I found “What’s My Word?” on one of my favorite teaching sites: Pinterest :) I thought it looked like a lot of fun, so I looked for a version that was more suitable for secondary students, but I was unable to find one, so I did what teachers do and created my own. This is the first version that I came up with:
After trying this with my middle school students (who are struggling readers). I realized the first version was a little too challenging for them. Accordingly, this is the second version that I came up with which provides more scaffolding:
In order to prep the students for play we practiced several times in small groups (we do small group instruction in my class regularly). We would select a word for one person and then we would practice giving clues, which is the hardest part. Students seemed to have the most difficulty coming up with a sentence that uses the word without giving away the word. During this practice period we discussed what made a good clue, and how we could make our clues better. I also used this time to revise the activity and provide additional scaffolding. All of this was to get the students ready to play with the whole class. I would like to mention that the students enjoyed this so much and became so adept at doing it in small groups that they requested to do it during their independent work station.
Before we began, I reviewed the words, the rules, and we talked about what it would look like to be a “Top Player.” We decided it wasn’t someone who “finished first,” it was someone who “went in order, did the work themselves, filled out the entire sheet, and guessed their word.”
We put the stickers on our backs and began playing! It was a blast:
When I first learned about the app AutoRap I thought it would be a great classroom tool for getting students to read repeatedly. Whether I wanted them to practice sight words, academic language, or fluency passages- I knew this would be a way to get them to read again and again. AutoRap changes anything you say into a rap and sets it to music! They have songs for free, which I use regularly, but the rap above, One Messy Food Fight, was not a free song. If you listen to it, I think you'll agree it was totally worth paying for that beat! This lesson was a success in my middle school class, and it encompassed so many aspects of reading. I'll take you through the steps below:
This is an engaging game that really challenges students' auditory processing skills. It goes by many names, but when I was introduced to this game in a Teaching English as a Second Language Class, the teacher called it Fruit Cocktail. It is a similar concept to musical chairs.
What You Need:
1. Chairs in a circle, with one less chair than there are players; one person stands in the middle.
Example: 15 players, 14 chairs in a circle, 1 player standing in the middle.
2. Word list with affixes or root words that you have studied in class for player in the middle to call from.
Example Class 1: This class had learned the affixes shown in red (see list below)
Example Class 2: This class had learned the root words in red (see list below).
Example Class 1 Example Class 2
3. One note card for each player with target affixes and/or root words; to make the game successful you want approximately 3-5 players to have the same target affix and/or root word on their card, so approximately 3-5 people have “per-”and 3-5 people have “-ive”
Example Class 1: These note cards (1 for each player, but only 3 shown here) would correspond with the above Example Class 1 word list.
Example Class 2: These note cards (1 for each player, but only 3 shown here) would correspond with the above Example Class 2 word list.
Playing the Game with Accommodations for Struggling Readers
1. Start off by putting the word list on the document camera, and reading it through chorally with your class. Point out the target affixes and/or root words to build confidence and show them that they already know a significant portion of the word because they have studied these word parts.
2. Explain that when they are in the middle they must read one word—ask them to please challenge themselves, but of course if they are not sure of a word, they can choose a word from the list that they know with certainty. They also have the option of asking a teacher to help them read a word from the list. This is also a chance to encourage students to have you repeat any words that they are unsure of.
3. Hand out the notecards to the entire class. One per student with target affixes and/or root words written down. Tell students not to show the note cards to each other; they have one minute to read the words on their note cards. You can tell them to put the note card face down when they are sure they know the words; teachers may want to help students who leave the note cards face up for 30 seconds or more.
4. Teacher starts in the middle for the practice round. Explain that you are going to read a word from the list. If a student’s target affix and/or root word is in the word they must get up and move to a different chair. They MAY NOT move to the chair that is directly beside them. The person in the middle tries to get a chair, and the one left standing is in the middle and reads the next word from the list.
Example Class 1: Person in the middle reads attractive; all the players with -ive on their card must get up and switch chairs, and the person in the middle tries to sit down.
