Tuesday, February 24, 2015

A Simple Way to Practice Conjugating Verbs

My children have been speaking in Spanish their whole lives, but they still have a lot to learn when it comes to grammar.  Grammar, after all, is the building block of a language.  Just like mathematics, it is easier to construct and express complex ideas when you have a strong foundation.

My eldest son began attending a new Spanish school this year that is run by the Spanish Ministry of Education.  The curriculum is fantastic and he is learning so much!

A few weeks ago, he was introduced to conjugating verbs in the preterite.  For example:

Yo estuve en casa ayer. 
Ella tuvo tres galletas en la mano.

While he understands this perfectly, when my son speaks in the past, he tends to use another form (not always grammatically correct!):

Yo he estado en casa ayer.
Ella ha tenido tres galletas en la mano.

The test date was closing in, so we started to study.

One of my favorite ways to study verbs is SO SIMPLE.  All you need are notecards and a sharpie (paper and pencil are optional).

On each of the notecards, write a subject:  Yo, Tú, Él, Ella, etc.  If you study Vosotros / Vosotras, include it.  If you don't, leave it out.  Put these notecards in one pile.

On the next pile of notecards, write the infinitive of the verbs you are studying (one per card).  If you'd like, you can translate them into your mother tongue or write a "hint" (i.e. stem changer, irregular, etc) on the back of the cards.

If the student is new to conjugating verbs in a formal way, I like to have them practice organizing the subject cards like this:

We discussed how these cards represent the subject of the sentence.  They can be arranged in a logical way:

The first column refers to one person, while the second column refers to more than one person.

The first row is called "1st person":  Yo + 1 more person = Nosotros.
Tú and Vosotros is called "2nd person": Tú + 1 more person = Vosotros.
The last row is "3rd person":  Él + 1 more person = Ellos, etc.

My son and I also had a good discussion about tú vs. usted and how Spain is the only country that uses vosotros.  We don't use vos in our household, but now would be a good time to bring it up.

After the student is feeling comfortable with the subjects, it's time to move on to the verbs.

Shuffle the cards and line them up with the pile of subjects next to the infinitives.

Use the cards to trigger sentences.  I had my son write the conjugations as he was working on spelling, but I often use this technique with students to practice their oral skills "making interesting sentences".

This notecard method can be used for all verb tenses and is extremely portable!  You can throw a few notecards in your backpack or pocket and practice for a few minutes at a time.

Good luck and happy conjugating!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Chapas: How to Play!

I was going to wait until Earth Day to post this.  After all, playing “chapas” (bottlecaps) is such a great way to reuse something we would normally toss.

However, it is so cold here in NYC that my kids are itching to get crafty and play games.  Any sort of competition peaks their interest, and a chapas race is no exception.

My husband grew up in Spain playing chapas.  It is typically an outdoor game, played with anywhere from 2 to a half-dozen friends.  

Designing your Chapas:

The fun begins before the race!  Every good player has an arsenal of chapas to choose from, and these chapas must be personalized.

First, pick out your chapas.  Usually, metal bottlecaps are best, either from soda or beer bottles.  However, a small plastic water bottle cap has been known to win a race or two.

On a piece of paper, draw circles that are the size of the inside of the bottle cap. 

Decorate these circles with your initials, a logo, a small design…

Cut the circles out carefully, and fit them inside the bottle caps.

The Race:

Great!  Now you have a number of personalized chapas.  But how do you play?

The rules are simple:  A course is drawn with chalk and players take turns flicking their bottlecaps toward the finish line. If you flick your chapa outside of the lines, you lose a turn.  If someone flicks their chapa into yours, you must start over. 

Here's an example of a course that my kids drew this fall:

Here is a video of kids playing chapas:

And a really cool beach competition (check out the last minute or so for the race in action):

Now you are ready to find a race!  Suerte!!!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

3 Awesome Dice Games to Play With Your Kids Today!

I just love playing games with my boys!  And my boys love numbers and strategy, and....DICE!

