importance of accepting differences! There is a short, medium and long version. They all use simple present tense verbs with cognates but they can be easily modified to use the past tense for advanced levels. They come with a free link to a Google Slides vocabulary presentation and an editable version of the scripts. 

Click here to download the MovieTalk and Google vocabulary presentation for FREE.

Play around with the texts and see what you can come up with. Above all, have fun with the movie and your students will too!  

MovieTalk for Spanish Teachers

How to Play the New JUMBLE Kahoot! Game

What a great surprise to find the new game JUMBLE on Kahoot! If you are a language teacher and haven't played Kahoot! yet in class, drop everything and head over there to check it out. It's simply one of the most engaging "clicker" games to review vocabulary, grammar, or cultural items. Every Spanish teacher should be using it. 

Now Kahoot! has just released JUMBLE. In this game, students receive a clue with four answers listed below. Instead of choosing one answer, players reorder the choices. For example, if the clue is "Place these Spanish Holidays in order from first to last during the year" with these four options: El Día de Los Muertos, Los Reyes, El Cinco de Mayo, and La Semana Santa, then the answer would be the following:

Los Reyes, La Semana Santa, El Cinco de Mayo, El Dia de Los Muertos.

This is great way to test for comprehension for TPRS novels or other readings. Order your events in the story and Jumble will mix them up for the game. It's  another great way to provide comprehensible input in a game situation.

I made up a simple Latin America geography quiz for Spanish classes since we are studying Kristy Placido's TPRS novel Noche de Oro and Chris Mercer's TPRS novel Todo Lo Que Brilla which take place in Costa Rica and Ecuador. I broke up the names of places into four separate letter bundles. Students reorder the pieces to spell the name of the place in Central or South America. My students loved it and now it's just a question of eking out enough time to make more of these fun review games. 

If you would like to try the Spanish geography Jumble game on I made up for class just click the image below. Don't forget to sign up for our newsletter below for more helpful teacher tips!   

 Click the image above to try out Jumble on Kahoot!

Click the image above to try out Jumble on Kahoot!

Fifteen Fun Language Activities to Do Over Break.

 Click here for Free Download!

Click here for Free Download!

Click here or the image above to get a FREE pdf version of the language activities!

Assigning work over a long break could be counterproductive to learning. Students need a well-deserved rest from normal classroom activities. However, staying involved with the language in the winter break or summer months is a worthy goal. Try one of these no-stress fun activities below. There is something that is sure to appeal to everyone.

Keep it low-stress by making it optional. Add a small incentive like a prize for best project or small extra-credit grade. When you return from break, students can share what they did with their classmates. Instant lesson plan for the first day back!

  1. Make a model of a building in another country: Get out your Popsicle sticks and glue, buy a cheap pack of pipe cleaners at the art store, or dig out the old Lego set. Make a model of a cool building, bridge, tunnel or other structure from another country. Can you say Lego Eiffel Tower in French?  When finished, write a short description on a note card and bring it it in to share with class!

  2. Watch TV in the language you are learning.  Look around on cable or the internet and you will find shows in different languages. When finished, write down who your favorite characters were and why. What is the basic plot of the show?  Is it similar to any shows on TV in the US? How many episodes did you watch? Reruns of the Simpsons in Spanish can be quite entertaining.

  3. Read a popular magazine or website online in a different language. Do you like sports? Why not catch up on the latest games in Spanish on ESPN Deportes?  Studying French? Then perhaps a little French Soccer on L'Équipe will appeal.  Keep a record of what you read or saw that was fun.  What words or ideas did you learn?

  4. Draw a cartoon or comic strip about a current event, a trip to another country, or something fun from your winter break. Draw and color the characters. Make sure to include some speech bubbles and transition words. Want to do even more? Draw a few pages and call it a graphic novel!  Prefer to work online or have trouble drawing? Try Toondoo instead. This online tool provides fun characters and backgrounds. Just add your ideas and make a great storyline. Bring it in and share it with the class!

