Lisa Alizadeh, Caleb Clark, Mona Meyer

for EDTEC 670, Fall '98
San Diego State University
Professor: Bernie Dodge

| Instructional Objective | Learners & Context | Object of Game | Game Materials |

| Time Required | Rules | Design Process | References |

Instructional Objectives

1) Learners will be able to choose when to use the verb "ser" and when to use the verb "estar" to describe actions and states of being.

2) Learners will be able to use Spanish vocabulary to describe attributes of "characters" in the game. These attributes include: hair color, shirt color, types of clothing, expressions of emotion, nationality, and actions.

3) Learners will be able to use the appropriate gender of adjectives to describe characters in Spanish.

4) Learners will be able to use Spanish third person plural subject pronouns and plural adjectives correctly.

Learners & Context of Use

¿Cómo Son? is designed for middle school and high school Spanish classes. The game is most appropriate for first or second year Spanish classes, though it could serve as review for third year classes.

The game would be used in the classroom. Students could sit on floor or push desks togther to make a table. The game is designed to be played more than once as there are two levels of difficulty. Prior to the game the students should have had a few lessons on the difference in usage between "ser" and "estar" and should be familiar with basic descriptive vocabulary.

Object of the Game

The object of the game is to score more points than your opponents. Every character card is worth from 1 to 8 points. Players earn points for each card played correctly (see rules) or played incorrectly but not challenged. Players earn triple or quadruple card scores for playing cards on bonus squares.

Game Materials

Time Required

The game would take 2-4 players approximately one 50 minute class period to set up and play. However, because total points determine the winner, the teacher could simply put a time limit on the game to have it end earlier.

How to Play the Game

Board Setup:

1. Deal seven cards to each player and place remaining cards face down in a stack next to the board. Each player places her cards face up in front of her.

2. Get the sand timer ready for use.

3. Have pen and paper ready for score keeping.

4. Place the ¡Socorro! card face down next to the board.

Game Play:

1. Decide who goes first by placing the spinner in the middle of the board and letting one player spin. The player whom the spinner points closest to begins play. Play proceeds clockwise. Place the spinner to the side of the board for the rest of the game.

2. Player 1 spins and turns over the sand timer, leaving her 1 one minute to choose a series of cards which have a shared characteristic that fits grammatically with the subject/verb category the spinner landed on. One of the first cards placed must be on a black square. Cards must be placed horizontally or vertically in a line.

For example: If the spinner lands on "Ellos son...", the player could lay down these cards that complete the sentence:

"Ellos son mexicanos."

4. Player 1's score is calculated and recorded. (See scoring section below.)

5. Player 1 then draws as many cards as she laid down, bringing her hand back up to 7 cards total.

6. Player 2 spins, then builds from a card on the existing line to make a new line following the same rules. The cards must have a common characteristic which fits grammatically with the subject/verb category the spinner lands on.

Play continues with each player adding one or more cards to those already played to form new lines.


1. If a player takes more than a minute to lay down a line, the player loses her turn.

2. Any cards which line up with other cards must share a common characteristic with the entire line. The player gets credit for all lines formed by her move.

All cards have to share the characteristics of any line they touch.

3. If a player does not have a move, she may trade in from one to seven cards. Traded in cards go on the bottom of the deck. This counts as a players turn.

4. Game ends when a player has used all her cards and there are no more in the stack, or when three rounds have passed with no moves.

5. The player with the highest total points at the end of the game wins.


1. Each card has a point value printed on the card. When a player plays a line, she gets points for all the cards in the line.

2. If more than one line is made when the player sets down her line, each line is scored. The card(s) that correspond to more than one line count for each line formed.

In the example to the right, playing the happy Mexican woman card results in points from both "Contentas" and "Mexicanos."

"Contentas": 3 + 6 = 9

"Mexicanos": 3 + 5 = 8

Total: 9 + 8 = 17

3. Red and blue bonus squares: additional points may be earned by playing cards on the red and blue bonus squares. The card played must match the characteristic of the square for bonus points to be awarded. If the square has gender, the gender must also match. The card's points are multiplied by the number on the square. Bonus squares count only once.

Red and blue bonus squares:

Rubio man on a Rubio square.

Score for that card is, 4 x 3 = 12 points.

¡Socorro! card

The ¡Socorro! card should remain face down during play. A player may choose to refer to this card when she is not sure what characteristics fit grammatically with the subject/verb expression on the spinner. But, if a player refers to the ¡Socorro! card, she loses 1/2 of her total points for that round.

Advanced Play

The rules are the same except that as each player places her line on the board, she must say the complete sentence out loud, using the subject/verb indicated by the spinner and the characteristic described by the cards she is laying down. The sentence must be grammatically correct. If the other players disagree with the sentence, or if the player forgot to say the sentence, the other players may challenge the move. If the challenge is correct, the player loses her turn. If not, play continues.

Player must say, "Ellos son mexicanos."

