Spanish Machu Picchu Game

Do you have a deskless classroom and kids who like to/need to move? Do you want your students to be able to understand and answer questions in Spanish with more automaticity? Here’s a fun, no-prep game they will beg you to play. Think of it as a communicative form of musical chairs.

Why I Love This Activity

  • Students can output some language in a safe and fun setting. Even your lower students can stay in the target language because of the supports on each slide.
  • It is no-prep once you have decided which questions you are using.
  • This gets your students up and moving when you start seeing their eyes glaze over.
  • You can adapt this activity for any level; adjust the questions as you see fit. I’ve incorporated everything from easy questions from class novels, “El Internado,”  and Special Person interviews the many times we’ve played. Remember, the intent of this game is not to stump them with the questions, but rather for your students to hear more questions and provide them with a scaffolded response.

How to Play

  • Have a student (this is a job for your counter, one of 31 classroom jobs which I’ve written about here) count how many students are present. Project the slideshow (see the download link at the end of this post) onto your whiteboard.
  • You need to have one less chair than the total number of students who are playing. Put any extra chairs outside of the circle so that it’s obvious they’re out of play. I usually participate as well, so I count myself as a student. Arrange your chairs in a large circle.
  • One student volunteers to go out into the hallway while the class quietly discusses who will be “Machu Picchu.” It is critical that you do this quietly so that the person in the hall doesn’t hear who it is.
  • Have a student start beating a drum (here’s an affordable 10″ floor drum that is beautifully decorated with a diverse group of people from around the world) to signal the student in the hall to re-enter. If you don’t have a drum or a cowbell, you can just send a student out to get them.
  • The whole class chants “Machu Picchu! Machu Picchu! Machu Picchu!” and the drummer continues to drum as the student from the hallway re-enters the room. The teacher gives a student for the chanting and drumming to stop.
  • Advance the slideshow to the first question. The student from the hallway asks the first question to any student. As long as the student who is asked the question isn’t Machu Pichuu, then they just answer the question and the student from the hallway chooses who they will ask next. It’s more fun if they don’t go in order around the circle. Remind your students that they can look at the screen if they need help responding. I usually do one question per student, however you can use the same question again if there is a specific structure or vocabulary that you’re targeting.
  • If the student who is being asked the question is Machu Picchu, they say “¡Machu Picchu!” instead of answering the question. At this point, everyone (including the person from the hallway) has to run and find a new seat. I make it a rule that their new seat can’t be within two chairs to their left or right.
  • The person who is left without a seat goes out to the hallway and will be the one asking the questions for the next round.

Helpful Advice

  • This game will go smoother and your students will enjoy it more if they have already seen (and comprehend) the structures and vocabulary in other contexts such as Special Person interviews, FVR novels, Calendar Talk, and Weekend Chat.
  • You may need to provide some gestures or otherwise establish meaning if it seems that a student doesn’t comprehend the question. You may also want to do pop-up grammar in between the rounds. For example, “Class, what does the -as mean on the end of this verb?”
  • I tell my students that we will stop the game and do something else if I catch them surreptitiously giving away who is Machu Picchu to the person who was in the hallway. I know they want to get up and compete for a seat, but it is critical that they’re hearing these questions asked and answered. Just like the Mafia game isn’t fun when people peek when their eyes are supposed to be closed, this game isn’t fun when the rest of the circle moves to the edge of their seats as the guesser approaches Machu Picchu and gives it away.

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Marc is an educator, blogger, veteran, and small business owner. Feel free to send him a message here or read his story here .

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21 comments… add one
  • Jody

    Hi! Thanks for the great description of this game! I’ve added the rule that a minimum of 5 questions must be asked before Machu Picchu student can holler out for students to move to new space. 🙂

  • Josh Rooke

    Thank you for sharing this! I am excited to use it in class, but I can’t seem to download the file. When I click on the download link and start downloading the file, I receive a message that says “Failed – No File”.

    • Marc Fencil

      Josh, I deleted and then re-uploaded the file. It should be good to go now. Hundreds of people downloaded it already, but it seems like there was an issue with the file transfer protocol. Let me know if you’re still having problems. Thanks for checking it out!

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