I want to share an activity I did with my Spanish 2s.
As a cohort, this group craves culture. They’re the ones who ask for more bullfighting-like units and the group for whom I create my Lucha Libre lessons. We are currently reading a book about a family that goes to Perú, and we are right before the characters visit Cusco and see the Nazca Lines. My students needed some/better background knowledge of the Inca so they could appreciate what they were going to read about, so I created a “Sé, Quiero saber, Aprendí” (Know, Want to know, Learned) chart. All of my Essential Questions came directly from my students and what they filled out on this sheet.
As I sat down, looking over their questions and the 5 very short days I had to teach them everything I was thinking of the methods I know and like: MovieTalk, TPRS stories, etc. However, I wasn’t quite sure how I could best teach them about the Inca religion. All of a sudden it came to me: Pokémon using the Incan gods!
Here’s how it worked:
- The point of the game was to “collect them all!” by completing activities the Incans would have done.
- Students traveled around in groups in order to complete the tasks.
- I created a worksheet with the gods that I felt were important: Wiracocha (the God of the gods), Pachacamac (the sun god), Pachamama (the moon goddess), Mara Sara (corn goddess), and Supay (the god of death) for example. It was a basic table. The left column was left blank for students to write in the gods’ names and the right side had a description of the god it corresponded to.
- I created Pokémon-esque cards for the kids. The god’s name and a corresponding image was on the front, and the same description from the worksheet was on the back of the cards
- I created task cards with a description of what the task was (creating an altar, making a song, etc.), gave students a task to do themselves with context (ex: create an altar for a God you think is mad at you, create a rain song because you only have two ears of corn left, etc) , and then at the bottom the task card said if they appeased Goddess Dentlinger they could take a card with a God on it. If they did NOT appease me, someone in the group died.
- To keep “dead” players in the game, we discussed how the Incans believed in three levels of existence, along with the fact that the dead one also existed on Earth alongside the live world. This allowed the “dead” students to compete against other “dead” competitors.
My personal thoughts on the lesson:
- Students really liked this activity. They left saying such, and almost all of them asked to play again the next day.
- I gave directions in English for the sake of time. I felt guilty, but I felt the experience was more important than staying in Spanish. Plus, they were reading Spanish, chanting in Spanish, etc. so it’s not like there was zero exposure.
- My high achieving students were really confused if they were killed, because they struggled with the concept of now playing against other “dead” students.
- I had to be selective about who was killed off. Some students are more sensitive than others, and would take it more personally.
- I had students travel in groups so they could help each other, but also because one task was to choose who to sacrifice. If it was a volunteer, they appeased me, but if they forced one student in the group it was the wrong choice. It was fun to listen to them decide!
What I will change for next time:
- This took a long time! My classes are 45 minutes long, and after a 5 minute warm-up and 5 minute listening quiz, we were left with 35. I will definitely devote a whole class to this activity next time.
- I will use less gods. My original list had 10ish on there, and I would like to better focus on the main gods that I listed above.
- I will make sure all of the tasks are religion-related. For example, I had a weaving task where students wove a bracelet using yarn. To my knowledge, I do not think weaving had religious ties. Maybe I’m wrong? I need to better research this.
- I think this activity would be easier with Mayan or Aztec gods. Simple Google searches yielded more Aztec and Mayan gods, but I struggled to find a family tree of Incan gods. I chose the Incans based on our book, but I would like to start with either Aztecs or Mayans next time. It would save me a lot of research time!
I hope someone is able to use this idea or adapt it for their own use!
Disclaimer: I do not claim to be an expert on the Incans nor Incan gods. I had to do a lot of reading and self learning, and at some points I had to make some executive decisions for the sake of my students. I feel like I only scratched the surface, and I do not feel that awful about that because my husband reminds me that there are people who devote their entire life to studying the Inca people. However, if you find I have made an error, please let me know so I can improve this for this next time!