Design Process

Content Selection:
The original idea for ¿Cómo Son? came from an experience Mona had at work. While designing a CD ROM product to supplement Glencoe's Spanish I textbook, Mona encountered the problem of how to convert the following classroom activity (described in the textbook) into an interactive CD ROM activity:

Work with a classmate. Describe someone in the class. Your partner will tell whether you're describing a boy or a girl and will guess who it is. Take turns.

The activity brought to mind a game called "Guess Who" that Mona plays with her seven-year-old stepdaughters. The object of "Guess Who" is to figure out which one of a group of characters your opponent has chosen by asking yes/no questions like, "Is it a man?" and "Does he have brown hair?" Eventually, the "mystery character" is discovered by a process of elimination.

Mona mentioned the idea to Lisa (who is a high school foreign-language teacher). Lisa thought the idea had potential but cautioned that there are already many interesting ways to teach foreign language vocabulary and that a game would be more useful if it focused on sentence structure and grammar, in addition to vocabulary. Lisa suggested that we try to find a way to work in when to use the verb ser and when to use the verb estar, since students have a lot of trouble with this concept. We decided to focus on encouraging players to use ser and estar to describe the characters in the game.

Format Selection:
From there, we considered what type of board game to design. The structure of the content seemed to indicate that a pattern game was appropriate. Understanding patterns and groupings is crucial to learning the rules of grammar in any language. For example, languages with gender-specific pronouns and adjectives (such as Spanish) require grouping by gender. (The word "they" is either "ellos" or "ellas, " depending upon the gender makeup of the group.) We also wanted our game to promote comprehension of descriptive Spanish vocabulary. Vocabulary is often reinforced through matching exercises, and matching is a form of pattern-building.

We decided that creating a game similar to Scrabble would address both objectives. Pictures of characters that share a common characteristic (such as brown hair) could be placed on the board, according to a "rule" defined by the spinner. The spinner would determine the gender of the characters in the sequence (by requiring "ellos" or "ellas") and the type of characteristic they must share (by specifying "son" or "están"). Additionally, bonus squares similar to the double- and triple-letter score squares in Scrabble could be used to encourage recognition of descriptive vocabulary. For instance, a player would receive a bonus for placing a blonde female character on a square marked "rubia."

Rough Prototype Construction:
The next step was to design a very rough prototype. We decided that 60 "character cards" and a board with 100 squares (10 x 10) would be about right. These estimates were based on several factors:

We constructed a rough board, based loosely on the Scrabble board. Vocabulary words were placed on the bonus squares at random. We made the rough prototype cards by cutting business cards in half and writing the characteristics on each card (text only). For example, one card said, "Female, blonde, red shirt, glasses, on phone." A point value was assigned to each card by applying a mathmatical formula that considered the rarity of characteristics shown on the card. (For instance, since there were fewer redhead characters than blonde or brunette, redhead characters were weighted heavier when assigning points.) We applied this system to ensure that higher points would be awarded for using cards that are "harder" to play.

Rough Prototype Test:
We tested the rough prototype during our first class work session. This first rough prototype test yielded the following information:

Usability Test (with target audience):
The next step was to develop the card art and a rough draft of the rules and test the game with "real" users. We were fortunate to have access to Lisa's students as test subjects. Lisa tested the game with a group of Spanish II students who had the required prior knowledge of vocabulary and grammar.

This second test yielded the following information:

We finalized the board and the rules based on the results of the second test. Given more time, we would have tested the game again with the actual target audience at the appropriate point in a Spanish I course (near the end of a lesson on ser vs. estar).


Game Board

Sample Character Cards



¡Socorro! Card


Explicación de Ellos y Ellas:

Ellos - Hombres o cualquier combinación de hombres y mujeres.

Ellas - Mujeres. ¡Hombres no!


Explicación de Llevar:

Ellos/Ellas llevan - ropa (camisa, gafas, sombrero, corbata)


Ellos llevan camisas amarillas:

Ellas llevan gafas.


Explicación de Estar:

Ellos/Ellas están - cosas que no son permanentes (emociones, acciones)


Ellas están contentas:

Ellos están hablando por teléfono.

Explicación de Ser:  

Ellos/Ellas son - cosas que son permanentes (color de pelo, nacionalidad)


Ellos son rubios.

Ellas son estadounidenses.


Símbolos Card


Musical notes indicate singing (Cantando).

Thought balloons indicate thinking (Pensando).





Estados Unidos

Teacher's Notes


Spanish Content:

¿Cómo son? is primarily designed to reinforce uses of "ser" vs. "estar" and to practice basic descriptive vocabulary.

Additional practice is provided in third person plural subject pronouns, gender of adjectives, and, in the advanced version, plural adjectives. The advanced version encompasses oral production by players.


Prerequisite Knowledge:

Players need to be familiar with basic descriptive vocabulary including: clothing and "llevar", colors, nationalities, hair color, gerunds, and emotions. Players should be very comfortable with subject pronouns and with gender of adjectives.

The game is designed to work best within a unit based on the uses of "ser" vs. "estar", but would also work at anytime during the school year as long as the students have had some instruction in the above-mentioned areas.


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Last updated October xx 1998