  5. Cook a dish from another country. Look up an interesting dish from another country and make it at home. You can find most any recipe online. While you may find yourself taking a trip to a Latino market or Chinese supermarket, you can usually find the ingredients you need anywhere. Youtube is another great place for recipes. Make the recipe, take some pictures or even videotape it - think cooking show star. Bring the food to class if you want to be a superstar!

  6. Bake something. Just like above, but bake something instead. Want to make new friends fast, bring those French pastries you learned how to cook in to class after break!

  7. Watch a movie in another language. If you have your favorite movies on DVD at home, check the settings see if you can watch them in another language. Some of them will even let you set the subtitles in another language - double the input!  Watch something you have already seen and you will be picking up words at a quick pace. Do you have “Buscando a Nemo” for example? If you subscribe, Netflix is another good option - just search for movies by language. Write a short summary of the movie - just the main ideas - and tell your classmates what words or expressions you learned.

  8. Write a poem or short story. Ok, ok. I know this is not for everyone but some of us do like to channel our inner Pablo Neruda or Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. Get out the pen and paper and write something in another language. Keep the words simple and see what you can create. Remember that you can write about big ideas with simple words. Like what you’ve written? Illustrate it and call it a graphic novel!

  9. Read a book in Spanish. This may sound daunting but books range from easy to hard. Children’s literature can sometimes have complicated grammar but the illustrations and prior knowledge of the story will get you through it. Feeling really ambitious?  Look online or at your local library for your favorite novel in another language.  For example, you can buy the Harry Potter books online in many different languages. You will have to invest a bit of money, but the pay off in your language skills will be worth it. When reading, don’t try to look up every word, just go with the flow and rely on your previous knowledge of the story from having read it in your own language.  If you finish a novel, give yourself a huge pat on the back!  That’s amazing!

  10. Design a game. Try making a card game or a board game in another language. You can model it after a particular place or event - think Galapagos Islands Adventure or French Revolution Spies!  Draw the game board or make some cards, write some rules and bring it in to play with your friends in class!

  11. Adopt a virtual animal online. Find a cool animal from one of the countries where they speak the language you are studying. Make a poster online or with poster paper to tell the class about the animal you virtually adopted over break. Name your animal and write down at least three interesting facts. Did you know that according to National Geographic, baby pandas are about the size of a pencil when born but can eat up to twenty four pounds of bamboo every day when fully grown!  Now that’s an appetite!

  12. Invent an animal: Not satisfied with the amazing world of nature? Make your own animal! Create an imaginary animal that lives in a country where they speak the language you are learning. Draw and label the parts of this “recently discovered” new species.  Where does this animal live, what does it eat and what is an amazing fact we should all know. Bring in your poster of your new animal and share it with the class.

  13. Make a stop motion movie. Like to play with clay or paper collages? There are many tutorials online on how to make a simple stop-motion movie with a phone or tablet camera. Want to get a little fancier, there are some cheap apps designed to make stop motion even easier. Pick a setting, characters, and a problem and off you go. Add some dialogue and fun music. Bring in your movie to share with your class.

  14. Make a movie like above but with real actors. Recruit your family and friends to act in your movie. Remember: setting, characters, problem to solve - Voila! Oscar contender!

  15. Make a machine or robot. If you are mechanically inclined, invent a new machine or robot. Label the parts and explain what it can do. If you have the materials, go ahead and build it. If you don’t have what you need to actually make it, design it on paper and pitch it to class as the newest invention.  Don’t forget to give it a cool name!

Hope you and your students enjoy these suggestions!



Three No-Prep Games for the Language Classroom

Juegos para la Clase De espanol - Games for Teaching Spanish

How many times have you seen interest lagging in class? Disengagement is one of our biggest fears as teachers. Nobody wants to look out at a classroom of bored students. Let's face it, if you don't have their attention, students won't be learning. It's times like these when you need a game or two to break up the monotony. All of these games involve some kind of movement by getting into groups or circling up. Studies show that moving gets the brain juices flowing!

