Idea #37: 30 Seconds: A Circumlocution Speaking Game


February 18, 2012 by Kara


The number one reason students choose to take a world language is because they want to SPEAK it. How much of your class time is spent on students speaking in Spanish? How do you keep them accountable for speaking it? There are so many reasons we may not do this as often as we should (large classes, it’s exhausting, they don’t care, takes too much time to prep, etc.). Also circumlocution is an important language survival skill. But how do you teach them to do that? Here is one game that will solve these problems and get them talking!

It is a mixture of Catch Phrase / Taboo / $25,000 Pyramid / Password. I call it “30 segundos.”

CARDS: Sets with familiar vocabulary words. I like to have at least 20. One day I’d like to have this prepared for each unit we do. Then it makes a nice review game too.
TIMERS: I ask students if they have one on their phones or you can get sand timers.
GROUPS: I prefer groups of 6, which makes 2 teams (3 against 3).
BUZZER: From my other games or ask students if they have an app on their phone.


Prepare them with some valuable words like “person / place / thing / action / description / event”.

1. One person will draw a card. They have to describe that word in target language, no English, without saying the word or using hand gestures. Example: If the card says “taco,” they may say “it is a food, it has lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, Mexican restaurants, etc.” For level 1, they usually don’t speak in sentences. I let them use proper nouns. It’s neat to hear an upper level do this because they are so specific. I do not let them use proper nouns.
2. The other team gets to see the word too. If the person describing breaks any rule, they buzz them on it and they get the point.
3. The team of the describer tries to guess the word in the target language in thirty seconds or less. If they get it, they win a point. If not, their turn is over.
4. After their turn, the next team goes.
5. They should rotate who describes each turn.
6. The team who gets the most points wins!

You can do this more like the $25,000 Pyramid which requires less prep, but more work on you during class. Have them sit facing each other where one can see the board and one can’t. You write the word on the board and you watch the timer. The entire class does this at the same time. However… They can hear each other and they don’t have another team “watching” them. This works well for a little class or if you need to fill some extra time and you don’t have anything prepped.

Let me know how this goes for you! Anyone have a better name for it?


About these ads

12 thoughts on “Idea #37: 30 Seconds: A Circumlocution Speaking Game

  1. teachermrw says:

    What is the second screenshot in reference to? Jusf curious.

  2. Kara says:

    It’s a free buzzer app on the Apple app store. It has lots of funky sounds. You don’t have to have a buzzer, but it makes it more fun for the group that “watching” the describer.

  3. Megan says:

    Love this… great new way to play with the language each unit!! I’ll try it next week!

  4. jarvis1000 says:

    This is a great way to practice…I think I will do this myself !

  5. [...] their students Spanish.  Because it gives me ideas on how to improve my spanish.  One of those ideas is to make it a game.  In her blog she mentions the game is among her students, but I don’t [...]

  6. [...] their students Spanish.  Because it gives me ideas on how to improve my spanish.  One of those ideas is to make it a game.  In her blog she mentions the game is among her students, but I don’t [...]

  7. Stasi says:

    What is the last picture of? Buzzer app too? Thanks.

    • Kara says:

      It is a document I made that I had on the screen while they were playing. They didn’t know those words before playing.

  8. Emily says:

    I have to make a vocab game for a “Literacy in the Content Area” course at my University. Having to do lessons revolving around Spanish for my ENGLISH education courses is a challenge,so I have created a version of this game, as well. I agree that circumlocution is a vital tool in language learning, and I can adapt it well for this assignment and actually use it in my future classrooms. I actually made cards out of stock card, with little rats on one side. This is for the saying, ” ?te comieron la lengua los ratones?” and plan to call it Ratones. I thought that would just be a fun fact to enhance the game.

  9. spanishplans says:

    Love it! Thanks for sharing.

  10. […] 30 seconds – A circumlocution game – Here students have to try to get their teammates to guess a word by describing it in the TL. […]

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Sign up for ACTFL here!

Send Us a Cup!

This site runs on coffee and lots of enthusiasm. If you would like to send us a cup, it would be much appreciated!

Blog Family

Blog Stats

  • 3,176,210 Visits

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 2,865 other followers

Archives – Past Posts


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,865 other followers

%d bloggers like this: