Conversation: My Imaginary Friend

One of the early activities that I always do with my Spanish III classes is called My Imaginary Friend.  I use this activity to lessen anxiety about speaking, to review some basic Spanish and to have my students talk with multiple partners.  The first step is to introduce the class to my imaginary friend which I do by pretending that my arm is around my friend.  In Spanish I say, this is my imaginary friend, Pablo.  Say hello to my friend, class. (they always do)  I then give them a few more sentences about Pablo:  what he looks like, where he is from, why he is in my school (visiting), what he likes to eat/drink/do, etc.  I usually put something in one sentence that is a bit unusual (such as he likes to drink tequila), just to keep the students on their toes!  The second step is to get the class to volunteer orally, what they remember about Pablo.  Almost without fail, they manage to come up with every single aspect of the description that I have given them.  As they give me items, I write brief notes on the board (tall, Mexico, etc.)  I then have them describe Pablo to each other, very quickly.  At this point, I could also give a mini checkup/assessment as to what the class understands.  Step three, which typically is a homework assignment, is for them to create an imaginary friend.  I give them the items that must be included in their description, and I have them write their description.  The following day, in class, I have them read the description of the imaginary friend aloud, but to themselves; then, to a partner.  I give them an additional 30 seconds to read the description silently.  After that, the paper must be put away and all work will be done without the paper.  I have all students stand up and move to a different partner.  I give them 2 minutes (1 minute each) to introduce their imaginary friend to this new partner and after those initial 2 minutes, they must find another partner to introduce their imaginary friend.  We repeat this cycle, probably three times, until I am confident (as I circulate through the class listening) that each student is now including almost all of the details of the imaginary friend.  After that point, the task doubles, as they will now introduce the imaginary friend but will also have to listen to the description of the imaginary friend of the partner and then describe the partners’ imaginary friend. They will do this about three times.  Finally, all students sit down and I give them a blank piece of paper and markers/colored pencils.  For this step, they will now draw the imaginary friend without using any words.  They will have to draw the favorite food/beverage/activities, etc.  I collect these drawings and the next day I give a drawing to each student (they will not receive their own).  The task is to describe, again to a partner, who this imaginary friend is, based on what they see in the drawing.  And, as you might guess, they repeat this with multiple partners.  At this point you might also have Partner A describe the drawing to Partner B, and have Partner B draw the description, and then compare the two.

I have always found this to be a successful activity.  It means that very early in the beginning of the school year (usually day 3/4), students have worked with multiple partners and, since I haven’t asked them to do anything in front of the entire class, many of the anxiety barriers have been lowered. The repetition of the material ensures eventual success and comfort, and most of the students find the activity to be “fun”.

Sports, Friends and the Present Perfect

I believe that all language curriculums cover similar vocabulary units, including units for sports and friends.  As students progress through the levels, the topics basically remain the same, but the vocabulary becomes more extensive and advanced.  Such is the case for my Spanish III students.  The curriculum for our textbook (remember that I don’t use the textbook, but do follow the curriculum) combines some advanced vocabulary for sports and friends, producing an enjoyable chapter.   Most of my high school students are either student athletes or very interested in sports, additionally,  most of them are quite interested in acquiring new vocabulary so that they can describe their friends as stubborn, “got my back”, “stood me up”, and trustworthy, etc.  In this post I’m going to share some of the activities that I used this past year working with this vocabulary as well as the present perfect.  The chapter also focused on Spain for the “cultural element”, but I will save those activities for another post.

We started with a review of sports they already knew from earlier levels; I did this using a partner conversation with this Conversación Repaso de los deportes que ya sabemos We then made lists of sports we didn’t know how to say, but would like to know.  To keep them thinking, I showed a couple of videos.  For the Doki Descubre video, they were listening for all familiar words related to sports.   Of course we also had to talk about Fútbol and the huge success of Spain, so I showed parts of this video Continuing with Spain and sports, we also looked at these videos, sharing words we knew, and words we were learning.  

The next day I started class with an activity that I call “Levántate”, where everyone must stand up.  Before they can sit down, they have to give me a sport (in Spanish, of course) without repeating what has already been said.  To keep everyone focused on the task, if they have given me a sport and have taken a seat and I feel that they are no longer paying attention, I call on them and they have to repeat the last sport said.  If they can not do that, they must stand up again.  Obviously in this activity all hands go up immediately because they are eager to say one of the easier sports before someone else can say it.  Depending on the size of the class and what has been shared, when we get to the last 2 – 3 people, I allow their classmates to help, as necessary.  We then go into a conversational type activity combining sports and the present perfect, but I do not refer AT ALL to the present perfect.  They just talk with their partners using the paper as a guide.  It has been my experience that they do not question an unfamiliar structure as long as there is a model to use. Another partner activity is having students work with a page of sports pictures, and practice completing the sentences orally,  using the new vocabulary, as in these examples:

An activity that I use several times during the course of a school year is Walk Around Bingo.  Everyone has a bingo sheet, no English is allowed, and I give the class 4 – 5 minutes to literally walk around to classmates and ask a question on the bingo sheet to another classmate.  If the classmate is able to answer the question affirmatively using  Sí, he jugado/escalado/comido, etc., he/she write his initials in the box.  If the answer is no, he/she may not write initials in the box. Depending on the size of the class, a student may only write his initials on the paper of that particular student once (larger classes) or twice (smaller classes). I walk around the room monitoring the use of Spanish.  If I hear English, I write the name of the student on my paper, and they know that they will receive a zero for the activity.  After 4 – 5 minutes, I call stop, and have them count how many boxes have initials, and have them check if they have a bingo (vertical, horizontal or four corners).  If many students have bingoes, I collect the papers and randomly draw “winners”.  Of course, I also have to verify with the students who have initialed the boxes if they indeed have done what the box says. Sometimes it turns out that the initialed students did not do what was in the box, much to the dismay of the student who asked the question, because then they do not have a bingo!  Present Perfect Walk Around Bingo 

Another activity I used, one that I’ve talked about before is Toca ( span 3 chap 2A TOCA ) In this game, played in pairs, I call a vocabulary word/phrase and the first partner to touch the picture scores a point.  Partners alternate taking turns.  I described it fully here

Students also enjoy playing this board game with sports (full directions here) :Los Deportes game board Question-Card-Template Set A Los Deportes  Question-Card-Template-set B Los Deporte

Continuing with sports, I then did a full presentation of jai-alai and then a mini lesson on la corrida de toros, but they will have to wait for a later post, since the amount of material I created and covered would make this already very long post, really long!

For the friends vocabulary, we first discussed with partners what makes a good friend/bad friend.  As they talked, I kept a running list of words that they were requesting for which they didn’t have the vocabulary.  I introduced new vocabulary with this powerpoint: Span. 3 Chap 2B Vocabulario…pictures2  

Another topic for conversation, which incorporated both the new vocabulary as well as continuing work with the present perfect,  was “¿Qué has hecho con tus amigos hoy?”


Once students had become familiar with the new vocabulary for friends, I projected this image on the SMARTboard and had them discuss their friendships in small groups, using the words on the board.

Individually they worked with a friend survey, modeled on an activity in the text span 3 chap 2 Una encuesta de amistad-1 and shared results with partners. Working again with a partner, they talked about qualities for good friends and bad friends, and completed this:

Additionally, there are so many wonderful clips and songs in Spanish that relate to friends.  Here are several that I used, some with cloze activities, some just listening for specific words, some just for enjoyment.         

There just is so much we can do with this great topics.  I’ve shared some things that I like and with which I have found success.  I’d love to hear from you.  What activities have you used?