Food, glorious food!

Food.  We all teach about it, no matter the language or the level and all of us have developed many activities.  In this post I will share some activities and ideas that perhaps will be new, some are specifically for Spanish but some are general for any language.  As always, I would love to hear about your ideas and activities.  Since I teach Spanish III and IV, some of the activities will be too advanced for I and II, but could certainly be adapted.

Game/Online activities

Conversation Ideas (small groups or partners)

    • foods you like/don’t like; fruits and vegetables
    • food that your family always has for special occasions or holidays
    • food that is finger licking good (para chuparse los dedos), that is disgusting (da asco), that is out of date/expired, safe to eat or not? (está pasada), that makes your mouth water (se me hace agua la boca)
    • foods that change to other foods (milk to yogurt, peanuts to peanut butter, orange to orange juice, strawberries to jelly, etc.)
    • What am I?  Partner A describes a food to Partner B who must guess what the food is (I am round, sometimes red, sometimes green.  I’m good in pies.  [apple])
    • what do you prefer on your pizza/ on your hamburger
    • favorite fast foods
    • Very guided practice

Compañero A: 

  1. ¿Qué es tu bebida favorita?
  2. ¿Qué es tu fruta preferida?
  3. ¿Cuándo comes helado?
  4. ¿A qué hora comes la cena?
  5. ¿Qué te gusta poner en una hamburguesa?

Compañero B:

  1. ¿Qué es tu comida favorita?
  2. ¿Qué es tu verdura preferida?
  3. ¿Qué te gusta poner en tu pizza?
  4. ¿A qué hora comes el desayuno?
  5. ¿Cuándo comes en un restaurante?

Video Clips


Artistic Activities

  • Small groups, give students a picture of an open refrigerator and markers/pencils.  Give them one minute to draw food in the refrigerator.  Pass the picture to another group; give them one minute to add more food to the new refrigerator before passing to another group.  Repeat cycle.  After several drawing opportunities, have students identify the food in the refrigerator orally with their group.  After a time or two of the oral work, have students label the food in the refrigerator.
  • Pictionary  Divide class into two teams.  Have each team choose an “artist” who will be drawing on the board.  Give each team a few (2-3, depending on size of class) small whiteboards/markers.  Show the two artists a vocabulary food word to draw on the board.  The teams must write the food word on their whiteboard and hold it up for verification/point.  I usually have the team have the same word written on all of their whiteboards; this keeps everyone involved.
  • Food description  Students work with a partner, each one has been given a picture of a food item.  Without saying the word in Spanish, Partner A will describe the food item to Partner B, who must draw it.


    • Class is divided into small groups.  Teacher gives a category and gives the groups one minute to write as many words as possible that fit into the category.  Have the group pass the paper to another group who will verify that the words all fit into the category and assign points.
    • Class is divided into small groups.  Teacher gives a category and gives the groups one minute to write as many words as possible that fit into the category. Teacher starts with one group who will read their words to the class slowly.  If another group has the word, the word does not count.  Groups receive points for the words they have that no other group has.
    • Use the categories like playing Taboo.  One member of the team sees the category and begins to list foods that fit in the category.  Point(s) are awarded when their team can identify the category correctly.

Encouraging student responsibility for language learning beyond the classroom

Before I entered blog ownership I had become a frequent reader of other blogs for language teachers and tech people.  One of my favorite blogs is Mis Musicuentos by SE Cottrell.  She had an amazing post last February that I pondered for many weeks knowing that it was the truth but not quite sure how to proceed with what she had written.  Essentially she said that if students are going to improve on their language skills, the language class can not be the only place where they are practicing that language.  She said that students must take ownership of their language journey and not just let it be something that a teacher is forcing them to do.  I let these ideas simmer for a while and finally decided that I would try her fluency activity experiment with my Spanish IV class.  So, toward the end of the year I asked my students to participate in the experiment for three weeks.  From the list below they had to select one activity and complete it during the week.  They could only do the activity for one week and the subsequent weeks had to choose something different. I had them bring in any necessary work or evidence  each Tuesday.  I asked them to tell me

  1. what they did
  2. at least two things learned
  3. what they need to improve upon, or what they struggled with

I also asked that they had a parent/guardian confirm, in writing, that they had completed the activity.  Obviously, they were on the honor system here, and I told them that if they lied, they would really only be impeding their own progress.  I made each week worth 25 points.  Of course, this idea was greeted by some groans, but it was also greeted with some interest.  I can say that I felt that the experiment was, overall, a success, and one that I will repeat with regularity each term in the upcoming school year.  Did all students complete all three weeks?  No, they didn’t; however most of them completed their assignments.  Did I ever suspect that perhaps they had not completed the assignment even though a parent had signed off on it?  Yes, I did; but only twice.  I did hear, from both students and parents, that it was, for the most part, an enjoyable activity, and one that they thought was of benefit to them.  So, thank you, SE Cottrell!

