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!
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!
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.
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?
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!
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!
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!
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.
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!
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!
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!
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!
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.
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.
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!
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!