Thursday, November 3, 2011

Simple Activity with Spectacular Results

I came up with one of my most effective classroom activities out of frustration. I was teaching a remedial English class and we couldn't move on to more sophisticated grammar until my students learned the parts of speech. They were struggling and nothing I seemed to do worked. On a break, I put aside the workbook and hand-wrote a bunch of words on strips of paper. I chose some from each category: nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, pronouns and prepositions. Then I wrote the categories at the top of the whiteboard. Here goes nothing, I thought.

When the students came back in from break, I randomly passed out the word strips. I said that if they could get them all in the correct category in three tries, I would bring them a treat the next week. They all had to work together, and after each round, I would only say how many were wrong.

I wasn't sure how the whole thing would play out, or if it would even work, but it was one of those serendipitous moments when I watched my class, sans teacher, work through the exercise, discussing, debating, rehearsing rules and working together. Best of all, every student was engaged because each had a stake in the results.

The result was that they succeeded, and they learned it better than any worksheet or lecture or demonstration could have done. By working it out with each other, they had to think and engage. Since then, I've used this exercise for not only parts of speech but other things such as fragments and run-on sentences and figurative language.

These activities take a lot of time to think of examples and ke your own, or you can get the lesson plan and word strips pre-made by yours truly here:

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