Communication is the interpretation, expression, and/or negotiation of meaning in a given context (Bill VanPatten). Especially in the early days of a new language class, interpretation is king. Yet, developing novel tasks and activities that students can complete without trying to produce or pronounce language that they haven't yet acquired is a challenge!
As we begin work on an Exploratory curriculum for Spanish, I needed an interpretive game or activity that could be used as a reason to retell pieces of a story that students illustrated in a storyboard. What I came up with is a new game called "CRUSH THE COCKROACH!". In Spanish, we call it, “Aplasta la cucaracha”. Special thanks to Nelly Hughes for helping to develop the perfect name.
Essentially, Crush the Cockroach is a true/false game, and it could be played with nearly any content. All you need is a page of images or sentences and something for students to slap or steal when they hear a false statement.
You don't have to Crush Cockroaches
We are calling this game “Crush the cockroach” and providing the image of a cockroach to use, but the game could literally be anything. You could call it “Slap the hippo”, “Hit the button”, or “Steal the bacon” (since it IS similar to the classic gym class game!), and you can use printed images of the object or creature or you could use soft objects.
What you'll need for Crush the Cockroach
If you want to go the cockroach route, you could print the Cockroach cards from the Crush the Cockroach folder in the Games subfolder of our Subscriber Library, OR you could buy fake cockroaches, like these ones. You can play the game in pairs or in groups of up to 4 students, so you will need enough cards or objects for one per pair or group.
You will also need a worksheet to place in front of EVERY student. This could be a paper with illustrations, such as a storyboard, or a paper with statements written out in the target language or a shared language. All students must have identical content in front of them–storyboards from the same story, the same set of 10 facts, etc.
To make it easy for you to play Crush the Cockroach for the first time, we've made a special game set with cognates in Spanish! You can download our printables and a teacher slideshow in the Crush the Cockroach folder in the Subscriber Library.
Get ready to play Crush the Cockroach
First, have students get into pairs or groups of up to 4 students. Give each pair or small group the printed image of a cockroach or even a small fake cockroach that you purchase ahead of time, such as these. This image or object should be placed in between all group members, so that everyone can reach it. Also make sure that every student has a paper in front of them with matching content (images or sentences).
This game can easily be no prep by having students draw images or illustrate a story in class and then playing with their freshly created illustrations. You could even have one person in each group draw a cockroach!
How to play Crush the Cockroach
In the target language, the teacher reads aloud a statement that matches one of the illustrations or statements or one that doesn’t. For our sample game with cognates, the teacher could say something like, "Veo un robot".
Two considerations for playing Crush the Cockroach
We strongly recommend giving students processing time after hearing the statement before they are allowed to take action. This could look like the teacher making the statement, silently counting down from 5 to 1, and then clapping or ringing a bell to signal students to take action. Building in mandatory wait time gives all students an opportunity to process the statement and experience success in the activity. Without the mandatory wait time, the fastest processors will win every round. Talk about demotivating!
A second thing to take into consideration is whether your students would benefit from also reading the statement that you are making. In the case of cognates, the connection between words is often more visual than auditory. For that reason, I made a slideshow with simple sentences that can be displayed during game play. This isn't always necessary, but there are instances in which students may be better able to complete the task if they have the visual support of the written statements.
What do students do?
With those two considerations in mind, students then take action based on the statement that they heard.
If the statement is a match
If the statement that the teacher makes matches an illustration or a statement on the students' worksheets, students point to the matching illustration or statement. The teacher can then affirm the meaning, ask processing questions, ask personalized questions, or just move on to the next statement!
In our cognate game, "match" statements look like...
- Veo una persona / I see a person (Students point to the image of a person)
- Veo un carro / I see a car (Students point to the image of a car)
- Veo un elefante / I see an elephant (Students point to the image of an elephant)
If you are playing with a storyboard that your students illustrated, students should point to the frame of the storyboard in which whatever statement you made happened.
If the statement is not a match
If the statement that the teacher makes is not a match for any illustration or statement on the students' worksheets, students must "crush the cockroach" (slap the cockroach paper). Make sure to build in wait time before giving them a chance to crush!
In our cognate game, "match" statements look like...
- Veo una jirafa / I see a giraffe (There is no image of a giraffe - students crush the cockroach)
- Veo una hamburguesa / I see a hamburger (There is no image of a hamburger - students crush the cockroach)
Affirm that the statement is not on the worksheet. For an extra layer of fun, you could then play the chorus from "La cucaracha", and sing it together with lyrics displayed!
Once students are familiar with the song, you could play this lyric-less and beautiful version highlighting Guadalajara, Mexico:
Continue playing until you run out of statements or until interest wanes. Whoever crushed the most cockroaches in each group wins!
One player Crush the Cockroach
This game could be played individually, with every student or every student who chooses to work alone having their own cockroach to crush. Some students really dislike partner and group activities, and allowing them to play on their own is an easy way to make them feel comfortable and supported in your class.
Get the supplies!
All of the materials you need to play a cognate version of Crush the Cockroach can be found in our subscriber library. Look in the Games folder!
Get on the waitlist
If your ears perked up when I mentioned that we are working on an Exploratory Curriculum, you need to be on our updates list! We are developing units and piloting them this fall with a small group of teachers, and you can expect to see the first units coming out by the end of 2023.