Thursday, June 2, 2016

The Amazing Race

It's the end of the year and I needed an activity that was engaging, yet made kids think in the language. I also wanted to combine a CBE element so I created this Amazing Race-style activity. It took about a week of brainstorming and planning, but I have it all here for you to set up.

As I stated earlier, I wanted to add an element of Competency-Based Education so I looked first at the teachers who had a prep period during my class and tried to link it to either the Spanish language or culture. This became the stops along the way.

Initial route card
To begin the game, the students received a sealed envelope with scrabble letters that spelled out "lider". They had to tell me who our leader was [superintendent's name] to get their next route card. Little did I anticipate that they were in country groups so they were trying to get the name of the political leader, the mayor of the town, president Obama, or even the principal's name. I really only anticipated they would do the principal's name, not a political leader. Duh, why didn't I think of that? too obvious? ha, so they were off to the next clue with their route card.

I wanted the students to make a connection with the superintendent and he appears to be a fun guy so I asked him if he would be willing to help with our activity. I wanted to send the kids to him first so as not to interrupt his time too much. The students, as a team, had to take a selfie with him and post it to our school hashtag #nevadacubpride This also served as marketing/publicity for our department. After posting the selfie, they received their next route card. One problem was the one group was still looking for the superintendent's office when other groups were nearly done. This was a good education for everyone. :)

Social Studies
On staff we have a Global Insights course taught by one of our social studies teachers so I found a picture of a street corner in the neighborhood La Boca in Buenos Aires, Argentina. They had to find where that was and the clue on their route card directed them to the teacher and they had to either identify the neighborhood or the city/country, which then gave them their next route card.

We have a phenomenal PE teacher who is Greek and totally loves kids and their health. Fortunately he was one that had a prep and was game for anything! When they arrived to him, after clue connected to soccer, he had the students do an activity like run stairs or make baskets for their next clue.

This clue went to one of the math teachers in the end. The students had to scan a google doc that directed them to a youtube video and a maya math problem. The video explained how to decipher the maya math numbers, then they had to figure out what the number was and that became the clue to the next route card. One glitch is that I should never be a math teacher as my math was incorrect! I had one group explain the number to me and after adding with them, realized their clue was not correct. ugh. Quick fix, but it slowed a couple of groups as they really did have the correct number! On to the next route card.

The final route card led them back to the Spanish room where they had to proclaim ¡Ya estamos listos! and present all the route cards and detour cards.

I also needed some "detours" so connected these to other things, but still within the language.

I placed 1-3 colored cups outside every classroom, upside down, with a piece of chocolate under some of them. Those with the chocolate also had a QR code inside that needed to be scanned for a secret word. The students had to bring the piece of chocolate to me with the secret word. This worked better than I thought in that some students just tried to bring a secret word (because they didn't find a chocolate or heard from another group) or just bring the chocolate without the secret word.

Battle of the Books
We did this activity the previous week so it was all fresh in their minds. We had a competition earlier in the week in which the students battled out the top knowledge of all the TPRS FVR books in the classroom. I kept the questions and when they came to me with this detour they had to answer at least one question correctly! Yes, some had 2-3 questions before they could answer correctly. Hey, it slowed them down as they weren't prepared and had to wait for another question, right?

So, all the route cards and detour cards were planned. Now I had to prepare the school, teacher helpers, and the print the necessary resources.
1) Set out the cups in front of doors with QR codes and chocolates. My younger children helped me with this the morning of the activity.
2) Print QR codes for all classroom doors, office doors, and library doors. I first put all "¡incorrecto!" QR codes on all the doors to be sure everyone had a case I forgot one accidentally. Then, went back to the ones I needed and replaced them with a "se permite entrar" QR code. Students were required to scan the QR code before entering anywhere as they were not allowed to enter all areas of the building to disrupt the regular learning environment of classes. It was kind of like in the movies when they scan their hand print or eye to gain access to a secure area. Yeah, we were that cool in this game!
3) Email all staff and students to notify them this was happening and ask for their support in not disturbing the cups, QR codes, and other things they saw in the hallways. I promised to clean it all up after class!
4) Take the route cards to the assisting teachers. I first placed them in a manilla envelope with their name on the front and the "password" on the back so when they reached in the envelope the password was facing them and not the students. I handed the envelope to the teachers the day before so that they could still commit to the activity and ask questions if they needed.
5) Either hand out or post the detour cards. My assistant principal was very eager to help with the activity so I gave him one of the detour cards to hand out randomly to groups when he saw them. OMG he had such a blast with this! The other detour card set I taped to the window on the door to the library so that the students would find it as they were walking the hallways.
6) Of course I had to print the route cards and detour cards on card stock (although regular printer paper would work), cut them and organize them into manilla folders and deliver them to the necessary teachers. See the slide show below for the cards I used. They were printed horizontally 2 to a page and cut in half.
7) The students were in groups that were named countries so I printed off colored flags and randomly handed them to students as they walked into the room that day, instructing them to find 2 more "soldiers" to add to their country's "army". Their flag became their hallway pass as everyone knew what they were doing and when it was happening.
8) Find a picture of La Boca in Argentina. Ironically, they saw a picture of the Argentinian flag on the building and got their clue from that. Hmmm, might have to find a different picture next time.

Amazing Race
The day of the activity was so much fun and so much excitement brewing among the students. They knew I was planning something, but didn't know exactly what it was. As stated in number 7 above, they were directed to find their group.

We went through the rules and I handed them the envelope with the scrabble letters in it and they got started right away! Some left the room, forgetting that they needed to tell me the clue to get the next route card. They were back soon. lol

The whole activity went quicker than I thought it would. I really had no idea how much time I needed, however I was glad that we were on a block schedule and had that "buffer" of time. This activity could easily be modified to one less route stop and be done, rushed, in a 40ish minute time frame.

The Amazing Winners!

Ironically, due to block scheduling, students can double up on their courses so there are two sophomores in with two seniors in this group so they were the youngest group in Spanish IV, and they were the winners!


  1. This is SO COOL! Thanks for sharing this incredible idea!

    1. Thanks Laura. It was fun to create and get so many people involved from the school. The kids got to see a range of adults in a new light, outside the "four walls" of the classroom. I am already thinking of new ideas for the next one! Let me know if you try one in your class.