A Walk through Card Talk

I first learned about “Card Talk” when it was called “Circling with Balls”. Ben Slavic started the school year by getting to know his students and their interests while building common language during the discussion.

The cards are a great way to assign seats on the first day, too!

In my Spanish 2 classes, each student draws a picture of something they did over the summer. It can be that they slept a lot, ate a lot of hamburgers, went on a vacation, swam, ANYTHING. It is best if it doesn’t focus on vacations… I try to encourage them to talk about videogaming, etc. so that they know that if they “didn’t do anything”, they still did something!

In my Spanish 3 classes, the kids drew 2 goals they have for the school year. I always have them draw 2-3 (this year just 2 because my classes are HUGE) goals because in this class, almost everyone has the goal of getting good grades. If we do just one, we would have no variety!

In my Spanish 4 classes, I always do a hypothetical situation so that we can work a subjunctive structure. This year, I told them that if I won the lottery I would give them all $10,000. I asked what they would do with it. They had to complete the sentence Si tuviera $10 000, _____.

The card talk takes me about a five to six class days to complete.

To do the Card Talk, no matter the level, I just work really slowly… no more than 3-4 students on the first day (in level 1 it’s usually only 2 students). We talk about the student… for example, if Diego draws a picture of himself playing basketball (in Spanish 2 where we’re reviewing the past), I am going to spend about 7-8 minutes talking about Diego. I am going to introduce the structure jugó al baloncesto/básquetbol. I will ask who he played with and where he played. I will ask if he played a lot or a little. I will have them do a little mini quiz of the facts we know. I will make up some extra facts like he played one game with the principal and won… Then we will add a second student. When we have a second student’s facts (Ricardo who bought a new car) I can get more details about Ricardo’s car, but I can also do a mini quiz of Diego or Ricardo. I can play a game of Beep (from Martina Bex) where I make incorrect statements and they have to beep the false facts! I just try to keep them engaged and laughing as we build language together and learn about the past tense.

By the third day, we add in Sustained Silent Reading at the beginning of the hour. And on the 4th day, they’re ready to add some fun review games at the end of the hour. They’ve talked about a LOT of kids by day 4. In my level 2 and 4 classes, they’d gotten through 14ish students and in level 3, they got through 20. We wrapped up this day with a game of Back ‘Atcha by Cindy Hitz.

Cindy Hitz’s Back ‘Atcha game

I left the list of words we’d generated up on the smart board and split the class into two teams. The teams took turns using our past tense verbs to come up with statements about their classmates. The first team to run out of statements loses the game, so they’re motivated to make the most statements possible! I did tell them that if they repeated one that had already been said, it would be a strike… three strikes = the other team wins. It was great to hear them talking and talking about each other in Spanish! And I think THEY were super proud of themselves too!

On day 5, we finished our cards in Spanish 2 and 4. The classes were smaller. At the end of the period in those classes, we played a game of Cindy Hitz’s Marker Partner! If you’ve never played, check out this tutorial! It is so much fun! I just made true and false statements about their classmates and they had to try to grab the marker when they were true.

On day 6, Spanish 3 finished their cards and in all classes, we brainstormed a list of ALL we knew about our classmates. Since level 2 and 4 were finished with their cards, they took 5 minutes (with their SmartBoard list of verbs) and wrote a list of things they remembered about their classmates. Then they got together with a group of 4 and spent 15 minutes combining their lists and adding as many more as they could. When the timer went off, we made a list as a whole class that included everyone in the class.

Today we wrapped the unit up with a final project. It was a crazy day at school. We have a huge football game at the beginning of the year that is a local rivalry and there is always a pep rally to celebrate it.

Spanish 2 Libritos

We are always needing more material in our SSR library, so they used the sentences they generated to create little books that I will put on our bookshelves. Each book has 10 pages. There are more than 10 students per class so they couldn’t include everyone, but they got to include several favorite memories from our card talks. These books will be popular as we read for the rest of the quarter. I’ll recycle them at the end of the quarter and then in quarter 2 we will make a different set with a new unit!

Hopefully this helps you see ways to round out your card talk at the beginning of the year! Ours went really well and I am so glad it is behind us now and that we are moving into our first real unit next week… unfortunately COVID hit our house and I’ll be Zooming in to teach (as long as I don’t get any sicker) so it will be a different start to the unit than I planned. Ahhh…. the post-pandemic age. Always rolling with the punches!


  1. Hola Carrie- I was wondering if your two’s already had past tense and you are reviewing it or if you are teaching yo and él/ella endings as you go? My two’s haven’t had past so I’m thinking about how to do this. I love the idea! Thanks!

    • They have been seeing and hearing the past tense since the beginning of Spanish 1 as we don’t really shelter that vocabulary, but we just teach it as individual structures. We read Brandon Brown Houdini in the past tense at the end of level 1. This is the first time we really start “noticing” the endings and picking out patterns.

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