One good, authentic use of the target language is to role-play buying and selling: it’s practical, communicative, engaging and puts into play a variety of grammatical strategies and vocabulary. In addition, we can easily integrate cultural products and practices, such as bargaining.
It is also a good place to address sustainability themes. El juego de pan, my adaptation of the Cloud Institute’s fish game, helps students ask and answer the question “What is a fair price and how do we get it?” while uncovering our interconnectedness with those who produce what we consume.
Here are the directions to El Juego del Pan in both Spanish and English.
I have played the bread game a number of times with students and even adults. It seems to work best with groups of five: four “buyers” and one baker. I think you can add or take away one player with similar results.
Here are some hints to make the game successful:
Follow the rules. If there are questions, read the rules back to the players. Remember: the baker MUST accept all prices for the first TEN rounds.
Remind players of the objective of the game. Sometimes players want to hoard their money. This doesn’t seem to be a problem, however it might go against the objective “To have as much bread as possible after ALL ten rounds of the game.” Players might choose not to buy bread in a given round (or there might not be bread available), and this is okay; however, they should recognize that this amounts to going hungry.
Write down the numbers on the chart. Each player tracks his or her own purchases and the amount paid. All write down the earnings of the baker in the last column and the number of loaves of bread the baker has for sale in the first column (based on the $ from the previous round’s sales).
Debrief the game. Essentially, in order for individuals in this game to get what they want (more bread), they need to pay a fair price. There are all sorts of strategies that individuals and groups might use. But the only way to “win” is to be “fair.” Have groups describe what they did and why. They can analyze their intentions and the results. One good question is “Why did you (or did you start to) put the baker out of business?” If the baker goes out of business, it is impossible to “win” because it is impossible to get to all ten rounds. Ask students what “communities” might be involved in these interactions (families, village, etc). It is helpful to note that the baker was their “neighbor.” What impact might the loss of the bakery have on the village?
What does this have to do with real life? Here’s one perspective: “Obligados a Migrar” is a short video produced by the Comité de Apoyo de Trabajadores Agricolas. This documentary (the third video listed) traces the fate of a village in Mexico that started an organic coffee farm with high hopes. When the price of coffee plunged, their coffee business declined to the point where many villagers migrated to New Jersey to work in the mushroom industry. Other videos on the site include “Los Trabajadores” about workers in New Jersey’s mushroom industry and “La Lucha del Migrante” that describes a project to paint a mural in the Mexican town of origin of some immigrant agricultural workers in the US.