31 July 2016

¡Pokemon VAMOS! Pokemon GO! for Spanish Class

Gaming, fantasy, escapism.

I informally surveyed my soon-to-be students about their interests after exams last year, and these were the themes I gathered from their responses.  Half of my soon-to-be students are way into videogames, from NBA 2K16 to Civ, and the other half are way into fantasy, from Star Wars to Twilight.

This has made me approach preparation for this group differently than I have in classes past. Banking on adolescent egocentricity has rarely leads me astray, but it seems clear these kids are more interested in other worlds than their own inner worlds.

At first I thought this just meant revisiting ye olde Classcraft setup and incorporating an action-packed TPRS novel.

And then Pokemon GO! rocked the world.

Although it seems only 21% of players are under 18, I knew that this was exactly the in I needed with this year's Spanish I crowd.

But I was stumped as to how to exploit it incorporate it. I thought of inventing some sort of augmented reality game using Aurasma (Spanish GO!) but I couldn't quite figure out the logistics of it--or how it would capture students' imaginations. One amiga almost immediately started working on a Pokemon Conjugate! game, but I was hoping to go a more communicative route.

I was about to ask a techy friend what he thought I should do to latch onto this craze that seized my husband and then both of our kids and me. (We have, indeed, made family outings downtown at least twice just to hit some Pokestops--and the prospect of rare Pokemon got Sr. Sexton a little excited about heading to Chattanooga for iFLT.)

To head off the typical vocab and grammar game suggestions, I started of thinking how I would frame the question, focusing on the modes. And then I had a flashback.

My husband likes to pull up YouTube on the Fire TV and poke around videos about backyard slingshot experiments and melting 5lb gummi bears with molten aluminum. Our kids eat it up. And you know who else does?

Teenagers. Specifically the teenagers I have to get learning Spanish in a few weeks. I mean, these kids have YouTubers' pictures as their desktop images and Google Classroom icons.

Can we say jackpot?

So incorporating Pokemon Go! into Spanish class is not going to be about playing in class. It's going to be about self educating and community building, just like my students do daily, and we've been doing in my house since GO day.

Interpretive Reading

All it took was 3 words in the Google Image search: "infografia Pokemon Go," and I had 10 solid authentic comprehensible sources (and possibly a leg up on Sr. Sexton with some of the tips I got!). And now even those maybe 5 kids who aren't playing already can join in, too!

Interpretive Listening

I started cruising YouTube for tutorials and began a Pokemon Go! (español) playlist. I've let students research video games in the TL before, so I've discovered especially in these communities, it's essential to pre-screen what they're interpreting. Gamers are very *ahem* zealous in any language.

Some key terms I'm using (along with Pokemon Go, of course) are:
  • truco
  • como
  • atrapar
It's also helpful to apply the 4-minutes-or-less filter, so you can get to the good stuff quicker.

The good news about these videos? Super-repetitive. Even novices will pick up vocabulary.

The bad news? They're not what I--or anyone--would call comprehensible. Still, a few thoughts I've had on how to "adjust the task" include:
  • key word hunts: give kiddos a list of English words and try to figure out what they are in Spanish by listening to a video...or three.

  • create a cloze script for a particular video with key terms blanked out for students to fill in as they listen. This video in particular might be awesome because it shows a little culture (WHAT? They don't even HAVE it in Mexico yet? But they're PLAYING IT?)


My marido tipped me off as to what we could do here, too. After our second downtown adventure, he stumbled across a local Facebook page for Pokemon Go! That's right, the perfect way to meet people as obsessed as you and ask them your burning questions about the game!

Also, how awesome would it be to schedule a Pokestop meetup to talk about all of the Pokemon you have and what they can do and help each other level up! AND it just so happens we have a Pokestop AND a Pokegym on our campus! (Hooray early college!) So we could maybe take a little class time to go hang out by the fountain to collect a few Pokeballs and potions and just discuss things like...

  • What do you have in your backpack and/or Pokedex?
  • Where can you go for [Pokemon type, Pokestops, etc]?
  • What do you need to get more points now?
These are questions--and answers--that they can put together with their Pokelingo and a few simple high-frequency words!

Presentational Writing and Speaking

The obvious answer here is to add to the community:
  • tutorial videos
  • parody videos
  • funny snap stories
  • infograph tips and descriptions
  • annotated maps
  • comic strips
  • Facebook groups
  • Instagram accounts
The list goes on!

Now it may turn out that I am a little more obsessed than my students, and that's okay. My next step is to take these resources and ideas to the next level and build them into an entire gamification unit--one that focuses on students reflecting on what works for them and what doesn't as they explore their new language, what motivates them and what doesn't.

But I am excited to have found this angle to connect with my kids this year, and I am ready to GO!

In the meantime, here are some more resources on using Pokemon GO! in class:


  1. ¡¡¡Ideas fenomenales!!! A math teacher at my school recently told me that he will tell students in his syllabus that if he catches them catching Pokemon in class, he'll delete their highest score :) I can't wait to tell him that I'm going to encourage my Spanish students to play.

  2. Two more Pokémon Go! resources to consider - Activities of the Week from CASLS InterCom http://caslsintercom.uoregon.edu/content/21734 and http://caslsintercom.uoregon.edu/content/21735.