Most of us know that games are a great way to learn in class but you don't always have time to print, cut, paste or prepare something elaborate; particularly when you need one on the fly. So, here are few no-prep games for the language classroom that you can pull out at any time! 

I'll talk about these for Spanish class but they can be adapted for most any language.

1. Categories.  One of my top choices!  Divide the class into groups of three or four.  Split them up by counting off the four team names in a circle so they aren't playing with the person next to them. The quickest way is to count off A,B,C,D and then let them choose their team name. If you want to review three or four animals, or jobs, etc., go ahead and name the teams yourself and then have them count off with those names. 

Students draw a four or five column board for each team. Come up with the categories you want to review: food, animals, famous people, reflexive verbs, etc.  You can make the categories more abstract such as justice or word associated with the movie you just watched in class. Ask students to come up with a category too - this creates buy-in for the game. Be creative - part of the fun is letting them explain their words.  

Write a letter on the board. Students fill in each category with ONE word that begins with that letter.  The first team to finish all the columns says stop. The other teams put down their pencils. You score by giving two points for each correct answer that is not repeated by another team, one point for answers that two or more teams have, and zero points for a blank or incorrect answer.  Change the categories as you play for variety.

2. Rapid Fire Categories:  This is a quicker version of the game above that doesn't require any paper.  Divide students into groups. Tell them you are going to say a category. Work in a circle and ask teams to tell you a word from that category. Give them just a second - if they take too long, move on to the next group. Tell them they are not allowed to repeat what another team says so they have to listen to the other answers. Keep points. Let them justify their answers for fun. For example, if the category is cold food and they say "Soup" they can defend their answer by explaining that some soup is cold, such as Gazpacho!

3. Vamos al Campo para comer.   A very short game good for a bell-ringer or exit activity. Have students circle up. Tell them you are going to the countryside for a barbecue or picnic. Students say Voy a traer.... (I'm going to bring) and choose an object. Name a category, or keep it open to anything. Each student has to repeat what the person next to him said and then bring something additional. Continue in this way until the entire class has said something. For larger classes, this can get quite difficult. Have students pair up to bring something to make it easier if needed. Example: Susan says "Voy a traer un perro."  Marcos says "Voy a traer un perro y un tigre."  Alicia says "Voy a traer un perro, un tigre y un gato."  

Hope these quick go to games help out in your language classes! Check back for future posts on more games for the classroom. 

Using Games in the Language Classroom

Games have the power of teaching through fun. When done right, you can have a while class happily using grammar and vocabulary in context without even realizing they are practicing your targeted items. I always feel a bit like the sneaky chef when playing games in class; I'm introducing spinach (the grammar I want them to practice) by hiding it inside a big, delicious smoothie (that's the game). You can take many of your favorite childhood games and turn them into instant language class activities. Scategories, I spy, 20 questions, and more can be used without having to prepare anything beforehand.

When I was a kid, one of my favorite games was Battleship. I took this basic idea and modified it for the language classroom to develop two new games, Exploradores del Mar and Foto-Safari. In these games, students have a search and find board with different animals they have to find using either sonar waves (Exploradores del Mar) or with their camera (Foto-Safari). Voila!  No violence! They use the verbs and subjects provided to search for their opponents animals.  In advanced versions (good for middle school and up) they have to conjugate the verb using the small grammar box provided. In simpler versions, the verbs are already conjugated and they can their practice pronunciation. 

I find that once they start, students can easily spend fifteen to twenty minutes speaking in pairs without using English. Teach them a few game terms like Me Toca, Te Toca, and off they go!  How often can we get our students to speak in the target language for that  long? It's hard but this game gives them the structure and scaffolding they need to do it!

If you would like to give it a try, you can get our free version by clicking here. 

What are your favorite classroom games? 

Thanks and happy teaching!


  Click the image to play Exploradores del Mar!

Click the image to play Exploradores del Mar!