Need a new way to get students to collaborate in the language classroom? This is a perfect activity to start the school year to build strong classroom relationships, to spice up your class halfway through the year or to end the year with a bang! It celebrates different abilities, which is perfect in the language classroom since all have different strengths and areas of opportunity!
There are several versions of this activity, but I will explain the one I usually use first.
Here are the materials you will need per group:
One pair of scissors
One piece of large poster board
One glue stick
Give your students the task of creating a shoebox with a given description, set of materials and expectations. I usually say something like, “You have been commissioned by a large company to design a shoe box that will fit size 8 women’s shoes. Your design can be practical or creative and you can decorate your box if you have time. You can only use the following materials to do so: one ruler, one pencil, one pair of scissors, one piece of poster board and one glue stick. You will work with your team to make the shoe box within the 30 minute time limit. All group members must participate equally and all group members must speak Spanish at all times, or find other means of communicating non-verbally. All members must respect their given abilities at all times.”
I divide my class into groups of 4 people and each student has a given range of abilities. Students must respect their given abilities at all times as they complete the activity.
Student 1: Cannot see (put blindfold over eyes)
Student 2: Cannot hear (use earplugs)
Student 3: Cannot use hands (tie hands together behind their back with a blindfold)
Student 4: Cannot use feet (tie feet together with a blindfold)
Students get into their respective groups with their given abilities and are given the materials. They have 30 minutes to make a functional shoe box that will work. If they finish early, I encourage them to make a design and even a logo or brand name.
After the activity is over, we showcase the shoe boxes in front of the room so everyone can see everyone else’s product. If they had time to make a logo and a brand name, they explain it to everyone.
We reflect on the whole activity by talking about how we all have different language abilities in the language classroom. For some of us, language comes easily or we have had exposure in our homes or other locations, while for others, this is a true challenge. We reflect on how they helped the classmates that needed more assistance and how everyone participated given their ability. I also highlight some of the strategies I saw students use to communicate, especially if they didn’t know a given word in Spanish. We also reflect on the fact that some students may work faster than others, and some might finish the task at hand while others may not. This is a perfect way to introduce how you will handle transitions and if you have any transition activities in the classroom for those who finish quickly.
This is a great way to do some team building at the beginning of the year, focus on different abilities in the classroom and introduce the idea of circumlocution or using other non-verbal strategies to communicate our ideas. As we move toward an all-Spanish speaking environment, this allows for students to practice these skills in a fun and engaging way!
Another modification I have done in the past is to use uncooked spaghetti and mini-marshmallows. I give them only those two items to use to build an invention of any kind within a 30 minute time period. Students must come up with the idea, design it and present their product at the end of the 30 minutes. I have used this in my upper level Spanish classes to start out our stories for the beginning of the year. The inventions are part of our science and technology unit and we use the different inventions to guide our scientific and technological discoveries through storytelling. Students love to see their inventions become part of our stories and they love to see purpose in what they create!