7 Activities to Teach Descriptive Words in Spanish

Today’s lesson includes lots of activities to teach some basic descriptive words in Spanish! The activities also continue practice with the vocabulary from last week. I have a game, the Movie Talk, a Reading Guide, a couple of stories, and ideas for an arts and crafts project. You can download the activities here:

These activities took several days to complete, and I didn’t get a chance to complete all of the activities I have included here.

How I Taught My Kids Descriptive Words in Spanish – Day 1

I turned our story about Poco, our cat, from our last lesson into a reading with questions. We read the story together with me saying the Spanish and them translating into English.  I made the kids answer questions about the story in complete sentences, but if you use it don’t feel like you need to.

reading activity about poco our cat using descriptive words in spanish
This is the first version of the Poco story the boys completed.

After we did the Poco story, we finished PQA (conversation) with es, eres, and soy and the listening part of Movie Talk. I used my phone for the video and don’t recommend it. The screen was too small, and it was hard to pause the video at the right time.

Even though I did this lesson separately, both boys answered the question ¿Cómo es Poco? with travieso. For fun I asked them, “¿Por qué es travieso?” and they both answered because he meows a lot.  So true! I feel like he’s constantly yelling at us. Don’t feel like you have to ask questions with por qué, though; answering that can be more challenging and will inevitably bring up words they don’t know yet. If you don’t want to overwhelm them with vocabulary (or look up extra vocabulary), skip por qué.

I was adding more descriptive words like tonto (dumb, silly), inteligente, and gordo (fat) to increase their interest. I asked them, “¿Eres tonto como Patrick Starr o eres inteligente como Sandy Cheeks?” since those are easy to act while saying the word and, therefore, easy to understand. As soon as Alex and I were done with the lesson he immediately started saying, “Eres tonto” to Aidan. When Aidan finished his lesson, he was able to return the insult. So saying eres tonto is a thing in my house now. 🙄 😆

After we used eres, soy, and es in conversation, I asked more questions about Poco. I added these details to the story from last time and had them draw the story.

Poco es negro y blanco.

Poco es grande y es gordo.

Poco es travieso porque hace miau, miau mucho (he says meow, meow a lot).

You can download both versions of the Poco Story and activities here:

The little stories are pretty dumb, but they are getting a lot of listening out of it and the conversations have been fun with them.

Teaching Family and Descriptive Words in Spanish Day 2

On the second day we started with the reading activity for the Movie Talk. They. Complained. So. Much. Alex just wrote random numbers in the spaces. Thankfully, Aidan was actually trying to figure out the correct order of the sentences, so I think Alex felt a little bit of sibling competition. Aidan pretty much worked on the activities on his own with just a few questions about what some of the words meant. If you want to skip the listening part of Movie Talk, you can just show the video (for context) and do the reading activities.

movie talk reading activity to practice descriptive words in spanish
The Movie Talk reading activities are pretty messy, but they did them!

Alex crossed out the numbers and started again with me sitting next to him. He does not like help unless he asks for it which has been surprising and a bit challenging for me. I’m learning when to wait for him because he’s trying to figure it out and when to help him because he is stuck. He doesn’t always tell me where he’s at and then gets annoyed with me if I help him when he doesn’t want me to or don’t help him when he does. Unfortunately, I don’t have the gift of reading minds.

Aidan started reading the Poco Story #2 and completing the drawing activity while Alex finished up the movie talk. His illustrations are kind of a mess but show the story. I sat with Alex and read a sentence of the Poco story in Spanish and Alex translated into English. We did one box at a time. I was hoping he would color it more, but at least his illustrations show the story.

reading activity with second poco story to practice descriptive words in spanish
Alex’s illustrations for Poco, el gato #2.

I love how they took notes on their papers. Today I felt like they were engaged in the activities and enjoyed them. At least once they settled into the activities and stopped complaining. I think it helped that they are understanding the vocabulary. The first couple of days I heard a lot of “I don’t know any Spanish” and “I don’t know what you’re saying.” I took a few deep breaths, slapped a smile on my face, and kept going. This is what I did:😁 But this is how I felt:😡

Teaching Family and Descriptive Words in Spanish Day 3

Aidan and I played Memoria with the flashcards. I said the words in Spanish as the cards were turned over so he could hear the pronunciation and then periodically asked what the word means in English. It was a good review of the vocabulary.

Then the boys played Las carreras which is a reading game. Las carreras means the races and the game consists of reading sentences in Spanish and then translating the sentences into English. As you translate the sentences correctly, you move your animal on the racetrack. Whoever finishes the race first, wins! I learned this game from an amazing German teacher I used to work with.

