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”.