Sunday, February 7, 2016

5 ways to use your Verba card set

Verba, from The Pericles Group
Do you have a Verba set yet? If you're unfamiliar with the game, you can read my previous post about it here. Playing Verba according to the rules is loads of fun, but you can also use those cool playing cards in many other ways as well. Here are 5 ways that your novice-, intermediate- and advanced-level learners can make the most of that Verba card set.




  1. Use the white Verba cards for pronunciation practice. Whatever phonemes you want your students to develop (vowels, dipthongs, emphasis, target language-unique sound combinations), chances are, there are plenty of Verba noun cards to practice with. I've had students draw cards from decks to practice pronunciation with a partner, or record themselves pronouncing the words on the cards. This could work for novice, intermediate or advanced learners, and could be tailored to individual students' needs.
  2. Play Pictionary. Students can compete in small groups or in large teams to draw the item on a card drawn from the white Verba deck, while their classmates guess the word in Spanish. To limit the vocab for novice learners, you could choose 20 cards from the deck and write the list on the board.
  3. Practice circumlocution by playing Taboo. Intermediate-level learners really need to learn how to circumlocute; they don't just "pick it up." I like to scaffold that process by giving them terms like "It's an action / object / person that...", "It's a synonym/antonym for..." "It's similar to..." etc. The thing about circumlocution is that you need that skill for totally random words that you have little personal experience with. Enter the white Verba noun cards! Students can do this in teams, small groups, partners or individually (as a recording). They draw a white card and describe the noun on it as best they can in the target language, without using that word or another form of that word. If your students are new to circumlocution, I suggest that you start with having them write definitions/descriptions of the words first before attempting on-the-spot speaking. Once they get comfortable with that process, they can move on to spontaneous oral circumlocution. Again, you can "gamify" this by making it competitive, either by awarding points to teams or by imposing a time limit, and, as with novices, you can limit the vocabulary by pre-selecting the words and sharing a word list with students. You could easily remove any scaffolding to challenge advanced or heritage speakers. Cynthia Hitz (@sonrisadelcampo) has another good version of a circumlocution activity here.
  4. Use the purple cards for story starters. Some of the purple cards are just begging to be turned into stories! You could draw one card at random for the whole class to use as a quick-writing exercise, or have students draw cards individually and write for a certain amount of time or number of lines to develop a story using whatever sentence is on the card. An alternative activity would be to have students develop dialogues or skits incorporating sentences from the purple cards. These types of activities would work best with intermediate- and advanced-level students or heritage speakers.
  5. Play "Lo tengo". I can't remember where I found the inspiration for this game, unfortunately. It's a great way to get students accustomed to putting the direct object pronoun before a conjugated verb, as well as recognizing gender and number of nouns. I originally played this with Spanish 1 students in a unit about clothes and shopping, but when an intermediate class needed a brush-up on DOPs, I realized I could use the white noun cards from my Verba deck too. Here's what you do:
    • Choose one white noun card from the Verba deck for each student in your class. I made sure that there was a roughly equal number of masculine and feminine nouns. Write down a list of those words! Very important!
    • Give each student one card. I told some students to use the plural form on their card, not the singular. 
    • Ask "¿Quién tiene ____?" (Who has ____?), filling in the blank with words from the list you wrote down before you distributed the cards. 
    • Students respond "Lo/La/Los/Las tengo."
    • To make it more competitive, time it. The first round is always super-slow, but after 3 or 4 rounds, the times get really fast. Once the students get comfortable with their cards, have them switch with a classmate. 
    • Repeat until you feel that students have internalized that DOP + conjugated verb word order. 

What other creative ways have you been using your Verba sets? 

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