Example Class 2: Person in the middle reads benefit; all the players with bene- on their card must get up and switch chairs, and the person in the middle tries to sit down.
5. Set a time limit for 10 minutes, and if you want you may offer a prize to the students who never end up in the middle.
Stories from the Classroom
1. This game really does challenge students’ auditory processing skills. We do this game only after they are able to decode a word part with automaticity: students can recognize –ive and bene- all day long when I show them a flash card, or a word and ask them what the suffix or root word is. Thus, they are able to decode (read) these word parts. With this game we are really asking them to take the first step in encoding (spelling), which is hearing a word, or saying a word to yourself, and then identifying the parts that make up the word without seeing them.
2. I played this game with my students when I was 7 months pregnant. It can be a slightly physical game, and at one point, one of my more concerned students screamed, “Stay away from Ms. Young’s belly!”
I hope you enjoy playing Fruit Cocktail in your classroom!
This is an excellent vocabulary or content review game. It takes about ten minutes. I like it because it gets students up out of their seats and moving around!
1. Students are given one flash card each with the word on front and the definition on back (I use student created cards):
2. Next, I provide a word bank for students of the words they are looking for. They are instructed to cross the words off of the list when they correctly define a word:
3. Finally, I model Quiz/Quiz Trade with another student for the class—the directions are in the name:
Additional notes after doing this multiple times in class:
After I transcribe and asssess using the rubric, I conference with students individually (pulling them aside during their warm-up or other independent tasks over several days). We look at their conversation, the rubric, and set goals for future reciprocal teaching groups. The students really enjoy seeing/reading the transcription, and now they know that I do listen to the recordings.
I do not listen and transcribre every single time, but I have them record themselves every time, and they never know when I will be asessing them. This adds another level of accountability, and although the first transcriptions were very impressive, I have seen them pushing themselves even harder to get to another level.
Finally, yes, it was extra work to transcribe, but I was so proud of my students. It was very fulfilling and motivating for me to see them thinking and working as a group!
Below, is a short excerpt from a longer group transcription, but I was so pleased to see these 9th graders communicating without teacher supervision, and really thinking about the piece of literature they had just finished reading:
I work with many high school students who are struggling readers. For them, school may not have always been a positive experience, so figuring out what motivates them is particularly important. Usually, I find that in my reading intervention classes they are motivated by the fact that we are working with their grade level textbooks-- they are no longer being exposed solely to the CVC (consonant vowel consonant) words that they have been struggling to master for years, but they are expected to break down multi-syllabic words that they will encounter throughout high school, college, and their careers. In addition to this component, I have found it helpful to use Rick Lavoie's resources on motivation. Please watch the video below:
We have probably all had students, like the one Lavoie mentions in the video, and I can sympathize with the teacher because when you have 50-150 students sometimes it's difficult to see patterns such as the one described. To find out what motivates my students early on I give this motivation survey at the beginning of the year:
I give this survey as a whole class activity, so that I can read it to students, and explain some of the terminology. Lavoie has identified 8 motivational forces, and after students take the quiz you can help them identify what their motivational force(s) are. It also describes each one:
1. The Need to Interact with Others
2. The Need for Independence
3. The Need to be Important
4. The Need to Know
5. The Need to Assert
6. The Need to Control
7. The Need for Acknowledgement
8. The Need to Associate and Belong
This has been very helpful, and it has changed the way I view student motivation (and even my own)! Enjoy!
A couple of years ago I had the opportunity to attend a workshop where the 2012 National Teacher of the year Rebecca Mieliwocki was the keynote speaker. She said something that really stuck with me; she was talking about assigning class jobs, and she said, “After I’ve given out all the jobs, and all I have to do is teach I feel like I get paid the perfect amount.” Of course this was meant to be funny, but since then I’ve been wanting to make student jobs a part of my classroom.
