Fun Classroom Activity

I am always on the lookout for classroom activities. I teach 8th grade, and there is a delicate balance of something that is educational yet still fun for them yet not too crazy. My favorite is when they think we’re playing a game, but we’re really learning. At my mentor training earlier this week, the instructors modeled an activity for getting kids to swap ideas that I modified for use in my classroom. I think I achieved the aforementioned balance, so I thought I’d share the activity here. Are any teachers reading?  I wonder if any students are…if you are in the pictures below, sorry for slapping a smiley face on your head. 😉

I started off by putting a painting on my screen. I love using paintings, photography, and other forms of art as a launch for descriptive writing. Cross-curricular, you know? I usually talk about who the artist was, what type of painting it is, etc. This part of the lesson makes me wish I’d paid more attention in my college art class. It also makes me very thankful for Google images.

Next, I gave them a piece of white paper. I always use recycled paper for this type of thing–usually extra one-sided worksheets I have, etc. This time, they got to use some odd water-stained paper that I had. I’m not even sure where it came from. They folded their paper in half four times, so when they opened it, they had sixteen squares. You could also have just given them a photocopied paper with grids printed on it, but then you’d have to skip the whole “hot dog” vs. “hamburger” fold discussion, and that would be downright sad. However, in lower grades were just folding a paper once can be problematic, maybe pre-printed grids are a good idea.

In three of the boxes, I instructed the students to write a sentence containing figurative language to describe the painting. We have been reviewing similes, metaphors, onomatopoeia, alliteration, and personification this week. They had to use three different types of figurative language.

Once they were finished doing that, they were to get up and swap ideas with others. They gave another person one of their sentences, and they copied one from someone else. They kept walking around doing this until their 16 boxes were full with 16 different sentences, then they sat back down. I like this method because they couldn’t start the moving around and socializing part until they’d done their own three sentences.

Trust me, when others are walking around “copying”, everyone wants to be included. It didn’t take long for those who were being pokey with their original three sentences to catch up and join the group. I love it when I can use peer pressure in my favor.

While they worked, I wandered around and copied a few of the sentences myself (you’ll see why in a minute). I love listening to my students when they are on-task in group work. It’s pretty hard to go off-task on this activity because they were busy copying each others’ sentences. They seemed to really enjoy reading each others’ work, and I overheard several statements indicating they were paying attention, “Oooh, that’s a good one!” or “That’s very creative!” or “That one is not very interesting”.

After an acceptable amount of time, I gave a two-minute warning, and then had everyone go back to their seats. I randomly called on a few students and asked them to share their favorite sentence they’d written OR copied. The nice thing is, after a couple of trades, the activity was pretty anonymous. The kids didn’t really know whose sentences were whose. They are often reluctant to share their figurative writing, as they are not comfortable with it or sure if it’s right. They also sometimes fear their classmates will think it’s cheesy. However, sharing others’ work is not a problem for them, so they happily read off a favorite sentence. In fact, even though they could tell I was randomly choosing people using my iPad, several raised their hands, wanting to be next to share.

All good activities have a reward of some type, so during the last 5-10 minutes of class, those who had all sixteen squares filled played bingo. This is where I used the ones I’d copied down–I read them, they marked them off on their bingo card (paper), and then I asked random students which type of figurative language the sentence contained. If the students answered correctly, they got a little star award. Long story on what those are…maybe I’ll explain sometime. Once someone got bingo, I had another student be the caller and read sentences from their card, and repeated until we ran out of time. Once again, those who hadn’t kept up with the pace of the class weren’t able to play bingo. There was some quick copying at the last minute when they realized what was going on, and I’m okay with that. They were still copying sentences with figurative language.

My students were, for the most part, very engaged in the activity, and almost all of the sentences were, in fact, examples of figurative language. They were able to write down sixteen different examples for one image, and they were able to hear many more. They were rewarded for keeping on track with the group. And, their favorite part: there was no homework.

This could so easily be modified for other subjects. Students could write facts about the Civil War or a elements from the periodic table or favorite authors or…the possibilities are endless.



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