Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Game Smashing with Word Clouds

If App Smashing is the process of using multiple apps to create projects or complete tasks, then is the process of using multiple games to informally assess students' understanding called Game Smashing? If so, then this week I did some Game Smashing in my Spanish 2 class.

The Game Smashing is an altered form of the classic Fly Swatter game and a cloze activity. The Fly Swatter game evolved over the last decade in my classroom from the original Fly Swatter game, to Slap, to Word Cloud Cross Out.    

Here are the descriptions of each of the games. The last one is the example of Game Smashing. 

Fly Swatter - Years ago, I played this game with my students to review vocabulary words or even to introduce the words. I wrote words on overhead sheets (that tells you how long ago it was) and projected it to the board. Two students stood at the board, each with a fly swatter, and when I said one of the words in English, they raced to be the first one to swat the word. The two drawbacks with this game was (1) the two students competing with the flyswatters were engaged, and the rest of the students were interested in watching them for the first couple rounds as we cycled new students into the competition, but after 3 or 4 rounds, many students tuned out; and (2) the words were used out of context.

Slap - I wrote the vocabulary words on a sheet of paper, copied enough sheets for 1/2 the amount of students you have, cut the papers into rectangles so there is only 1 word on each slip of paper. Students work with a partner and spread their set of words out in front of them. When I say the word in English, they race to be the first one to slap the word. The first one to touch the word then picks it up and it serves as and easy way to count their points at the end of the game. 

With Slap, I solved the problem of only two students actively participating at the same time, but I was still using the words out of context. It also required extra work to cut out the rectangles, and since we don't have desks in my room, this was no longer a good option.

Word Cloud Cross Out - Instead of writing the words on rectangles, I put the words and made a copy for each student. Students worked with a partner, each student had a highlighter, (it has to be a different color than their partner), and when I called out the word, they raced to be the first one to cross out the word with their marker. This version eliminated the need to cut the paper but the bigger drawback was that I was still using words out of context. 

At times I modified it by describing/defining the word in Spanish or if the words were related to our class novel, I said sentences related to the plot in the novel.

Game Smashing with Word Clouds  
Some background info: My Spanish 2 students come from two different Spanish 1 teachers so the amount of input they have had on the words that I included in the word cloud varies from one teacher to another. Another factor is that some students have not had Spanish 1 for a year or longer and others had just finished Spanish 1 days before starting Spanish 2. The entire "unit's" purpose, for which I made the word cloud, is to give additional input on high frequency words students have seen and heard in Spanish 1, and to introduce them to a few words that they will encounter in their first class novel of the semester.  I often give the students a pre-unit activity to give me an idea of the students' acquisition and knowledge level on the material. 

I created a word cloud. Then I wrote "cloze" sentences for each of the words and put those sentences on a powerpoint, one sentence per slide. I also wanted the answer to appear on each slide, so I added animation for the answer to appear on the slide after students have have sufficient time to read the sentence and find the word on their word cloud. Students worked with a partner and each had a different colored highlighter and 1 word cloud. Instead of me calling out the word or sentence, students read the sentence from the powerpoint and then raced to be the first one to cross out the word that best completed the sentence.

The advantages of this method are: 
(1) words are used in context, 
(2) instead of projecting the sentence, I can first say the sentence to them and then project the sentence so they get both listening and reading
(3) all students are engaged
(4) even though students were 'competing' against their classmates, I heard students discussing among them on what the answer might be, which is a plus in my opinion

The disadvantage is that it takes some time to make the powerpoint, but after the initial time commitment it will be available to use with future classes.

Since each student has a word cloud, I used the words in two rounds: the first round I simply called out the words in English (Word Cloud Cross Out). The students that won the first round had to find another classmate to play against for the second round, and those that lost the first round found a partner that also lost for the second round. For the second round, I used the powerpoint.

The Game Smashing Word Cloud I used yesterday was only verbs, but it can include any type of word or phrase. After the success and student approval of the Game Smashing Word Cloud with my Spanish 2 students, I'm working on creating a new one to use in Spanish 4, with vocabulary from chapters 7 & 8 of their class novel, Esperanza


  1. What a wonderful idea! I love that you've changed it to get the students more input and context with their vocabulary! Any way you would be willing to share your Esperanza work? I will be starting the novel this week with Spanish III. If so, my email is and if not I understand. Again thanks for sharing the idea!

  2. Awesome idea! What do think about putting the word cloud in a sheet protector and using a dry erase marker,so you can just erase it after each round?

  3. I think that is a fantastic idea!!!

  4. Hi Senora Hitz! I love your word cloud idea!! I love your reading activities as well.. I am wondering if I credit you and provide a link to your blog if I could use a few of your reading activities for some worksheets I am creating?

  5. Hi Terri, Thanks for stopping by the blog and leaving a comment. Can you be more specific to which reading activities you are referring? Could you send me an example at cynthia underscore hitz at yahoo dot com