Here is the list that I gave my students, originally created by SE Cottrell, added to by some of her readers, and added to by me.

  •  Listen to Spanish-language radio for one hour (music) or 30 minutes (talk).
  •  Play a videogame in Spanish for one hour
  •  Watch a Spanish telenovela (Channel 15) for one hour
  •  Watch MTVTres for one hour
  •  Change your facebook language to Spanish and play on Facebook for an hour.
  • Read a Spanish-language magazine for 30 minutes (may be online). Suggestions:






  • Read/listen to Spanish news on line.  Suggestions:

                     (BBC Mundo)



  • Play on one or more corporate Spanish-language websites for 45 minutes, such as

McDonalds                                                                            Harry Potter                                                                             Major League Baseball                                     Wii                                                                                            Dominos

  •  Read a book in Spanish for 30 minutes
  •  Read 3 familiar chapters of the Bible in Spanish.
  •  Change your cell phone or mp3 player’s language to Spanish for an entire week.
  •  Read the directions in Spanish of seven items in your house (e.g. detergent).
  •  Read the last 50 tweets using a Twitter hashtag for a Latin-American country or city.
  •  Read the last 30 Spanish-language tweets by one or more Spanish-speaking artists or politicians on Twitter, such as Juanes or Jesse y Joy
  •  Read an article about a famous Latino musician or politician in Spanish on Wikipedia.
  •  Watch 3 videoclips on sports and 3 videoclips on current news on
  •  Compile a list of 30 words involving the profession you hope to have, on 3×5 cards for your review.
  •  Explore the Spanish-language section of Barnes & Noble(music, kids’ books, and/or adult books) for 30 minutes and find two things you would like to own.
  •  Listen to a sermon (at least 20 minutes) in Spanish (see
  •  Conversar (o ‘chatear’) en español con alguien por 30 minutos
  •  Explore iTunes Latino store and iTunes essentials for 30 minutes & find 2 albums or 5 songs you would like to own
  •  Using post-it notes, post-it 10 items in your house that you don’t know the word for and leave it there for a week, then report to me from memory what all the items were.
  •  Complete a song on and bring me the results.
  •  Go to the zoo and using your phone, or flipvideo camera, record the animals with your commentary in Spanish
  •  Go to a Latino restaurant and using your phone, or flipvideo camera, record the meal/food/decorations with your commentary in Spanish
  • Have another idea/suggestion?  Please see me for approval before completing it.

Using an authentic children’s story: El Hada fea (The Ugly Fairy)

I really like teaching Spanish IV because the units, minus one, are all so interesting!  We start the year with Family and Food (advanced vocabulary), continue with a huge arts unit (big focus on Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo), move on to goals and aspirations, newspapers and then we enter the myths, legends, fables, fairy tales and conquests unit.  One of my favorite lessons in this unit (among many!), is El Hada Fea by Pedro Pablo Sacristán.


I gave the students a copy of the story EL HADA FEA and had them read it aloud with a partner.  They then changed to a new partner and read it aloud a second time, and moved to a third partner to read it yet again. (My students are very familiar with my request to read the same thing in Spanish multiple times.)  I then asked the partners to identify the characters in the story and gave each person a blank piece of paper.  On that paper each person drew the ugly fairy, el hada fea; then they each drew the witch, la bruja; next they drew the animals in the story (bats, toads, spiders, wolves). Even non artistic high school students enjoy drawing these things!   Looking at the story again, I had them identify words in the story that were part of our active vocabulary in this unit (such as había una vez, mágica, hada, esforzar, poderosa/poderes, etc.) and had them write those words randomly on the illustration paper.  Using their pictures as a guide, but without using the script for the story, the partners then retold the story together. Moving to a new partner, using their pictures, they once again retold the story.  Finally, I put the class back together and assigned roles:  the narrator, the ugly fairy, the witch, the other fairies, the animals.  I gave them five minutes to work together as a group before they acted out the story for me.  It was an activity that they greatly enjoyed.  The repetition of the story, the drawings, and the acting all made it possible that each student completely understood the story. As a followup assessment, I had each student write a brief summary of what they saw as the main teaching point of the story and how the story illustrated that point.

I have now discovered that there is an audio version of the story available and will most likely work that into my lesson in the coming year. What types of activities have you used with authentic children’s stories?