I hear so many ideas that I want to implement, so I have to be strategic to avoid burnout—I can usually try 3-5 new things at the beginning of the year, and 3-5 new things in the middle of the year. When I say “new things” I’m talking about major classroom shifts, and implementing jobs (and making it work) was/is one of those things. Luckily, I already have a classroom reward system, so I knew what type of salary I was going to offer. Please see the blog from May 2014 Classroom Management.
I have been doing this for three weeks now, and already it has undergone changes. Also, I’m amazed at the amount of reinforcement that is needed, but I can see that it is starting to work.
Here is a picture of the job list that I showed to my classes on Day 1:
I soon realized that I also needed to keep track of students who were actually doing their jobs. I did tell them that the first week would be unpaid training. The second week I paid, but I deducted pay for negligence. For instance, the chair manager left 5-6 chairs down on a Friday, and the host hung up on somebody without getting a name so I could call them back. There have definitely been some glitches, but we are on the road to success! Next week, this is how I will keep track of who is doing the job on a daily basis (see below). Because of our block scheduling we have six days in a unit, and I pay on the last day. I keep this on my clip board, and if students do the job as I outlined it I give them a check mark, but if I have to remind them I'll tally how many times I have to do so, at the end of the week we'll have a discussion about how/if I should pay them. I'll upload this as a document below, so you can edit it as needed.
This is still a work in progress. Since we began I've realized that the "Flash drive collector" job is not helpful-- it's easier if everyone puts their own flash drive back. Also, I realized that the host (who answers the telephone and the door) needs a script and some practice, which we've done a couple of times:
I think this is going to be beneficial for my classroom because it creates a community, builds student confidence, and teaches job skills. I'm uploading some word documents that I've used please tweak them and make them your own. I might blog about this next month too, and I'd love to hear how you might have adapted this to fit your classroom!
As promised, here are two more classroom community building activities. The first one is adapted from Kagan’s Silly Sports and Goofy Games it is called “Odds and Evens.”
Odds and Evens
This works best with anywhere from 10-20 players. The class is divided in half, and they form two parallel lines facing each other. The teacher determines which side is odd and which side is even. Two players step forward with their backs to each other. Rock, paper, scissors style, on the count of three, they hold up 1-5 fingers. They turn to face each other and add up the total. If the total of their fingers is odd, both players go back to the odd side. If the total of the fingers is even, both players go to the even side. The team who ends up with all the players wins! We have played multiple times and sometimes the odd side wins and sometimes the even side wins, so anecdotally there is no obvious mathematical advantage.
Also, uploaded here is another “Spinning Story.” Please see last month’s blog post for specific instructions about this activity. Enjoy! Both of these would be great for the first week of school. I know I’ll be using them!
Recently, I attended a workshop and there was a neuroscientist who spoke about the importance of experiencing joy in the classroom. She said that it would give the students a brain "break," help build a classroom community, and increase motivation. She recommended Kagan's Silly Sports and Goofy Games, which has been wonderful! In this blog I want to mention three short games that I've interspersed into my daily instruction with success. After ONLY 10 minutes, the students and I return to work refreshed, relaxed, and invigorated!
1. The Spinning Story- During this game students are assigned roles, and they stay at their desks. When they hear their role called they stand up, spin around, and sit down. This works best with stories that have a lot of repetition. Below I've attached "The Gingerbread Man." I did it with my high school students and we had a lot of fun. Once they get used to the activity switch roles and pick up the pace of the story! There are 9 roles in this story, so it's okay to double and triple up.
2. Class Juggling- In this game everyone stands in a circle (the largest I've played with is 10 people). Throw a ball in a pattern (without saying each others names), and when the group gets the pattern down add another ball and another ball! Our goal is to get up to four balls!
3. Balloon in the Air- This is played in a circle holding hands. You must keep the balloon in the air, but you can't let go of each other's hands. Players end up hitting the balloons with their heads, elbows, joined hands, or feet. Also, if the group moves to chase the balloon they must do so together. Very fun!
More than anything I have found that when we come back from these games the students are more productive and engaged! I highly recommend this, and I will post more gems when I find them.
Ms. Young is a teacher who wants to keep a record of what works!