I have three great dice games that you can play in Spanish (or English!) that require little set up or materials.

I learned the first game in Spain a couple of summers ago.  I tweaked it a little to satisfy younger players.

Dice Game #1:  MUERTO!!! 

paper, pencil, 5 dice

Number of Players:  
2 or more

How To Play: 
1.  On a piece of paper, create a column for each player.

2.  Each player takes turns rolling the dice.  The first player rolls all 5 dice.  Add up all of the dice EXCEPT for the 2s and 5s.  Any die that falls on 2 or 5 is eliminated for this player for the remainder of the game.

This roll would eliminate 3 dice and give you 10 points.

4.  The second player takes his turn with the 5 dice and rolls, eliminates any 2s or 5s, and marks the sum on the paper.  Play continues until all players have rolled the dice one time.

5.  During Round 2, each player takes his/her turn rolling their dice, eliminating any 2s and 5s, and adding their totals.

6.  Continue taking turns and rolling for as many rounds as it takes until all of the players run out of dice.

7.  Add up the points in each column, and the winner is the one with the highest total score!

Peque 1 scored 32 points and wins the game!

(NOTE: it is possible -- and, indeed, probable, that players will be playing each round with different amounts of dice.)

Dice Game #2:  PIGGY!

paper, pencil, 2 dice

Number of Players:
2 or more

How To Play: 
1.  On a piece of paper, create a column for each player.

2.  The first player rolls the dice.  If a double is not rolled, the sum of the two dice is noted on the paper under the player's name.  (If a double is rolled, the player's score is zero and he has lost the game.)

The player may decide to roll again or stop his turn.  If the player rolls again, and a double is not rolled, the sum of the two dice is added to the previous total.  However, if a double is rolled, the player's score becomes zero and he loses the game.

The player can continue to roll again as long as she'd like, or until she rolls a double.

Oh no!  This player got a double and now has a score of 0!!!

3.  Play continues to the remaining players in the same fashion.  The other players try to get a higher score than the first player, without rolling a double.

4.  After all players have had a chance to roll, the player with the highest score is a winner.  (And the players with a zero score are "Piggies!")

Dice Game #3:  Build a Monster!!!

paper, pencil, one die
(You can find the template for Build a Monster in my TpT Store.)

Number of Players:
1 or more

How to Play:
1.  Players must brainstorm several body parts necessary to make a monster: cabeza, brazo, pie, nariz, cola, etc.  and write them down on a piece of paper.

2.  The players draw a body for the monster.  This can be a circle, oval, square, or any other shape.

3.  Player 1 chooses a body part and rolls a die.  If the player chose "cabeza" and rolled a 3, the player(s) must draw 3 heads on their monster(s).

4.  If there is more than one player, the second player will choose the next body part and roll the die.  Everyone must draw that number of body parts on their monsters.

5.  Play continues until all of the body parts have been drawn on the monsters.  The players can now color and decorate their monsters for display!

Here are a few additional dice games that you may want to try that don't require much more prep than some dice, a pencil, and paper.  

Click on the name for link to rules:

1.  Math Dice (or Math Dice, Jr)
2.  Yahtzee!
3.  1000

I hope you enjoy playing these dice games with your kids as much as I do!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Marionetas on a Cold Winters Day...

It has been so cold here in New York (and the next few days promise to be even colder) that it has led me to look at photos from last summer in Spain.

Here are the boys watching the titeres (puppet show) along with other neighborhood kids last summer:

The show started out with puppets and a cute little story about a princess who had lost her way:

But with a little help from the audience (magic words and a special song were required), the puppets came to life!

The puppet show was a great way for the boys to connect with their Spanish community and meet other kids.  They also learned a LOT of Spanish in fun and interactive way.

We decided to relive the summer fun with a puppet show this afternoon.  A low-tech stage and a few favorite stuffed animals later, we had our own titeres performance: