Leveling Up Language with Jenga: Low Prep, High Engagement, Total Fun!

In our first days of class at the intermediate level, I want students to become more comfortable speaking Spanish throughout the period and to feel more confident doing so.  One of the things we have been focusing on is supporting students in “leveling up” their language (resources here, here, and here). For my intermediate students, this means encouraging them to add details with language they already know, link thoughts with connective words, and to have appropriate reactions (such as rejoinders) in their toolboxes.  These simple additions are such confidence boosters!  And when we use socially interactive tasks to put these skills into practice, we build community within our classroom.

One of my favorite activities to use as a low affective filter, high engagement activity is Jenga. Back in the day I numbered each block, then would produce a series of questions for students to answer.  While good in theory, it was a challenge to come up with 50+ questions each time we played.  Enter Meredith White’s idea of color coded blocks like these.  I had several older sets of the non-color-coded variety, so I had community service students help me and after a few minutes with a set of markers, we had “upgraded” the old blocks to be compatible with the new ones.   We now have about 8 sets, so even in my largest classes we can play in groups of 4-5.  And one of the best parts?  I can prep for the activity in about five minutes!

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So here’s how we play:  students get into groups, and each group gets a set of blocks plus a prompt card.  The prompts are linked to our current unit, and are color coded to match the colors of the blocks.  Students select a block, say their response, then place the block back on the tower.  In this round of play, I asked students to also write their sentences down; this became a pre-writing step for a future writing task.  Students are reminded to keep adding details with all their responses, and other players in the game are encouraged to provide accountability.  One of the other features of this activity is that I get to be a facilitator, coaching students, encouraging them, and just having a joyful time in class with them.

3 thoughts on “Leveling Up Language with Jenga: Low Prep, High Engagement, Total Fun!

  1. Erica Guittar says:

    Coucou, I love this idea – I think my French IIIs would really enjoy it. Can you send me an English version of your “color coded” speaking requirements?


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