Tuesday, January 10, 2012

stop the voices

How do you handle educational chatter?  Politicians, bureaucracy,  rhetoric...I just can't always deal with it.  When I was working, I mostly kept my head down and kept my attention on the kids & my lessons.  Now I hear all that hot air, and I have a harder time grappling with it.  Mostly I try to ignore it (as healthy as that may be).  Because if I think about it too much, I get absolutely distraught and wonder whether I really do want to return to the mainstream HS classroom.  I despair over the state of education, and I begin brainstorming ways to "have my cake & eat it too" when it comes to possible teaching positions.

How do you deal with it?


Friday, January 6, 2012

Review Games - Catch Phrase & Taboo

On their own, Catch Phrase and Taboo are already pretty great word games; they really make students reach outside of their common vocabulary and think creatively to express an idea or concept.  I'd often bring in my own copies of these on "educational celebration" days to help justify the day.  Because every day is a day for learning, right?

You could adapt these to your classroom subject matter.  I have to admit, this is not something I got a chance to do, so I can't say for sure how well it worked.  But I planned to!

Catch Phrase would be a little less time intensive, since if you were to make Taboo cards, you'd need to come up with a list of words that can't be used for each one.  So let's stick with Catch Phrase for now...

You could take any unit -- well, okay, this probably works best with a  literary unit.  If someone  has an idea to adapt it for grammar, enlighten us!  I'm not that creative at the moment.  So, literary unit.  Make cards listing names, ideas, etc. from the unit you're reviewing.  That comprises your prep.

Split students into teams of at least two -- you might need to have simultaneous games going on in the room, depending on your size.  I'm guessing that this wouldn't work well with teams bigger than 8 people, max.  Get yourself a timer -- if you have a version of Catch Phrase, just bring in your own and use it as a timer (and for goodness sake, if you don't have a version of Catch Phrase yet, just go get one.  For shame); the timer is set to random intervals, which just shakes things up a bit. 

Set the cards in the middle.  Form the two teams into a circle; each student should be next to members from the other team.  Start the timer.  On a turn, a student must get his team to guess the word on the card.  The prompter cannot say "rhymes with...," "starts with the letter...," or gesture.  The prompter cannot say any part of the word until one of his team members says it (i.e. if you're trying to get a team mate to say "Boo Radley" and they've already said "Boo," the prompter is now free to say his name also.)  Once the team guesses the word, the student should say "Yes!" (or you can choose some other victory cue) so that the next player knows to draw a card and begin the process all over again.  Keep going around the circle until the timer buzzes.  When time runs out, whoever is currently playing loses that round and the OTHER team gets a point.  For example, Kyle on Team B is trying to get his team to say "onomatopoeia" before the timer buzzes.  It goes off, but his team has not guessed correctly yet.  Team A now receives a point.  Start the timer and begin again (play moves to the next person; do not start the round with Kyle).  Play until one team wins 7 points...or however many works for your classroom.

Taboo would essentially be the same concept, just that you must come up with a short list (4 total, I believe) of words that the prompter cannot say when trying to get his teammates to guess the word.

If you have ideas for how to adapt these games to grammar, let me know!  Or if you have other games to share, please spread the wealth!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Review Games - Board Games

This particular review game takes a bit more prep than Fireline, but it could potentially last you for years.

The bottom line:  make your own board game.  There are websites out there with templates, but if you have Microsoft Word, it has a fair set of templates as well.  Have fun with the game spaces: lose a turn, move ahead 2, move back 2, perform "I'm a Little Teapot,"etc.  Glue your game board onto a piece of construction paper (and laminate it if you can); stop by the dollar store to pick up some cheap trinkets for each player.  You could stop by a yard sale and buy old copies of various board games, throwing away the board game but keeping the pieces.  You'll also need a die for each game board.  I didn't have very big game boards, so I found someplace where I could make a die with only 1-3 on it.  I used sturdier paper to make those dice.

Finally, you'll need to make the cards with review questions.  I just made a nice sized table in a Word document that filled up a whole page, then typed up a question & answer for each card (as a result, someone has to be able to read the question to the player who must answer it).  For longevity, glue the sheets onto construction paper before cutting out each card.

To play the game, students set up like any other board game, but on each turn, students have to answer a card with a review question on it; a player cannot roll the die until s/he answers a question correctly.  Pretty simple rules!

I made about five or six sets of these game boards & cards (at the time, I had a student helper who cut out all the blessed question cards for me) and laminated the boards to last me awhile.  Because the game takes so much prep, I only used this for BIG units with lots of info, so I had plenty of cards and could use them throughout the year (once for the unit, again for final review and state testing time).  I even included grammar in there -- sentence corrections like pronoun/verb agreement or homophones.  So, YES it's even possible to play games with grammar!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Review Games - Fireline

Some of you will be returning to school soon in time for end-of-semester exams or even early state testing.  And even if you're not, are you always on the look-out for review games?  I know I usually am.  Jeopardy is an easy standby but has lost its novelty since powerpoints are so 90s.

One game that I got from a teacher next door to me is called "Fireline!" and the kids loved it.  You need 5 chairs placed at the front of the room; this is your "fireline."  You need one student as your extra set of eyes (maybe two, depending on your class size) because speed matters in this game.  The students' goal is to be one of the five people seated in a chair at the end of the game; I usually gave a couple points extra credit on the test as the incentive.  Because the student acting as extra eyes can't participate, I also gave him/her a little incentive (a piece of candy and a little less extra credit).  You read out the review questions and after you are done reading the question, the student who has his hand up first gets to answer the question.  If s/he gets it right, s/he may take a seat on the Fireline.  If s/he gets it wrong and has made a real effort to answer, s/he gets to choose someone on the Fireline to answer the question for him/her.  If the person on the Fireline gets it wrong, that person gets to take that seat.  If the Fireline answerer gets it correct, s/he has defended the chair.

Your extra set of eyes comes in handy in determining who raised a hand first after you finish reading the question and judging whether his/her peer made an honest effort to answer it.  Because there is a chance of getting the chair even if the answer is wrong, it is important to make that stipulation about a true effort, just so kids don't throw up their hands and throw out any ol' response.  I also sometimes used my helper to judge an answer as correct or not, if the respondent was close but not perfect.  However, you can really only do this if you have the answer you are looking for previously written down.  I found that this position worked well for two types of kids:   the super-shy kid who wouldn't really participate anyway because s/he doesn't like competition or the extremely gregarious/goofball kid who is not afraid to challenge his/her peers for not making an honest effort to answer.

The nice thing about this game is that it takes little to no preparation.  Heck, if you've already made the test, you've already made your review script!

I'm going to try and post a few other review games I've used -- feel free to share others you & your class have enjoyed!