I ended up using my word wall/calendar time board for the racecourse and told them to ask me for words they didn’t know since they couldn’t see the word wall. Next time, I’ll give them a copy of those words (located in the Vocabulary document from last week). Since Alex is more of a muchacho than a niño, I used muchacho and muchacha in the game.

beginning of the races activity for reading practice for descriptive words in spanish
This is the start of the race. Alex’s animal is on top and is a mouse, dog, and cat that says mework or bwork. Aidan’s animal is on the bottom and is a giraffe. I used a piece of butcher paper to make the racecourse.
boys playing the races
The boys playing las carreras. They each used a whiteboard to write their translations.
halfway through the races
Halfway through the race and Alex is in the lead.
the end of the races
The race is over, and Aidan won!

It was a close race, but Aidan ended up winning. I have two kids who are sore losers, so Alex was grumpy for a little bit. You can tell because his worksheet for the next activity about family was a wreck. He kept writing English and incorrect information. Alex, my husband, and I are not all 27 years old. 😄

Alex's description of our family using descriptive words in spanish
This is Alex’s description of our family.

After the race, the boys did worksheet #1 in the Mi familia activity. I’m not quite ready to have them try using Spanish on their own. We have a couple of more reading/listening activities to do first. Plus, they just don’t have much vocabulary at this point. I’ll probably wait until after the next chapter to have them write anything or try speaking.

Aidan’s description of Jerry was hilarious! He wrote: Mi papá es alto y un dinosaurio. I’m guessing that means he thinks Jerry is super old! 👴 🤣 I love that he’s being creative with Spanish!

And smiling and continuing with patience paid off! Alex told me that he used casa instead of house when he and Aidan were talking. Apparently, Aidan was talking about building a bigger house in Minecraft, and Alex responded, “I’m going to build a casa too.” He used Spanish without even thinking about it! 🎉🎉 I know it’s only one word, but I’m very excited that it came out spontaneously without thought. 😁 Another reason why I don’t want to push speaking. I want it to be something that happens naturally.

What Is Movie Talk?

You might be wondering What is Movie Talk? Movie Talk is showing a video (a clip, movie, commercial, etc.) and describing it in the target language. In my case, I describe the videos in Spanish. This gives the learners lots of Spanish with a visual to help them understand what they are hearing.

Movie Talk is part of a system called Focal Skills invented by Dr. Ashley Hastings to teach ESL students. I can’t find any links about him that still work, or I would include one here. Michele Whaley, a World Language teacher in Alaska, introduced Movie Talk to high school World Language teachers. This is a post on her site that talks about her using Movie Talk when she first started using it in her classes.

Everyone does Movie Talk a little differently. I like to include descriptions about what is happening in the video, questions about the video, and questions about my students in relation to the vocabulary and/or actions in the video. For example, if the video is about a birthday party, I will ask my students about their birthday parties. I also like to include a reading activity after talking about the video.

Activities I Haven’t Done Yet

I realized on Day 2 that I haven’t had them do actions for tiene and es. 😮We’re almost done with this chapter, so I’m going to skip it this time, but I want to use actions for the verbs going forward especially since my kids are so active. Some words are easy to think of actions for because they are concrete ideas. For instance, “s/he runs” is easy to act. Not so much with “s/he has” and “s/he is.” I use ASL signs for words like these and use this site to find the signs. It is a super helpful site!

I also still need to read books with them. I have a Reading Guide for Mi Familia Calaca by Cynthia Weill and Jesus ZarateI, but the libraries are closed right now until April 20th. That’s where I originally found the book. It’s on Amazon too (I’m not an affiliate at this time), so if I can find a cheap copy I might buy it.

I regularly go to Goodwill and other thrift stores and look for Spanish books. I can usually find some, and this has been my number one source to build my Spanish library. A couple of years ago, I found two books about family: ¿Cómo es tu mamá? by Rosanela Álvarez and Yasushi Muraki and En mi familia by Carmen Lomas Garza. I’m going to start with reading those and describing the pictures using hay, es, and tiene. I will use the parallel story idea in the Reading Guide because that can be applied to any book about family.

I also need to have them complete Chapter 1 in the Mini-Workbook. This is a product that is not included above because it will be for sale when I finally figure out how to sell digital products. Hopefully, I’ll have that figured out soon!

And last, I have an Arts and Crafts activity but probably won’t have the kids do that at this time. Having them home while I’m working remotely here has been enough of a challenge without throwing a messy project like papier mache into the mix. 🤪

What I Learned

These lessons are taking longer than I thought both with the number of minutes per lesson and the number of days even without them goofing around. This has surprised me a little, but I’m not in a rush like at school so todo está bien (it’s all good).

Using my phone for Movie Talk isn’t great. I was too lazy to get my laptop or search YouTube on the tv so just used my phone. Next time, I will grab my laptop or try using the tv.

How to say meow in Spanish. Full disclosure: I have no idea how to say animal sounds in Spanish. Not something you learn in university language classes. I found this great video, though, to help me.

Do you know anyone who wants to teach their kids high-frequency verbs, family, and descriptive words in Spanish? Feel free to share with the buttons on the left!

How did your kids describe family members? Is anyone a dinosaurio in your family? 🤣 Tell me about it in the comments below!

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