If you know me at all you probably know that Taco Tuesday is one of my favorite games. About four years ago I created the game inspired by the widely played “Matamoscas” activity, and developed it out of my desire for all of my students to be able to participate at once. With large class sizes (that only continue to grow…) I am always trying to create activities that are 1) flexible in group sizing and length of play 2) low prep and 3) effective and engaging for any number of students. Taco Tuesday was one of the first games that helped me reach all of these goals. I have since created many templates, as well as four completely editable game board sizes. If you’re wondering how to play or how to differentiate for your students’ varying ability levels, read on!
*NOTE* to read about Taco Tuesday in a remote or hybrid classroom, check out this post.
Why We Love It
Taco Tuesday is a favorite of my classes each year. I love it because it requires almost 0 prep by me and because it can be played for any just about amount of time. Oh no, there’s 5 minutes left in class? Perfect. We killed our lesson and we have a whole 15 minutes? Also perfect. My students love it because they can build their confidence on any unit AND be their most competitive selves.
By the end of the game, there are sometimes tense friendships, budding arch nemesis, holes in the game board, and earned bragging rights (see photo below.) My favorite is when there are year-long battles where students are determined to have the most wins. They want to claim the (absolutely non-existent) Taco Tuesday Crown.
How to Play
*Create a game board using one of the four game sizes included in my Editable Templates, or snag a ready-made game from over 40 options here.
*Print 1 game board for every 2 students in your class
*Instruct each student to use a differently colored pen/pencil/marker from their partner(s)
This game is best played in groups of 2-3, with each student using a different colored pen/marker. I typically play for anywhere from 15-20 minutes, but quicker rounds are sometimes appropriate. Run time is very flexible and can fit into as quick as 5 minutes.
To play, students share one game board filled with small tacos. In each taco, there is a word or phrase related to their current unit. The teacher calls out a hint in Spanish or the definition in English, and students race to be the first one to find the correct taco. If they find it first, they get to color in the taco with their color. At the end of the game, the student with the most Tacos Wins!
If there is a tie for a certain word, I have my students quickly play rock, paper, scissors to determine the winner. This happens once or twice per game. This game gets very competitive and sometimes the papers at the end are in ROUGH shape. When we get toward the end of the game, I sometimes make my students close their eyes and keep their hands behind their backs as I give the clues. They sometimes impose silly rules upon themselves, and I’ll mention some of those later.
Ideas for Differentiation
Because the game is fairly straightforward, it is always a good idea to consider ways of adjusting the difficulty level for your classes based on the varying abilities of your students. I hope you will find some of these ideas useful for your differing classes and/or proficiency levels!
With your upper level classes or when you are more familiar with a topic, play completely in the target language! Students obviously prefer when I give clues in English, but I always try to challenge them and have “Spanish only” games. In the end, this always proves to them that they understand more than they give themselves credit for. After these games, I usually hear “Whoah I understood almost everything she said!” and “I can’t believe I got those ones!”
With all levels of Spanish, you can adjust the difficulty of the language you use and the details of the clues you give. Give yourself some flexibility; staying in the target language alone is a great challenge for your students.
Ways to try Spanish only games with lower proficiency levels would be: giving opposites in the target language as the clue (¿Qué es el opuesto de “alto”?), adding motion to your clues, or giving clues by category and allowing more than one answer at a time (for example, “¡Busquen los tipos de deportes!”). It is especially important in these lower proficiency levels to still challenge them to the Spanish only games. Building confidence now will help them to challenge themselves more as they continue their study of the language!
Double or Triple-Ups:
To mix things up and make things more challenging, I will sometimes give clues that have more than one possible answer. While this may make it easier to find one correct answer, at the same time it causes a bit of a frenzy because students want to find *all* of the answers. They aren’t satisfied with just 1 because they aren’t willing to split the Tacos with their partner!
For example, today we were preparing for our family member/event quiz tomorrow. For one of the clues, I said, “¡Hay tres eventos felices!” And students had to find la graduación, la boda, y la reunión familiar. Those 15 seconds or so after I read a multi-answer clue are intense.
Another differentiation idea is to adjust the speed at which you give clues. In my lower level classes, I give clues one at a time and provide a good amount of wait time in between each one. We also review each answer before moving onto the next question.
In my more advanced classes, I sometimes feel comfortable giving two completely different clues at once, or giving clues quickly without stopping to review answers unless a student requests that we do so. I keep a game board in front of me on my clipboard and I mark the Tacos as we go, so that I can check a students’ game board at any time and alert them if they have colored an incorrect taco. “Hey, we haven’t said that word yet, let’s review what it means.”
Time Played: Placement + Duration
Based on your class climate/ability, there are a few ways to decide how long you will play for. For a class that gets easily riled up, I usually play for shorter bursts of 5-7 minutes. I will also strategically place the game time either toward the beginning or end of class. If it is a Monday, I’ll often play at the start to wake them up. If it is later in the week, we can play at the end of class to regain their focus and keep them on task until the bell. With shorter games they may ask to play the following day as another quick warmup, and that’s fine! Switching partners makes the game feel brand new.
For more skilled classes or faster moving students in general, I sometimes work through the entire game board. This is the rare “Total Taco.” I usually only do this on half days or days where one class has moved ahead of another class. I also usually only do this if we have gotten through everything for the day/week. My students know it is a reward for working hard! For example, I have one class that meets for one extra day per week (the periods are shorter so the time objectively should be equal, but they always seem to move ahead) and they are often my only class that gets to witness #TotalTaco.
As I have mentioned, my students tend to get pretty competitive with this game, As we near the end of the board, or if I notice we are running out of time, I usually give a warning such as “¡Cinco tacos más!” This usually prompts my students to make up their own rules with their partner to make the end more exciting. Some additional challenges they give themselves are:
“Ok, we have to turn the paper over until she finishes reading the clue”
“Hands behind your back for this one!”
“You have to tap the word with your elbow!”
“You have to tap two other answers before you tap the right one!”
“Eyes closed until she says it!”
“Markers have to stay capped and in the tray until she’s done speaking!”
All of these challenges make us laugh and help us to end class on a great note, no matter who actually wins the game 🙂
I hope you got some ideas from this post, and if you already love Taco Tuesday like me I hope you can try a few new things with your students. Please feel free to comment if your students have come up with any other fun challenges/rules, or if you have any favorite ways of differentiating for your students!
All Taco Tuesday sets here. Editable templates here.
If you know a French teacher who would love to play, share Macaron Mardi with them!
Thank you for reading!