Monday, March 23, 2015

"Survivor Cubes" in the MFL classroom

If you are a fan of the TV show "Survivor", then you are familiar with the memory type game that the contestants play with cubes.  The host of the show, has a set of cards with pictures on them.  He shows the cards in a sequence to the contestants.  Each contestant has a cube with the same pictures and, one by one, they must turn the cube with the picture facing toward Jeff in the correct order.  Contestants that answer correctly move to the next round.  Those that answer incorrectly are disqualified from the competition.

I modified the activity to suit my focus words for the day, oyó=s/he heard and oyeron=they heard. It was a fun, fresh way to give the students a large amount of repetitions of the focus words without them realizing how many times they heard the words.

1. First, I made 5 cubes, each with the same 6 clip art images. I made origami cubes after I watched this video. (To get even more mileage out of the activity, I used an image for "footsteps" because I knew we would be using it later in class for a MovieTalk.  This activity introduced the word and when I asked how to say it later in the class period, I got a resounding answer from the majority of the students! I should have been more selective with the other 5 images.)

2. In class, I asked for 5 volunteers, and then I chose another student to help them.  The helpers' job was to hold up a clipboard to block the other students from seeing which image the student selected for each round until it was time to reveal their answer.

3. On my computer, I had 6 tabs open from the website FreeSound, that matched the clip art images.

4. Before handing out the cubes to the 5 students and their helpers, we listened to the 6 sound bytes from the FreeSound website.  They were super easy to identify.  I also wrote the vocabulary on the board because the students were going to write the words during the activity:  un tren, un perro, una persona que se ríe, los pasos, una guitarra, una vaca.

5. Then I played a sequence of 9 sounds with the open tabs.  (I had made a recording using QuickTime, but I had problems with the sound, so I kept the tabs opened and selected each one as the students listened.)

6. The 5 students with the cubes selected their answer, facing the clip art image toward me.  I called the name of a student, who then revealed their answer, as I said, "Elisa oyó un perro. Dennis oyó un perro. Anna oyó un perro. Carlos oyó un tren. Hannah oyó un perro.  Cuatro personas oyeron un perro y una persona oyó un tren." 

7. Students that were observing (not those with the cubes nor the helpers) had to choose one person and write a sentence about the person using "oyó".  Ex:  Hannah oyó un tren.  Every multiple of 3, the students had to write two students' names that heard the same sound to get practice in writing "oyeron".

8.  If a student revealed the incorrect answer, he handed the cube to me and both he and his helper joined the others in writing a sentence for each round.

9. The winner received +1 bonus point in the first "game" when they listened to 9 sounds.  In the second round, students listened to 11 sounds, and the winner of that group earned +2 bonus points.

The first few sounds are very easy for the students.  They start getting confused with sounds 5 and higher.  

Update: Vicki Antequera emailed me with the document on the right that she will use for her students to do the Survivor Cubes activity.  She was kind enough to permit me to share this document with my readers.  You can access it HERE.

After this activity we watched Vampire's Crown. (See the blog post with additional information and resources about it HERE.) I used the MovieTalk method to narrate the action using vocabulary that the students knew.  The focus word "oyó" was recycled in the video because the vampire HEARD the boy drinking, HEARD the noise of the sign, HEARD the footsteps, of the dentist, and the dentist didn't hear the footsteps of the vampire.

If the idea of making several origami cubes sounds like too much work, you can simplify the preparation by using cards with the images instead of cubes. I liked the cubes to make it more like Survivor.  (Because this was one of those ideas that came to me before I arrived at school, I very quickly made the cubes, as you may have noticed if you looked closely at them.)


  1. Hi Cindy, I love this idea and I am planning to try it. I just want to check with you about the rounds. Do you play just one sound? And then verify with each student? If that is the case, where do the 9 or 11 sounds come in for the rounds? And how do they choose on the cube if one of the 9 sounds isn't there? Your instructions are great as is the cube video, I just can't picture the rounds with more sounds than cube sides. Thank you!!!

    1. Oh, dear. I apologize. I reread it and saw I didn't explain it very well.
      In round 1, the students listened to 9 sounds total. After they hear the 9 sounds (with a few seconds between each sound), I then ask the students to show the first sound, and they turn the block to reveal their answer. Then I asked them to show the second sound, and they move the block to reveal their answer. And then the third sound, and so on.
      I said in the blog post above "the first few rounds are very easy for the students. They start getting confused in rounds 5 and higher." I SHOULD HAVE SAID "sounds" instead of "rounds"; the first few sounds are easy for them to remember, but when they try to remember sound #5, and sound #6, etc. it can get tricky for them.

      There's always one person that remembers all of the sounds - that always impresses me.

      (I will go back and make the change from "round" to "sound" so it may be changed/corrected already by the time you read this reply.

      C. Hitz